stressed out woman pulling her hair

An antidepressant could be a lifesaver when a person is desperate and hopeless. In less dire circumstances, however, we urge patients to ask questions about the prescription before they accept it. How much will it help? How long should I take it? How do I STOP taking it? Many readers have found it very difficult to discontinue desvenlaxine (Pristiq).

Withdrawal from Pristiq:

Q. Can you offer me any ideas of how I can ease my withdrawal from Pristiq? My brain is cloudy, I am having brain zaps and I am agitated.

I should have never tried it out. Please help!

A. You must let your physician know what is going on. DO NOT stop this antidepressant suddenly. The withdrawal symptoms can be devastating.

Here are some stories to consider:

A. H. wrote:

“I was prescribed Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) four years ago [this drug is somewhat similar to Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine) in that it works the same way] when Lexapro lost its effectiveness. Pristiq seemed to have no obvious side effects unless I forgot to take it in the morning. By afternoon, I would be experiencing brain zaps and hearing my eyes move. I would see “trails” when moving my eyes. This would go away within hours of taking the missed dose. I then tried to stop the drug myself, because I didn’t want to be on something that has that effect.

“I tried weaning off myself by taking a full dose (100 mg) then 75 mg the next day and alternating for 2 weeks then go down to 75/75. I went crazy after two weeks and had to go back to the original dose. Not only did I have severe suicidal thoughts every 5 minutes, but uncontrolled crying, extreme sluggishness, night sweats (when I could sleep), weight gain, irritability and mood swings. Physically, my blood pressure (which has ALWAYS been 110/78) jumped to 149/101.

“After two weeks of getting back on the drug, all symptoms (including high blood pressure) normalized. I am now under a doctor’s care to switch back to Lexapro (which she says will work again since I have given the drug a rest). She is having me take a full dose of Pristiq one day and then full dose of Lexapro the next day for a week. Then in 2nd week, Pristiq 1 day, then 2 days of Lexapro. She supplemented with Abilify daily. So far, the withdrawal symptoms have been manageable and I am in my 2nd week. I have added weekly acupuncture for the mood swings and am hopeful that I will have my life back.”

Oscar recounted:

“I was put on Pristiq almost a year ago. I got tired of taking this drug and I slowly started weaning myself off of the pills for about a month. As I’m typing this message my brain is shivering and zapping like nobody’s business. When I tried to explain it to my doctor he acted like he didn’t know what I was talking about. In the meantime, I suffer like crazy.”

Laurel said:

“I am coming off Pristiq right now. Was on 100 mg a day and my doctor pulled me off it cold turkey. I’ve only taken it for about 2 months, but I feel like I’m going crazy. I have the brain zaps so bad I can barely walk around my house. I’m terrified to drive. This is worse than anything I’ve ever been through, and that includes quitting smoking.”

Julie described her experience:

“I have been on a variety of antidepressants over the past few years for depression and anxiety. My latest prescription is Pristiq 50 mg once a day. I have been on it for 6 months. At first, I did see a difference in my depression and anxiety, but things began to change in the 7th month. I started having side effects from Pristiq. I haven’t had a brain freeze yet, but I have had other symptoms.

“I have had insomnia, headaches, GI upset, elevated cholesterol, blood pressure changes, joint/muscle pain, abnormal swelling all over, fatigue, agitation and ears ringing. From what I have read this is a hard medication to get off. I didn’t realize that this medication was making me sick until I went online and started to look up my symptoms. I really don’t know if I want to continue to take antidepressants if they are going to make me more physically sick.”

The People’s Pharmacy Perspective:

No one should ever discontinue antidepressant medication without medical supervision. As described above in vivid detail, the withdrawal symptoms can be terrible. We are especially concerned now that we see Cymbalta (duloxetine) advertised for arthritis symptoms. We wonder whether physicians are warning patients that getting off such drugs can be challenging (to say the least).

Here are some side effects to be aware of with Pristiq and Cymbalta:

CYMBALTA (DULOXETINE) & PRISTIQ (DESVENLAFAXINE) SIDE EFFECTS:

  • Nausea, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, decreased appetite, vomiting
  • Dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia, anxiety, jitteriness, irritability, tremor
, weird dreams
  • Sweating, hot flashes
  • Blurred vision
, glaucoma
  • Headache
, ringing in ears
  • Sexual dysfunction, lowered libido, erection difficulties, lack of orgasm
, abnormal ejaculation
  • 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

Some people never experience such side effects and achieve substantial benefit from medications like desvenlafaxine, duloxetine and venlafaxine. But others find the problems with such drugs overwhelming. The sexual side effects alone can be disconcerting. They are also quite common. You can imagine that dizziness, dry mouth, lack of orgasm and excessive sweating might be enough to drive a person to want to stop such medication. But as you will see below, that can trigger a whole other set of problems.

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

So, what is a person to do once started on the antidepressant merry-go-round? Sadly, doctors do not have clear guidelines about how to help patients stop such drugs. There is no clear-cut formula that will work for everyone. Patience is essential, though. This is NOT a do-it-yourself project. You will need help from a knowledgeable health professional. And you will need to take time. For some, a few weeks may be adequate to gradually phase off the drug. For others, it may take many months of very slow dosage reduction.

We offer our Guide to Dealing with Depression. It provides some additional insights into both side effects and withdrawal. It also discusses some other ways of coping with depression. Whatever you do, you will need great support from a health professional who understands the complexity of such medications.

You are also invited to share your experience with these drugs below.

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  1. Carol
    ontario canada
    Reply

    I am on week two of ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal. After reading your thoughts and experiences I am more determined than ever to beat these brain zaps and terrible side effects of withdrawal. So sad that my doc put me on this drug. I trusted him completely.

    I have gained over thirty pounds and was so tired of feeling nothing. It is now time for me to grieve my losses (my son as well as my mother and father) without any prescription meds clouding my brain.
    Best of luck to all of us who have become the guinea pigs for drug manufacturers. Keep posting your thoughts and feelings. You have made me realize that I am not doing this alone.

  2. Olivia
    Ontario
    Reply

    After the antidepressants I had been taking for 2 years lost their effectiveness, I began to slip back into a very depressed state. Desperate, I went to my doctor, who prescribed me 50mg of Pristiq. What followed next was the darkest 2 weeks of my life. Never having been suicidal, I had 2 separate attempts at ending my life during that time and was hospitalized. I was taken right off of the drug after only a week of a reduced dosage that was NOT continuously supervised by the hospital psychiatrist or family doctor. After that short but memorable experience, I suffered from severe withdrawal symptoms lasting months. (to this day)

    I began experiencing symptoms I had never had before. The worst was the hallucinations, in one doctor’s words “auditory slips” (aka hearing shit), debilitating pressure headaches, paranoia, nightmares, nausea/vomiting and a never-ending brain fogginess. I honestly felt like my brain was on fire and I couldn’t function at all. Other symptoms that stayed with me were panic attacks, irritability, personality change, lethargy, hot flashes, and heart palpitations.

    I have seen multiple specialists, been rediagnosed everything under the sun and I am still fighting to get some sort of understanding/relief. If I have learned anything from this experience it is to better educate and advocate for myself. I now know myself better and have learned a lot about the risks involved with antidepressants. After 6 months things are more tolerable but I am far from my normal self and still struggle tremendously with regular cognitive impairment.

  3. Rena
    Georgia
    Reply

    I have been on Pristiq for just a few weeks I hate it and want to stop it I also take Prozac. Since I have taken it such a short time could I do cold turkey

  4. David
    Alberta
    Reply

    I am so thankful to have found this commentary. I have been on Pristiq for about a year and half. The doctor had asked if the previous Anti-depressant was “helping” to which I said, I didn’t know. But I still experienced ongoing depression and some anxiety. (I have been on leave from my teaching career of 31 years after a horrible experience with a new administrator arriving and decimating our great little school. The journey has not been pleasant as a result. But Doctor prescribed Pristiq.

    He admitted it was a new one to him and that he didn’t know a lot about it. I recently got a new doctor and she is a lot more thorough. I had been researching about Pristiq, since she has me on Wellbutrin as well. I said I had discovered some concerning possible side-effects and would like to wean from it. I began the weaning about 2 weeks ago. On her advice, I was to go to one every other day. After about a week and half, this past week, I had a very difficult period. I could not figure out why I was on the verge of tears! That is not at all usual for me. I was very down, had a constant sense of doom and fear I could not place. I knew in my mind it was irrational, yet there it was.

    I have developed in recent months ongoing nagging lower back tightness and pain. I feel generally exhausted. Well… after the weaning process began, all of this has worsened. I have to nap most days for at least an hour in the afternoon. I like to read in the evenings, but fall asleep. As I saw the doctor last week on the worst day of it, she told me to stick with the every other day, and not to move yet to every third day. I went home and took one, as it was the right timing for it, and within hours felt some better emotionally at least.

    This is a wicked drug. I have been on others over the years and never recall having such a withdrawal. I get brain zaps, that are like when a computer suddenly freezes and then resumes, I become very anxious, and feel like the world is collapsing around me.

    Doctor mentioned we could switch to Cymbalta, but from what I have been reading, I don’t think I want that one either. I have gained some weight which is frustrating since I had worked hard a few years ago to get to the weight I wanted. I have no energy. It appears from all I have read here that this is pretty typical. I just would like to be done with this one.

    I appreciate all the feedback here, and am glad I found this community for sure. Let’s hope for the best for all of us here.

  5. Adam
    Brisbane, Australia
    Reply

    I have been on 300mg for 4 months now with no side effects when taking it, while no positive effects of taking it either, as of yet. Forgot to take it one day a couple of weeks ago and did not experience what others in this thread had. Instead I experienced tremendous rage and aggression. I took precautions to avoid this again for the next time. Despite this I forgot again yesterday. Needless to say there are certainly withdrawal effects at this dosage including light headedness, dizziness, nausea and the most prominent of all, bordering on psychotic levels of rage.

    Only reason I wrote about my experience is because I didn’t see anyone else having the same side effects as mine, though I did not see anyone on 300mg. If you forget to take this medication, and you are at work and have similar effects , I would recommend going home immediately, avoiding contact with anyone, and taking the med.

  6. Sam
    Reply

    Have been on Pristiq for 2 yrs. I missed a dose yesterday because I am going to run out of meds before I get paid so was trying to stretch it. I was ok yesterday but feeling like crap today. When I woke up was feeling dizzy. I took my pill and am feeling worse. Nausea,dizziness, crying. I will NEVER miss a dose again am feeling really bad. Hope I feel better soon.

  7. Lisa
    Oregon.
    Reply

    I have been on pristique for about 4 yrs, I’ve had the same dosage for about 2 1/2 yrs 150mg daily , my insurance all of a sudden decided to need a preotherization for 1 months refill, I called my psychiatric nurse practioners office on a Monday , they were supposed to take care of this, by Thursday vertigo set in bad, as intense sweating, then I felt like a was being stabbed all over my body with millions of needles could not sleep for almost 2 days, Friday all the symptoms got 100% worse, I called my insurance and they did an override, within 6 hours I was better, Saturday evening almost normal. Still having a bit of trouble sleeping, I’m scared to death about this. Calling my Dr. To get an immediate appointment tomorrow

  8. Jeanneen Higgins
    Louisiana
    Reply

    I have been off Pristiq for 4 weeks now, tapering with 20 mg of Prozac.
    I am experiencing skin tingling, crawling, pins and needles sensation.

    Wondering if anyone else has these symptoms.

  9. Brett
    Australia
    Reply

    I have been using Pristiq 150mg daily for 3 years. Cold turkey past 8 days. Try to stop taking it but feel terrible. Just want to start back on it again. I have tryed tapering several times in several ways in the past. Withdrawal symptoms include sadness, random crying episodes, dizzy, blurred vision, dull mood. I have increased exercise under advise and this has helped. I try to remember how i was before starting this Pristiq and compare with withdrawal symptoms.

    I think I feel better while on Pristiq than what I did before starting. But I feel terrible transititioning off this Pristiq. I have put on 15kgs in 3 years since starting Pristiq. Despite exercising 3 days a week using weights. I think Pristiq has been good for me in learning how to deal with everyday stressors differently to before I started. I think I would like to persevere in stopping this medication and see what I am like off it. And perhaps recommence on it ir something like it if I need to.

    • Lisa
      Reply

      Me too.

    • Ang
      Australia
      Reply

      I have been on Pristiq 100mg for 4 years now. This is my 2nd day trying to stop without any support, cold turkey. I feel terrible, sick, dizzy, running to the bathroom with shocking diarrhoea. I am a single mum of a 13 yr-old. I feel alone and scared, but I am determined to get my self back. I have lost all connection to what was the real me on this medication. I don’t laugh. I am always flat, and I have gone from size 8 to size 14 (gaining 15 kg. I want to be off this medication, and I am not sure that I am doing the right thing trying this alone. I am wishing I never started taking them, but I did, so fingers crossed that I can cope with the next few weeks :)

  10. Nette
    Kansas
    Reply

    I would like to know if anyone has ever experienced the side effect of swollen submandibular glands while taking pristiq? On the neck below the jaw bone . I had a 2 week period where they were quite swollen and painful and I felt aching but no fever. Took a round of antibiotic and I suck on lemon drops and chewing gum as advised by the MD. The Dr. wasnt convinced that the pristiq was the issue . The swelling switched from one side to the other side of the neck, so I do not think it was a salivary stone. Now that I know what the feeling is when they are getting swollen, I am suspicious that it is a medication side effect . Thinking the reduction in saliva a known side effect made the salivary flow thicker and believe I have had frequent bouts of them hurting and attributed it to swollen lymph nodes . Cutting down on pristiq until you are off of it a whole other subject! I was thankful for this site that alerted me to the availability of the 25mg that are just for this reason and MANY Drs do not know about it. Switching from 50 to nothing sucked, 25mg daily for a week and then every other day is my plan. even though I loved the pristiq for controlling irritability and anxiety and focus, Ive lost my love for it due to side effects. If I figure out it isnt the problem I will probably go back on it.
    I

  11. jb01
    Reply

    I have been on Pristiq 50mg for a little over a year. The medication has helped me somewhat, but recently I have cleaned up my diet and made improvements to my life and I’m now at the stage now where I no longer want to rely on it to feel a standard baseline. I am in the process of tapering off Pristiq, and it’s harder than other medications because you can’t just halve the pills.

    I am scheduling the coming off over at least a 2 month period, taking it 6 out of 7 days for around 2 weeks then 5 out of 7 days, 4 out of 7 days and so on. The brain zaps can be intense and leave you very disorientated or confused and irritable. But I do notice that they are particularly worse on days where I haven’t eaten as well. I really recommend anyone tapering off Pristiq to have had some time cleaning up their diet in the weeks before to lessen the withdrawl effects.

    Try and eliminate starchy foods, carbs and increase your leafy green, fresh fruit and omega 3 intake. Don’t know if it will work for everybody but these things seem to have lessened the side effects for me on the days I’m not taking it.

  12. Shannon
    Florida
    Reply

    I recently moved out of state, and my insurance won’t cover me to get my medicine. So I quit cold turkey. I loved being on my anti- depressant/ anxiety medicine. I am trying to get it but it costs a lot of money. I am having severe withdrawal symptoms: crazy dizziness, abnormal nightmares, CRAZY depression, and suicidal thoughts. I don’t know what to do, and I will not have the money to get my next month’s worth for another week. I don’t know what to do to help my withdrawal symptoms, and I am still waiting to hear back from my doctor. Any advice would be GREATLY appreciated!

    • Nette
      Reply

      You might try asking your Dr. to give you samples or get connected with a social services rep at a hospital that could connect you to free or reduced price medication.

  13. Janice
    Berlin, Maryland
    Reply

    I had been on 100 mg of Pristiq for 8 years for low-grade depression. In the beginning, I took it with Abilify as well because nothing was working for me or I couldn’t tolerate the side effects of others. Pristiq worked for me and helped me to get through some stressful family situations without becoming over-emotional and especially angry. I stopped with the Ability, as my weight was going up, and I learned some negatives about it. Lost 12 lbs. quite quickly. Over the last 5 years, I tried to decrease the dosage of Pristine, as I would start to feel my heart racing and hyper. I’d go down to 50 mg then back up to 100mg then back down again. When I learned there was a 25 mg dose, I asked my doctor if I could take a 50 and a 25. That seemed to work well for awhile. In the meantime my family’s situation has improved, and my work in my 12-step program has given me the confidence to try to come off anti-depressants altogether.

    I then took 50mg for a few months, then just 25mg for about 3 months, then stopped cold turkey three weeks ago. The first 3 days were not bad, then the symptoms hit. They are tolerable and not consistent. I call it wobbly-head. Sometimes severe fatigue like I have never experienced in my life. So then I just rest, and it gets better. I’ve never had the flu, but think the aches and throbs I feel in my back especially and all-over stiffness might be flu-like symptoms. I have an appt. with my GP to make sure nothing else is going on coincidentally in a few days. Oh yes, and irritability and agitation. Why is everything on the computer so difficult to open these days, and how am I supposed to remember all these passwords. I seem to be on a different wavelength of thinking and comprehending than others. Am crying every day especially when listening to songs on the radio, which feels good to me now, as I was not able to cry about anything while on the medication. Never been a big fan of crying but it is necessary to release sad emotions. Grateful to others who shared on this site.

    I recommend to others to get down to the lowest dosage for awhile before going off completely, and try to do it during a quiet time in your life, perhaps even taking a long vacation to do it if you have a demanding job. Give yourself a break if at all possible. I have also been bathing my brain in healthy fats, avocado, fish oil capsules, vitamin B capsules, vitamin D and trying, but not succeeding, to stay away from sugar. That’s my next mission and so important to brain health, but first things first. I think maybe my cravings for sweets increased during withdrawal from Pristine. So don’t have any around and perhaps find one somewhat heathy sweet to tide you over so you don’t binge. Eat lots of leafy greens, lean protein, and drink lots of water. Blessings to all!

  14. loong
    sydney, NEW SOUTH WALES
    Reply

    My wife passed away and I was in grief. My GP and a psychologist were treating me and the psychologist felt that I should have medication and was referred to a psychiatrist. I was prescribed 50 mg Pristiq in July 2017. I told the Psychiatrist I was unable to sleep and felt a loss of energy and in August, it went to 100mg Pristiq and 15mg Avanza. I became more and more tired and felt a total lack of energy and was having strange dreams and by the end of October, was taking 200mg Pristiq and 45mg Avanza despite me telling the psy that I was disorientated, having weird dreams and feeling totally drained and fatigued.

    At no time were I told of any side effects as I had told the psy that Zoloft and I do not get along when he first suggested that as a course of treatment. I was now having strange dreams, shivering at night and cold sweat was becoming a normal occurrence. I saw the psy every month and in late January, it became extremely bad and in my February 2018 meeting with him, after another horrendous night, I told him it was the Pristiq making me worse. He was resistant to the idea and said that the drugs would need some time to be efficacious. After a few more days of ‘hell’, I saw him again and he recommended a steeping down to 150mg and then as it goes. I did not tell him that I wanted it to stop and about ten days ago, I stopped Pristiq altogether , scaled Avanza back to 15mg. I was still having cold sweat, developed flu like symptoms but continued with my cold turkey approach. I feel less tired, and although the flu-like symptoms still persist, I feel more energized.
    I really think over prescription is a problem. In July 2017, I was able to walk my dogs but after August, was so tired that dog walking became impossible. Pristiq side effects must be made known to the patient, including its withdrawal effects. I would like to see a larger group of us supporting each other. I don’t know how my grief became transformed into a depression management problem and with horrible side effects. For those of you still struggling out there, be strong , stay strong and the psy is not always rights. Cheers and regards

    • BPF
      New South Wales Northern Rivers
      Reply

      I’ve read many posts on antidepressants and the problems they have caused. As a Vietnam veteran with a few problems I was put on on 400 mg a day of Effector and was switched to 200 mg Pristique when the psychiatrist thought it may be better. In all I was on antidepressants for nearly 4 years. I was miserable.

      I was experiencing the side effects to where I couldn’t function. Life had to be better, so I weaned myself of them by escaping to overseas back packing and taking charge again. I completely changed my diet to healthy options, no processed food. Exercise and heavy intake of the B vitamins as well as sun, etc. Been a while but worth it. I take care of myself with actively looking forward to days ahead, exercise etc. It is not easy to get off these things, and the medical profession is tuned in to making it easy to subscribe to their insistence that only drugs will do it. I was once on 10 different drugs for problems. I now take none. I hope this will help someone to realise that life is worth living and self controlling one’s life is a buzz.

  15. Amanda
    Sacramento CA
    Reply

    Does anyone have experience with altering their desvenlafaxine tablets? Does anyone know what to expect about how long the brain zaps, sensory, crying and anxiety withdrawal symptoms will last when weaning off?

    My last dose was 50 mg once a day, and am now having withdrawal symptoms. I read online that if I cut the 50 mg pill in half or have a compounding pharmacy pulverize the tablets and make smaller doses for me, the pill’s structure and integrity are changed, and will likely cause discontinuation syndrome symptoms. Well I’m already having those symptoms in droves after three days after my last dose. I couldn’t go to work today, and am worried about how long I’ll be so incapacitated.

    With doc’s supervision, I reduced my dose by 50 mg every two weeks with absolutely no side effects until three days after the last 50 mg dose.

  16. Sheri
    Atlanta
    Reply

    I’m weaning off pristiq under my dr care. I was on 100 mg and she introduced Prozac 10 mg. It is not a pleasant experience it’s been weeks. I had a week of nauseau, vomiting, dizziness, and the headache persisted. She added 10 more mg of Prozac to stop headaches and that helped. I have stiff neck, crying everyday, feel out of it. So agitated I needed to up my klonopin. I have anxiety and OCD health anxiety. You can only imagine what I’m thinking as all these things happen. I’m now on 50 mg of pristiq and 20 Prozac. Changing psychiatrists. This is horrible. I feel out of it. No motivation. I will say exercise has been key in helping. This is a nightmare! I am hoping my new psychiatrist who is renown will get me off once and for all and back to Prozac. Good luck to all. It’s quite the journey we all have to take and no one quite understands.

  17. Glenda
    Rowville
    Reply

    I’ve been taking 200mg a day for what seems like years. I’m emotionally numb, except for sadness, feeling useless, and hating myself. I know not to stop cold turkey on the meds and have heard it’s horrid, and with my high dose am nervous. I have been on antidepressants for nearly 40 years. I have no quality of life and am struggling just to leave the house. Also weight gain has been a real downer, the biggest ever in my life (59 years). Any help or experiences would be greatly appreciated. Your posts are interesting and the best I’ve seen, best of luck to you all.

    • Jill
      St. Louis
      Reply

      So thankful I found this site and all of your comments. I have been experiencing all of these same symptoms. Although, I’m not sure about the “brain zaps”. I do have a weird sound that, after hearing that term,is a good description. I wonder if that’s the same thing?

      Hmm..anyway, after reading all of these comments I no longer feel like I’m going insane. Which, is truly what I thought was happening. And I feel like maybe I can handle what is happening to my body a little better knowing that it is temporary. Uuuhhhggg…hopefully not much longer. Good luck to all who are dealing with this. It sure is a trying time.

  18. LD
    Canada
    Reply

    I am going through withdrawals of Pristiq, as I write this. I have been on depression medication since my daughter was 9 mos. old. She is now 19. I started with Prozac and progressed through 5 or 6 different medications through the years. I am presently taking 100mg of Pristiq, which I stopped abruptly 4 days ago. I was at work and felt ill in the morning, 6 days ago. I went to emerg, and found out that I had pneumonia, yet again. I had a hospital stay this past August, for 3 days, for severe pneumonia. I am now feeling the brain zaps, I’ve had an INSANE migraine, the muscles in the back of my neck are extremely tight, I’ve had insomnia like crazy, the uncontrollable crying, etc.

    I have been reading a lot of comments left by others, and actually looked up more information on this drug. I suddenly realized that this drug may well have been the cause of my pneumonia, which I had a first bout of, about 13 years ago. I feel so stupid now, not taking the time to actually find out the “ins and outs” of antidepressants. I just told the doctors what I was feeling, they prescribed a drug and dosage, I took it in hopes that it would help, and that was the end of it.

    If you take nothing else away from all of these personal comments, please take this one SIMPLE suggestion. When you are prescribed an antidepressant, PLEASE do your research, and read the paperwork that comes with your prescription from the pharmacy! Also, pay close attention as to how the drug is affecting your body, because it could be a detriment to your health, if you don’t. I will continue to put up with the brain zaps, and the rest of the withdrawal symptoms that I am going through right now, because I want my life back. For so many years, I have missed so much of my life because of “walking around like a zombie”, “not feeling emotional when I know I should”.

    I am not saying that this is a good or bad drug, I just know how it is affecting my own life, and I am, quite frankly, tired of it. I will inform my doctor, of course, but this is a personal quest that I am on, and I hope to have success so that I don’t have to rely on antidepressants any longer. This may not have been a good idea for me to do, but having pneumonia, I just felt that I have enough medications in my body, and with the sickness, have not been “in my right mind.”

    Thank you to all of you who have shared your thoughts, etc. It helped me to know that I am not alone in what I am feeling, and it was also informative, as before today, I didn’t know about the “brain zaps”. Take care, and be well.

  19. Rachel
    Florida
    Reply

    I’ve been on pristiq, twice. Once for anxiety; once as an add-on to control seizures (I have a brain cavernoma in the area that affects anxiety). I will never use this medication again.

    My first time getting off of pristiq was after about 3 years of use at 50 mg. I chose to cut the meds, and experienced severe (undiagnosed) focal partial seizures/brain zaps for about 3 weeks. My experience may be unique in that I do have a seizure disorder. Pristiq causes seizures, and did with me, during the withdrawal phase. (I also had seizures once in awhile while on the meds, but the seizures were not yet diagnosed).

    My second time getting off of pristiq (25 mg) was after being on it for 3 months. Recent treatment for seizures may include adding an anti-depressant/mood stabilizer to minimize the seizures. I am also unique in that my seizures may be caused by my brain cavernoma (known to bleed and cause seizures; it has done both in my case). With one seizure medication (zonisamide), pristiq didn’t mix well…with another seizure medication (oxcarbazepine), it did fine. However, now that I am tapering off of the pristiq (I switched to venlafaxine 37.5 mg) I am experiencing withdrawal and a return of the seizure symptoms (so I am again not sure if my seizure meds are working or if it is the withdrawal from pristiq/venlafaxine). I chose to stop the pristiq because it wasn’t helpful, and I was concerned about getting off it (I hadn’t realized all forms of pristiq are xr, which means you can’t get off of it safely/without experiencing some kind of withdrawal symptoms). I hate it, I hate it, I HATE IT!!!

    Regardless of the cause or correlation, I will never use pristiq/venlafaxine again. The withdrawal exacerbates my seizure symptoms and it is horrible. During withdrawal, I have experienced vertigo(not the same as dizziness), nausea, brain zaps (seizures in my case)…even though I have tapered slowly. I wish I had never agreed to use pristiq again. Erroneously, I thought pristiq was not extended release, but all forms of it are. You cannot get off of it without withdrawal or needing to switch to another medication that you can safely cut…but you’re likely going to experience withdrawal. It completely sucks!

    FYI – prior to tapering off of my 2nd use of pristiq, I contacted the manufacturer to get tapering instructions. They had NONE. It was not helpful and now they try to contact me to “get more information about my adverse side effects,” since i mentioned that I had cut the pills in the past and experienced increased seizure activity. I already reported it, but don’t want to offer any more information. It feels like an invasion of my privacy, rather than a legitimate gathering of information for helpful use.

  20. Raziel
    Israel
    Reply

    Currently coming off 50 MGs been on for two years. I’d like to add my perspective, currently experiencing some discomfort.

    I say to the Brain: My Brain, My Brain, My Beautiful Brain, my source of comfort and familiarity you run my body so precisely at every moment I’m forever grateful.

    However in days passed we wondered off the path of positive thought and we imagined dogmatic realities and envisioned danger around every corner, the curse of the imagination took hold and depressed our natural zest and curiosity for life, and we needed some physical assistance to create the serotonin you so cherish.

    Today we know better, we no longer fall in to the trap of the evil inclination the imagination who makes us assume the worst at every turn, we can tell what’s real and here and now, from what’s not real and only exists in our mind, and we are therefore ready to take back control of our serotonin production.

    There is a however a necessary period of adjustment, and you, my strong capable Brain, will be at the forefront of it. We can do this together my beloved Brain, let’s not resist the change taking place within us, let’s welcome it, this is the door to our healthy future if we keep faith in one another we can beet this for sure. I will make everything in my life secondary to you my Brain in these few days where you need all my attention. I will rest if you want me to rest, work if you want me to work, be social or alone as you please, we will accept this transition together because we know it’s best for us in the long run and we will enjoy the rest of eternity in freedom together.

    • Cathy
      NZ
      Reply

      Such a wonderful help, thank you for sharing this. Day 2 stopping cold turkey 100mg, after 1yr. Im finding the withdrawal symptoms interesting rather than horrible. Actually very similar to the initial side effects when I began taking pristiq. I can hear my neck when it turns (bizzare), feel disassociated from the world, kind of vertigo, calm, very vivid interesting dreams, a little tense.

      I came off these tablets only as I was experiencing jaw tightness and teeth clenching ever since starting them (that was horrible), otherwise they have really helped me to become ‘chill’, they stopped my overthinking, anxiety and feeling ‘crazy’. They gave me the opportunity to get my diet healthy, life balanced, I now meditate to relax and hope these changes are enough to continue my progress.

      I know the advice is not to stop suddenly however I want to get the withdrawals over and done with. I do not suffer depression so am not concerned about suicidal thoughts appearing etc, I am reading articles so I am informed about what to expect and of course am monitoring myself very carefully with a pristiq handy in my pocket just in case things become ‘crazy’. If this happens I will be off to the dr to get a 50ml prescription to wean off more gradually. For now though feeling positive and looking after myself.

      • Cathy
        NZ
        Reply

        Day 6, I am pretty much through the withdrawal symptoms I think. Cold turkey from 100mg for a year. Raziel’s comments were so helpful and I used his approach. The withdrawals did increase the worst being constant nausea, vertigo / dizziness and internal noises such as hearing my head turn. I took care of myself, flooded my body with good things, veges, fruit, rest when required. I found taking fexotab antihistamine and panadol really helped with the nausea and flu like symptoms and I took vitamins, magnesium and berocca. I had a coffee in the mornings and one beer each day in the weekend which seemed to help relax me. Went to sleep listening to guided meditations and I woke with 3am insomnia so listened again and went back to sleep.

        I assured my body and brain it knew how to get through this and that I would listen. That my body was clear of the meds. It was so good to read forums such as this and to know what to expect and when things came up such as backache – I knew it was just a symptom. I’ve been working and having no major issues after the medication got our of my system. My whites of my eyes are becoming white again, I have had fits of giggles and felt emotional, teary but happy teary. Nice to be feeling again. The one thing I was scared of was irrational anger outbursts people had mentioned but, fingers crossed, it hasn’t happened.

        I feel empowered and positive, no mood swings just feel good. I usually eat low carb but had a birthday and treated myself to chocolates, licorice, chinese and sent nurturing thoughts to myself. Not the time to worry about weight. Its nurture time – although i have learnt putting good things into my body supports my overall positive health and even moods. Anyway I think I’m through this – don’t see me ever going on meds again. I love being free! I will definitely look at natural alternatives in the future if my anxiety, depression symptoms return. Stay strong everyone! You can do it! Sending hugs. Will update if it changes.

        • CP
          Delaware
          Reply

          Cathy,

          Thanks for your post, its encouraging. We are now into December, I am wondering how you are feeling. I have done extensive research on Pristiq. I have been on the drug for over 3 years, originally for seasonal affective disorder and generalized anxiety. It did wonders for both, however, about a month ago, I started to feel overwhelmingly energized, which appears to have been a form of “adrenal fatigue” and so I have made the decision to quit.

          The only empirical evidence I could find showed a minimized of side effects with one week of 25 mg then nothing. However, when I tried this approach…..I did 7 days of 25 mg….it did not work. Today I took nothing (0 mg).

          Today, I feel light-headed, dizzy, and a little spacey (almost out-of-body). It is sure hard to function. Whats amazing is how challenging this is. I am hopeful it will get better in a week or so as this is the second try at weaning off, the first I couldn’t take the discontinuation syndrome any more.

          I will keep everyone posted.

        • Jessie
          D.C.
          Reply

          Thank you Kathy. I have been on 100 mg for 6 mo. and I am quitting cold turkey as well. Day 5 and I feel like I can manage this. We’ll see. Thank you fro sharing, it is giving me hope I can do this on my own.

        • Holly
          Michigan
          Reply

          This is the single most helpful thing I have read in two weeks regarding withdrawal from Pristiq! I will print it out, put it at my bedside, and use it as my mantra over the next few weeks.

          Our bodies are amazing, and if we treat them with love and respect, encouraging our brain and body to heal together, we can get thru the incredibly disabling effects of withdrawal.

          That being said, I was prescribed Effexor two years ago, when I turned 50. I began having severe hot-flashes as early menopause set in. My physician, who I have a deep respect and admiration for, said “I know exactly what will help”. She was right, the hot-flashes stopped immediately, but over time I became “flat” and fat! No emotion and hungry all of the time.

          I am powering thru the withdrawal, no advice to offer on tapering etc, except to say try to find a practitioner who gets it and can help.

          My big concern is that well-meaning, intelligent, caring physicians are prescribing this without any idea of how horrible it can be to discontinue. It’s bad enough when prescribed for depression, let alone for short-term, off-label use.

          Peace and strength to all of you!

      • Michele
        Australia
        Reply

        How did you go with withdrawal?

        I’ve been taking pristique for years for anxiety which I controlled since 8 years old with occasional use of valium. Drs don’t like to prescribe valium so I started pristique. But I feel it is slowly making me depressive and want to come off it. I tried a few years ago to wean off but the show effects are awful.

        Michele

    • Sandra
      Brisbane Australia
      Reply

      Raziel you inspire me and my brain.

      I have been on prestique 50 and want to come off. The doctor advised me to cut the pills in half. I did this for three days and it was an absolute disaster.

      I suffered periods of highs and lows, Cronic diahorea which lasted a week and stomach pains, I have crazy dreams which made me scream out and my head felt like it was in a vice and being twisted off my shoulders and a heavy anxiety in my chest with heavy sweating.

      Last night I vowed never to take it again if coming off it could cause all this. I made peace with my brain and like Raziel coached myself to do this cold turkey as it could not possibly be a worse period in my life than the reasons I went on prestique initially.

      While I was on it I have to say it was very helpful.

      I live in Australia and we don’t have 25’s unfortunately

    • Jill
      St. Louis
      Reply

      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Such positive words and advice!

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