Venlafaxine withdrawal symptoms

Work has got me busy, folks, so posts may drop significantly in the next coming days/months. Possibly through April or May. (I’ll probably have one of those work days when I end up doing more blogging than working. It happens every now and then.) But don’t be surprised if Saturday quotes, Wednesday puppies, and Sunday stats are what pops up each week. I’ve got many of those backlogged through April. I’ll try to backlog some other posts on bipolar disorder and depression for the coming weeks and quickly blog on anything that’s timely.

electric shockIn the meantime, I had to take a sick day today. It’s my third day off of the Effexor and I’m having some weird side effects (see Case 1: Standard Dose under the link). Whenever I turn or move too quickly (consider your “natural” body turn), I “kind of” see stars and the whole world slightly spins beyond my field of vision for about 3 seconds before coming back into focus. After doing some light research on the side effects of venlafaxine (Effexor’s generic name), I’ve found out that side effects can incude vertigo, dizziness, light-headedness (associated with dizziness), and something called “brain shivers,” which are a form of electric shock sensations. You know that feeling when you get an electric shock from somebody? Yeah, imagine feeling that throughout your whole body. Precisely; not a good feeling. Nancy Schimelpfening, blogger for depression.about.com, found a newsgroup posting on the brain shiver effect, mainly associated with venlafaxine:

It happens to me if I turn my head quickly, or if I stop suddenly, or in general with sudden motion. They’re worse if I’m nervous.

i’ve seen them described as feeling as though your brain keeps going when you turn your head. that doesn’t seem quite adequate to me. it’s more like this:

you turn your head (or your whole body — this happens to me if i whirl around too quickly as i’m taking the stairs. what. doesn’t everyone whirl on the stairs…?), but your brain *stays put* for a micro second, then tries to catch up but only in a stuttering, stopstart motion, accompanied by a staccato ‘zzt zzt zzt’ with each stop. the ‘zzt’ you can feel in your head, an electric sort of vertigo, and it often reverberates in your hands and fingers. some folks feel it in their toes; i haven’t yet.

sometimes your brain overshoots and comes strobing back, then overshoots again.. this all unfolds in just a second or two.

these days i endeavor to go around corners all smooth slow and steadylike. helps to reduce the number of brain shivers per day

Yeah, that’s me. It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never felt it. I got this feeling after not taking Paxil for three days too. The effects eventually wore off, but it was such a weird feeling.

Other posts from the newsgroup that are worth noting:

As soon as it happens, you’ll know. It is too weird.

I didn’t know what brain shivers were, but it’s true: once you can put a name to it, you know exactly what it is.

The sensation can go past the brain, like be more than that, so that it feels like a phantom body is going slightly in-and-out-of-phase with the rest of the body. Whole nervous system shivers.

I always likened it to standing up in a pool with your feet touching the bottom with your chin just above the water. Then try to walk rapidly in it. Can you remember the resistance you encounter? Yeah, that’s kinda what it feels like.

They used to feel as though my brain was shifting fairly rapidly from side-to-side within my skull.

My brain doesn’t shift, but boy, my vision does.

If you want the REAL brain shivers, try Effexor. What’s worst for me is every time I turn my head while walking, when I straighten it out again, the brain shivers come, and I get dizzy and stagger. I fear that I look drunk.

The second sentence is amazingly accurate. Yesterday evening, I was scared that I’d pass out in the train station and fall right off the platform onto the tracks. (I smartly backed away from the tracks just in case.) I also felt more dumbed down. Like my cognitive functions had slowed (they hadn’t; it just felt that way) and I looked more retarded than drunk. And I mean retarded in the medical sense of the word, as in mental retardation.

I don’t have suicidal ideation, which is a good thing. The hubby is super freaked out because he read that Effexor (supposedly) has a high rate of death via suicide. *shrugs* I’m going to try to avoid that kind of thinking and pray that the Lamictal balances out some of venlafaxine’s withdrawal symptoms.

However, I’m feeling somewhat “addicted” to Effexor. I don’t feel like I have any balance (I need to move slowly or I get immensely dizzy and completely lose my balance) and know that if I had some Effexor in my system, I’d feel better. I was tapering off the medication, down from 150 mg to 37.5 mg, but I only took 37.5 mg for one week before discontinuation. In my opinion, I wish I could have taken the 37.5 mg for another week or so before discontinuation.

Considering that I took the 75 mg for about 2-4 weeks before sliding down to 37.5 mg, I feel that the 37.5 mg for a longer period of time could have help stave off some of these symptoms. (A doctor could probably refute me on this.) I can only pray they don’t get worse.

A woman in my outpatient therapy group warned me against Effexor withdrawal symptoms. Simply put, she said: “It’s a bitch.” She wasn’t kidding. Venlafaxine has some of the worst withdrawal symptoms of any drug; some say it’s worse than paroxetine (commonly known as Paxil in the U.S.).

An article on brain shocks from about.com linked to a statement at socialaudit.org.uk on venlafaxine withdrawal. It seems that when coming off of venlafaxine, it is best to use fluoxetine (Prozac) in conjunction with it. Somehow, Prozac’s effects can minimize or negate the side effects of Effexor allowing for an uneventful withdrawal. I’m seeing my psychiatrist later today and I might bring up the idea with him. He might think one of two things: a) I’m crazy (pun not intended) or b) I don’t know what I’m talking about. My guess is he’ll choose the latter of the two.

When I originally voiced my concerns about Effexor withdrawal, he seemed somewhat unconcerned about it. He basically told me, “If you feel weird, you’ve got the 75s, you can take those. I’ll leave it up to you.” I have been considering another psychiatrist, but I’m reluctant because he’s the first psych to diagnose me with bipolar disorder and to take the time to gather an extensive history from me. Our first appointment lasted about an hour. I’ve been lucky if my following appointments lasted 15 minutes. I don’t know if that’s typical for psych appointments but that wasn’t what I expected on my second visit, that’s for sure. I felt like I was in a primary care doctor’s office. One in and one out within 15 minutes (or less).

I obtained a second opinion from another doctor and he told me that he didn’t disagree with putting me on Lamictal and Seroquel. What threw me for a loop was that he told me Lamictal was good to control manic symptoms and Seroquel controls depressive symptoms. Umm, that’s NOT what the first psych doc told me. Some further research refuted the second doc’s citation of how Lamictal and Seroquel perform and he really had it backwards. Unlike most patients, I know more about meds than “the average bear.”

The Effexor Web site lists all the symptoms I’m experiencing as part of the withdrawal process. Brain shivers doesn’t sound like a good withdrawal symptom to put in the “important safety information” so it’s better to list it as something less harmful like “sensory disturbances.”

I’ve also learned that it can take anywhere from 3-5 days for the Effexor to be completely out of my system. I’m also hoping that it takes that long for my withdrawal effects to wear off.

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19 Comments

  1. January 9, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Wow, that’s some really nasty stuff. I never even realized those types of withdrawal effects could occur (or even existed). I guess those types of things are so uncommon amongst those who don’t take psychiatric medications that unless you had a background in something like neurology or psychiatry you’d never “see” anything like that.

  2. Graham Smith said,

    January 10, 2007 at 5:10 am

    I experience all of the above and have tried to verbalise the sensation in some of my own blog posts.
    What I do know, something I have tested, is that Effexor, at least for me, needs to be taken at pretty much the same time every day. If I don’t, then I get the brain shivers the next day, or much later in the day I took the pill late if that makes sense.
    I have had it so bad, where I have litterally fainted through disorientation, like my equilibrium is just shot. Couldn’t drive, ride my bike, antying that invloved looking around, moving my neck or even just moving my eyes or blinking. Electric shivers all the way down my arms to my hands…
    Very very grim. And this was not a ‘widthdrawal’, just a mistiming of medication. Which I guess techncially, as far as the body is concerned is withdrawal. But the effects are immediate.
    So take the drug at the same time each day certainly helps.
    Will link to this post in my blog as I really like the way you have described and verbalised it.
    Regards
    Graham

  3. Graham Smith said,

    January 10, 2007 at 5:16 am

    a quote…
    “Within a matter of hours of missing a dose, they begin to experience withdrawal. This would explain why some people on ASD reported that they experienced “brain shivers” when they were late taking their medication. They had unintentionally caused themselves to have withdrawal symptoms.”
    “One of the most disturbing things I was told by ASDers was that the “brain shivers” often continued long after the medication was stopped. Some expressed the fear that the brain was being permanently altered by their medication. It does indeed seem that the side-effect profile of Effexor is not fully understood. After collecting data on reported side-effects, Priory Lodge Education Limited has expressed the opinion that because side-effects are more severe than previously thought, Effexor should be used only in cases of depression resistant to other medications.”
    Graham

  4. Graham Smith said,

    January 10, 2007 at 5:25 am

    Just to say I love your Blog… Keep it up. GIves me a lot of inspiration.
    Graham

  5. January 10, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Thanks for the compliment, Graham. I’ll respond to your first comment via e-mail later because I think you’ve made some pretty good points.
    As for the quote you posted, I really agree with the statement, “Effexor should be used only in cases of depression resistant to other medications.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Effexor withdrawal is much too severe to be thoughtlessly given to people suffering from depression. It’s like giving someone Paxil, knowing that it causes death. Both have awful side and withdrawal effects that can really screw up a person for the rest of their life. It’s not worth the hassle unless – like the quote said – the depression is treatment-resistant.
    I had a good experience on Effexor, actually, but when I hit 150 mg, I developed an allergic reaction to it causing me to have skin rashes to the point where my hand swelled up and holding an ice pack for a half-hour could not get it down. (I pretty much melted the ice pack.) Effexor is helpful, but the withdrawal effects must be seriously considered by doctors.

  6. Joy said,

    January 10, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    Effexor.
    It took me 3 years to gradually wean off of it. While my Doctors were pleased with its effect I was never happy with it. It caused me to be sleepy and drowsy almost all the time. To drive I had to take a small amout of Provigil. If not I wound up falling asleep at the wheel and pulling over for naps as long as 1 1/2 hours. I looked for fast food restaurants, gas stations and other public parking lots so I would be safe while I slept in my car.
    From my experience I would advise is that you discontine slow and easy and wait a long time between each decrease in dosage.
    I have a friend who takes large quatities of effexor who is very pleased with its effect.
    Feel free to contact me privatly if you wish.

  7. January 10, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Hi Joy,
    I’m not sure why your doctors were pleased with the effect Effexor had on you when you didn’t feel better. That doesn’t make any sense and it doesn’t sound like you had caring physicians. I only experienced a drowsy effect with Effexor when I first began taking it. I was fortunate that it wore off after three days. I’m not familiar with Provigil (i’ll look it up soon); I assume it’s a stimulant?
    Effexor helped me with my depression but my psychiatrist who diagnosed me as bipolar said it can induce mania. As a result, I am on Lamictal and he weaned me off Effexor. However, I’m having brain shivers, dizziness, and vertigo as nasty side effects so I’m taking 20 mg of Prozac in the hopes that it will help with the side effects. (Coming off of Prozac has little to no withdrawal symptoms.) My psychiatrist wanted to put me back on 37.5 mg of Effexor to taper me off slowly, but knowing that my body has become “addicted” to Effexor, there was no way I wanted to go back on it and go through this withdrawal process again.
    I hope you’re on better medication that helps you. I also hope you have better doctors who care.

  8. Natalie said,

    February 11, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Hello Marissa. I am a 27 year old Christian woman in the UK, and I have stumbled onto your blog in the midst of severe Effexor withdrawal symptoms. I am experiencing brain shivers, headaches, diaorrhea (since we’re sharing!), bulimic tendencies, irritability (this is really testing my marriage) and constant tearfulness. I feel so angry that I have not been warned about these KNOWN symptoms by my psychiatrist. I am finding it all but impossible to look after my 18 month old son.
    Have you successfully withdrawn from Effexor now? And if so, how long did it take?
    Praise God that I know Jesus as my Saviour too, and that he is there for me even when I feel most alone. I know he has directed me to you for some practical advice from a sister in Christ.
    God bless
    Natalie x

  9. Gustavo said,

    March 15, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    I can tottaly relat to what you are going through. I’ve been taking Effexor for a year and a couple of months ago I tappered down from 150 mg to 75 mg – that’s when the brain shivers started. Now that I’m taking only 37.5 it’s become worse. I’m experiencing flu-like symptoms, nausea, dizziness and cognitive loss. Hopefully it will go away soon (I have only 10 capsules left to take) but if it doesn’t, I might try Prozac and see if it helps.

  10. Shaz said,

    May 29, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    I’m almost into my 3rd week going cold turkey from 150mg Venlafaxine. I’ve been taking it for about a year and have been on various others prior to this. My psychiatrist suggested I come off them and seemed unfazed when I expressed concerns at coming off them all at once. Haven’t had electric shocks which is a relief as it sounds awful. I became very weepy after around 5 days and still am. Only see psychiatrist once a month for about 40 minutes and haven’t been able to contact him to let him know I’m struggling so feel I’ve been left out on a limb without having any expectations e.g. how long I’ll feel like this. My GP says they can’t help so I don’t know where to turn. I’m also feeling very jumpy, anxious and agitated. It’s 2 weeks till my next appointment. I feel really let down as I wasn’t given any direction or aftercare.

  11. Pete Rimell said,

    July 22, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Thankyou for such a super site, boy, am I glad I found it. I’m currently taking 225mg of Venlafaxine in capsule form and been on this dose for a few months now. I have been regularly experiencing the Brain Shivers (I had been calling it a ‘weird kind of tinitus)for a week or so for no obvious reason. They seem a little out of the norm because they appear to be triggered by eye movement – especially from side to side – and come in bursts ranging from a solitary ‘shiver’ to as many as a dozen rapid-fire efforts all within a few seconds. I have consulted my GP and my psychiatrist about the problem; but neither seems to have encountered this phenomenon before. I must say it is quite unnerving when your own psychiatrist looks at you as though you are stark raving mad, lol. Now I have found this info, I shall make both doctors aware of it, and my employer too. Thanks again to this site and all who have posted on it.

  12. Trish Mitchell said,

    October 22, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I have been reducing my dosage of effexor from 150 mg to now 37.5mg. I have been on the 150 dosage for some years (it seems!)and have been happy with myself. I have always wondered what the long term effects would be but didn’t want to find out what life without it would mean. In the last while, I have developed high blood pressure and found out through some investigation that it may be caused by effexor (not proven 100%). My doctor has prescribed a medication to lower my blood pressure, but has also instructed me to reduce the effexor in increments and we will see if that is indeed the cause of this. My withdrawal symptoms for the most part have been manageable until I recently went down to 37.5mg. Not only have I had the brain ‘shivers’ but when I try to exert myself (in my case, sweeping in a curling game!) I am so winded that I feel the blood rushing to my head and feel that fainting is imminent. In all that I have read, windedness has never been mentionned. Perhaps I have been medicated for so long, I will never be able to get past this: I read this on a website – “In addition, one very rare side effect, which Effexor’s manufacturer calls “withdrawal syndrome”, is that the patient, once acclimatized to Effexor, is unable to discontinue taking the drug. With this discontinuation effect apparently permanent, the patient is “hooked for life”. Any comments???
    I feel better after having read your feelings on all of this.

  13. Pepper said,

    December 9, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I am on my third day of stopping 150mg and I kinda have the brain shivers, I just feel spaced out and dizzy. Does anyone know how long these effects last??? I really want to get off this stuff…

  14. supercute98 said,

    July 28, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    hey! come and see my blog! http://www.elevenyc.wordpress.com! thank you and have a great day!

  15. Tarkwin said,

    December 24, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I am having these occasionally now after months off the drug. Initially it was a regular occurrence, now it seems mainly when I am tired.

    The first time it occurred was a few years back when I went away for the weekend and forgot my meds. It kicked in within and hour or two of missing my dose and lasted until a few hours after I got back and took a dose. Since then I have occasionally missed a dose and it always returns. I had tried unsuccessfully to convince my clinician to change my med plan, I came off it a while back – purely because I couldn’t afford to re-fill my script, it was either eat or get meds. I was without them (and my other meds) for about 10 days, which were hell, now I have decided not to use them again.

    This is probably not the safe or sensible thing to do, but that’s for another blog at another time

  16. Jenny said,

    May 13, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    I have experienced withdrawls from prescribed and street drugs, being that I spent most of my 20’s self medicating. I have to admit that effexor was one of the single worst detox experience of my life, but I was also detoxing from clonozepam at the same time….yes, I did not think I was going to survive. The electric shock currents were so bad from my head to my toes that I could not have anything touch them. I was developed insomnia for 2 to 3 weeks, probably because of the worst case of anxiety i’ve ever had and i’ve had a lifetime of anxiety and anxiety attacks. My brain was completely unraveled and disconnected like a nuclear bomb went off in my head. I thought I was done for sure. I thought that I was going brain dead. I thought that if I didn’t die within a short amount of time if I could get my brain to figure out how to kill myself that, that was going to be the result. I did the one thing that I knew how to do when my world was turned upside down from drugs (I am not a conformed religious person, but I liken it to the experience of going to a familiar church with the support of god and fellow attendees)….I went to AA meetings, I went to every meeting at every hour of the day all over the city and let myself fall into the arms of the same unknown people that had helped me before. I did this, in marathon form, for 3 weeks straight. I can honestly say that AA saved my life once again, and I made it through this horrific (dr. prescribed) event and never ever ever went back to any “pams” or effexir. Because of the severity of my depression I do take an anti-depresent, but other than that..I forever know that natural remedies, good health, staying hydrated (so undappreciated cure to many issues…water that is) good nutrition, exercise and always being honest about where i’m at mentally and that although depression is not me, it is a part of me, a disease that does not want me to be well, and therefor i’m not going to give any more ammo than it already has! Tread lightly with prescription medication and find a caring doctor, counselor, nutritionist that understands what you are saying. I feel a kindship w/all of us that suffer with this dibilitating disease and I just want to say that I want to survive for us!

  17. miss diagnosed said,

    June 15, 2011 at 10:17 am

    my self medicating was from somnolence that word is not descriptive enough. taking a stimulant just to be able to function and do what a single parent can in a evil medicinal induced coma. doctors calling me a junkie is not ever gonna be forgiven, mind you my hell still continues with im so deteriorated yet stuck on the damn Effexor and slow taper has not prevented symptom severity. i have liquid form venlafaxine and come down like 1mg evry 6weeks or so. when at first i dropped 75mg from 150mg (albeit doctors deliberating an evil patient as i dared complain… much non care and wrong care was all i got) i lost emotions i was in such a sinister nowhere that hindsight says the going there was no soul in human shell torture. i attacked my daughter in a depersonalisation agressive mania. this drug has ruined my life my daughters and my relationship of how close we once were. she never understood it properly, she shouldnt have had to. i detest pharma scum.

  18. George Booth said,

    July 20, 2011 at 7:07 am

    I had been on venlafaxine for a year when my doc reduced the dose to 37.5 for 6 weeks then told me to stop the medication. I now get zaps in my ears, especially when I shift my eyes from side to side. Also dizziness, headaches and upset stomach. I feel perhaps I could have dropped to 37.5 every other day. I see my doc tomorrow and I want to know how long these withdrawal symptoms will last.

  19. Dave Stewart said,

    September 12, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Great blog. I am a health professional , and been on Venlefaxine 150mg for a number of years. Tried to withdraw twice, with the side ejects mentioned above, particularly the brain popping, dizziness and weird tinitus. I am severely deaf. Have now discontinued it, over two months, but still have the popping and weird tinitus . I think the gradual withdrawal should be recommended. I had not responded to other medications, and Venlefaxine helped me enormously . But I meet with doctors who prescribe Venlafaxine, and am able to advise them of the very real withdrawal effects.


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