Q. What are the side effects if I stop taking Pristiq cold turkey?
A. This is a very bad idea. Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) can trigger severe withdrawal symptoms if stopped suddenly. These include: dizziness, nausea, headaches, anxiety, brain zaps (shock-like sensations in the head), tremor and severe fatigue. Gradual tapering of the dose with medical supervision is essential.
You can learn more about the devastating consequences of Pristiq withdrawal here.
Other Antidepressants That Can Cause Withdrawal Symptoms
Many other antidepressants can also cause severe withdrawal problems if they are stopped suddenly. Many visitors have experienced such difficulties with duloxetine (Cymbalta). Others have found it extremely difficult to taper off venlafaxine (Effexor).
Citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro) and even older medications like paroxetine (Paxil) or sertraline (Zoloft) may cause trouble if people try to quit them too quickly without tapering the dose gradually.
It is very important to talk with your doctor and get as much help as possible in lowering the dose gradually if you want to discontinue Pristiq or any other antidepressant. Knowing what the side effects may be and getting support from your family and friends in coping with them can also be critical.
Unexpected Withdrawal Symptoms from Other Medications
Antidepressants are not the only medicines that can cause a very uncomfortable withdrawal syndrome. Both doctors and patients are sometimes taken by surprise when such problems crop up.
Certain medicines that are prescribed primarily for pain can also be quite challenging to quit. Most people and certainly nearly all health care providers are aware that abrupt discontinuation of opioid medicines (narcotics such as Oxycontin) can be devastating. But not everyone appreciates how difficult it may be to stop taking tramadol (Ultram), which has been associated with significant withdrawal problems. Another non-narcotic medicine prescribed for pain, pregabalin (Lyrica), can also trigger a nasty withdrawal syndrome if a patient quits it suddenly.
Many people report that running out of their regular sleeping pills such as zolpidem (Ambien) can leave them tossing and turning all night long for a week or longer. It seems that not only are they having trouble with the original sleep problem that pushed them to take the pill; stopping suddenly seems to result in rebound insomnia that is even worse.
Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax) that are used for anxiety or sleep have a well-recognized withdrawal syndrome. The most well-recognized coping strategy is to reduce the dose extremely gradually. Patients will need the prescriber’s assistance and support for this project.
PPI medicines such as omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), pantoprazole (Protonix) and rabeprazole (Aciphex) can be very helpful in treating ulcers and useful for controlling chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). But after taking such drugs for a few months, many people experience searing rebound heartburn if they stop them suddenly. Getting off acid-suppressing drugs can be nearly as challenging as trying to stop an antidepressant and requires as much effort and support.
Decongestant nasal sprays carry a warning that they can cause rebound congestion if they are taken for more than three days. In some cases, people end up “addicted” to their nasal spray because getting off it is such a hassle.
We have also heard from many visitors that stopping cetirizine (Zyrtec) suddenly can lead to unbearable itching that may last nearly two months.
Before starting any new medicine, it makes sense to ask how long it should be taken and when and how it should be discontinued. A person who runs into difficulty quitting a drug has a right to expect some assistance from the prescriber, even if the health care provider was not previously aware of a discontinuation syndrome.