woman screaming from a nightmare

Q. I have had great trouble stopping the antidepressant Effexor. I tapered off this medicine as instructed, but I still have a feeling like electrical shocks going through my brain.

Getting off this drug has been a nightmare. If for some reason a person had to stop suddenly, he might go crazy with the withdrawal. Before stopping, I forgot to take my medicine with me on a short trip and the symptoms were excruciating!

A. Many readers report difficulty stopping antidepressants like Effexor or Paxil suddenly. The electric shock sensation is a common symptom. Discontinuing such drugs requires medical supervision.

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  1. Bri

    I have been on Effexor for about 7 months and decided to get off by doing cold turkey. The withdrawal process is very exhausting . I feel as if I have motion sickness constantly and my faces tingles. I’m very emotional; anger sadness etc, and very sluggish mentally and physically. This has only been day two and I don’t know when I will be completely through with the withdrawal symptoms! I just keep telling myself to stay strong. Has anyone else gone cold turkey and had success?

  2. Anna

    I’ve only been taking 75mg of Effexor for about a month after having a reaction to Sertraline. After forgetting to take my prescription to the pharmacy for a refill before going away for a long weekend, I decided to just wait the three days before going to the pharmacy….I will not make that mistake again!

    No nausea but I have had headaches on an off the the entire 3 days and the past couple days have been light headed and experienced a pins and needles sensation in my lips and face as well as in my extremities (on and off). Very disconcerting! While the pharmacist told me not to stop cold turkey when I initially started this medication, I really wish they (and my doctor) had seen fit to explain what the effects of stoping suddenly were as well as the severity of the side effects of stopping as I had assumed it would be similar to what I experienced when stopping Wellbutrin or Sertraline.

    While Effexor seems to be working well for my anxiety, I am a little concerned at how difficult it will be to wean myself off in the future as I would prefer to not be on anti-anxiety/anti-depressants forever.

    • Joanne P.

      I am going cold turkey. Trust me, it’s horrible. But the thought of going back on it makes me so angry! I lost 7 years on this med, and the doctors kept upping the dose! Getting real feelings again. It’s horrible withdrawls. Bad bad drug.

  3. Ralph

    March 15, 2016
    I stopped taking Effexor cold turkey four days ago after only two months. DO NOT STOP IMMEDIATELY. I spent the day in the ER, serious heart palpitations, waves heat and cold, feeling like I was going to lose consciousness, sharp twitches in my muscles, severe anxiety, emotional wreck and feelings of dread. Still experiencing these feelings 12 hours later but doctors realized what was going on and were helpful. What a nightmare not having known this before hand. Yup, only after being in hospital did I finally read the manufacturers notice. If you want to get off this stuff do it with your physicians assistance.

  4. norah

    Ive been on anti depressants for over 20 years sice i lost my mam to cancer. I was on many different anti depressants for the 1st 8 years as some didnt agree with me, ive been on effexor xl for 12 years now. I was taking 150mg then got down to 75mg. 3 days ago i ran out of them and i thought id try to get over the weekend without them, i did it, but i have felt very weird, like light headed as if drunk, ive felt like a pulse sensation in my head which is very annoying but goes away after a while and headaches, other then that im doing ok. Are these feelings normal, will they get any worse and how long will they last. Any answers are greatly appreciated. Thankyou in advance.

  5. Renee

    I have been going through withdrawal symptoms from venlafaxine 37.5 mgs. Since I no longer have insurance, I have gone cold turkey for 3 days now. I have feelings in my head that is like a wave, going in and out, chest pain, dizziness, forgetfulness, VERY emotional. It’s horrible, the doctors seem to forget to mention these side effects.
    I do not want to exchange one anti-depressant for another. I have been taking one form of another since 1998! One of them a shrink prescribed for me, made me have suicidal thoughts, I went off those in a heart beat.
    I have been taking St John’s Wort, hoping it would help, it hasn’t. I don’t know what to do. Does anyone have any idea’s
    Thank you.

  6. Rose

    I am happy this website exists. I was on Effexor xr for 11 years for major depression. I gained 6 lbs, reduced my physical activity, but seemed to not be depressed. I am in a better situation now and started tapering myself from 225 by 25mg increments. My doctor told me to taper really fast but I had read too much to listen.

    I had to switch to non XR in tablet form after 75 because I got bad withdrawal symptoms when I split up capsules. Pharmacist educated me on not doing that. I cut back my Wellbutrin from 150 to 75 prior to tapering Effexor. After 50 mg of Effexor I stopped wanting to do much of anything. I went back to 75 Effexor for another week(35 in morning and 35 at 4pm). The next week I went to 35 in morning and half that in afternoon. Again, didn’t feel like moving, so I upped my Wellbutrin back to 75 in morning and half that in the afternoon. Two weeks later I guess the Wellbutrin started working, so I decreased my Effexor to the 35 but split in half: am and pm.

    All along I have had some crying and lots of anger but I can deal with it. So last week I split the 17 mg into half again, half in the am and half at 4 and I am still ok. This is my 2nd day on just the 9 mg in am and I do have the brain zaps but it is still managable. I have had the loose bowels most of the time, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, smaller appetite, noises, ear ringing (although that came long ago from the Effexor I assume) all along the way. But it isn’t consistent. I am wary of next week when I stop altogether. My plan is to taper the Wellbutrin once the Effexor is out of my system. Hang in there everybody. Thank you for helping me with your words. I hope mine help someone too.

    • norah
      Derry, Northern Ireland

      Hi Rose, I’ve gone cold turkey too 3 days after running out of my effexor xl. I’ve been on them for 12 after been on other anti depressants for 8 years. I was on 150mg effexor xl and got down to 75mg. Since I went cold turkey on Friday, I’ve been getting the wave whooshing feeling, I’ve felt like a been drunk effect, very light headed and headaches. I hope you feel better soon Rose. Good luck.

  7. Nancy

    Last November, 2014, I decided to go off effexor after taking the drug for 8 or so years. Before starting this drug my depression manifested itself in agitation, poor self-esteem and the feelings of being lost in the world.

    It was discovered that I suffered from (SAD), Seasonal Affective Disorder, which consumed my whole sense of being when it was foggy outside. I hate the fog as it takes the colour out of life. It’s foggy a lot in Eastern Canada. The last couple of years on this drug were gruelling; constant brain saps, heart fluttering at night and the extra 50-60 pounds I had gained were depressing me more than I had been for the reasons I went on the drug. I will say, I never felt any unusual sadness before I started taking this drug or during the time I took it. Sadness was never an issue for me other than the normal sadness of loss or hurt.

    I realized last year that I was getting older and wanted to feel good and healthy again and I wanted off this drug. It was no longer providing me with beneficial qualities. I knew I could live a healthy productive life without it and loose the weight and enjoy my 50s. I took the doctor’s advice and went off the drug slowly and as instructed. Than “BAM”… I was in the deepest darkest abyss of sadness and despair I’ve ever experienced. I felt so sad for all the pain and suffering in this world. I cried and really went into the deepest depression ever. Since social media only really began a couple years before I started taking this drug, everything I’d read, seen or watch came flooding back into my mind and I cried and cried and cried. All the crimes against humanity, all the abuse of the animals in this world and all idiotic senseless religious wars. I felt everything and it manifested in me with such sadness I almost ended my life.

    In the beginning, I know why I felt better because the drug had really paralyzed my emotions/feelings and I just put any unpleasant thoughts and feelings away. Essentially, I was living on autopilot and not really dealing with or managing life in a healthy way… then when I came off the drug and properly at that, I was hit with abyss of destruction and chaos I had never felt or experienced before. That was 7 months ago and still my brain is not free of this drug and the damage it has done. I know this. Although the sadness has subsided and I am slowly beginning to think, feel, and take control over my life again.

    I have many bridges to fix, relationships to mend and am just starting to feel for myself and my own well being…I need to take care of me and for the first time in years, I’m thinking about me as the woman I am…If I had known this drug would have caused me this kind Psychological/Phyical/Emotional/Mental warfare I never would have taken it as coming off this drug was 100 times worse than the reason I went on it. Hopefully, in time, I will heal completely and start living and feeling right again.

    I’d rather be agitated in the fog than go through this long voyage again. If your a doctor reading this please educate yourself on the effects this drug has on the average person who will probably not be on it forever and ensure they have the complete medical support needed when the weaning off this horrible drug begins. I am almost positive many people did not make it. Each person know doubt has their own experience this is just mine.

  8. Britt

    I only started Effexor/Venlafaxine 150 to help with depression that I thought was related to long term use of ortho tricyclen-lo. I actually increased the dosage to 225 mg (after talking with my doctor) soon after starting the antidepressant because I was experiencing a lot of anxiety about going off birth control. However, after stopping birth control, I started to feel better within a couple of months, so I transitioned back down to 150 mg, then 75. The problem started when I tried to reduce to every other day. Fatigue was a constant problem, but I kept going because I want having anxiety or mood issues, so I didn’t need to medicate. After a couple of weeks, I had leveled out, so I decided to stop taking it. At first, I thought I had a stomach virus because of the intense dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. I also saw a shiny outline around objects, so that made the dizziness worse. Overall, I spent about 4 months quitting this antidepressant. I have to say that those last few days made me want to stay away from prescriptions, but it was very helpful when I needed it. If you have the option to switch to another antidepressant after lowering your dose of Effexor/Venlafaxine, that may be helpful at the end of the process. It is definitely a struggle to quit taking this medication, but if you really need it to combat anxiety and depression, I can tell you that this medicine helped a great deal with reducing anxiety and repetitive thoughts when I was really struggling.

    • Layne
      United States

      I am in the same situation as you- I have never been so sad or alone feeling I cry all day long! It’s terrible! I have been off Effexor for a month and a half. I don’t have anymore physical side effects, just the sadness How are you doing now?

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