The People's Perspective on Medicine

Stopping Duloxetine (Cymbalta) Suddenly Flipped Her Out

It's easy to start taking a new medication. You just pop a pill in your mouth and hope for the best. For some, stopping duloxetine (cymbalta) can be tricky.

Antidepressants like desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), duloxetine (Cymbalta), sertraline (Zoloft) and venlafaxine (Effexor) have become extremely popular. Millions take such drugs regularly. When such medications are prescribed, doctors do not always warn patients that discontinuing the pills can be challenging. Stopping duloxetine (Cymbalta) too quickly can lead to some scary side effects, as this reader relates:

Q. No one ever told me just how hard it would be to come off Cymbalta. I have constant brain zaps and ringing in my ears. I get angry and break out in fits, yelling then crying.

Sunlight hurts my eyes and loud noise makes me crazy. I’m dog-tired with no energy, but I can’t sleep. If I do happen to sleep I get stuck in a world between awake and dreaming where my dreams seem real and most of them are nightmares.

Am I losing my mind? I wonder if I need to be committed.

My family is scared and unsure how to help. My 7-year-old daughter cries to me, “Please don’t leave me, mommy. I don’t want you to die!” It’s breaking my heart.

I have been on Cymbalta since 2009. I was taking 120 mg a day and dropped the dose to 90 to 60 to 30 mg to now nothing. I’m a mess and I can’t live this way. I lost my job because I flipped out on my boss. How can I move forward to find another job when I feel so ill? I keep hoping for this nightmare withdrawal to end.

Stopping Duloxetine (Cymbalta) Requires Patience:

A. Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is prescribed for anxiety, depression and pain. The FDA acknowledged a “Cymbalta discontinuation syndrome” in 2009. Unfortunately, symptoms such as severe mood swings, brain zaps and neurological problems might last for weeks or in some cases months.

Perhaps you reduced your dose too quickly. You may need a much more gradual withdrawal regimen under close medical supervision to wean you off this medicine.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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To Pamela J from MA:

I also suffer from Fibro, nerve damage, chronic pain, 9 back surgeries, anxiety, depression, seizures, ect. I’ve been trying to figure out why I have been sweating so extremely and having such hot flashes. I also thought pre-menopause but I was only 39. I was diagnosed with adenomyosis and high risk HPV with pre cancer cells. So I had a full hysterectomy. My doctor told me it would hit me like a brick wall. I went through some emotional stuff at first but I also was going through seizures, some family issues, and of course recovery from major surgery. Then that stuff was over.

The extreme sweating though has not gotten a bit better. When I say extreme I mean I can’t turn the heat up over 65 in my home in the dead of winter, and my daughter has to stay bundled up. I wear shorts and tank tops all year, run my AC in the winter or have my window down. I fog up the windows in my Jeep and my sunglasses. I can’t do my hair anymore and very rarely my makeup because the sweat drenches my hair and drips off my face. Anyway, it’s horrible and embarrassing, and I don’t like to go out of my house anymore. I quit my last job because of it.

So my question to you, Pamela: were your symptoms also like that? And it’s been a while since you have stopped the medication so I would love to know how you are feeling? Hopefully, it is great! And how long did it take for you to get to that point? Thanks for your time.

This is a horrible drug. I wish I would never have taken it. Way too many side effects. This medication may help you a tiny bit but it is NOT worth all the bad it causes you. In no way did it made my anxiety bette. It made it incredibly scary. I shut myself off from my friends and family and then everyone. Wouldn’t leave my house for weeks; stayed in bed for days wore the same clothes for days; wouldn’t shower; stopped cooking; let my house get dirty when I had been OCD about it; always tired and sleeping. I went from 175 to 210 lbs.

I stopped Duloxetine about a month ago, and man, I feel so much better and am getting back some more energy everyday. I still tire very easily because I haven’t done anything but lie in bed or sit in my chair for almost 2 years. I’ve lost so much muscle mass and strength. With that I’ve only hurt myself more. So, as I am feeling better I am making sure I eat better everyday and don’t skip snacks and meals, and make sure I do something inside and outside for at least 10 minutes every day and slowly work my way up. Best wishes to everyone!! If you’re thinking about taking this drug, DONT!

I STRONGLY,STRONGLY BELIEVE, AFTER READING ALL THESE HEARTBREAKING STORIES, THAT “LILLY PHARMACEUTICALS” SHOULD BE HELD LIABLE!!! THE (FDA) SHOULD YANK THIS RIGHT OFF THE MARKET!!! I WOULD TESTIFY BEFORE CONGRESS IF NEED BE!

I am 57 years-old. Have been on Cymbalta for 6-7 years. This is day 6 of the withdrawals because my meds ran out, and I was unable to get more. I am physically disabled, as of two years ago, at age 55, due to extreme pain from fibromyalgia. The Cymbalta was oringially prescribed by my doctor/rheumatologst. At that time I specifically asked him “What are the side effects?” He knew I was very concerned about that. He said,”Pam, I have several patients on Cymbalta with no side effects.” Yeah, OK, Doc, get schooled again because why I am going through is hell!!

I have been living with profuse sweating for years, thinking it was menopause and that I was having one of the worst menopauses you could have. My family thought I was addicted too much to my main med, Dilaudid, 8 mg x 4-6 hours for pain. Mind you,now, I have always been an extremely strong-willed person, so I never took any meds prior to Cymbalta.

This People’s Pharmacy website has been an eye-opener. It is informative, as well as giving me huge hope of recovery from this awful, awful drug Cymbalta/Duloxetine. Thank you, everyone!!! And good luck to you all. I know I am going to make it back to my old self, which I xhaven’tbeen for a very long time.

My psychiatrist put me on (Duloxetine 50mg) in June 2018 of this year! I had heart racing & loss of appetite. He then lowered it to 40mg…. then to 30mg. I got very constipated & needed to take medication for that. I decided to go down to 20mg for a week & then stopped!

I have not used any for (4)days now. Feeling very anxious & have intestinal problems to the point where I need to see my Gastro doctor! Not sure if not taking Duloxetine is causing these issues! I contacted the psychiatrist & left msg. to see if I should get back on Duloxetine 30mg. He also has me taking Trazodone 100mg in the evening for sleep.

I have quit a few medical issues and have to take other medication as well! Lyrica 125mg for Fibromyalgia, Xanax for severe anxiety, Meloxicam for Cervical & spinal stenosis plus arthritis. The doctor thought that maybe the Duloxetine would also help with my pain, not just my depression & anxiety! I’ve tried other antidepressants & needed to get off them because of side effects!

My body is very sensitive to medications, very difficult to find an antidepressant for me. Does anyone have any comments regarding my situation?

I just started Cymbalta a month ago hair started falling out body started aching all over mind is in a fog now doctor wants me to go on prestig 50 mg don’t want to end up like some of these stories I’ve heard so I’m going to talk to my primary doctor about what I can do to get off this stuff someone needs to make it a point that these Doctors let us know this stuff before thru prescribed it

I believe Cymbalta needs to be pulled from the market. The withdrawal symptoms are horrific. It took me over a year to gradually get off of it. Still very sick from it. I wonder how many people have killed themselves while tapering off Cymbalta? When I started tapering down, my dr. said I would have “mild discomfort.” What a crock.

Head zaps, uncontrollable crying, rage attacks, dizzy spells, short tempered, hot and cold flashes, headaches, over or under sleeping, stomach and intestinal probs, fatigue, hopelessness, inability to tolerate any kind of stress, light sensitivity, alienating friends and family, losing my job, family and everything is not considered “mild discomfort” but more of a painful, punishing nightmare that goes on and on. I’m angry I have to endure this.

The withdrawals are *WAY* worse than the depression I initially took it for. Be smart. Avoid this drug at all costs. No one escapes the withdrawals. This drug will ruin your life and any chance of happiness. The manufacturer purposefully made this drug nearly impossible to get off of because they are motivated by greed and want the big bucks. I am beyond disgusted and ashamed America has come to this. A nation of pill poppers. Sad.

I took Zoloft many years ago, but if I missed a dose or took it at a different time, I’d get brain zaps that felt as if the earth raised or lowered under my feet from one step to the next. Sometimes it seemed to shift direction, too. My doctor (a depression “expert”), insisted that my side effects were too uncommon to even be called rare. She’d never heard of them, so they weren’t real.

This same doctor later held a 12-week session of “Coping With Depression”, which I attended because I’d managed to get off the Zoloft and was looking for another way to, well, cope.

I learned a lot of useful skills, and stayed off antidepressants for several years.
Then I had a whole series of events happen that sent me spiraling again, this time into manic and depressive episodes that were scaring everyone around me. I was in a different city, with a different doctor, and she put me on Celexa. At first, it was like Prozac had been in the beginning. I began feeling almost normal, whatever that is. I could think, plan, create, read, retain learning, experience ups and downs without going out of control.
Forward 12 years, I’m having brain zaps, confusion, disorientation, dizziness, irritability, all of it – and I’ve not missed dosages, taken them at different times or anything. My current doc is concerned & doesn’t want to up my dosage, but also has no clue what to do. I think I need to wean myself off of these suckers now, too.
While dealing with the loss of an awesome grandpa, a close best friend, and then my beloved dad.
I almost feel as though the meds are muffling my real feelings – WHICH ARE NORMAL – and they are rebelling against me even having real feelings, if that makes any sense.
What a nightmare.

I agree I have been on cymbalta less than a year. I started at 20mg then went to 30mg for fibromyalgia. 30mg stopped working as well. I have figured if it’s not working I am going to stop it. It’s been four days. I am so dizzy I cannot turn my head. Ended up in the emergency room and was told inner ear fluid is making me dizzy. I feel like it is the cymbalta though. I am now on doxy and an Afro. and sudafed and motion sickness pills. Ugh! Nothing is working. Now I know why. I will not go back on cymbals, though, after reading about this drug. I’d rather take the hydrocodone prescription I have for it. I feel like cymbalta is a sister of heroin.

I was on citalopram for many years. More than one doctor tried to tell me that there were no side effects if you quit. More than one time I tried to go off but would have major crying spells and irritability. I finally got off of it by taking 2/3 of a pill for one month, then 1/2 of a pill for 1 month, then 1/3 of a pill for 1 month, then 1/4 of a pill for 1 month. Then I went to 1/4 of a pill every other day for a month, then every third day, etc. It was an incredibly slow process but did not cause any problems .

Any ideas for coming off Paxil? I’ve been on it… 10 mgs… for many years and have tried to come off it a few times very slowly. I got down to 5 mgs. once, but had several of the problems listed here.

Now I know why I cannot stand bright sunlight.

Most people figure their doctor surely wouldn’t give them bad advice or prescribe a problematical medication… so they readily agree to start psych meds without trying safer alternatives first. After all, it’s so much easier to take a pill than to do the hard and messy work of educating themselves, using tools, reframing negatives, pursuing new goals, etc. etc. Then when they try to get off the stuff, it’s horrible.

Maybe I’d be one of those people, but I worked for years in the mental health system and have heard stories like these literally hundreds of times. People so sick and freaked out that they had to be admitted inpatient just to get off the stuff without tragedy. People complaining of blurred vision, brain-zaps, horrible anxiety, inability to think or remember..! Know what the drs do when they hear such complaints? They basically ignore them!

They pat the patient on the head and say, “now, now…you’ll be fine.” I think this is because caregivers give psych patients little credibility. After all, they’re PSYCH PATIENTS, so they’re probably overreacting, delusional, just wanting attention, etc. etc. I tell ya, it’s cringeworthy.

I am currently on Duloxetine for my extreme nerve pain related to sciatica. When I asked my doctor about the reported difficulty of stopping Duloxetine, she said that she would put me on a different drug while I reduced the Duloxetine, and that it would reduce the side effects. She also said that it can take months to get off it completely, and should not be rushed.

A good psychiatrist listens to and learns from patient feedback on medicine. I’ve found many psychiatrists to be bad ones. They believe what the drug reps tell them. They believe the propaganda disguised as “education” they receive from drug companies. They patronize us patients. The psychiatrist I had as a teen literally endangered my life by refusing to discuss side effects.

Be sure to review your psychiatrist online, at one of the many sites set up for patients to review them, including “Ripoff Report”, if they’re bad enough.

I couldn’t believe what she wrote, it was just like I had written it. I’ve suffered from bipolar disorder all my adult life and have on Cymbalta for many years. Several years ago I tried as well to go off it and went thru withdrawal exactly as she described. It was a living hell for both myself and my husband. I ended up being hospitalized and put back on my medication and I’ve not been off it since. I also take several other medications for bipolar, but I have to admit that even on the medications I still go thru the depressed and manic cycles. I have times when I cannot control my moods, I go from being on top of the world thinking that nothing is impossible to extreme anxiety and anger, raging and screaming at anyone around me and isolating myself because I can’t risk being around people or even family and totally losing it. The diseases of the mind in my opinion are one of the most terrible afflictions as even in this day and age it is not fully understood and it’s best to keep it hidden because on average the general population will never fully accept or understand it. It’s not reacted to with sympathy and understanding, only just tolerated but not acknowledged. My heart goes out to all who must try to cope with whatever demons invade their minds. Only a fellow sufferer could really understand and offer their support.

Getting off of Cymbalta was the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done in my life. Many doctors don’t realize how difficult it is or that you have to taper – mine did not.

I found A LOT of help online — my withdrawals were so difficult, I’m not sure I would have survived if I had not found all the online resources and other people’s stories of how difficult getting off of it was and the techniques they used. What I did, safely and carefully, was actually open the capsules and count the beads in order to taper down. (Cold turkey is horrible and was simply not do-able for me!) This counting of the “beads” was detailed in many places online.

I went down VERY slowly and this greatly minimized the horrors of cold turkey. I think I took 3 solid months to go off of it completely- a LONG time. Even then, I had bad side effects and my brain didn’t “heal” completely for 9 months — I had bad memory problems, extreme difficulty with logical thinking, exhaustion, physical aches, and more. BUT I DID get better finally; it was just a very long, painful journey.

Now I continue to experiment and research and have had successes with natural alternatives to a prescription antidepressant. I understand deeply how much antidepressants are needed for some people, but after my terrible experience with going off of Cymbalta, I hope to not use one again. (And the fact that the manufacturer doesn’t make a tapering dose/pack is unbelievable given the bad results of cold turkey.) I have much sympathy for you and urge you to search online regarding how to best go off Cymbalta. I wish you well, hang in there — it can be done!

Hi. Are you still on cymbals? I hate the stuff. I have suicidal thoughts and want to get off it. Is there an easy way to get off it and go onto something better for the body?

I was finally able to successfully taper off Effexor by using 5mg Prozac once a week.

(That’s “almost nothing’ but it was plenty)

I had this problem many years ago — when I tried the then new Effexor one winter for SAD. Terrible migraine with aura ensued. Trying to taper was also horrible.

My doctor hoped that Prozac, as it’s very long lasting, taking so long to clear the system – might prevent feeling the Effexor withdrawal symptoms — and it worked.

That’s, I

Im also on cymbalta. I’m on 30mgs daily. I tried to come off. I was told to just stop it by my physiatrist and my addiction dr. What hell!! I almost passed out while walking, and thought I was dying. Suicidal thoughts. I went back on it,due to my also tapering off methadone. A double edged sword! I can’t figure out how to get off it. Researched it, very upset at drs not helping or understanding. I’m stuck! This medicine only goes down to 20mgs. There’s nothing to taper after that. People are opening capsules,counting beads to get off. Why hasn’t company done something about this? They already been sued. What are we to do? Insane! People,please research things for yourself before going on anything. Be you’re own advocate.

Ive been on Sertralin for awhile. 75 mg. I decided to gradually wean off while in FL (with the sunlight) last May. I felt fine for a couple of months. Then I “crashed”. Had a very bad bout of depression. Unable to function.
So went back on it.
Now, I’m getting dizzy spells when I turn my head, or roll over in bed.
My dr. says it’s such a small dose, why would I quit?
But, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to quit.

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