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After 6 long years on venlafaxine, I have finally gotten off the drug. I don't know if this will be of any use to anyone, but I wanted to share some hopeful words and tips for anyone trying to come off of this nasty medication. I should clarify, however, that I am not angry for having been put on this medication, as I am sure it saved my life. That being said, 6 years, 225mg/day and an additional 20kg later (!!! just awful !!!) I am so glad to be Effexor free.
I was taking Effexor XR and had been on my maximum dose for 3.5 years. Prior to that I was on 150mg for about 2 years. I took 3 x 75mg capsules every morning as a once a day dose. Taking three tablets was initially to save money (for some reason it was cheaper here in Australia to do it that way) but it ended up having the extra bonus of making withdrawal easier.
What worked for me may not work for everyone, but this is the approach my GP and I came up with. Most was my own plan, based on what I found worked, but my GP gave me the initial "tablet dropping" idea and trusted me to take it slowly, listen to my body and see her as needed. It worked very, very well, with minimal side effects. If it helps even one of you it will be worth having posted this.
First things first:
1. Make sure you are taking care of yourself and are in a good place emotionally before even contemplating withdrawal.
2. You are going to need supportive people around you- I don't know if I could have done it without my boyfriend. Tell your family/friends AND DOCTOR what you are doing. This is crucial. You may also want to tell someone you trust at work what is going on, so they know why you may seem a little dazed every so often.
3. Make sure you are eating really well. I switched to a vegan diet about half way through and, although this is not for everyone, this made withdrawal so much easier. I am sure the huge amounts of vegetables made a difference. I especially noticed that days when I ate lots of sea vegetables I coped best with symptoms, so consider working them into your normal diet.
4. Take a multivitamin and drink lots of water. At least 2 litres a day. This will help minimise the horrible nausea you will probably experience.
5. Drink ginger tea/use ginger. This is also for the nausea and I found it was essential in the days after stopping completely. It really does help. I also wondered if some people might find a prescription for maxalon or stemetil helpful, as the nausea and dizziness was the worst for me.
6. Get lots of sleep. I mean heaps of it. Anyone who has withdrawn from this med (or even skipped a dose!) knows how tired you will get.
Now the tablet reduction:
I started by reducing my total weekly dose by 1 tablet per week (taking 2 tabs one day and 3 every other day) for a few weeks. This sounds like nothing, but even this produced quite bad side effects at first (teariness, exhaustion, dizziness and nausea). Only when I was comfortable (ie no side effects) with this dose regimen did I move on.
Then, I took 2 tabs instead of 3 on two days a week for a few weeks until I was comfortable (making sure to space the 2 tablet days out, eg Sat and Wed). Then I got into the habit of taking tablets as follows. I made sure to plan/write all of this down on our calender beforehand, to use as a guide and make sure I didn't mess it up:
3, 3, 2, 3, 3, 2, 3, 3, 2 etc for about 3 to 4 weeks
3, 3, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 3, 2, 3, 2, 2 etc for about another 3 weeks to month.
3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, etc for about a month. Then when I got to 2 tablets (150mg) a day on every day of the week I rested on that for quite a while (mostly as I was nervous about going too fast). Then, I did a pretty much similar thing to get down to one tablet a day. Then the same to get to 37.5 mg. I actually stopped pretty abruptly from the 37.5 mg stage, as I felt entirely ready. After that I had about 5 days of feeling pretty crappy, with symptoms as above, then I started getting better. Day 3 with no drugs was the worst for me.
So, in the end, it took me about 8 months to go from 225 to nothing. I know that seems an eternity, but I think that is why I coped so well. Five days after dropping from 37.5mg to nothing, I had almost no symptoms. Seven days later I had none. Even if you take nothing else from this, please know that it is possible to get off of this nasty drug BUT you must be careful, listen to your body, do it with support from those around you and in communication with your GP.
Good luck to all of you
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