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318307 tn?1193934917

effexor xr withdrawals - cold turkey

if anyone who has advice or had similar experiences, i would greatly appreciate any input you have to offer. i am really looking forward to the end of these withdrawals.

i am 21 and had severe/complicated ptsd since childhood (more like really bad borderline personality disorder now that i am older) and sporadic episodes of severe depression w/psychotic symptoms. i suffered a major breakdown/suicide attempt and hospitalization last year at this time for that reason and was diagnosed with mdd w/psychotic features and started on effexor xr - 150 mg per day once a day. i have since been in very effective programs for bpd (dialectical behavioral therapy), and have been taking much better care of myself and doing much better mentally and emotionally. i have been increasingly more stable since last year with only a few occasional moodswings and feelings of depression every once and a while. i feel that i have achieved a relatively normal and balanced state of mind and no longer want to be on this medication (it makes me feel very flat and unaffected and my husband of two and a half years swears that it changes my personality. he doesn't really like it).

i ran out of my perscription six days ago and am now on day 6 of attempting to quit cold-turkey. i have been experiencing the expected withdrawl symptoms (i did a lot of research on this and other people's experiences with trying to quit cold-turkey). i just want to know how long it is going to last.

days 2 and 3 were complete misery and included several of my usual psychological symptoms. i experienced pretty bad diarreah, nausea, and headaches, and also severe mood swings (crying for no reason other than an overwhelming feeling of sadness, very energenic mania-like feelings that almost convinced me that i might be manic-depressive - though i doubt this is true, outbursts of rage/very easily provoked, etc.), two panic attacks (which is actually very unusual for me), constant disorientation, dizziness, and several spells of severe disassociation (which is one of my most common/frequent symptoms).

i think that most of the extreme symptoms are passed. i only have a mild, though still constant, headache. i am having nausea only in the morning, though i have to be careful not to eat too much because my stomach is very sensitive and feels much smaller since i haven't really been eating this past week because of my symptoms. i have a constant vague sick-to-my-stomach feeling, though it is much better than it was just a few days ago. other than a persisting feeling of exhaustion i have been in much better spirits and am very excited about coming off of this medication. i am watching my diet very carefully and taking a multivitamin in addition to supplements of niacin/vitamin b3, omega 3 fatty acid, and ginger for the nausea. i am trying to exercise every day even when i feel like ****, and i think that has been helping as well.

i have only been on this medication for a year and it isn't a very high dose so i am assuming/hoping that these side effects are subsiding and won't last much longer. can anyone tell me how long they usually last? i don't have to worry about permanent physiological symptoms do i? is there anything in what i have described that could indicate what further symptoms and experiences i should expect to have?

i know it isn't going to be easy being off of the medication and i have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but i think i am ready for this. i just want to be as prepared as possible and have an idea of when i can expect these crappy symptoms to go away. thanks for taking the time to read this crazy-long post!

5 Responses
251861 tn?1195543361
Dear ihatemedication:

Please be careful.  You need to be very vigilant for the next three weeks.  Is there anyone to help you if you happen to need help?

I wrote my first post a couple of days ago about my experience of discontinuing venlafaxine (Effexor)  from 600 mg per day.  It is posted on this board under the discussion topic of Effexor and weight loss.  

The venlafaxine withdrawal effects can be nasty for some people, not all.  It sounds like, crossing my fingers and knocking on wood, you are not experiencing the nastier withdrawal symptoms.  But still, please be very careful for the next three weeks.  The reason I say that is because, in some people, it take venlafaxine up to 4 weeks to produce full antidepressant effects.  By the same reasoning, it may take up to 4 weeks for the withdrawal effects to show up.

Are you on any other medication?  Any of the atypical neuroleptics, for instance.  This is an important factor which could make a significant difference in the quantity and quality of the withdrawal symptoms.

I had to eventually go back on venlafaxine to reduce my physical pain which nothing else, including hydrocodone, helped.  Since then, I have begun to take pregabaline (Lyrica)  which seems to have taken care of the pain, so I too would like to get off the venlafaxine again.

My psychiatrist began to titrate the dose from 75 mg to 450 mg for severe depression.  I went up to 150 mg and since I didn’t see any help with my symptoms, I went back down to 75 mg a few days ago.  My depression has increased somewhat, but I expect it to stabilize.

Since you have gone cold turkey, I would like to try it too, and we can compare notes.

One more thing that is different in our cases is that I began taking Lithium, based on my studies about my condition a few days ago, to help my depression.

Also, please take a look at the website www.psycheducation.org and see if any of the topics apply to you.  This is an outstanding site for physicians and patients which translates the latest research into simple English.  You might find it useful.

Again, I am interested to know if you are on any other medications, including mood-stabilizers or neuroleptics, and if you would like to compare notes with me on this site about our withdrawal effects.

Good luck to you, and hang in there.
318307 tn?1193934917
hi, thanks a ton for the reply!

i am not currently on any other medications (though have been on many different kinds since youth). i went for a full three years without medication at all until "the meltdown" and resisted medication (at the insistance of a few dr's my husband had to force me to see) for months before that.

i feel that the effexor worked pretty fast for me, though honestly it is hard to remember given the very difficult spot i was in at the time. hopefully i have seen the worst of it (believe me, days 3 and 4 were hell on earth!) and it will be over soon. i am feeling much better today than i did yesterday, and yesterday i felt much better than the day before, so it looks like i can only go up from here.

i definitely feel your pain though (i didn't know that you could go up to 600mg! i know that must have been totally awful trying to get off from that high)! i also have had other severe reactions with medications (horrendous side affects and withdrawals after discontinuation) in the past and my health has never been what it should be because of it (i was in and out of the hands of so many psychiatrists and psychologists who couldn't decide what exactly was wrong with me when i was a kid... can you understand my resistance to medications now? ;} ). i am lucky to only be coming off one medication and only a dose of 150mg because my current psychiatrist has been constantly recommending that i up the dose sever since i started seeing him last year, and at various points in time has recommended that i go back on at least a small dose of zyprexa, one of the only other medications besides effexor which has really helped me in the past (i don't particularly like seeing this dr, but he is a nice guy and always tells me that it is up to me and i should make decisions on what i think i need and not what other people say).

anyhoo, i am sure that the difficulties you experienced with trying to get off of effexor before were due to the VERY high amount that you were taking, and i'm sure that if you came down from that dose a while ago, and are only taking 150mg now, that you will have a much easier time. although from the research i have done and what i have read from other people's experiences, these withdrawals are different with each individual (well i'm sure you already know that... ;} )

i don't think i could recommend going cold-turkey to anyone else with a clear conscience, but if it is something that you really want to do and feel that you are ready for now i would suggest the following (hopefully this will be helpful to others who are thinking of trying to get off of effexor as well)...

don't start until you can stick to at least a week of a very clean and healthy diet (obviously you should avoid caffeine, alchohol, refined sugars, processed foods, etc) a regular sleep pattern (nap if you must, but really try to get a good 8 hours a night - going to bed at the same time every night will help), and some sort of daily exercise (even if it is just a brisk walk around the block - where i live it is perfect weather for this, and i always feel refreshed and clear-headed after i do it). i know that it is usually almost impossible to stick to these kinds of things, but every amount of effort you put towards doing this will be well worth the effort and will help you tremendously. if you can request a vacation from work, do it now. you will need the rest and relaxation, and not having to worry about responsibilities will make it easier to get through (not to mention being sick at home is much more comfortable than being sick in public - you can lay down in your own bed and sit down on your own toilet whenever you want, for as long as you need to).

when you take your last dose start making an effort to consume just a little bit of food at a time about every 2 hours. chew very thoroughly and sip lots of water throughout the day. this will help relieve nausea and hunger pains, which i have been experiencing together (i know others have also complained of this side-effect - feeling terribly queezy but very hungry at the same time). the more nutritionally dense food you eat the better. your body needs it to recover and flush out the meds from your system (my diet right now is mostly oats, whole wheat and grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and a little chicken or deli turkey here and there - i do not doubt that sticking to this has helped me to get over the most sever physical symptoms fairly quickly). this kind of diet will also help you lose weight if that is one of your issues (i know it is with me and i have lost 5 lbs. since stopping my effexor 7 days ago). the reason for all of this is that eating smaller amounts of food with denser nutritional value throughout the day is much easier on our stomach (especially when it is sensitive),  promotes a healthier and more efficient digestive system and process, and speeds up your metabolism.  

if you feel that you are nutritionally deficient in any area, do take appropriate supplements to encourage your overall health and promote a faster recovery from physical symptoms, although this isn't nearly as important as eating healthy and avoiding the empty calories of sugar and saturated fats, and especially harmful substances such as caffeine and alchohol that can affect your mental state as well (NO ONE should be drinking ANY alchohol with effexor anyway, so i hope ya'll know better than that! ;} )

ginger suplements (an herb not a vitamin) can help with the nausea. some say that ginger soda/ginger ale helps with an upset stomach, but it has a ton of sugar/corn syrup in it and very little actual ginger (hardly the best thing for an outta-whack digestive system!), so i stick to the pill form, which is a gel capsule filled with powdered ginger root, and drink a bit of carbonated water.

okay, yeah, i know this post is getting really long. sorry about that, but i do hope someone finds my personal experience with this helpful, or at least encouraging. i know that even taking the best care that you can of your body won't wash away all the difficult symptoms of withdrawal and the problems that mental illnesses create, but from my most recent experiences i know that it does help - and any help is good help! (can you tell i am in an impossibly good mood today?!)

other than that, just be good to yourself and take it easy. trying your best to relax and engage in pleasurable, distracting activites will help you get through the worst of it (watching tv, reading a magazine, etc. something really easy), and increasing your activity as you start to feel more able/less sick (exercising, getting out of the house, hanging out with friends and family) will help you get through the mental/emotional funk and start feeling normal and - good golly - maybe even happy! ;D

...

anyway, thanks again, vapors, for the comment and the site recommendation! i will definitely be checking it out as soon as i am done here. if you are interested check out alternativementalhealth.com. i found it recently (hope my recommendation isn't off base) and haven't browsed the entire site yet, but i think it has some pretty good articles on symptoms of different mental illnesses and how they might be approached naturally and nutritionally (it ins't an anti-medication site - neither am i anti-medication - just hate taking it - it just has some very interesting nutritional/natural theories and studies regarding all kinds of symptoms and mental illnesses - just check out the article page).

stay positive! and come back with any more advice or thoughts or questions you have!

~ erin
318307 tn?1193934917
i almost forgot to answer your first question! i went off on a tangent and kind of lost track of what i intended to say! ;P

anyway, thankfully i do have the help of an amazingly supportive man - my husband. i also have a few close family members and a good friend who all know about a lot of my problems and my struggles with mental illness/depression/whatever. if i didn't have them i wouldn' t have tried this plan or be as optimistic and encouraged as i am right now.

support is definitely crucial!

as far as my situation goes, the worst case scenerio is that my husband will just cart me back to the loony bin for an emergency evalutation (no offense intended - sometimes it is just easier to have a sense of humor about it than think about what it really feels like to have to be in there). i don't feel like i need to worry about that right now so i am not going to! :}

~ erin
251861 tn?1195543361
Dear Erin:

Thank you very much for taking the time to provide me and everyone on this site with your outstanding suggestions.  Your ideas about preparation and planning to stop a medication are excellent.  As simple and common-sense as they should be, I did not even think about them.

Well, I was so inspired by your initial cold-turkey entry that I discontinued taking the 75 mg of venlafaxine last night.  I had tapered from 150 mg to 75 mg 3 or 4 days ago.  This morning I felt better than I had in a few weeks.  More energetic and less groggy.  Go figure.  Of course, this is probably more of a coincident, but still, is much better than I expected.

Having had a doctor as a father, my initial approach to psychiatrists was rather open and favorable.  But after 13 years of watching them playing dartboard medicine with my treatment-resistant depression, my regard for the run-of-the-mill, non-research oriented psychiatrists is at an all time low.  So I totally sympathize with your view.  I have had to educate myself by studying the current research and theories in psychiatry and psychopharmacology which apply to me, and begin telling my psychiatrist what to do next.  When there is a question, I pull out the research papers.

Well, thank you again, very much, for taking the time to respond to me.

Wishing you the best of luck and best of health.

A.
318307 tn?1193934917
no problem at all!

i find that trying to apply my experiences to helping others and giving advice (even if i think it is silly and simple and unnecessary at first) gives me a sense of self-confidence and satisfaction that i don't have when i isolate myself and withdraw into my own little world (you probably know the one i am talking about - where you are the center of the universe and everything revolves around you and your symptoms and your ability/inability to function and communicate or even behave normally with the outside world)!

it is so weird that i totally get where you are coming from and can "ditto" just about everything you said about your approach to psychiatrists! ;}

anyhoo, all the same to you! let us all know how your own experience goes.

~ erin

*just had a crazy thought! it may already exist, but there really should be a good comprehensive website/organization that can give out information like this - where people could go to learn all about psych medications (ALL the facts and research compiled together in a comprehensive way, not just the sugar-coated ones the pharmacutical companies and dr's offer), and go to share reviews and experiences with them with everyone else.*

hmmm... maybe i've been on the internet too long today! :}
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