I have taken Effexor XR for approx. 5-6 years for severe clinical depression and anxiety. At first the med was a miracle sent from heaven! No suicidal thoughts at all anymore! I had already tried suicide twice and needed something better than Zoloft, which I was on at the time. I have been fighting depression for 16 yrs. now and have tried most of the antidepressants on the market and would switch because of side effects and still staying suicidal.
About one year ago, I noticed whenever I took an OTC pain medicine, these brains shocks/zaps would start! It hadn't done that in the years before. In fact, I had no side effects at all on Effexor XR before a year ago. Don't know if it's after long term use or from being raised to 300 mg. a day. That's when the brain shocks started after being raised to a high dose of it. But, I didn't put the two together at the time. I told my psychiatrist about this, but the subject ended up getting changed while talking to her.
The combination started getting to me pretty bad. But, what was I to do with these weird chronic, constant headache? My psychiatrist nor my GP would give me narcotics because of the addictiveness. I kept telling my counselor, that I would see on a monthly basis, about these brain shocks and he had no knowledge about them. He should have known though, since he works in the same office as my psychiatrist!! I tried my best to handle the headaches best I could.
I told my doctor I wanted OFF of the Effexor XR and put on something else for the depression. I have tapered from 300 mg. to 37.5 over 4 months. Now I am off of it 3 days. The withdrawals are a nightmare!! I have the brain shocks constantly, whole body shaking, nausea, vomitting, devistating anxiety, muscle pain especially in my neck muscles, dizziness and terrible insomnia! I still take Ambien at night to sleep, but it's not working well without the Effexor.
RELIEF AT LAST!
Today I received an herb (Kratom) that I ordered online. Many people online were talking about that it helped with opiate withdrawal and it also helped someone get off of their SSRI antidepressant. Three hours ago I took a teaspoon of the yukky tasting powder and OMG, the brain shocks are GONE. They disappeared about 40 minutes after I took it. It seems that it has only helped with the brain shocks so far. I still have the other w/d symptoms, but are a lot milder. At least those horrid shocks are gone for now. I am not recommending you take this before talking to your doctor first. Do a ton of research on it and visit Kratom Forums online. I told my psychiatrist about taking this and she said she had never heard of this herb and that she will get back to me with more information. She claims if it's safe, we could be onto something here. She knows of NOTHING that gets rid of the shocks/zaps.
Being on Effexor has made me pretty much numb to everything around me. Generally, my thinking is muddy, my short-term memory is shot, and I live with weekly insomnia and diarrhea. Not to mention my complete lack of interest in sex. I don't experience "real" emotions anymore. Nothing is very good or very bad; it just "IS". My emotions are unnaturally flat and shallow. I know it's this drug, because I was always a very energetic, vibrant, passionate person before it entered my life.
For anyone who is just starting this drug, or is considering taking it, please reconsider. There are too many safer alternatives that will not ultimately take over your life. Yes, I have seen posts here and there where people were able to wean off the drug, and didn't have severe reactions, just flu-like symptoms that subsided. Those people didn't understand what the fuss was about. Well, praise God, because they are very fortunate. But for the other thousands of us who try to wean off this poison, please be advised: Effexor XR withdrawal is nightmarish.
Sometimes, you miss a dose, or you change doctors and need a new prescription, or you change jobs and lose your insurance. That's life. Things happen. But when they do, Hell ensues. This is a VERY unforgiving drug with a VERY short half-life. That is not the sign of a "safe" medication to be on.
In my experience, as with many other people, the withdrawal results in what feels like an electrical cloud in my head that shocks my brain and eyes whenever I move or look in a different direction. I can even HEAR the electrical jolts when they hit, so when the doctor is dismissive and thinks you're just having a "dizzy spell" - that's a load of c**p, because you ALSO experience dizziness, which feels distinctly different from the electrical brain zaps. Additionally, you get to look forward to sudden unexpected waves of uncontrollable crying that hit periodically, then become more frequent and pronounced, until a couple days later when you reach a point where they are hitting a few waves per hour and last for longer periods of time than just ten or fifteen seconds. It's at this point that I, and most other people, succumb to the withdrawal and take another Effexor just to survive the hour. Miraculously, your symptoms go away very rapidly. That's surprising considering the manufacturer claims the drug is "not addictive." Okay, whatever. So it's a non-addictive drug you can't live without.
The "lesser" symptoms I experience (because the brain zapping and crying and panic attacks will completely wreck your life in a hurry) are usually vertigo, nausea, diarrhea, confusion, and anxiety.
I have to wonder something: given the thousands of forum posts from patients going through this, I shudder to think how many people have ended their lives while trying to come off this poison, and it was attributed to "mental illness," rather than the Effexor.
My doctor was very understanding in hearing my wishes for getting off this horrible drug. I will say that for the time I was on it (6 years?) it helped me very much. I went down 37.5 mg every two weeks. This past Thursday was my last day on my last 37.5 mg pill and although I was very proud of myself for making it this far, I am about to rip my hair out because of the withdrawal symptoms. The brain and eye shocks are the worst. I have no problem sleeping but have a hard time doing daily activities without my bp dropping and breaking out into cld sweats. Whew. It really sucks. So I hope this helps.
I was taking 150mg of Effexor and took myself off the night time pill years ago. I was walking around like a ghost. With only on 75mg cap I felt better, but still so emotionally "flat". I have been so afraid to stop because I was in such a bad place when I started taking the Pozac years ago before I was switched to Effexor. I am still a little afraid, but willing to see what the future brings. I am happy for you and hope you continue in good health.
The primary reason I'm posting is to encourage anyone who is taking or considering taking any psychotropic drug for an extended period of time to see a psychiatrist for medication management. This isn't a slam against GPs -- they're a great place to start. But it's simply not their job to know the subtleties of the different classes of drugs or the drugs within each class, nor the effects of drugs in combination. Also, I think it's imperative to seek medical supervision when coming off such drugs -- even if it's not the prescribing doctor.
I've been down to 225 mg of Effexor for the last couple of years. I'm familiar with the side effects of withdrawal listed here -- the electrical shocks, the nausea, the inability to focus, the wild mood swings. It scares the heck out of me that sometimes if I'm late taking my meds by more than a few hours, I get what I call the "reminder shocks."
At 375 mg, I was experiencing more frequent episodes of hypomania, largely the result of too much anti-d in my system, and at 300 mg, I was emotionally flat. At 225 mg, I feel as though I experience a normal range of emotion. Perhaps my highs aren't as high and my lows aren't as low, but that's sort of the point considering my diagnosis. :-)
Is the drug poison? Probably.
But it's been the only thing that's even touched the depressive end of my mood swings. I hate the side effects, but again, for me, the benefits of the medication outweigh the side effects. Do I relish the fact that my brain needs this drug to function now that I've been on it for so long? Absolutely not. Do I think it's a miracle cure? No. Would I like to be off of it and the Lamictal and the Respirdal? You bet.
But before the meds, I was not far from losing everything because I couldn't manage my illness. If this is the trade-off I have to make for being able to live, I'll make it.
I hope you'll just consider this another point of view. It's not meant to take anyone to task or criticize anyone. I admire the courage it takes to put down the meds. I hope one day to do the same, but it won't be today.
I wish everyone the best of health.
I have a heavy genetic loading with an aunt who was schizphrenic, a cousin who is bipolar, a great aunt who was bipolar and a great grandfather who committed suicide. I don't like the idea of being on meds for the rest of my life, and I certainly don't like the fact that this is part of my makeup...I worry about passing this along to my kids. But with appropriate med management under the supervision of a competent psychiatrist, I suppose I should trust what she says as well as hear what my family has noticed about my behavior for years.
Your post was very helpful, thank you. :-D
I am currently GETTING off it, but THE SIDE EFFECTS are HORRIBLE!! I can't sleep, I hurt all over, can't think, feel nausiated and so sick at my stomache!!! I'm shaking and dissy!! Can't think clearly!! What a NIGHTMARE is SO DEAD on!!!!
I'm currently going to a nutritionist and will get him the information on the herb you listed.
Thanks again!! I don't feel like I'm going crazy anymore and I'm even more determined to get off this c**p!!!
I've suffered from depression for a while, have been on effexor over a year. The medication is numbing. I have been trying to wean myself off of a high dose (300mg) over the last couple months. Actually was down to 37.5 every other day feeling okay until I developed a bout of gastroenteritis this past week. Since I hadn't been able to hold anything down, I couldn't swallow my effexor tablets and so at this point, have been off of effexor for 5-6 days. I think it's time to go cold turkey for me at this point- I am excited to be so close to be off of it completely. I've been lucky not to have the brain zaps, but have had severed nausea, dry mouth and worst of all is the dizziness, feeling unsteady on my feet, sort of walking around like you haven't had your morning cup of coffee but worse... when will this resolve?! I know each person's body handles the drug differently, but a rough estimate of when the symptoms will completely resolve- when you tend to feel back to normal- would be super helpful.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL. :-(
My Dr. who started me on the Effexor looked at me like I was crazy when I told him it felt like 'Electrical Shocks' in my head and I believed it was from the Effexor. If I go 2 hours past my regular dosing time then the shocks start. I recently had tried to wheen myself from the Effexor only to find I was crying uncontrollably or pissed off at the whole world. I made another appointment with my Dr. to try and do this again but fear the come down....
I will certainly avoid caffeine and sugar and focus on the Water and Ice. Thank you to all of you who have posted as I am tired of not being 'MYSELF' and am so desperate for this nightmare to be over....
**edited by moderator**
150, 150, 75 for a month; then 150, 75, 75 for a month; 75 for a month.
75, 75, 37.5 for a month; then 75, 37.5, 37.5 for a month; 37.5 for a month.
Below 37.5 mg per day was hell (vertigo, loss of balance and co-ordination, vomit, walking like a drunk, couldn't drive), even when I didn't think I was lowering the dose. So...I switched from generic to brand-name Effexor which gives more accurate dosing. Still suffered some, and was in constant terror of the withdrawals, so added 10 mg of Prozac. Over the last few months, I have been able to get down to 2 mg daily. I hope getting off the Prozac is straightforward
I have gained weight, been drowsy, muddle-brained - this is slowly lifting. I lost low-frequency hearing in my right ear and have nearly constant ringing (tinnitus). This has not changed, so I don't know if it relates to the Effexor. My MRI result should come today.
Thank you for your posts - keep them coming. If you need help with reducing your dose, or have had hearing loss, please please let me know!