Over 18% of adults in the United States are affected by an anxiety disorder annually.
There are a variety of medications used to treat anxiety and depression disorders.
Effexor XR (venlafaxine) is used to treat mental health conditions including panic disorders, social phobias, generalized anxiety, and clinical depression.
When you start treatment for anxiety, it can be hard to tell if it’s working.
Determining whether or not you feel the effects of a medication like Effexor will help determine your dosage and understand side effects.
In this article, I’ll go over what Effexor is, signs it’s working or not after 1-2 weeks, and how to tell whether it’s working after 6-8 weeks.
I’ll also go over standard dosage of Effexor.
Finally, we’ll review common side effects of the medication and when to see a doctor.
What is Effexor?
Effexor is an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication used to relieve symptoms by increasing the level of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
It belongs in the family of SNRI medications, or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors.
SNRIs affect the chemicals in the brain that regulate mood.
Effexor is used mainly in the treatment of major depressive disorder, as well as anxiety disorders including panic and social phobia disorders.
It is also used for energy and mood stabilization.
In addition to treatments for anxiety and depression, Effexor has been used to treat PTSD, nerve pain, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and hot flashes caused by menopause and chemotherapy.
Effexor may also be prescribed if another antidepressant medication or anxiety treatment, like an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), such as Lexapor, Prozac, or Zoloft, do not help manage your symptoms.
How Effexor works
When serotonin and norepinephrine levels are low in the brain, you can start to feel anxious, depressed, and may experience low energy or muscle and nerve pain.
As an SNRI, Effexor regulates the reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.
This increases their level of availability in the brain, and thus helps to regulate and improve mood and energy levels.
Signs Effexor is Working (1-2 weeks)
It may take a few weeks before you see substantial changes to your symptoms after starting Effexor.
In the first 1-2 weeks, many patients notice their appetite is improving and sleep patterns are more regular.
You may also notice an increase in energy levels.
These may be signs that the medication is working.
Signs Effexor is Working (6-8 weeks)
For most people, it will take about 6 weeks before they begin to feel the full effect of the medication.
After about 6-8 weeks, depressed mood and lack of interest in activities will start to subside, and general symptoms of depression should be under control.
If you still feel your symptoms are not controlled at this point it’s vital to speak with your prescriber to determine the best next steps.
Standard Dosage for Effexor
Venlafaxine, or Effexor, comes in oral tablets or capsules.
Your doctor will base your dose off your medical condition and response to the medication.
To reduce the risk of unwanted side effects, they will usually begin you on a low dose and work your way up.
Commonly, Effexor doses start at 37.5 mg daily and then increase to 75 mg after a week.
Every few days, your doctor may instruct you to increase your dose.
The most common therapeutic dose is around 150 mg daily, but the maximum dose is typically225 mg.
Those in an inpatient setting can be prescribed up to 350 mg daily.
Common doses for Effexor, taken once daily are:
- Major Depressive Disorder: 75-225 mg, with severely depressed inpatients taking up to 350 mg per day
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder: 75-225 mg
- Social Anxiety Disorder: 75 mg
- Panic Disorder: 37.5-225 mg
Note that the exact dose is best determined by your prescriber based on your unique needs.
If you miss a dose, you should take it as soon as you remember.
However, if it’s close to the time you usually would take your next dose, skip it and take the next one as normal.
It is important that you do not take two doses at once to “make up” for a missed dose.
If you have questions regarding dosage or a missed dose, you should reach out to your doctor or pharmacist.
Effexor should not be taken without the supervision of a doctor.
Taking more than your prescribed amount can come with serious risks.
Symptoms of an overdose may include: tachycardia, unusual sleepiness, seizures and vomiting, hypotension, muscle pain, dizziness, or dilated pupils.
Combining Effexor and other SSRIs can also result in a serious, life-threatening condition known as serotonin syndrome.
This may result in mental status change, agitation, cramping, hyperactivity and hyperpyrexia.
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience symptoms such as agitation, tremors, confusion, amongst others.
Common Side Effects of Effexor
Most people experience only mild side effects with effexor, if any.
While beginning a new medication can be nerve racking, the outcome often outweighs the potential side effects.
A doctor will often start off with a low dose to monitor any side effects and reduce the risk of their occurrence.
While different medications may have different side effects, some of the most common with Effexor include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep
- Gastrointestinal issues like heartburn, decreased appetite, constipation, gas, or diarrhea
- Vivid or unusual dreams
- Decreased sex drive or difficulty achieving orgasm or ejaculation
- Prickly or tingling sensations
Some people also experience muscle tension, yawning, change in taste, and night sweats, although those are less common.
When to See a Medical Provider
If you experience symptoms of a possible allergic reaction, like severe dizziness, hives, swelling of face or throat, difficulty breathing, or seizures, seek medical attention immediately.
If symptoms don’t improve after several weeks or get worse, you should check back in with your doctor.
Any signs of serotonin syndrome, including fever, hallucinations, sweating, and uncontrolled muscle movement, should be met with immediate medical attention.
Do not stop taking Effexor without the assistance of your doctor. Serious symptoms of withdrawal include flu-like symptoms, headache, nausea, and high blood pressure.
As is the case with most antidepressants, there is a risk of serious side effects, like increased suicidal thoughts and behavior, especially in children and young adults. It is important to notice the moods of those in your life taking the treatment, and if you notice changes or suicidal ideations, tell your doctor right away.
If you’re having a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. You can also get free 24/7 support from a suicide and crisis expert by calling or texting 988. If you’d prefer to chat online, you can chat with a suicide and crisis expert by visiting the Lifeline Chat.
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.
Antidepressant Medicines. (2007.)
Serotonin Toxicity Precipitated by Tramadol in the Setting of Polypharmacy: A Case of Serotonin Syndrome. (2021.)