Venlafaxine withdrawal - there is hope!

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I've previously posted on another discussion thread about coming off venlafaxine - I was about to take the plunge myself - but rather than re-post on that thread I thought I'd start a new one to give my account of my experience and I hope a chance of light at the end of that awful tunnel for others.

Diagnosed with clinical depression many years ago most of my adult life has been spent on one or another SSRI - finally arriving at venlafaxine ten years ago as nothing much else was helping. At this time my mood was scraping the bottom of the barrel - emotionally I was empty & swung between desolate and merely oppresively sad.

I can't completely right off vnlfx - it did lift me initially and give me motivation, but unfortunately over the years the efficacy weakened and therefore the dose I was taking increased - until at the beginning of 2012 I was on 300mg daily.

As I progressed through last year it became obvious that not only was vnlfx not helping me in anyway, it was also producing some alarming side effects - these had crept in slowly over the years and I had been so caught up with my mental health I hadn't noticed. Forgetting a dose resulted in the most debilitating nausea, dry mouth and brain zaps - I began to fear going away and forgetting my medication or not being abe to get to the pharmacy for a prescription and running out. All the time I continued presenting myself as a contented, together, capable professional woman, and as any of us who suffer mental illness know, this 24/7 act is absolutely exhausting. By the autumn of this year I was sleeping in huge chunks. The sedative effect of the drug combined with being asleep being an excellent way of hiding from my problems, I found it all to easy to succumb to sleep. I'd sleep for ten hours solid at night, then wake for a few hours in the morning, feel sleepy and give in - only to wake again briefly during the evening before the cycle began again. Luckily working a shift pattern as well meant I could get away with this, but my non-working hours were spent asleep & hiding from the world.

I don't know why the lightening bolt hit, but once day I became aware that this was no quality of life & went to see my GP about withdrawal from vnlfx. I must emphasise here that my GP has been wonderful during the entire time I have known her, and I'm aware that I'm lucky to be in this situation. She was aware of anecdotal evidence of vnlfx withdrawal syndrome and we made a plan for a very slow dose decrease - suffering such marked side effects when late taking my meds meant that we were expecting a tough ride.

I cannot emphasise too much just how important it is to go slowly slowly slowy, and to reduce your dosages by tiny amounts. Each time I cut down too quickly, or reduced the dose too quickly I'd be pole-axed by side effects and mental disturbance. A couple of times I did think about giving up, and remaining on vnlfx for life - but the thought of returning to that hideous emotional no-man's land was enough to motivate me to pick up & go back to the previous 'good' dose again & persevere. The key stage was probably getting down to a quarter of a 37.5mg tablet (told you the dose reduction needs to be minute!) and then my doctor adding in fluoxetine 20mg for two weeks before I took the plunge and took my last ever dose of vnflx. That was over six weeks ago and the relief I feel now is immeasurable. I now have clarity of thought and emotion to the extent that I can't ever remember having before. Don't get me wrong, I'm still clinically depressed, there is no magic wand, but I feel just like I have been released from venlafaxine taking my mind prisoner. I don' t think that unless you have experienced this drug first hand you can possibly imagine just how much it really ***ks with your mind - absolutely terrifying.

Key to my success has been managing to find a therapist that by some fluke I have a superb connection with and weekly sessions with her have been more valuable to me than any drug ever has. I expect to be seeing her for a very long time to come - to reiterate i'm by no means 'cured' but am happy at last to be back in control of my mind.

Happy to pass on further details of what worked for me on my withdrawal - I kept a diary, helps you have faith to get through the bad days - but please don't expect miracles, I know that just because it's worked for me it may not suit anyone else.

But - please do have hope! I was one of the many in despair on here a few months back not ever being able to see a way to get free of this hideous drug, but I've done it, so it can be done


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    So - as I started this thread almost a year ago I thought it may help to let you know how things are going for me.

    Good news is that I did it! I came off the horror drug - no, it wasn't a pleasant experience in any way - but i'm off it for good and i'm back in charge of my own mind. The masking with Prozac was the key for me, I still had the withdrawal symptoms but nothing like as severe as when I tried to do it without. I can't emphasise too much just how important it is to go very very slowly and cut down in tiny amounts, I was chopping the tiniest pills into quarters and mixing the bits with soft cheese - that's how slowly i took it!

    I did have a relapse. About eight weeks after i had my last ever dose of Ven I felt so good that I just stopped taking the prozac (I was only on 20mg, thought that was nothing after the high dose of ven i'd been on for years) and had a massive slump. My poor mind just couldn't cope with another alteration in the chemicals i'd been pumping in and went into melt down. Suffice to say I went back on the Prozac with the help of my excellent GP and back to my wonderful therapist until things were a back under control.

    In August I went with friends to a music festival. Felt bright, engaged and looking forward to it but woke up in the tent in the morning and had my first ever panic attack! Of course my first thoughts were 'I need the Ven back, I can't cope without it' but I luckily had the support of very good friends who reminded me of everything I'd (we'd) been through with the withdrawal, how out of my head i'd been whilst on it, and how much more in control I'd felt since no longer having it in my system. They also reminded me that going through the process of withdrawal and succeeding showed just how much mental strength I had, that this was just a blip and my mantra: 'IT WILL PASS!' was true.

    I can't say i'm carefree, happy go lucky these days - of course not, I suffer from a mental illness that cannot be cured - but I am back in control of my mind and when the bad times come I have the rationality to put coping mechanisms into place. Most importantly I can say to myself 'IT WILL PASS' and believe in it.

    I do actually experience good times and happy times too, rather than just that feeling of watching the world go on without you through a steamed up window - my explanation to others of how venlafaxine affected my consciousness.

    Things that have helped me:

    Talk to people who also suffer - the isolation of believing you are the only one is one of the most damaging weapons this illness has.

    Meditation - I always dismissed as airy-fairy. Not at all, the joy of being able to train yourself to be able to empty your mind of all thoughts, even for a brief period of time is indescribable! Try the myHeadspace app and give it time...

    Write things down - I have a notebook, I write the bad feelings down, but also the good feelings. However small and seemingly insignificant you can remind yourself that you are capable of good times and that they will come again.

    Have a mantra - 'IT WILL PASS' is mine. Life is fluid and constantly changing - ebb and flow. There will be respite. I ought to have this tattoed somewhere!

    Read about mental illness - I've read so many books about people's experiences of mental illness, that realisation again that most people out there however together and chirpy they may appear outside have had some experience of it helps you feel less isolated. The cricketer Marcus Trescothick's autobiography 'coming back to me' is superb and Sally Brampton's 'Shoot the damn Dog' - particularly as she also went through the horror drug withdrawal is hugely comforting and inspiring.

    I've read in a number of these books that depression is far more likely to occur in people who are very strong, have high standards, who care about others more than themselves and don't want to let themselves or others down. We keep on going, making so much effort and exhausting ourselves emotionally just to maintain that aura of 'being normal' coping and not falling to pieces. No wonder when we collapse it's so intense.

    Please respect yourselves as precious and valuable human beings - one of my biggest learnings is that I have to look after myself first!

    It will happen, you CAN get venlafaxine out of your system, you do not need to be imprisoned in your own mind by this drug!!!

    Love to all,


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    • Posted

      Anna,  your post has given me hope, I can't thank you enough!  I am on day 5 of being off this horrible drug after  a 2 week taper .   I get both brain zaps and what I think of as brain lags especially when I move my eyes or head.  They are quite strong yesterday and so far today.  weepy, want to be alone,  I am trying to use what I have learned in yoga about using your breath to calm down.  I am determined to get off antidepressants after 30ish years of being on them.     I need to know the real me ....

      Love to you.

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  • Posted

    my gp told me i shouldnt have any withdrawal symptoms as im only on37.5mg for nightsweats but I was concerned having read up on it first. im breaking mine in half at the moment to do this slowly. im having some aches and vision problems and nausea but ive got epilepsy so would have put some of my symptoms down to that. increase in seizures too. this med has lifted my mood but after two yesrs its time to go back to realit
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  • Posted

    I have been on efxr xr for 7 years and am now at 300 mg/day. want to get off but have tried with no success, due to horrible side effects. what is the best course of action??? anyone help please

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  • Posted

    Thomas -- currently withdrawing from 300 mgs daily. Go very, very slowly. Drop your dose slightly and then live with it for a couple of weeks. Then drop again. Keep yourself hydrated. Toxins leave our bodies when we pee. Flush your system out w/good old water!. Eat well. Small, light meals. Salmon helps, interestingly. Be gentle with yourself. Don't expect too much of yourself. I recommend taking an anti-anxiety med. It will reduce some severe symptoms. Stay in touch with your doctor. You aren't permanently damaged. You can do this. We can all do this. You decide how much to drop and how slowly to go. It's better when you feel some control. But you can do it.

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  • Posted

    Hi. I don't normally participate in these forums, but I really wanted to tell you all about The Road Back program. I'm currently coming off Efexor and have just recently dropped my last dose. Up until now, the withdrawal symptoms have been manageable because of the Road Back program. It is worth doing while coming off the Efexor as the supplements you take really help minimise the withdrawal symptoms. If you follow the advice re the pre taper and take it really slow reducing the Efexor, almost all withdrawal side effects are minimal. Good luck. We need all the help we can get getting off this drug!!
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    • Posted

      What is the Road Back program? 

      I was out of town last night and realized I left my make up bag along with my meds, at home.  Panic set in immediately.

      I'm home now, and in bed.  These withdrawl symptoms are unbearable.  I need to be free from this poison.  

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    • Posted

      Hi Ruthann, sorry to hear you're having the withdrawals.  They really are horrible!!!  The Road Back is a program to withdraw from "psychiatric" meds.  It offers a line of holistic products to help get through the withdrawals.  Google it.  I didn't end up ordering any of the products they offer but finally made it through the withdrawals after about 5 weeks.  I'm feeling back to normal for the most part but I'm having some weird adjustment issues.  Like I am seeing things very diffferently than I did when I was on the ven.  Things rolled of my back so much easier.  Now I feel very sensitive to every little thing.  I think it's just a matter of my body and my brain adjusting without the meds.  I was sort of depressed this last week and that freaked me out.

      Fish oil seems to be a very common suggestion for the withdrawals.  It's on the list of products The Road Back has too.  Might be worth checking out.

      Others have said that going on Prozac or Zoloft eased some of the more severe symptoms.  They are different meds from ven, so the withdrawals aren't the same.

      I hope all works out for you!!  

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  • Posted

    hi im new to ever posting on any forums and also new to ever taking a prescribed anti-depressant, namely, venlafaxine 37.5mg. My GP described me today to take one 37.5mg daily for 2 weeks and then to up the dosage to 75mg (i think) daily for the next 2 weeks. The thing is, I took one 37.5mg tablet today (the first one ever), and within 3 hours was extremely nausious. I tried holding off on the puking but eventually succumbed to vomiting. I ended up going to bed and (this is weird), Im not sure if I was sleeping or half awake, but knew I was thinking or dreaming about something yet, seconds later  I couldn't remember what I was thinking/dreaming about!!  I felt  soooo sick, I thought I'd ring the pharmacy where I collected my meds., she advised that if I could persist and try to put up with the sickness in the early stages that It might pay off? however, after vomiting, I've been left with a dreadful headache. My head feels as if someone hit me with a ton of bricks but inside where my brain is. if that makes sense? God sorry if im going on here but am a bit scared now to continue. Anyone have suggestions as to whether I should stick with this or go no further with the anti-depressants? if this is what drugs can do to you after a cowardly one tablet then, Im not sure its the path I want to take. Also, as i puked that tablet up after roughly 3 hours, obviously some of it will be still in my system, if I discontinue and not take anymore should I get those horrible withdrawel symptoms? will possibly look to something other than antidepressants.any advice would be appreciated. thanks
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    • Posted

      Hi mary68293.  I'm so sorry to read about you feeling so horrible, after taking venlafaxine.  I can only say that it suits me, and I'm on 225mg daily - but it did take several weeks to start working.  As to anti-depressants generally - I believe they're worth trying (although they all take a while to start working) because they take the edge off the misery and desperation of depression and anxiety, and enable you to get on with doing other things to help yourself. I found Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and guidance from the Day Centre at the Hospital useful, along with getting out and meeting people, forcing myself to keep going with my hobbies, and feeling good about myself by doing voluntary work.  I wouldn't have been able to do these things without the venlafaxine,  and the depression and anxiety then gradually improved. If you really are having a violent reaction to venlafaxine, then perhaps you need to ask your doctor for some advice.  I do hope you can find something that helps you.
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  • Posted

    I have been off 300mg daily not taking any venlaflaxine but still on lorazapam 2mg   3 times a day and buspurione 3 times a day..My question is why do I still have periods of withdrawl issues after 3 months or will this go on for a while??


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  • Posted

    Wow, congratulations to everyone here who has contributed immensely to this discussion. I've dabbled in various other mental health and medication forums over the years, but never before have I read such thorough and well written posts. The words of wisdom from the "pixie/pickle " duo are so good in fact,  that it's inspired me to this, my very first post.

    Furthermore, annasch's advice for going slowly,  slowly, slowly, is very,  very,  very sound advice indeed.

    I've been reading all these fascinating posts as I had been seriously considering augmenting Ven. in conjunction to my Mirtazepine. However, after reading up on some of the horrendous withdrawal symptoms described by the brave people on this discussion,  I have my doubts on starting up with Ven. in the first place with Ven. I was enthusiastic and may have gotten caught up in the whole "California Rocket Fuel" headline of combining Mirtazapine together with Ven. 

    So thanks to all these great posts, I'm keeping this brief as I'm typing away on my tiny phone screen and it's giving me a headache. I'll sure to contribute to this forum as I'd love to be able to help someone in a similar way as this forum has helped me.



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  • Posted

    I was on Effexor XR and then venlafaxine XR for the past 7 years or so at varying doses.  I knew years ago that this stuff wasn't working to help my depression, but my Psych nurse practitioner refused to help me come off it.  I recently got a new insurance that can't be used t her office and moved away from Psych NP's office location.  I got a new Psychiatrist who was willing to help me come off the venlfaxine.  She did not seem overly knowledgeable about the withdrawal effects. I was on 75 mg when I saw her. She gave me a script for 37.5 mg with one refill and said taper for the one month and stop but to increase back to 75 mg if I had bad withdrawals and make an appointment with her.  I took the 37.5 mg for one month and stopeed altogether.  I'm 2 days shy of 3 weeks off this horrible stuff and I'm still having some withdrawal symptoms. I mostly had the dizziness, brain zaps, nausea and diarrhea.  The brain zaps have stopped but today I am feeling very dizzy and I feel like my motor coordination is off.  The first couple days off were an emotional roller coaster, with sadness, impatience, anger and passion being the most prominent ones.  I'm still having days where I feel very dizzy and the motor coordination today is especially bad.  I've been feeling physically weak as well.  I will never again take this type of antidpressant and am hoping beyond hope that these withdrawals stop SOON!!

    Thank you all for sharing your journeys.  There is very little information from any medical community about how to manage these withdrawals, which I think is terrible.  We should know what we're up against and professionals should be prepared to help us more.

    And just of note, I am in the U.S.  I didn't realize venlafaxine was in the U.K. too.

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