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. Jan
    Gansevoort, NY
    Reply

    I was on Cymbalta for over 10 years for Fibromyalgia and decided I just didn’t feel good on the medication so why I am I taking it? My symptoms were actually worse. I had started oils and natural remedies so decided I need to get off this drug. At my annual my doctor said fine, but let me give you 30 mg. for a month (I was on 60 mg.) then you should be fine…..NO I am on my 3rd day and as everyone else has said going a bit crazy. Threw up the first day, had the brain zaps, crying and the shakes to name a few! Been drinking tons of water and trying to eat lots of fruits and veggies and took a long Epson Salt bath with peppermint oil to try and sooth my pain. Thank You so much for sharing the idea of opening the capsule and removing the small white balls and weaning that way…who knew?
    Did that tonight and will work a 2 week program that way to get off this drug! THANK YOU!

  2. Sue
    Reply

    I took Cymbalta for 8 years. I’ve been going through hell. I have lost over 30 pounds (I’m skin and boned 95 lb! I suffer chronic pain and can’t sit down. Never had pain when I was on it. My gut is a mess. I have severe depression and anxiety and can’t see to find a medication to help me. I lost my job because of medical condition. Please anyone on it get of it!

  3. Carol
    Florida
    Reply

    Just want to say I did it! I am off Cymbalta ! I read somewhere on line a Md. say to wean along with two weeks of Prozac. I went to my MD, and that’s exactly what I did. I am happy to say I did not have those horrible side effects from withdrawal.
    So talk to your MD. There is hope.

  4. Tiffany
    Houston
    Reply

    I have been on cymbalta for about 3 months now. I was prescribed it for anxiety disorder. I am also taking lorazepam along with it. I have forgotten to take the cymbalta for the past few days and I am experiencing the worst side effects. Brain zaps that come and go when I turn my head and look a certain way. Dizziness to where I almost pass out. Extreme upset stomach. I am going to see my doctor next week and hope he helps me get on a new medication or completely off of this one.

  5. Suzette
    Montana
    Reply

    I was prescribed Cymbalta in 2011 after being diagnosed with MS. I have been on 60 mg (the now generic brand Diloxitine.) The last time I called to have my prescriptions refilled which was for the Diloxitine and Copaxone (injections for MS), I was told that they would not refill until I went to my Dr. Okay….made an appointment…..took 3 weeks to get in. Took my last pill the day before my appointment. My appointment was on a Friday morning at 9:00 am. I called the pharmacy a couple hours later, they said they hadn’t gotten anything from the Dr and that they would fax the Dr and call or text me and let me know. That didn’t happen…..now going through the weekend I have what sounds like “chirping” in my head….this happens after missing ONE pill in the past. It is 3:30 am Monday morning and I am wide awake. There was nausea and blah feeling all day yesterday, the continual “chirping”. If the pharmacy is closed today for Presidents Day….I will be going yet another day. My doctor is cutting me down to 30 mg for a month so I will be able to discontinue this medication totally at my request. GRRRR I am not a happy camper….not at all.

  6. Ella Hockett
    Virginia
    Reply

    I HAVE BEEN OFF CYMBALTA ALMOST THREE WEEKS. I THINK I AM GOING INSANE. SWEATING BUCKETS CONSTANTLY. NEVER ENOUGH TO EAT. EXTREME ANGER. INSOMNIA. THIRST. WHY DID I GET PUT ON THIS? I WOULD RATHER EAT NAILS THAN GO THROUGH THIS! MY FORMER DR. IS A MORON!

  7. Christy
    Tx
    Reply

    I too was prescribed cymbalta 30 mg, I took 2 capsules daily for a few years. I noticed my vision changing and my eyes felt like they were vibrating in my head. The funny thing; I was prescribed this medication for migranes!? Sure I hate having migraines and I have had them for over thirty years, and I have them about twenty days out of the month and they suck but am I depressed about them? No , just pissed I didn’t read what I was being prescribed by my neurologist, and mad I just put all my trust in them! Please ask questions!!! Just because they are doctors doesn’t mean they know everything!! Theses side effects are terrible!! Dizzy spells beyond belief!! It’s taken a couple months but I’ve got it now

  8. Victoria
    Lismore NSW
    Reply

    I am both very interested and grateful for this site and, for the opportunity to read these posts and write my own.
    I have been on 120mg Cymbalta for 4 years and I’m ready to stop as I don’t feel depressed/anxious/suicidal and the side effects of being on the drug is now out weighing the benefits.
    Last year (2017) I managed to reduce the dose from 120mg to about 90mg, but every time I tried to reduce it to 60mg I’d ‘fall hard’ and so return to the 90mg dose.
    At one point I was feeling so ‘out of control’ on the lower dose (60mg) I ended up (back) at my local mental health hospital as I wanted to talk to my psychiatrist about managing the drug with the view to getting off it in the long term. To my disbelief, she was annoyed at me for trying to reduce my dose, ‘told me off’ for being in denial about my mental health. She literally, berated me, humiliated me and grudgingly went through the motions of her paper work, thumbing and tossing her files round o her desk, sighing as she did so.
    I became upset and very angry, naturally … I’m a 57 year old woman who is strong and independent and has never been spoken to in this way since childhood!
    I left her office promising myself that no matter how bad things got I’d never return to her office. I cried all the way to my car, made a huge effort to get myself together to drive and continue on with me day.
    And this brings me to why I feel the need to write this post.
    In our region we have a high suicide rate and I couldn’t help but think of those who have commented suicide, whilst in and out of care. I couldn’t help but think that if I were in a more fragile state, like others, I would have walked out of her office and jumped off my nearest cliff face …….. just as other have done.
    I wanted to make a formal complaint, for the sake of others more so than for myself, but didn’t have the strength to do so. I did make a verbal complaint when I was called by staff, after cancelling my follow up appointments, as they would not transfer me to another practitioner and I refused to see this women again.
    Instead, I decided to continue managing my medications on my own, returning to the 90 mg daily does for the rest of the year.
    It’s now Feb 2018 and I’ve once again been trying to reduce my dose.
    I’ve moved house, so am not as isolated as before.
    I’m excited about my future and don’t feel I need to be on this drug, along with others, indefinitely, as I’ve been told, about this drug and others I’ve been prescribed.
    Yet, the last two to three weeks have been hell!!!
    First, the hypersensitivity to noise made my head feel like it was about to explode, then anxiety kicked in HARD. I had some Valium so used that twice when it got too out of hand.
    Now the irritability and explosions of anger are kicking in …. and, uncontrollable bouts of crying are overwhelming me.
    I wasn’t until I hit the trusty old Google ‘getting off Cymbalta’ this morning that I see that many of you are experiencing the same withdrawals and that in fact these withdrawal symptoms are listed as KNOWN side effects of withdrawing from the drug!!
    It’s NOT solely due to ‘my mental health issue’, as stated by my highly qualified psychiatrist!!
    These symptoms are SO real and SO challenging, (I’ve been on other antidepressants with lessor side effects). When reading a mothers story of her daughter committing suicide, my heart breaks into a zillion pieces …. if her daughter had been under the right care, if both she and her daughter had been told the truth and educated about the side effects of being on and getting of this drug, her daughter may very well still be alive and living a happier life!
    My son is doing his best to support me in getting off these drugs and I have to reassure him that no matter how hard it gets I will not decide that I’m better off dead.
    This morning it got way way too tough …
    I have just taken a 30mg in the hope that these shocking symptoms will subside and therefore give both me and my son some reprieve.
    Writing this post requires ALL my attention and focus as my brain zaps away in my head, concentration drifts all over the shop, as I see tails of creatures fluttering in my side vision and my emotions rises and falls with each sentence ……
    Thank god for spell check as spelling and constructing each sentence is becoming more and more challenging!?
    In my view, these drugs should be banned.
    It’s criminal that they drug are developed, passed and prescribed as lawful medicines.
    In fact I’ve now lost ALL faith in Western Medicine as, in the last 2 – 3 years I’ve been prescribed 6 medications for various ‘health issues’ and I put health issues in commas as I’m questioning these ‘health issues’ for side effects of all these drugs!
    Please, if you are reading this post and identify with my story, don’t give up …
    Confide in someone you can trust 100% and allow that person to support you through this process.
    Know that you are NOT ‘going mad’
    Learn to ‘tweak’ this drug by opening the capsules to find the right dose for you and make ever so smaller changes, up or down, for 3-4 weeks at a time, until you are making the progress that you want.
    And, most importantly, talk to someone you can trust, both when you find you are offered these drugs and ask them to do research for you BEFORE you start taking them.
    Take this person with you on your visits to doctors so they can ask questions on your behalf.
    DON’T try and go it alone, no matter how bad it gets …
    It’s just way way too challenging to keep your thoughts ‘real’, to be able to judge what is real and what is not.
    If you have managed to get through to the end of my post, thank you for ‘listening’ and I really hope that my experience can help even one person on their journey.

  9. Pauline
    Cairns, Australia
    Reply

    I was prescribed Cymbalta (60mg) about 11 years ago for depression. The dose was increased to 90mg for major depression and then to 120mg (for neuropathy). At this level I noticed lethargy and lack of motivation and, with my treating psychiatrist’s agreement we reduced back to 90mg and 6 months later to 60mg which I continued to take until November 2017, finding that my mood was stable and generally good. I have never had any adverse side effects from Cymbalta, but my daughter did become very nauseous and stopped taking them. In November 2017, there was, apparently, a world shortage of 60mg Cymbalta or the generic brand and my doctor agreed with me that he would write a script for 30mg with the proviso that if I noticed any adverse effects, I would go back to 60mg (2 x 30mg per day). I took the drug at this level for a bit over 2 months, with no problems arising. Again, with his agreement and with the advice of my pharmacist, I am weaning further and taking 1 x 30mg every other day. I have completed 6 weeks at this level and, if all goes well, in 2 months, I will further reduce to one every three days and then cease altogether. If I find that the depression returns, then we will review the situation. However, I have to say, that over the past 8 years I have made changes to my lifestyle (stopped drinking alcohol, adopted a 12 Step program life and include meditation in my daily routine) and find that this has made a huge difference. The things that floored me even on medication are able to be dealt with and let go. This is just my personal experience and not to be taken as advice.

    • Jean C.
      Reply

      Your message was so real to me I felt yours was exactly what I would of written. My issue is a went cold turkey on Cymbalta 7 days ago and went cold turkey on beer wine and cigarettes all at the same time. Bad mistake!!!

  10. Joan
    Reply

    I was on a low dose- I was taking it for nerve damage in a foot. It was so embarrassing- I literally cried for 6 weeks. I could not stop crying.

  11. Damita
    Colorado
    Reply

    So sad to hear all the terrible withdrawal effects suffered re Cymbalta and other antidepressants being used for pain. I never accepted such drugs and always researched any drug prescribed. I am not compliant and most doctors throw up their hands. I will not take any drugs or do surgery. I question Versed and Propofol anesthesia. I feel sad for people suffering the withdrawal.

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