Withdrawal doesn’t only happen if you quit smoking, give up alcohol or recreational drugs.
Some prescription medications, including the antidepressant medication Effexor, can cause a number of withdrawal symptoms if you miss a dose or abruptly stop taking it.
This isn’t a reason to avoid Effexor (the brand name of the medication venlafaxine).
However, if you use the antidepressant, follow your doctor’s instructions for taking it and, if you wish to change your dose or discontinue the medication, talk to your healthcare provider about how best to do so.
In this article, we’ll discuss what Effexor is and how it works.
Then we’ll dive into the symptoms of withdrawal and the timeline for those effects.
Lastly, we’ll share tips for coping with Effexor withdrawal.
What Is Effexor?
Effexor is the brand name of the antidepressant venlafaxine.
It belongs to a class of prescription drugs called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
Effexor is available as an immediate-release tablet or as an extended-release tablet called Effexor XR.
Effexor has FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder (sometimes called social phobia).
When appropriate, a healthcare provider may prescribe Effexor off-label to treat:
- Attention deficit disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Complex pain syndromes
- Hot flashes
How Effexor works
Although researchers are still working to understand the roots of depression and anxiety, many believe that the medical conditions are connected to the bioavailability of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
In addition to emotional well-being, these brain chemicals affect memory, sleep function, appetite, metabolism, and other functions.
Effexor blocks how quickly your body reabsorbs serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, leading to higher levels in the brain and improving mood, energy, and sleep.
Symptoms of Effexor Withdrawal
When you take any antidepressant medication, after time, your body becomes used to the resulting increased level of neurotransmitters in the brain.
So if you stop taking Effexor or any other antidepressant too quickly, it can cause a cluster of symptoms called antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.
Generally speaking, antidepressant discontinuation syndrome causes uncomfortable but not serious side effects.
Effexor withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) but can be notably more intense.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Brain zaps (a feeling of electric shocks in the brain)
- Prickly skin sensations
- Flu-like symptoms
- Difficulty concentrating
- Worsening anxiety or symptoms of depression
Discontinuation symptoms can develop quickly.
If you forget an Effexor dose and begin to experience adverse effects, take your medicine as soon as possible (unless it’s close to the time or your next dose) or seek medical advice.
Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while you feel disoriented or have other severe symptoms.
Timeline for Effexor Withdrawal
Every person is different.
Some experience Effexor discontinuation syndrome more quickly than others: A portion of people report experiencing withdrawal symptoms in as little as 8-12 hours after their last dose.
Physical symptoms can last 3-5 days, and emotional symptoms may continue for up to 1-2 weeks.
Tips for Coping With Effexor Withdrawal
If you wish to reduce your Effexor dose or discontinue the medication entirely, talk to your doctor or medical professional.
If they give their approval, you can take action to reduce the chances of experiencing adverse effects.
Closely follow the taper dosage
Your healthcare can help you manage your withdrawal period by tapering your prescription to gently yet quickly decrease your dependence on the drug.
Follow their instructions carefully. Failure to do so can lead to uncomfortable symptoms.
Studies show that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may help patients quit antidepressants without increasing the risk of a relapse or new episode of depression.
Your healthcare provider may be able to refer you to therapists who are experienced in helping patients wean off of antidepressants.
Implementing healthy lifestyle changes by getting regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet, sleeping well, and reducing stress may help you manage your mood and reduce your risk of developing symptoms of Effexor withdrawal.
A few OTC medications may help remedy some symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome:
- Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help manage body aches.
- Anti-nausea medication may help reduce GI discomfort.
- Sleep aids may help promote quality rest.
Keep in communication with your healthcare provider
Work with your doctor to create a discontinuation plan.
Then when you begin tapering your medication, contact them at any time if you experience withdrawal symptoms or need health advice or support.
When to See a Doctor
If you are interested in discontinuing Effexor, talk to your healthcare provider.
They can work with you to ease you off of Effexor and reduce your chances of uncomfortable side effects.
If you take Effexor and experience any unexpected symptoms—including high fever, seizure, heart palpitations, or loss of consciousness—you may have serotonin syndrome.
Call your doctor or go to the nearest hospital for medical treatment.
Very rarely, patients develop an allergic reaction to Effexor.
If you experience rash, tingling skin, difficulty breathing or speaking, or swelling in your face, lips, tongue, or throat, you may have a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.
Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
How K Health Can Help
Think you might need a prescription for Effexor (Venlafaxine)?
K Health has clinicians standing by 24/7 to evaluate your symptoms and determine if Effexor is right for you.
Get started with our free assessment, which will tell you in minutes if treatment could be a good fit. If yes, we’ll connect you right to a clinician who can prescribe medication and have it shipped right to your door.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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The Neurobiology of Depression—Revisiting the Serotonin Hypothesis. I. Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms. (2012).
Relationship of Neurotransmitters to the Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder. (2008)
Venlafaxine (Effexor). (2020).
Venlafaxine and Serious Withdrawal Symptoms: Warning to Drivers. (2005).
Venlafaxine Withdrawal Syndrome. (2011).
Venlafaxine XR Therapy for Major Depression and Anxiety Disorders. The Clinical Implications That Its Advantages Pose. (1999).