A bottle of generic delayed-release Duloxetine (Cymbalta) 30 mg

We have received so many complaints about duloxetine side effects that we have lost count. Far more disturbing are the number of people who tell us how hard it is to discontinue this drug.

Decades ago doctors might have told patients taking a drug like Cymbalta that if they experienced anxiety, irritability or strange sensations after stopping the drug, it was probably their underlying psychological problem returning. Now we know it is withdrawal from the medicine.

The History of Cymbalta:

Cymbalta was originally approved by the FDA in 2004 for the treatment of major depression. It is officially an SNRI-type antidepressant. In doctorspeak that means it is a serotonin-norepinehprine reuptake inhibitor and is somewhat similar to other antidepressants such as Effexor (venlafaxine) and Pristiq (desvenlafaxine).

The FDA also approved Cymbalta to treat nerve pain associated with diabetes in 2004. In 2007 the drug got a green light for anxiety and in 2008 the FDA agreed that it could ease the discomfort associated with fibromyalgia. It was also approved to treat musculoskeletal pain associated with arthritis and lower back pain in 2010.

In other words, here was a drug that could relieve your blues and your aches and pains. And the drug company that makes Cymbalta (Lilly) has been aggressively marketing it as a good way to deal with chronic low back pain and osteoarthritis. Perhaps you have seen the commercials on TV promoting the pain relieving power of the drug with the slogan “Cymbalta can help.” It sounds almost too good to be true.

Ah…and there is the rub. Although there is a long list of serious side effects mentioned during the commercial, the video images seem quite reassuring and trump the scary message the FDA requires for this medication. So, let’s set the record straight. Here, without visual interference, are a list of potential complications associated with this medication.

Cymbalta (Duloxetine) Side Effects

  • Nausea, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, decreased appetite, vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia, anxiety, tremor
  • Dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness
  • Sweating, hot flashes
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Sexual dysfunction, lowered libido, erection difficulties, lack of orgasm
  • Liver damage
  • Serious skin reactions, rash, hives (requires immediate MD assistance!)
  • Glaucoma
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Bleeding problems
  • Blood pressure problems
  • Interaction with other drugs (leading to serotonin syndrome among other reactions)
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Depressed mood, suicidal thoughts and behavior, suicide

Such a long list of side effects makes your eyes glaze over after the top 3 or 4. That is why we have included stories from real people so you can better understand what these complications feel like.

Stopping Cymbalta:

Even though such side effects are scary, there is another problem with Cymbalta. When people try to stop taking this drug they frequently report unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. An organization (QuarterWatch) that monitors the FDA’s database of serious adverse drug events has noted that:

“We observed a signal for serious drug withdrawal symptoms associated with duloxetine (CYMBALTA), a widely used antidepressant that is also approved to treat arthritis and back pain, anxiety, and fibromyalgia. In the first quarter of 2012 the FDA received 48 case reports of drug withdrawal identifying duloxetine as the suspect drug. They described a wide spectrum of withdrawal effects that began when the patients stopped the drug, including blackouts, suicidal thoughts, tremor, and nausea. Several cases involved hospitalization.

Probing deeper into the scientific record for duloxetine we found that withdrawal symptoms were reported in 44-50% of patients abruptly discontinuing duloxetine at the end of clinical studies for depression, and more than half of this total did not resolve within a week or two. In addition, we identified a serious breakdown at both the FDA and the manufacturer, Eli Lilly and Company, in providing adequate warnings and instructions about how to manage this common adverse effect.”

Doctors have taken to calling this “discontinuation syndrome.” These clinical words do not do justice to what it is like to stop antidepressants like Cymbalta, Effexor (venlafaxine), Paxil (paroxetine), Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) or Zoloft (sertraline) suddenly.

Sudden Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Brain “Zaps” (electric shock-like senstations in the brain)
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, vertigo, feeling faint
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety, irritability, hostility
  • Nausea, diarrhea, digestive upset
  • Tremor, hands shaking, nerve tingles, strange sensations
  • Fatigue, tiredness, lack of energy
  • Visual disturbances

Again, a list of symptoms does not do this problem justice. Below you will read some stories from people who have posted their comments to this website. We would love to hear your story, positive or negative. Share your experience with Cymbalta or any other antidepressant below.

Should you wish to learn more about dealing with depression through some other strategies, we offer our Guide to Dealing with Depression. You will also find a whole chapter on prescribing mistakes doctors make when treating depression and fibromyalgia in our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.

Cymbalta Withdrawal Stories from Readers

– D.G. shares a tragic story:

“My lovely, young daughter-in law, who was about to celebrate her 29th birthday, was prescribed Cymbalta, Klonopin, and Ambien and has committed suicide.

“She told her physician and her therapist that she’d had thoughts of suicide but no one took her seriously. She suffered from depression, as well as an eating disorder, and had very low body weight. She also used alcohol.

“Please remind your readers of the potentially disastrous effects these chemicals can cause when taken carelessly or in combination with alcohol.”

This from – P.J.:

“I have been on Prozac over the last 20 years off and on and it finally stopped working. The last time I took it about 2 years ago I was taking the generic from Barr – the blue and white capsule. I was feeling as if I were in the deepest dark hole there ever was.

“My doctor put me on Cymbalta from which I had a lot of side effects such as palpitations, feeling constant dread, panic attacks, sweats, lightheadedness and general feeling of not being well.

“She added Abilify which put me over the edge. I was in the worst depression I have ever been in. Finally after living like this for several months, I asked to be put back on Prozac. I was taking the generic from Sandoz. When the prescription ran out I ended up on the big blue and white capsules from Barr.

“Over the last couple of weeks it has been constant crying spells, arguing with everyone and feeling pretty low. I talked to my doctor and she wrote the prescription for Sandoz only generic. The blue and white capsules are like taking a placebo. My doctor said she had had other patients who complained of the same thing and she had to write prescriptions for a certain generic or name brand.”

– R.P. says:

“I took Cymbalta for 3 days and thought I’d go nuts. I’m off it now and refuse to try any other drug like this. My main complaint was extreme hot flashes that estrogen wouldn’t help. I thought I’d be given Prozac, but was given Cymbalta instead. It was a rough 3 days and I stopped it last night. I am extremely tired yet cannot sleep at night. I think I was sweating even worse and my legs started feeling like I had Lyme disease again. And to be honest, within those 3 days of taking it, I didn’t contemplate suicide, but I had this crappy attitude of “who would care?”

– Nancy relates how hard it was to get off Cymbalta:

“It took me 18 months to get off Cymbalta, with no doctor’s help. I can hardly believe that doctors have no exit strategy for this dangerous drug. I had to find this out on my own from reading and as soon as I weaned off that – about a month, the tinnitus that had occurred decreased almost completely. No doctor told me this.”

— J.K. shares a parent perspective:

“My daughter experienced severe side effects when trying to come off Cymbalta – she had nausea, vomiting, lost peripheral vision for 24-48 hours, had shaking, etc. This was while she was doing a clinical in a hospital for college. Had she known she would have stayed on it until after clinical. I called the manufacturer and they acted like there were no such side effects from withdrawal.

“She too took apart the capsules and it took awhile, but finally she is free from that drug. I think it is a crime that the manufacturers don’t publish more detailed information concerning withdrawal. They could even make money selling a one month or two month step down prescription so individuals aren’t taking the capsules apart themselves.”

– P.C. Tells what it is like to switch around from one drug to another:

“I just turned 52 today. I went on a very low dose of Zoloft about 8 years ago to treat generalized anxiety disorder. It really did help for a long time. I recently have been pretty depressed (however I can cover it up really well) and my psychiatrist switched me to Effexor which was terrible for me. Now I’m trying Cymbalta which has not done anything either except make me feel more anxious and headachy and weird.”

“I am a registered nurse and I do not understand what the long term effects of these meds are and I am concerned. I really want to get off and see what I can do naturally for myself.”

– K.T. tells what it is like to try to stop Cymbalta:

“Getting off Cymbalta is challenging but not impossible. I, too, experienced the light-headedness, dizziness, and “brain zaps.” I described it as being able to “hear my eyes move.” It sounded like the light sabers on Star Wars. Very strange and disconcerting.

“The key is to do it very very slowly. Take the capsules apart and begin by removing 5 or 10 of the tiny balls inside. Do this for a week or so, then slowly increase the amount you remove each week or two as you can tolerate it.

“Your doctor will probably be no help at all. Mine wasn’t. He instructed me to wean off over a two to three week period and I almost lost my mind. I did it myself over about a YEAR or more. Be patient. I am completely off now and feeling GOOD.”

– Karen’s story:

“I was prescribed Cymbalta ‘off-label’ to manage fibromyalgia pain When I stopped taking it because it wasn’t delivering on the promised effect of reducing my pain, I became so horribly depressed that I required hospitalization as I had become SUICIDAL!

“I will NEVER take another anti-depressant for an off-label purpose….such as Elavil/amitriptyline as a “sleep aid” which is very commonly prescribed.

“I believe it should be criminal to prescribe ANY drug for a purpose other than the one it was approved to treat.”

– R.H. and Erectile Dysfunction:

“I’m a 76 year old man, my libido was very low. Taking Cymbalta for peripheral neuropathy added ED as a side affect of the drug. I had a testosterone blood test; it was 1/3 what the minimum should be. So I’m taking Androgel to raise testosterone levels and it is magic. I have great libido now and am working on minimizing the Cymbalta pills. In the meantime I have been prescribed Cialis for the ED. Each pill solves the sex problem for a couple of days.”

– M.O. on stopping Cymbalta:

“I have the exact symptoms as everyone else and it’s been a week. I only took Cymbalta for 2 months, but the side effects from stopping it are horrible. My doctor didn’t, nor did anyone else tell me, about any side effects and I did read the insert. Most of the time the listed side effects of meds don’t bother me, so I figured no problem.

“From reading other posts on this website and on other sites, the drug seems to affect every person the same way. I would never have taken it for my neck pain if I had known about the likelihood of side effects. The worst part for me is the dizziness, the brain zings and the sudden burst of tears for no reason. I would never take this drug again. I think the FDA needs to do longer studies on all drugs and be honest with their findings and that doctors should be honest and tell their patients what really happens when you take Cymbalta.”

Please add your own experience below in the comment section.

Revised 1/28/16

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  1. HelenM

    I am taking lyrica, not cymbalta; however, it is a similar medication. About two weeks ago I began zonisimide in an effort to get off the lyrica. The price of the lyrica pushes me into the donut hole every year and then covering its cost is very difficult. $600 for three months worth. I managed another three months with samples from my pain management clinic; therefore, when I got information on Zonegran, and its generic, I decided to try. One a day was OK. Two days ago I went to two a day, we are working up to 3. I dropped 100mg of lyrica. I think this medication is like naltrexone and opioid overdoses; it is washing out the lyrica, because I am suffering with all the problems mentioned above. I don’t know exactly what I am going to do: wean off or just stop, need to do more research; but it definitely is a bust for me. However, I am glad I read this article, it gives me a clue as to why I am feeling so bad.

  2. Paula
    Jeannette, PA

    Well…..I started taking Cymbalta due to lower back pain and sciatica problems. Recently I decided I would like to quit taking them, mostly due to the fact my insurance doesn’t cover them. I was on 30 mg 1xday and was prescribed 20mg. 1xday for two weeks and then every other day for two weeks. Finished up about a week ago and I feel awful. I’m very tired, moody, dizzy and sometimes hot flash symptoms. I never dreamed it would be like this trying to wean off of them and the doctor gave me no indication either. Like others, I’m wondering exactly how long these symptoms will last. For me they’ve lasted too long already.

  3. Lisa

    I have to say, I’m the opposite. I took it for 12 months. The first month I did feel altered, but not too weird, I lost about 7 pounds, then I had a great year with no obvious side effects. Very positive life experiences and very calm.

    If I missed a dose, I did get brain and leg zaps, but I knew what it was and took my pill asap. They aren’t horrible, just an odd sensation.

    I am about to start my last 2 weeks on 30g, after reducing my dose by 30g every 2 weeks (I was on 120g)

    I have very mild zapping behind the eyes first thing in the morning. My only concern is the depression may return when I finish.

    I would take this again. We are all different.

  4. Sondra

    Has any one tried detoxing coming off of Cymbaltia and has it worked?

  5. Lynn

    I have been on cymbalta for years for neck and back problems and also depression. When I take them I feel great. However, I have run out a couple of times and the withdrawal symptoms are unbelievable. Feelings of electrical shocks in my head and extremities, angry feelings, frustration, I slept for only 3 hours last night. Woke up sweating, felt like something crawling under my skin. I have a script coming and will be weaning myself off. Take 3 a day going down to 2 for a week and will do 1 a day for a week. I can’t believe a drug that has so many good benefits ( at least in my case) could have such horrible withdrawals.

  6. Kelly

    15 days of 20mgs. Stopped. Crying spells, diarrhea, fecal incontinence, gas(LOTS!!!), lethargy, sensation of hands being gripped…

    • Kelly

      Day 4 without Cymbalta: Chronic diarrhea/gas. Immodium AD – 6-8 pills a day. Fecal incontinence. I’ve had taken Effexor years ago – took it only for 2 days. Diarrhea was sudden.

  7. Emy
    Nipomo, CA

    I was prescribed Cymbalta about 5 years ago (60 mg/day) for stress and to help relieve left hemi-facial spasms. I discussed stopping this drug with my doctor recently and was prescribed a 30 mg/day for 2 weeks and then instructed to stop completely. It’s been past two weeks and I’ve been feeling terrible with light headedness and dizziness. I don’t want to restart taking a smaller dose only to be faced with these same withdrawal symptoms again so will hope that I will start feeling better tomorrow or the day after, or the day after that. I can’t wait to get this awful drug out of my system!

  8. jo.
    Leicestershire, England.

    I had been prescribed duloxotine 30mgs for lower back pain. After two doses I woke up feeling very unwell, I nearly fainted,dizzy, nauseous and retching. I have spent the rest of the day feeling utterly wiped out with a headache.
    I know that the information with the drug advises that early side effects wear off after a few days, but sorry I really don’t want a repeat of today.

  9. Newme

    I almost got blind by using this drug and almost died trying to quit it. I had several nightmares, suicidal thoughts, I trembled for various days, my blood pressure went down, experienced aches all over my body, specially my head and eyes, could not speak well and was not able to have a conversation without ending in an argument because I over reacted to anything and felt always angry and crying. Worst effects ever.

  10. Liz

    I forgot to add that Cymbalta has greatly reduced my pain levels, and improved my moods.

  11. Liz

    I know how serious this problem is, and I’m glad it’s finally known, at least by some of the medical establishment. But I laughed out loud when I read the withdrawal symptoms. The list sounds just like a mild case of ME/CFS!

    Miserable as this is, it would still be considered a very mild case. Please remember this if you’re ever tempted to roll your eyes about someone with Chronic Fatigue Symptom.

  12. Cindy M. Black
    Seattle, WA

    WOW! What a mass of comments! I just wish I had the time to read them all….
    Back in the 60’s, I was around a lot of people who took “downers” recreationally. And most meds for anxiety, depression, sleeplessless, etc., have a lot of “downer” properties — they are central-nervous-system depressants. I had no interest in those drugs.

    I do remember that everyone I knew who DID take them seemed much angrier and more irritable than usual when they were on “downers.” They had poor impulse control and tended to do dangerous, anti-social behaviors. They didn’t really seem “sad,” but they were irritable and didn’t seem to care about possible negative consequences for actions. I have no trouble at all understanding why depressant-type drugs quite often cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors, often homicidal ones as well. Antidepressant and anti-anxiety Rx meds are dangerous, in my opinion, and should only be tried as a last resort.

  13. Laura
    Somerville, MA

    I’ve found Cymbalta to be very effective for treating my depression and the pain associated with fibromyalgia. I can’t deny that I’ve experience some of the side effects as well: heart palpitations, anxiety, sleeplessness, and loss of balance. Recently, though, I unwittingly stopped taking the 120 mg. I was prescribed–I just didn’t notice that they weren’t among the handful of pills I swallow in one gulp every night. Over a period of 8 days, I had in effect quit this medication cold turkey.

    It was the worst time of my life. I wept constantly, over anything and everything, and I felt completely hopeless. I became strongly suicidal and looked up online various ways to end your life that would be both definitive and relatively painless, and even formulated a specific plan in case I couldn’t take it any more. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I begged God to help me–to fix me. My psychiatrist gave me some very strong anti-psychotic medication and some Clonazepam to couteract this dive into the abyss, and that did help some. But it wasn’t until I realized that I hadn’t been taking the Cymbalta for several days that I knew what was wrong with me.

    As soon as I started it up again, I felt fine. So a word to the wise: if you hate this med, make sure you go off it very gradually, and under the supervision of a physician. That was the only time I’ve ever been seriously suicidal. It was an agony.

  14. patricia

    patricia just started to wean myself off symbalta fog has appeared and suicidal thoughts after just 4 days. decided to leave 2 off every week, taking 60mg every day for anxiety. perscribed theeseb pills by a private doctor which cost me £400.00 would never have taken them if i had known the side effects of coming off. as bad as side effects from beeing on them. I have been seeing a therapist privately for eighteen months at some cost. he has advised me to get rid of antidepressants aas they are holding me back from recovery of bad anxiety. does anyone have any advice they can give me. desperate to come off theese pills

  15. Lori

    I have been on Cymbalta for years. My Dr. told me to try and stop it since it wasn’t helping me. For the past 2 weeks I have been lightheaded,nauseus,vomiting,bad headaches,andtotally exhausted. I have not been able to function and have beenspending most ofmy timein the bed. how long does these withdrawal symtoms last? cant live off of sprite and jello forever.

    thanks you,
    Lori M. in N.C.

    • Tina
      Chicago suburbs

      I took cymbalta since March 4, 2015. 60 than 30. Started to tapper off early Dec. My doctor knows and had me down to Half of a 20. Then everyother day. Day 6 no cymbalta. I’ve have felt worse every day. Called the office today and the nurse said doctor wants me to start the meds again. No way!!! Please tell me when it gets better,

  16. Lyn
    Queensland Australia

    How scary all this is…..I was on this drug for about 15 years, taking 2 a day, first for menopausal depression, then stayed on as had lower back surgeries and arthirtus. I ran out 8 days ago, went to 1 a day for a couple of days, thinking I would refill my script but decided to go all the way and stay off. I was okay for 3 days from stopping then the feeling of just dying started, waking up so nauseous and feeling like a log not being able to move. I’ve been feeling so low and crying. It’s not worth telling anyone else how bad you feel as they could never understand, so you feel so alone. It’s now day 5 of feeling so sick, every day I just struggle for it to end hoping the next will be better,but seem to be feeling worse. How is this the drug should be leaving my body but I am feeling worse each day. The stories I’ve read here scare me on how long I have to feel like this. No wonder people never get off these drugs, if I lived closer to a pharmacy and felt better I definitely would have given and taken the easy way and taken them again. I only hope I will soon feel better. Imagine what this crap is doing to your body. Good luck to you all, I’ll go to sleep tonight dreaming of meeting you all on the Hate Cymbalta Cruise….

  17. Sherri
    South Carolina

    There are positive outcomes from using Cymbalta. I am living a quality life because of Cymbalta. Ten years after my diagnosis of fibromyalgia with insomnia, extreme fatigue, daily muscle aches and pain as well as depression my internist prescribed Cymbalta. I have had no ill effects from it, only positive. My quality of life has improved tremendously since beginning this drug. Do not believe all the negative publicity here. It may not be the right drug for everyone, but it certainly has been a life saver for me.

    • Newme

      I’m certainly glad that it works for you. But you should be careful. This substance is a real poison. I was really happy with it until my vision failed and I started looking for information. Then I quit and went to hell and back. What I’m really trying to say is: it kills you and you don’t notice because it makes you very happy while it “works”. I remember last Xmas as the best ever. Now I’m still fighting my suicidal thoughts. Please tell your doctor about anything unusual.

  18. Florrey
    St. Louis, MO

    I was given Cymbalta for fibromyalgia and it was wonderful. After 4 months, one night when I was in bed, my overhead fan was in the corner of the room, the chest of drawers was somewhere else and the dresser was also somewhere else. I was scared. In the a.m. I called my doctor who said I was hallucinating and to stop taking it – he weaned me off. When he prescribed it for me, he made me promise I would NOT read the patient information sheet. I didn’t. When I called, he said that was why – sometimes when people read the side effects, they imagine they are experiencing these effects. Had I read the sheet, I wouldn’t have been so frightened. So, even though it helped me, it was a dangerous medication for me.

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