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How to Quit Effexor - Wendy Will Blog
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How to Quit Effexor | Anti-depressants

April 2, 2012

A little back story to how I got hooked on Effexor XR. I started getting crazy hot flashes after I started chemotherapy treatment back in 2008. In addition to chemo, I was also receiving monthly injections of a drug called Zoladex in an effort to preserve my ovaries. My body was in chemotherapy-induced medical menopause. Hot flashes come with the territory so my oncologist prescribed Effexor XR to combat my wacky body temperature. Effexor XR is an anti-depressant but has been proven to reduce hot flashes by about 50% in women with breast cancer according to a study done by Dr. Charles Loprinzi at the Mayo Clinic (breast cancer.org). I was willing to try anything that would ease the hot flashes I was having so I ran down to the local Walgreens and filled that sucker. I’ve been trying now for at least a year-and-a-half to kick Effexor XR and it’s nearly impossible.

quitting-effexor-antidepressant-drugs

The highest dosage of Effexor XR I’ve taken was 75mg. At this dosage I felt numb. I was completely void of emotion. I didn’t cry. I didn’t laugh out loud. I was pretty much a zombie. But I didn’t have any hot flashes either. When I complained about how I felt my doctor lowered the dosage to 37.5mg – the lowest dosage available. Coming off of the 75mg to the 37.5mg wasn’t that hard. I was advised to continue the 37.5mg for two weeks and then take it every other day. The days I didn’t take Effexor I would feel awful. Dizzy, nauseous, and blurry vision. It’s like the flu on steroids and hangover all mixed in together. So, for months and months I stayed at the 37.5mg daily. Eventually, I was able to get to an every other day regimen but nothing else beyond that. I’m stuck.

I brought it up to my doctor again at my last visit. Her response was less than what I expected. She suggested I just stay on the Effexor if it’s so hard to stop taking it. What? Continue taking a pharmaceutical drug that I do not need just because she doesn’t have a discontinue solution. Ridiculous. Thank goodness there’s Google.

By the way, I still occasionally have hot flashes but I know what triggers them for me (coffee, wine, and sugar). Additionally, research is showing that a higher total dose of 75mg daily is needed to get significant relief from hot flashes. So there is absolutely no point in taking the 37.5mg of Effexor.

I’m not alone.

Back to Google. Forums and message boards are flooded with people asking advice on how to effectively wean from Effexor. I found that many of us are stuck at 37.5mg. The side effects from discontinuing this drug are horrible. I’m lucky because some people have extreme withdrawal symptoms – brain zaps, shakes, and chattering teeth.

But, I think I’ve found two options on how to finally get off of Effexor. I can either white knuckle it – hunker down in bed for at least three days and deal with what’s thrown at me. Or I can pursue the Prozac bridge.

What’s the Prozac bridge? I’ll explain later this week!

I’d love to hear if you’ve taken Effexor XR and successfully discontinued the drug. Tell me what worked and what didn’t work.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Christina {Chrissy} Berry April 2, 2012 at 11:39 am

Wow, I’m sorry you’re going through this, and that you didn’t get more assistance from your doctor. I can’t wait to hear about the Prozac Bridge! Sounds interesting. But more than that, I hope it works for you!

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Wendy April 2, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Thanks Chrissy! Yep, this is the same doctor who basically questioned how I felt about chemo. She said something like “it wasn’t that bad, was it?” – Um, YES! But she’s the best around so I cut her a bit of slack on the bedside manner stuff.

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Kelly April 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Oh friend! I am in the SAME BOAT!!! Started it during chemotherapy. Was, at one time, on 300mg XR because the hot flashes were HORRIFIC! I was completely a zombie. Couldn’t finish sentences, couldn’t think, etc… So I came back down to 150 mg XR and am stuck there. If I forget it, my mood is horrible, I feel out of body-ish, and have a headache. I hate to come off of it because it does help the hot flashes, but I also hate being on it. I have read on the internet that it is one of the hardest drugs to get off of, and my functional medicine doctor agrees. Can’t wait to read about the Prozac bridge. Hmmm, sounds interesting.

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Wendy April 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Yes Kelly, I read the same thing about Effexor XR being one of the worst drugs to stop taking. Apparently there are online petitions so that doctors will stop prescribing this medication. Sadly, patients just don’t know any better before taking them. Maybe a bit of the responsibility falls on us for putting all our faith in our doctors and not doing any research for ourselves first.
I’ll be writing about the Prozac Bridge later this week – hopefully it will provide you with some answers on how to get off this med. Plus, I think there are better alternatives to deal with hot flashes rather than taking this drug.

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Kathleen April 2, 2012 at 1:16 pm

What about progressively lengthening intervals? It might be inconvenient (maybe having to set an alarm for the middle of the night), but you could make up a schedule for every 48, 50, 52 hrs, etc…? Or try taking one every 2.5 days (60 hr intervals)? Just a thought…..

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Wendy April 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I could attempt trying that and I think it’s a brilliant idea.
I’m going to write about the Prozac Bridge later this week and explain more about the half-life of Effexor (it’s basically the reason why eliminating the drug from your system is so unbearable). I wonder if just lengthening the intervals puts off the inevitable. I’ll need to do more research!

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Mom April 2, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Oh Dear are hot flashes so unbearable that the only alternative is for Doctor’s to prescribe prescriptions RX for young women with no solutions to address the ever growing side effects of them. Precriptions Drugs are big business in the USA and I think Doctor’s tend to dish them out without much thought. So sorry you have had to experience Hot Flashes I went through the change naturally at 50 and maybe only experienced one or two hot flashes. But I have be prescribed anti depressants on a few occasions and never continued taking them for more than a week, because of the bad effects they had on me.Wean is the key word smaller and smaller over several days

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Wendy April 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm

They aren’t that unbearable – anymore. At first, yes, terrible. Especially when you’re dealing with that on top of all the other stuff I was going through at the time. Now, they are very manageable. Like I said, I know my triggers and know to expect them if I indulge in any of those things.
I so agree about pharma – there is a GREAT viral video going around by an ex-phram-rep who says that pharma drugs are so highly addictive and the reason being is $$$$.
I wish wean was the answer. I’ll explain more later this week about the half-life of this drug and why the Prozac Bridge might be my only answer to kicking Effexor.

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Kelly April 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

The problem for me right now, that I forgot to mention earlier, is that Tamoxifen makes those dang flashes WORSE and I still have to be on it for another 2.5 years. I did do the research before going on Effexor as far as making sure it was really helpful with hot flashes, but didn’t worry about coming off of it then because my mind was not in that place at that time. Plus, Effexor is the ONLY anti-depressant that helps with them AND is compatible with Tamoxifen. It’s such a lose-lose situation honestly.
Will you be posting that Prozac bridge article before Thursday? I go see my functional med doctor on Thursday and we are going to discuss alternatives to Effexor and how to come off of it safely and will little to no side effects.

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Laural Out Loud April 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm

That IS ridiculous. Maybe you should write a letter to your doctor with all the info you found, you know, so she can help the NEXT person who needs help. Geesh. The three day detox you mentioned reminded me of a scene from Trainspotting- I really really hope that you don’t have to go through that!

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Wendy April 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm

For you Kelly, I’ll post it Wednesday!

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By Word of Mouth Musings April 3, 2012 at 8:03 am

No advice or info – but sending happy healthy thoughts :)

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Maegan April 5, 2012 at 8:48 am

DUDE! that is intense!

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Heather April 13, 2012 at 11:21 pm

I am late to the party here (i have been a bad blogger). I am eager to know if you end up going with the prozac bridge route or brave it and just white knuckle it. I have my own little story on quitting… I was on an anti-depressant after my second babe was born. I was in bad shape and needed something to get me out of the house. I LOVED that drug. I don’t care what anyone says about those drugs – they worked miracles for me. But that was also a problem for me. I felt so good I thought I didn’t need them after a while. There were 2 reasons I ended up quitting it. The first was that I thought I didn’t need it, and the other… well that is another story. But anyway, I QUIT COLD TURKEY!! That was over 4 years ago, and I can literally remember as clear as yesterday, how awful those few days were. I (fondly) refer to them as my detox days. Talk about Jekyll & Hyde. I can give you more details if you want, but I would not recommend quitting cold turkey. Unless you plan on remaining indoors, staying offline, and away from your family & friends (slightly kidding… or not).

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Wendy April 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I definitely will not do this by quitting cold turkey. There’s not enough benefit – for me personally – to do that to my body and mind.
Yes, we’ll definitely have to talk more about it and now I must know your second reason for quitting! :-)
Hope to see you soon Heather!

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