Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Anxiety may feel isolating, but if you have it, you should know you aren’t alone. In fact, an estimated 19.1 percent of American adults experience some sort of anxiety disorder each year
If you’ve looked into treatment options for your anxiety, you may have come across a medication called Effexor or its generic version, venlafaxine.
This antidepressant is often used to treat anxiety disorders, along with mental health disorders like depression.
And while this prescription is perfectly safe, if you decide to stop taking it, there can be a period of withdrawal.
Keep reading to learn more about Effexor withdrawal, including what it looks like and how to manage it.
Effexor belongs to a class of medications called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs.
It is approved by the FDA to treat generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), panic disorder and major depression.
This medication is available as Effexor XR® and the generic venlafaxine. Both are available as extended release capsules, and the generic venlafaxine also comes as an immediate-release oral tablet.
SNRIs treat anxiety and depression by increasing the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain and body.
Both serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood — including feelings of anxiety and other depression symptoms.
Research has shown that venlafaxine works to treat anxiety. A meta-analysis published in the journal PLOS found that venlafaxine XR is effective for treating adults with generalized anxiety disorder.
Other studies have shown that Effexor is an effective treatment for many other types of anxiety — including post traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
As soon as you start taking Effexor and it’s absorbed into your body, it goes to work. But it generally takes a few weeks before you notice any shifts in your mood and emotional state.
Within a week or two, you’ll likely notice an improvement in your sleep, appetite and overall energy. These changes can be an early sign the medication is working.
It may take up to eight weeks before there is an improvement in your mood and feelings.
If you do not see any shifts in your overall mood after eight weeks, you need to talk to your healthcare provider.
They may suggest adjusting your dosage or a new medication. In the meantime, you should continue taking Effexor as it was prescribed to you.
Like with most medications, there are some side effects associated with Effexor. Here are the most common:
Increased blood pressure
Issues reaching orgasm or ejaculating
Some of the more rare side effects and severe symptoms include:
Increased heart rate
Low blood pressure
Frequency in urination
Changes in taste
Changes in vision
Also good to know: To date, there are no known issues with taking Effexor in the long term.
Effexor (and its generic venlafaxine) can interact with other medications. For example, it can interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors — which are sometimes used to treat depression.
If you are taking any other medications or have any other medical conditions, it is important to let your treatment provider know.
It is not a good idea to stop Effexor or generic venlafaxine cold turkey. In fact, it can be very dangerous.
Like other medications for depression and anxiety, discontinuing with Effexor can cause intense withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it abruptly.
Common symptoms of Effexor withdrawal (and antidepressant discontinuation symptoms) can include:
Vivid dreams and nightmares
Paresthesias (tingling of the skin)
Research has also found that stopping or even delaying a dose of an antidepressant medication like venlafaxine can seriously impair motor skills. This can have disastrous effects if you then operate heavy machinery like a car.
You should not stop taking Effexor or generic venlafaxine without the supervision of a healthcare professional.
If it’s determined that you should stop taking the medication, your healthcare provider will come up with a plan to lower your dosage over the course of a few weeks until you eventually stop taking it all together.
This will help manage adverse effects. And, if you do experience intense or mild withdrawal symptoms, your provider will be able to help.
By reducing your Effexor dosage with the supervision of a healthcare professional, you’ll be much less likely to suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
And even if you do, they’ll likely be less severe than if you’d stopped all at once.
The most important fact to note is that you should not stop taking Effexor or venlafaxine (or really, any antidepressant drugs) without the guidance and supervision of a healthcare professional.
As stated above, you usually need to take Effexor for a few weeks before noticing any changes in your mood and it can take up to eight weeks before being fully effective.
So if your anxiety doesn’t improve overnight, or even after a week, don’t sweat it.
Keep taking your dosage as prescribed, and alert your healthcare provider of any related concerns you might have.
If you continue to experience mood swings or don’t notice any improvements (like reduced anxiety, or less panic attacks), after eight weeks, consult with your healthcare provider on next steps.
Just never stop taking Effexor cold turkey. If you do, you may notice severe withdrawal symptoms.
And, remember, if you’re dealing with anxiety, you are not alone. There’s also help available to help you improve your quality of life.
If you need help navigating your mental wellbeing, talk to a licensed mental health provider by scheduling an online psychiatry appointment.
They will be able to give you medical advice and assist you in determining if you could benefit from antidepressant therapy, or if you need to stop taking one.
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