Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is a prescription medication used to treat depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.
Though it can help to alleviate bothersome or painful symptoms for many people, Cymbalta isn’t right for everyone.
Whether due to side effects, inefficacy at treating the condition, or another reason, you and your provider or psychiatrist may decide that switching to another antidepressant medication or stopping Cymbalta altogether may be best for you.
In those cases, you may wonder how long the medication will stay in your system.
In this article, I’ll describe how Cymbalta works, its possible side effects, and how long the medication can stay in your system after discontinuing use.
What is Cymbalta?
Cymbalta is a type of antidepressant medication called a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).
SNRIs work by affecting the absorption of neurotransmitters in the brain called serotonin and norepinephrine.
By affecting these neurotransmitters, Cymbalta can work to improve mood, stress, digestion, and pain perception.
There are several conditions for which a medical professional may prescribe Cymbalta, including:
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Chronic pain, including:
- Diabetic neuropathy
Like all prescription antidepressants, it’s important that you take the medication only as directed by your provider.
Keep in mind that it can take several weeks for the medication to start taking effect and that you may experience some side effects during that time period.
Oftentimes, these side effects resolve on their own as your body adjusts to the medication.
But if any side effects persist, you can reach out to your provider to see if an adjustment in dosage is needed.
Most importantly, you should never stop taking Cymbalta suddenly unless explicitly told to do so by your provider, as doing so can cause withdrawal symptoms.
If you’re considering stopping or switching medication, talk to your provider about the right tapering off schedule for you and your dosage.
How Long Does Cymbalta Stay in Your Body?
Under the guidance of a healthcare professional, you may decide to stop taking Cymbalta.
How long Cymbalta stays in your body can vary depending on several factors, including the original dosage taken and your provider’s recommended tapering off schedule.
When following a tapering off schedule, the amount of Cymbalta taken is gradually reduced.
Once you reach the end of your tapering off schedule, it may still take a few days for the medication to leave your system completely.
Keep in mind that once Cymbalta is out of your system, symptoms of your condition (like depression or chronic pain) will likely return.
Hair tests are often used to identify illegal drug use.
Since they are not commonly used, it’s unlikely that one would screen specifically for Cymbalta.
Similarly, it’s unlikely that a urine test would be screening for Cymbalta specifically and would be able to detect trace amounts of the medication after discontinuation.
Still, Cymbalta may be found in the urine up to five days after stopping the medication.
Blood tests are one of the most accurate test types and are often used by law enforcement or legal personnel.
Generally, Cymbalta has a half-life of about 12 hours (though it can range between 8 and 17 hours depending on the individual).
The half-life of a medication is the time it takes for the amount of a medication’s active substance in your body to reduce by half.
So if you take Cymbalta after around 12 hours the plasma concentration will be reduced to half, after 12 more hours the remaining blood levels will be decreased by another half to a quarter of the original level.
Twelve hours later another half will be removed leaving one eighth and so on.
Steady-state plasma concentrations are typically achieved after three days of starting the medication.
A blood test may be able to detect Cymbalta in the blood for 2-3 days after stopping the medication.
It’s very unlikely that a saliva test will be designed and able to detect Cymbalta in your saliva.
Lab Test Identification
Traditional drug tests don’t detect Cymbalta in your system and there is a very low chance that the medication would cause a false positive of an illegal drug.
Though there are specific tests designed to identify Cymbalta in your system, an employer or legal representative would only request one based on evidence of drug abuse.
Factors that Affect How Long Cymbalta Stays in Your System
There are several factors that can impact how long Cymbalta stays in your system, including metabolism, weight, genetics, and liver and kidney function.
Metabolism and Weight
Your weight and how quickly or slowly your body metabolizes the medication will affect how long Cymbalta stays in your system.
Generally speaking, the slower your metabolism, the longer it will take for Cymbalta to leave your system.
Genetics may play a role in how fast or slow you metabolize and process the drug.
Liver and Kidney Function
Having a healthy liver and kidneys can help to move Cymbalta through your system.
Specifically, people with clinically evident hepatic impairment, or liver failure, have decreased metabolism and elimination of medications.
Side Effects of Cymbalta
While taking Cymbalta, you may experience some of the more common side effects, including:
Additional side effects are also possible when taking Cymbalta:
- Decreased appetite
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Increased risk of bleeding events
- Suicidal thoughts
In rare cases, there are some more serious risks associated with Cymbalta use in some people:
- Increase in blood pressure
- Liver failure
It’s important to let your provider know if you experience any new or troublesome side effects when taking the medication, especially if you’re having suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts.
When to See a Doctor
It’s important to reach out to your provider if the medication isn’t working to resolve your symptoms or if you’re experiencing unwanted side effects.
Also, keep an eye out for any of the rare but serious signs of an allergic reaction, including:
- Severe dizziness
- Hives, or a red or purple rash with blistering or peeling
- Itching or swelling, particularly of the mouth, face, or throat
- Trouble breathing
Additionally, reach out to your provider immediately if you experience any of the following signs that the medication isn’t working properly:
- Panic attacks
- Worsening mood
- Feeling agitated, impulsive, aggressive, restless, or hyperactive
- Thoughts of suicide
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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.
Duloxetine (Cymbalta). (2020).
Duloxetine in the treatment of major depressive disorder. (2007).
Symptoms following abrupt discontinuation of duloxetine treatment in patients with major depressive disorder. (2005).