Last Updated:October 27, 2022
Effexor (venlafaxine) is notorious for causing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, known as “antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.” Effexor is generally prescribed starting at 75 mg per day, but the max dose can range from 225 mg daily to 375 mg daily, depending on the dosage form of the drug. Skipping doses of Effexor or quitting the drug cold turkey, especially at higher doses, can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, it’s important to take Effexor exactly as your doctor prescribes.
When your body becomes used to a substance, suddenly stopping it can cause withdrawal symptoms. Someone who abruptly stops taking Effexor may start to experience withdrawal symptoms 8–12 hours after the last dose. Effexor withdrawal symptoms usually resolve within two weeks.
The most reliable way to prevent or minimize withdrawal symptoms is to gradually taper the Effexor dose over a minimum of two weeks, although a longer taper may be needed. No matter what, it is important to taper Effexor under a doctor’s supervision, especially if you are taking Effexor for a mental health condition like depression. Suddenly stopping Effexor while leaving your mental health untreated may be dangerous.
Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms
Among antidepressants, Effexor is one of the most difficult to quit. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (ADS) is characterized by a variety of withdrawal symptoms that occur because of physical dependence. Dependence develops with the regular use of antidepressants. Though it usually develops in six weeks or more, it can develop within just three weeks in some cases.
The presence and severity of Effexor withdrawal symptoms do not seem to be correlated with dose. Currently, it is impossible to reliably predict who will experience symptoms of ADS.
*The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding your medications.
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Effexor Brain Zaps
Venlafaxine has one of the highest rates of “brain zap” frequency associated with antidepressant discontinuation. Brain zaps are an electric shock sensation that may also include visual disturbances. Doctors are not sure why this phenomenon occurs. Although this symptom resolves quickly in most people, others experience brain zaps for months or years.
Other Effexor Withdrawal Symptoms
Other common Effexor withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable or even debilitating, including:
- Electric shock sensations in hands or feet
- Flu-like symptoms
- Loss of coordination
- Vivid dreams
Effexor Withdrawal Timeline
The Effexor withdrawal timeline can vary. Symptoms typically begin as early as 12 hours after the last dose and generally resolve within one to two weeks. Because Effexor has a half-life of four hours, it is completely out of the system within a day. Antidepressants with longer half-lives stay in the body for longer amounts of time and may limit the onset and severity of ADS.
Factors Affecting Effexor Withdrawal
ADS typically affects about 20% of people who abruptly stop antidepressant use. However, Effexor may have a somewhat higher rate of ADS frequency — possibly up to 34%. There is currently no reliable way to predict the occurrence of ADS or its severity. Studies have even shown that higher Effexor doses are not predictive of ADS development.
A number of studies have shown that people who taper off of Effexor are significantly less likely to experience ADS, and their symptoms are milder and resolve more quickly compared to people who abruptly stop taking Effexor.
Effexor Withdrawal Treatment
The most reliable way to prevent Effexor withdrawal is to work with your doctor to develop a tapering regime. If you abruptly stop taking Effexor and are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, the only proven way to relieve them is to resume taking Effexor and gradually taper the dose with your doctor. Some studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness-based therapies can help people better manage their symptoms.
Medical detox is not required for Effexor withdrawal, but people with ADS could find success in a rehab center that can help them taper off Effexor safely while providing behavioral therapy and other treatment.
People who take Effexor along with other substances may benefit from a medical detox to avoid withdrawal complications. This is especially true if you take Effexor for a mental health condition, which can worsen withdrawal symptoms.
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How to Taper Off Effexor
Anyone who is considering quitting Effexor or other antidepressants should consult with a medical professional. Several studies have shown that the best way to prevent ADS and withdrawal symptoms is to gradually discontinue use.
An Effexor taper schedule may vary from person to person, but a general guideline is to reduce the Effexor dose by 10 mg every two weeks, for a minimum of four weeks. Your doctor can work with you to develop an appropriate tapering schedule that is most effective for your unique situation.
Effexor Withdrawal Remedies
There are no verified remedies for Effexor withdrawal. If you stop Effexor and start to notice withdrawal symptoms, talk to your prescriber immediately. They may be able to restart you on Effexor or another antidepressant, which can resolve your withdrawal.
In addition, it is important to focus on your health, as this may ease withdrawal symptoms. Some tips include:
- Eat a nutritious diet
- Stay well-hydrated
- Consider regular, light exercise, like yoga
- Consider therapy or counseling, especially if you were taking Effexor for a mental health condition
Alternative Treatments for Effexor Withdrawal
Cross-tapering may be an effective method to prevent or minimize Effexor ADS symptoms. Cross-tapering involves transitioning from high doses of Effexor to another antidepressant, often duloxetine, that has a similar makeup. However, there is a risk of serotonin syndrome if cross-tapering is done incorrectly. A “wash-out” period of approximately five half-lives — about 20 hours for Effexor — must be done before starting another medication that inhibits serotonin reuptake.
Outpatient Treatment for Effexor Withdrawal
Outpatient rehab programs that offer cognitive behavioral therapies and other forms of psychotherapy may help people experiencing Effexor withdrawal symptoms. Behavioral therapies are also likely to be incredibly beneficial for people who are concerned about experiencing a recurrence of depression or anxiety.
Detoxing From Effexor at Home
Many people who stop using Effexor, either abruptly or with a taper, do so at home. Since quitting abruptly can increase the risk of ADS, it’s essential to follow your doctor’s advice when it comes to quitting Effexor and home and managing side effects. This includes having a friend or loved one available for support, or to help identify mood changes that can come from stopping an antidepressant.
Finding a Detox Center
If you are concerned about Effexor ADS, it is advised to follow a tapering regimen under the care of medical professionals. Look for a rehab facility that has experience with tapering clients off of antidepressants and provides cognitive behavioral therapy.
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