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. Victor Augustine
    Nigeria
    Reply

    i need anything that will help me with the withdrawal of tramadol, any drug that can help me deal with it. please this thing is killing me. the symptoms is unbearable

  2. Jo
    Reply

    Duloxatine should be banned

  3. MomOf3inPA
    PA
    Reply

    I have been on Cymbalta 30 mg for my depression/anxiety. It has been an easy transition from the Effexor I was taking, which caused countless side effects and was not helping me at all. The Cymbalta is slightly helping my depression and anxiety. I asked my psychologist if we could bump it up to 60 mg and he agreed. However the increase required a prior authorization from my insurance which took over a week.

    I was without my Cymbalta 30mg for 2 days and I felt awful! I would have to say the nausea was the worst of my problems. I was exhausted but had great difficulty falling asleep. The prior authorization went through and I took my first 60 mg capsule today and the nausea is gone! I do not know how it well Cymbalta will work in the long-run but wanted to share my experience so far. I can also say that my dr went into great detail about the side effects of Effexor. But he gave me no information on the side effects of Cymbalta. Nor did he mention the withdraw complications if I stopped taking the medications abruptly.

    If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone reading this.. please do your research and do what best works for you regarding your mental health. A drug that may not work for one person might be the “miracle” treatment for another. We are all so different and our bodies react differently to everything we put in them. Please do not get scared after reading some of these posts, but rather take them as a cautionary tale as to what could possibly occur. Do your research and listen to your body!

  4. Lisa
    Reply

    I was on paroxetine for about 3 years then my doctor had switched me to duloxentine (cymbalta). For the first couple months on duloxentine my ocd had worsened and on top of that so had my depression and anxiety. I called my doctor to tell her how bad it had made me feel. I had given it about 4 months so I felt like I tried it and it wasn’t going to get better. She took me off of it completely.

    This is my second day off and I feel awful withdrawal symptoms. I can’t stop crying, my mood is completely worse, I felt like I was going to pass out, and spent last night throwing up. On top of all that I have very blurred vision. I called my doctor to tell them of the withdrawal symptoms I was having and to get some help to only be told that there are no withdrawal symptoms from this drug and that they don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m glad there is places to read up on these things to get help when your doctor refuses to help you.

  5. Grace
    OH
    Reply

    I’ve been on cymbalta for a little over two months now. When I was prescribed it the Dr told me that he would be surprised if I felt any side effects and it should begin working in a week. He got my hopes up so high. Then when the medication did a mediocre job at assisting my depression, I was kind of concerned. I got into a predicament last night where I need more medication and it’s the weekend so the pharmacy wasn’t open. It’s only been two days without my medication and I already feel like I’m going through withdrawal effects of street drugs. I would’ve never taken it if I had known from the beginning that it does a mediocre job at helping depression and has HORRIBLE withdrawal symptoms. I am upset with my Dr and wouldn’t recommend this drug to anyone, ever.

    • Jo
      Uk
      Reply

      I am in the same position as you I’m currently down to two 60mg tablets a week and I know exactly what your going through. I have been on them for 10yrs don’t even know if they really helped to be honest !!!. Keep going you can do it get this horrible stuff out your system. Good luck with you all the way Jo😊

  6. Emma
    Madison, WI
    Reply

    Have been sick for the past week or so – really bad headaches, nausea, the “head zaps,” etc.
    Been miserable at work so I took vacation for the next three days to rest and hopefully get to feeling better. Today I realized I’d been out of my Duloxetine (Cymbalta) since about the time I started feeling like this. Due to financial difficulties, I wasn’t able to refill it when I ran out. Today, I’ve got the money and will be getting it refilled now. Hopefully, I’ll be feeling better soon and no matter what, will not be running out again.

  7. Freida
    Reply

    I have been on Cymbalta for 10-plus years. I was taking 30 mg in the morning and 60 at night. First I decreased my dosage by 30 mg at night, and almost a month ago I backed off another 30 mg. I only take 30 in the morning now. I am having terrible withdrawal symptoms. Actually, I was having brain zaps before backing off this last 30 mg. I am no longer having brain zaps but I am having extreme spine pain, numbness in the lower part of my legs. I feel that there is a cloud of Doom hanging over me that I can’t quite shake and extreme fatigue. I sleep until 2 in the afternoon so my days are shot before I even get out of bed. Then I can’t sleep at night.

    I am not suicidal and would never act on it but I do have suicidal thoughts. I am so tired I have lost interest in everything that has brought me joy. After reading so many stories of others going through the same things, I do have hope that this will be over eventually. The last 30 mg I will go off a few beads at a time to avoid going through this horrific withdrawal again. I actually broke down and took 30 mg three nights ago because I just couldn’t stand it any longer. I really don’t want to do that again because I want this stuff out of my body. I’ll stick with it but I have to say that getting off Cymbalta is extremely, extremely difficult. My doctor told me that it has helped a lot of people but I was having side effects that are the same or similar to the withdrawal symptoms. The terrible nightmares I suffered for years have stopped since I am down to only 30 mg a day now. The night that I went ahead and took another 30 mg, I had a nightmare.

  8. Jerry
    Pennsylvania
    Reply

    I have had several different antidepressants prescribed for me over the years for seasonal depression. Cymbalta is by far the worst I have ever taken. I stopped taking it three weeks ago, after only taking it for a period of 35 days. I have never experienced withdrawal like I have from Cymbalta. Night time sweats, I have to get out of bed and change my pajamas, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, irritability, sexual dysfunction, feeling like I am a zombie.

    This medication is absolutely the worst I have ever taken, and as it has already been stated, if you call the manufacturer, they tell you they have not received any relevant complaints about this medication, typical lies that seem to be the norm for these drug companies.

    Hasn’t this company noticed that a few people have taken their own lives from the horrible effects of this medication. How can our government, and the manufacturer deny any allegations, and the reported horrible side effects from this medication. How may people have to die before something is done, this medication should not be prescribed, it is absolutely the worst antidepressant on the market.

    • Jo
      Reply

      I totally agree with you. It should be banned.

  9. Sue
    missouri
    Reply

    To anyone who is trying to discontinue Cymbalta for any reason: PLEASE do not quit cold turkey or quit quickly! The physical pain and discomfort as well as the emotional hell you will go through is not worth it. For those who are not lucky enough to have few to no side effects coming off, well, so happy for you. But that is a minority for sure. Even though we want to get off this drug as quickly as possible, the easiest way is slowly – listen to your body – it will let you know if you are going off too fast. I open the capsules and reduce the amount by 10% per month which works for most people. I keep a log of how many little balls I take out of each capsule and over the period of a month, slowly reduce by 10% and have few side effects. Please refer to the website “Cymbalta hurts worse” it has great info and great support. Good luck to all!

  10. Andrew
    Seattle
    Reply

    I ran out of Cymbalta due to a mix-up in refill requests, and was off my medications for five days. The effects were severe. I dealt with everything on the list in this article. Every time I moved my head, I felt like my brain was being left behind, and then it would snap back into place. MY head ached all the time, I couldn’t sleep, and I was exhausted constantly. I broke up with my partner of almost two years, because my anxiety was so high that I didn’t know what else to do and could not comprehend anything other than leaving him. I was irritated by everything, snapped at everyone, and now that I’m finally back on my meds, I have to figure out how to fix all the messes made by the side effects I dealt with.

    • Regina
      Arizona
      Reply

      Thank you SO much for your post! After 5 yrs on Cymbalta under a pain mgmt doctor, I wanted to get off of it. They had me 1/3 my dose then go off in four weeks. I thought I was going a bit crazy, the physical feelings & overwhelming gloom are terrible! After two weeks and 3 doctors I found one who told me to do this yesterday. He put me back on a low dose opening the capsule. I am not sure if it’s enough, I am not crying all day now but the rest of the symptoms are still there.

      The doctor told me this was a huge problem and most doctors don’t know anything about it. Everyone sharing their joirney really helps!

      I am highly skeptical about the off market studies and would ban off usage. I also don’t think doctors inform people at all or properly before putting them on this. I can’t see anyone agreeing to be put on it when it’s this terrible trying to stop taking it.

  11. Lisa
    Reply

    I have been off since last wed. I’m seriously going crazy. Crying, yelling at my kids. Not sure if I should tough it out or take a pill every other day. I have so much going on, a trip Friday, my son’s graduation next weekend. I’m beside myself and need some advice. Go back on every other day, open capsules and count beads, or stick with staying off them. Did I mention I’ve been weaning done since march an only was on 20mg! Glad I know I’m not going crazy…sounds like we are all in the same boat. Need advice quickly.

  12. BHorner
    Reply

    I have been on Cymbalta for 10 years and tried to wean myself off it. I was an emotional wreck! I cried, could feel my eyeballs move, had brain zaps, dizziness, and so many other things. While off for the few weeks that I was off it, I decided it wasn’t worth it, so started back up again. I thought that I’d still be depressed without it because of the crying jags I was on while not taking it.

    It has worked for me for the reason it was prescribed–severe depression. I have been a different person than I was without it. I agree, it makes me want to sleep 14-16 hours a day, makes (made) me sweat like crazy, but my anxiety and depression have basically disappeared. Now that I’m older (66) the sweating has gone away…….they say when you get old, you get cold, so I’ve gone from sweating to wearing a sweater!

    I guess it would take a coma to get me off this drug. It truly is an EVIL drug. But, at this stage in my life, I don’t think I can handle the side effects again.

    • Vickie
      Nj
      Reply

      I removed 7 more balls from the capsule each day . It did help with side effects. Today is 2nd day without anything. I do have brain shivers and dizziness and nausea. I am also tired.

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