Hi - fairly new to the board and wanted to share some of my nightmare about Effexor withdrawal and see if anyone else out there has had similar experiences.
It all began back in 1998 when I was prescribed Effexor XR for my anxiety attacks/depression. It seemed to work OK and after several months, I tapered down in an effort to get off the med. Well, once I got to the smallest capsule (37.5 mg) and tried to come off, I had really bad problems with it. My pdoc thought it a "return of symptoms" and siad to stay at the 37.5 mg level for a while. Well, several times over the past 6 years, I have tried to come off the med with the same reaction so my doc just thought I needed to stay on Effexor at a maintenance level indefinitely.
Well, fast-forward to April 2004. I have had a ton of huge life stressors over the past year and my Panic Disorder returned with a vengeance. So, doc decided to increase my Effexor XR gradually up to 225 mg/day. Well, the med did nothing to help with my panic attacks. The Effexor had stopped working. So I came down, tapered, to 75 mg. I had a problem with extreme mood swings and feelings of despair, etc. - again thinking it was just my symptoms. Well, doc said to go back up on the Effexor to 150 mg and taper more slowly. I have done this over the past several weeks from 150 to 75 and now to 37.5 mg.
At each level, I suffer some pretty hefty withdrawal - usually about the fourth day into a taper it's at its worst. I am at Day 7 of my taper to 37.5 mg and it's still touchy with feelings of lightheadedness, dizziness, feeling of detachment/unreality, head "buzz", etc. It sucks but I will not take any extra doseage to feel better - I want off. My plan is to take my last Effexor capsule on July 4th - my Independence Day and not look back. I am planning for the worst as far as withdrawal is concerned and have told my boss that I may miss a couple days or so in the next two week period. My mom wants me to stay at her place so I may do that.
This may sound wimpy and whiney but this stuff is bad news. I am 44, male, 6'-0", 200 lbs. I work out 5 days a week and run regularly in competitive races from 5Ks to 1/2 marathons. I lift weights - basically, if you look at me, I am a model of physical fitness and one would not think that a little pill like Effexor could put the whammy on someone like me. But I am here to tell you it has. I will update progress as I go. From what I read on the Internet, it may take anywhere from a week to six weeks to complete the withdrawal. Since I have a fast metabolism, I am hoping it's sooner than later
It's a crying shame I have to feel like some type of dope addict - I have never had any problems with drugs or alcohol and never expected any. But Effexor has put me there. I won't be there much longer. Wish me luck!
<BTW, I am doing CBT, meditation, exercise and even yoga to work with the PD - these are much better to me than a med.>
wow! i guess i really have something to look forward to. i have only been on the effexor xr for about five months,at 150 mg at bed time. the main reason i want off of it is because i have gained alot of weight in just the past 6 weeks. it's unreal! i can't even stand to look at myself right now.the dr assured me that this would'nt happen.yeah right.
could you tell me if you just tapered the dose each week,or started just taking it every other day?
i also want out of this mess before i get in too deep....i have been reading alot about it.
i also take klonopin,and i hope that will help me through some of the withdrawl?
I know the w/d can be scary. I have felt it accidently, by running out of meds a while back, and a HUGE mess w/ mailing in my rx's (just got them in today).
I was taking a full dose (300mg), then a 1/2, then full, etc. to try to make them last longer till i knew i had enough to be regular. I was feeling crappy on just a 1/2 dose, and this was my "10 day supply" to get me thru till the real stuff came. So 2nd round of w/d basically in a two wk period.
I didn't know it would be so bad after going all the way down to the lowest dose available. They should make a smaller dose for going off.... i know if it were me, i would try to avoid stressful situations or places, like wal-mart!!! i feel real agitated, and short-nerved, along w/ dizzy head, etc. I have noticed that having enough FOOD in my system does releive some of the head stuff. helps to relax at least.
good luck Mike
Thanks y'all for the great replies. This morning, I awoke refreshed after a good night's sleep and came in to work early - WOW! Anyway, this is Day 8 at the 37.5 mg level for Eff XR and it's beginning much better than yesterday. My plan is still to remain at this level until 7/4 and go off completely Let me answer soem of your questions and address some comments:
hry33: I agree that SOME of the problems coming down off a med is a return of symptoms. However, I have become very adept at identifying my "typical" anxiety symptoms versus w/d. Some of the w/d symptoms I never have with anxiety and, to make matters worse, the w/d can intensify the "typical" anxiety symptoms that I do feel. Since Effexor didn't really work this time, I can distinguish between the two quite effectively now. Also, I do take Klonopin and want off it as well but have resigned to tackle Effexor first and tehn the Klonopin. My Klonopin dose is pretty small 0.75 mg/day so I am less "worried" about getting off it.
Tricia: Thanks for your nice words. I have tapered the dose each week or two. Began at 225 and came down to 75 but that turned out to be too large a step so I went back to 150 and tapered 37.5 mg every week (150, 112.5, 75, 37.5). At this last level I have stayed at 37.5 for more than a week - one, because it was more troublesome coming to this level and two, because I did not want to mess up my 4th of July weekend with going to ZERO before it! Also - don't fret the weight gain - I gain a lot on Effexor too over the years I have taken it. I ballooned to 275 lbs!!!!! but two years ago I got a wake-up call when I had a physical and my cholesterol was 253 and I was way out of shape. So, in late summer, 2002 I embarked on a get fit campaign. Began jogging and watching what I eat (no fad diets and no Atkins crap!) - limited my calories to 2000-2200/day. The pounds came off - the first 50 lost in 3 months! Then it was slow-but-sure progress. Picked up a little weight training and began to enter competitive runs. I had another physical this past April and weighed in at 200 lbs. My cholesterol is now 132!!! The doc was so impressed that he had me do a treadmill stress test and it took FOREVER to reach my target heart rate which is great! My resting pulse is only 48 now - down from 80 or so before. It takes a lifestyle change - just do it, honey - you will feel great. Now, having done it physically, I plan to do a similar lifestyle change on my mental side. Good Luck.
Kris: Yeah, food seems to help and I have been craving it! I wonder if it has to do with the brain rebuilding itself cuz I crave sweets more than anything and the brain runs off glucose if I remember correctly! I eat a LOT of fruits and grains. I have cut out coffee which I love Also, eat a lot of fish and have cut out red meats for the most part. I do take vitamin supplements and that helps. Also, believe it or not, in combing the Internet, Benadryl seems to work to alleviate some/most of the w/d symptoms. I tried my first dose of it last night and that might be why I am feeling better today. Who knows?
Funny you mention benadryl.... the oral surgeon told me to take benadryl after my wisdom teeth were out to fight the nausea i had from the pain killers! who knew??
similar feeling with the w/d's, that sickish feeling.
glad you are starting off better today! Have a great day!
My progress - well, yesterday was Day 8 on 37.5 mg and it went pretty well and I was pretty psyched. Well, after a good night of sleep, I awoke at 4:45 this am very dizzy and feeling sick and this triggered a panic attack (although it was a small one). I stumbled around trying to get to the bathroom.
Well, right then and there, I decided to end this crap and stop taking Effexor at all (I was going to wait and let my last capsule be on July 4th). So June 30 was my last - July 1 is now Day 1 of no Effexor.
Right now, I feel pretty well. But I am a little shook about the attack this morning so most of what I have now is anticipatory anxiety thinking about my "next" attack. Jeez - Effexor was supposed to stop this and it did - at first. Now that is has stopped working, it's hell to get off. The Benadryl does seem to help relieve about 75% of the symptoms. I have a supply of Klonopin too in case I need to take an emergency pill or two for the anxiety/panic attacks.
On one hand, I want to just lock myself into a room and sleep for the next 7 days until the symptoms recede. But the other side of me sez to keep active as much as possible and get out when I can to reinforce to myself that this is transient and not let it form too much of a base of anxiety. I am a runner so I will at least run some and do some meditation and yoga. I feel like calling up the CEO of Wyeth (Effexor's manufacturer) and cussing him out :-) I will file a report with the FDA and maybe see if I can get someone in the media to pick up the story. Again, it's not that Effexor doesn't work - it did for me for awhile but once on it, a vast majority of people have trouble getting off. The discontinuation/withdrawal should have been tested more before approving for public use and, then, only with the appropriate warnings and disclosures. Period.
Well, I'm off to meditate and do some yoga hoping to calm my frazzled nerves.
Update (in case anyone else is trying to taper off Effexor). Since the PA at 4:45 am, I have mase it through the day. I was pretty shaken after the dizzy episode this AM that caused a PA. Called in sick to work and cancelled my doc appt. Stayed in bed till 8:30 and reluctantly got up.
I felt like hermitting myself but decided to get out and about. This helped me have a reasonably good day. Still had some dizziness and lightheaded ness, minor brain shocks and transient sensory problems. However, I forged ahead - took a walk in the park, picked up my daughter from work, went to Walmart (twice) and drove 50 miles this evening to Rehoboth Beach to stay with my girlfriend. Benadryl every 4 hours seems to help.
Also, staying busy and diverting attention as much as possible from the anxiety. It's now 38 hours since my final Effexor XR (yes, I am counting the HOURS!). My emotions range from VERY anxious like I want to explode to sadness like I want to cry to moments of real feelings of freedom. The latter are very brief and far between but they give me hope that they will return. It feels very liberating to be off Effexor but, at the same time, scared outta my wits about not having it as my crutch and the possible withdrawal I am about to face. AHHHH, such are the ways of the disorder!
Nevertheless, I will get through this in one piece and be a better person in the process. Until later - Au revior!
2 days, 6 hours (54 hours) since last Effexor. Things are up-and-down. Getting these waves of anxiety/panic, then depression, then feeling OK. Wild. 37.5 mg of Effexor is technically not supposed to be a therapeutic dose according to my doc, but it's troublesome coming off it. Brain electricity, feelings of unreality, "heavy" limbs, etc. are the fun stuff I am experiencing today. These things tend to make us panic-people want to have an attack. I just keep reminding myself that it's just withdrawal and it will go away and get better.
Every minute that goes by is a minute closer to being clear of the dastardly drug in my system forever. Now, to the gym to try to work out some of this stuff from my body. Later all.
I am VERY impressed that you're forcing yourself to work out and keep active. KEEP THIS UP as much as you can, even if it's less than you're normally able to do. Walking/jogging helped me IMMENSELY! I remember (besides everything else you're mentioning) being so nauseated (24x7 for over 3 weeks) and sleepy as well. Would nod off constantly. But FORCED myself to get out, dragging my heels, wearing seabands, eyes half closed ...
You're braver than me, I'm forcing myself to go verrrrrry, verrrrry slowwwwly. Also have no intention of experimenting with Prozac or anything else - enough drugs for me after this nightmare!
I didn't take the Benadryl as I read that one of the side effects was "restlessness". Couldn't risk it as I suffered with akathisia during my withdrawal which absolutely freaked me out. Watch out for signs of this, and please be VERY, VERY CAREFUL if it happens. Your thinking becomes very clouded. It's a horrific experience. Definitely use Klonopin as a crutch the moment you feel this may be happening. And believe me ... you will know! The inner restlessness and rage and/or feeling of not being able to stand still for one moment is indescribable! I pray for your sake this doesn't happen to you, but be aware of it.
I had no idea what was happening ... hadn't even been warned about withdrawal symptoms, if you can believe that! ... and thought I was losing my mind. "Fortunately" for me, I desperately downed about 4 shots of liqueur which calmed me down. Not that I'd recommend this, but it was either that or I hate to think what ...!!!!
Look after yourself, you're doing a fine job!!! Keep posting, I'm behind you all the way.
Nice to know someone is "watching". I am now into Day 5 (102 hours) of no Effexor XR. The past two days have been HELL. I have awoken each morning in a deep depression - this morning was the worst having awoken at 3:00 am and feeling hopeless and desparate. Luckily, I am staying at my parents' house through this ordeal. My dad woke up at 4:00 am and talked with me. I was pacing the floor - anxious and depressed..
I did force myself out to go see a minor league baseball game and fireworks with my kids (15 and 17, girls) and my girlfriend and her two kids. I lasted the whole game and watched the fireworks but it was still a little tough. Yesterday, I also forced myself out to run 3 1/2 miles or so in the heat (ick). I just have to force myself every step of the way to do anything - life sucks living like this. Now, today, I am finally getting moving and going to Rehoboth Beach to my girlfriend's for the night. We will be having crabs and a picnic. I am having to force myself to move - Jeez. It feels as if I am losing my mind sometimes. I'm sure you know what I mean. I just feel like my nerves and body is RAW with emotion - exposed. Weird.
The Prozac is not working at all so I have decreased my intake of that. I am trying some supplements now to see if I get any benefit from them. My girlfriend is pretty supportive although I feel as if I am letting her down - having all these problems and ruining a summer Holiday weekend. She is great at reminding me that this is withdrawal related and to hang in there. It's tough - I am a big guy 200 lbs - a little over 6'-0" and 44 y/o and I feel like a big baby at times due to Effexor and the withdrawal. I have frequent spells where I want to cry and just roll up into a ball and hibernate till this is over. From what you know, does the withdrawal cause this depression/anxiety and emotional crap?
I get to the point where I want to go to the doctor and get something to relieve these symptoms but, like you, I am afraid of meds anymore. The Klonopin helps some and I will take it sparingly as I go through this de-tox. It's scary as Hell. I will not take another Effexor - EVER!
Well, I better go - just got out of the shower and need to hit the road to Rehoboth (about 50 minute drive). I will update later. I am praying that these feeling are resolved soon and I can get back to living a normal life. Take care.
I'm now VERY concerned, though, about you also decreasing the Prozac at the same time! NOT A GOOD IDEA!
Please re-think what you're doing! You've now chosen to do a VERY rapid, practically COLD TURKEY withdrawal. This is a very dangerous route to take! DON'T!!! DON'T!!! DON'T!!! It is far too risky in every respect and you don't want to land up with any major long term problems.
My suggestion is that you immediately open a capsule of that damn rat poison and take 1/3 of it!!! If you were my son or my boyfriend - and I hope you show this post to them - I would INSIST on it. This is no time to be a hero. You don't want to land up in the ER and have them looking at you like you're crazy and pumping you with yet more drugs and Heaven knows what else.
Yes, your emotions going crazy and the crying spells are normal. Please go to this link NOW and read David Healy's formula for withdrawal, including all the "fun" stuff you may encounter! Basically, anything's possible!
Again, I'm BEGGING you ... WATCH OUT FOR ANY SIGNS OF THAT AWFUL INNER RESTLESSNESS! If it happens, take Klonopin too!!!
Your rational thinking abilities can also become very clouded, and this too is very dangerous. What about the long drive? How was that? I had severe road rage, irritability and was very confused and disoriented. I was unable to stop at yellow lights or slow down for anyone. Was also unaware of stop signs and whose right of way it was! I had cars beeping me every 2 minutes, and can't believe I didn't have an accident. I stopped driving any distances for a couple of weeks.
Again, Mike, as someone who has lived through the horrors of this ... and who still isn't done ... I'm telling you that you're playing with fire. The price for what you're doing is just way too high!!!
Open up a capsule of that god awful stuff and down 1/3 of it NOW. Then wait another week and see how you're doing and wean a little more, but stabilize first. PLEASE reconsider your plan.
Day 5 (actually 123 hours) after my last 37.5 mg Effexor. I must say yesterday began very tough indeed -up at 3:00 am - nervous, depressed and agitated. I paced for an hour in the dark of the night. My dad woke up and sat with me - my dad is a man of few words but the fact that he was sitting with me in the middle of the night with me in distress was comforting. I lay on the sofa and fell back to sleep. It was the worst night yet. I was very shook up oover this whole incident and was literally afraid to leave the house, eat or do anything other than wallow in my self-pity. However, along about noon, I got up, wrote in my journal and showered - my heart still full of fear and depression. This was rock-bottom.
I made the 50-mile drive as described - it was anxiety-ridden but I made it without incident - even stopping to get flowers for my girlfriend along the way. It's tough walking into the store and always thinking that it's just you whose feeling like crap and everyone else there is "normal and happy" however, I know in my heart that I must continue to do these things whenever possible to reinforce in my mind that this is just a temporary state of affairs and indeed I can do these things - however tough they may be. Went to the 4th of July picnic and feasted on Maryland Crabs and all kinds of fresh vegetables (no beer until I get beyond all this crap). Talked with other folks at the party and played catch with the football with only some minor waves of anxity and depression. Later in the evening it increased in intensity a little but I believe this just to be due to my brain being fatigued from all this emotion and withdrawal. Sat with my girlfriend and talked for awhile about all this stuff and it was very comforting to me. I tend to suppress my emotions being a man and she can bring them out and it helps.
Anyway, back to the withdrawal. today is better - I did not wake at night fretting and pacing (I did awake to some heavy lightning and thunder but went back to sleep). Slept well for the most part. Awoke this AM and was still a little apprehensive about getting up and out of bed but I managed, then went on a 4-mile run (hot and humid though). So here I sit now ready to go over to the beach for a few hours. I am not naive enough to believe I am out of the woods yets but the mere fact that I can have a good few hours or a day is helpful to my sanity and in knowing that there truly is light at the end of this long tunnel. I will take your advice (I did tell my girlfriend what you said) and stick with the Prozac for the time being. I will also not be too hesistant to take a Klonopin if needed (I am on a relatively low dose anyway - a couple or three 0.5 mg tabs a day). I will not take another Effexor as long as I live.
I appreciate your responses so keep them coming and I will keep documenting my ordeal as well. I hope I can keep the generally forward progress with this Take care.
133 hours (5 days, 13 hours) since final Effexor. I can actually say that I have had a really good day so I am getting more optimistic although not naive enough to think I'm out of the woods yet. Yesterday was quite awful and today contrasted so much in the "good" direction, it is kinda scary. I did have some "spells" of foreboding today but have tried to adopy a "who gives a crap" mentality about it and float through it. Today, I was successful with that strategy. I take some vitamin supps that may help but my attitude may best the best thing - as well as talking to people about the issue. Noy much else to say right now - I will keep updating.
Good luck, but take care. I was given 4 packs of sample Effexor, and I took one pill, it made me feel like I was going to drop where I stood and very weird, scared me and I threw them all in the trash. The PA I recently saw told me the med wasn't in my system long enough to make a difference. If I had to spend 4-6 weeks with those effects, uh uh, I'd go crazy. Especially after I've read so many withdrawal stories, not worth it.