“So glad to come across all these posts online and realize what is happening. I have been on Zyrtec (cetirizine) for 10+ years. I originally was put on this antihistamine because I was experiencing hives (uticaria) but did not have any other allergies. I experienced the hives a few times and they told me to start taking this drug every day to prevent getting them.
“Well, after years of taking these pills, I finally started questioning why I needed to take them every day. I went off of them for a few days to get allergy tested and when I went to the allergist he gave me a hard time and told me that people takes these pills their entire life. It’s working so why am I trying to get off of them, etc. They first refused to test me for allergies but then finally did but only tested me for about 10 different allergens to which I was negative.
“Those 5 days trying to get off the Zyrtec were the WORST of my life, I literally laid on the couch and scratched and got hives all over. And, I thought, wow I really can’t live without this drug that’s how bad my body is.
“Well obviously it’s not, it’s the drug or the withdrawal from the drug. Before I started taking this drug I didn’t get random itching all over my body. So slowly but surely I’ve come to this point. I’m on day 5 of the Zyrtec withdrawal. For me, this time is a little different. I’m eating very healthy food, at least much as I possibly can. I’ve realized that the initial hives could have possible been some sort of allergy to the food I was eating or drinking and now that has been covered up for 10+ years by this drug so just imagine how much damage has been done to my body.
“The first two days were fine, day 3-today has been pretty bad. Today I have had some slight improvement. When I wake up I’m fine but then slowly but surely the itching will start and it is HORRIBLE. It seems to travel and I can itch in multiple places at once. The absolute worst is in places that you would never want to itch.
“Here is how I’m coping:
– I’m drinking as much water as possible, when I drink lots of water it actually seems to help
– I’m 100% gluten free, dairy free, sugar free. I have an inkling that this is helping me so much more than the first time I did this. I’ve had some grains (rice and quinoa) but plan starting tomorrow to be grain and soy free and potentially nut free while I’m going through this.
– I started taking Vitamin C yesterday and it does seem to help
– Hot showers for me work much better than cold
– I’ve started dry skin brushing (in the morning and before I go to bed) and then applying coconut oil that I’ve whipped into a natural moisturizer so as not to put any chemicals on my already having a hard time skin
– I’m trying to juice in the mornings (all greens for breakfast) and then eat fruit until dinner. However, from what I can tell I have the least reaction when I eat cooked vegetables.
– When all else fails, I find that keeping all my skin covered (long pants and sweatshirts) and focusing on breathing normally even when I’m in excruciating itch mode can bring me back to some state of normal.
“I hope some day that there is something done about this drug. At a minimum there should be some sort of disclaimer about the withdrawal effects. I wish when I was put on this drug that there was more information out there like these posts so that I would have never taken it in the first place.”
PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE:
We never knew about the cetirizine withdrawal itch until visitors to this website began sharing their experiences. Three years ago we received this message:
Q. I have had terrible trouble trying to stop taking Zyrtec (the generic is cetirizine). After using this antihistamine for about three years while having allergy shots, I first attempted to stop taking it in preparation for allergy testing. Within three days, my entire body itched. It was so horrible that I was crying and preparing to go to the hospital for relief.
Confused by the relentless itching, I forgot and took a Zyrtec by accident. Lo and behold, before I could get dressed and get in the car, my symptoms were GONE. Now, seven years later, I have tried unsuccessfully at least 10 times to quit this drug, and the reaction is more severe each time.
Today while I was researching this problem online, I found a community of thousands of people who have had the same problems I have. There should be better warnings about this withdrawal problem.
On May 5, 2010 We answered:
Cetirizine is an antihistamine that is often used to treat itching due to allergies, but the withdrawal phenomenon you and other patients have experienced is not included in the medical literature.
Please discuss this problem with a dermatologist. She might have a solution to weaning off this antihistamine, perhaps with a short course of corticosteroids.
People have tried a number of ways to overcome the chronic and nearly intolerable itching that may begin shortly after discontinuing cetirizine. Some people report that a gradual reduction in dose helps a bit and that after about two weeks, the itching slowly recedes and eventually disappears.
Here it is three years later and there is still nothing in the medical literature or official prescribing information about withdrawal symptoms associated with cetirizine (Zyrtec). We have notified the FDA that people are suffering but no one seems particularly interested or concerned that patients are suffering. There is no warning and no recommendation about how to get off this allergy medicine. The medical and scientific community seems equally indifferent.
The problems of cetirizine withdrawal points up a huge flaw in the FDA’s regulatory system. The agency seems oblivious to what has been called “discontinuation syndrome” or withdrawal from a number of medications. It took years for the FDA to figure out that anti-anxiety agents like diazepam (Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax) could trigger withdrawal symptoms when stopped suddenly. Ditto for antidepressants like sertraline (Zoloft) or venlafaxine (Effexor).
Even now that the FDA requires some mention of this problem in the official prescribing information with anti-anxiety agents and antidepressants, there are no guidelines or recommendations about how to gradually discontinue such medications. That leaves physicians, pharmacists and patients at a loss to come up with a solution to this huge problem. People make up their own regimens, but it is very much hit or miss and many suffer if they phase off too quickly, whether it be a seemingly benign OTC antihistamine like cetirizine or an antidepressant like duloxetine (Cymbalta).
Here are some additional stories and successes. Please share your own story in the comment section.
Cetirizine (ZYRTEC) Withdrawal
“Just found this thread on Zyrtec and am so glad to find I am not alone. I have taken Zyrtec and its generics for years now, but back when it was prescription only, if I’d forget to refill on time I would get itching within a few days. First, I would random get itches on my scalp, then my arms would begin itching, and it would go on from there. I vaguely recall even getting hiveish little bumps.
“It is good to know it’s the pill and not in my mind. It actually was ON my head… as a type of withdrawal symptom. When I was hospitalized recently, I had to tell the doctors I had to continue the Zyrtec generic or my burns would be getting itchy and maybe break into hives.”
“I took zyrtec for many years (both brand name and generic) for allergies. A couple months ago I decided to go off of it ‘cold turkey’ and I was miserable for a full two weeks. The itching was uncontrollable… and scratching made everything worse. I did find a little relief by putting ice packs on my body when I itched, taking Quercetin several times a day, going for acupuncture 2x week, yoga/meditation several times a week, and by slathering Sarna cream all over my body.
“It was total torture going off this drug! For the spring allergies when pollen levels are off the charts I do use a nasal spray and sometimes have to take an advil & sudafed for headaches.”
“I’m in the same boat too. Been taking it for about 14 years, since I was 16. For the last month or so I’ve been weaning down. 1/2 a tablet every day for a few weeks, then 1/2 tablet every second day.
“I’m now on 1/4 tablet every second day. Itching starts about 24 hours after the last tablet, but I can push through to the 48 hours before taking another 1/4. Will try the vitamin C and other remedies mentioned here. I too told my doctor and he said he never heard of it. Maybe I should tell him to google it… :-)”
Dermot, March 25, 2013
“Ok, I posted about almost month ago, still tapering off. Its definitely the way to go (rather than cold turkey). I reached a point where I was taking 1/4 tablet every 2 days, but the last 12 hours of each 2-day period were a nightmare.
“Instead, I take it every 24 hours, but just reduce the amount. So instead of 1/4 tab every 48 hours, take 1/8 of a tab every 24 hours. Last week I reduced it to a few tiny crumbs of a zyrtec tablet every morning, about 1/16th of a tablet (Thats 1 tablet every two weeks!).
“I’ve crushed a tablet up between two spoons, and tried to divide up the resulting powder into 16. Pretty hard to do. now I just lick my finger and dab it in the powder and take a few particles of the tablet every morning. I’m still reducing it every few days. I’m probably at about 1/20 of a tablet now.
“I know it seems a bit extreme, but if I stopped cold turkey, even from 1/8 of a tablet to nothing, I started itching all over so much it was unbearable.
“Just keep taking less and less until you’re taking a couple of tiny crumbs, then one crumb, then 1/2 a crumb (!!), then nothing. I hope to be off it completely within the next 4 – 6 weeks.”
Dermot, April 14, 2013
Duloxetine (CYMBALTA) Withdrawal
“I was on Cymbalta for about a year for pain in my shoulder & neck. Then they realized it was a torn rotator cuff. The doctor said I could get off of it. He gave me 30 mg for a week & said I would be fine. I had been on 60 mg.
“I did as I as told. Once I finished the 30 mg for the week, I was sick as you can imagine; my stomach was killing me, diarrhea and headaches. I felt so nauseated & dizzy. It was absolute misery. I had never ever had an experience like this with any other meds. It’s been 3 weeks and I’m still nauseated. I have headaches and my whole body aches. I’ve gained weight & have no clue why? I get these hot & cold sensations like hot flashes.
“I feel like I’m in outer space. I fly off the handle easy. I’m just tired & feel like I never get enough rest. It’s the worse med I have ever been on. It helped only for pain like fibromyalgia but otherwise I’m still struggling with this after 3 weeks & wondering how long will this take. When will I feel better. They should really tell people to wean off slowly and not so suddenly. This is an awful drug.”
“I’ve been on Cymbalta for six years. I was put on it by my rheumatologist for the neuropathy in my feet that was a result of fibromyalgia. I was feeling like I was keeping my feet in the bonfire all the time. She couldn’t put me on it “officially” because it was only for depression at the time. She put it out there that “You’re depressed, aren’t you?” so she could put that on as the diagnosis and start me on it. I leapt at the chance.
“I floated between 60 and 120mg, at first the 60 so that it would stop the pain. But I started having real depression, crying jags, and such. I ended up on blood pressure drugs and gained 100 pounds. I ended up going to a psychiatrist who upped the medication to 120mg to cover the depression and added an anti-anxiety drug.
“This last October my husband lost his job. We found the Cymbalta was going to be over 600.00 a month. We knew I was having bad liver enzyme tests so I decided to just wash out of it so that we wouldn’t worry about the expense. We did try to go through the company to get help affording it but Eli Lilly denied us because they counted his severance as “income.”
“I took three weeks to come down from 120 to nothing, the longest I could make it stretch. I’ve had the “brain zaps”, violent outbursts that have had me hitting my beloved husband of 20 years, screaming, throwing things, terrorizing the dogs, everything. I’ve cut my hair, pulled it out, hit myself until there were bruises, and destroyed things I loved. And I can barely remember it. My husband has hidden our guns and my medications because of the suicidal threats I’ve made over and over. I can’t sleep, my neuropathy is back with a vengeance and the pain from the fibro is worse than ever. I’m in a daily flare. Sleep? What’s that?
“This stuff is real, this Cymbalta Withdrawal Syndrome. The manufacturers don’t tell you this is going to happen but believe me, it does. Every time I see a commercial for this drug, I get angry all over again. It’s not a panacea, it’s a death trap in a pretty bottle. Maybe not when you are on it, but like Hotel California: “You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!”
“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.”
Should you wish to learn more about how others have phased off the antihistamine cetirizine (Zyrtec) or antidepressants such as duloxetine (Cymbalta), check out these links:
Share your own experience below.