The People's Perspective on Medicine

Stopping Duloxetine Leads to Terrible Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness and 'brain zaps' can make coming off duloxetine (Cymbalta) a terrifying ordeal.

Before anyone starts taking an antidepressant, the prescriber should give them some guidance on how to quit. As it turns out, getting off a medication like duloxetine can be extremely difficult because of the dreadful withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms from Stopping Cymbalta:

Q. I’ve been taking duloxetine (Cymbalta) for about nine years for depression. When I first started taking it, I was told I would be better in a year and could just stop taking it. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that that isn’t true!

The side effects of trying to come off it are horrific. Missing even a day causes nausea, headaches and dizziness. When I’ve accidentally run out, I’ve landed in the hospital because I’ve been so ill.

I feel my personality has changed and not for the better. I really need to get off this medication, but I’m scared stiff at the thought of being so sick. I never would have taken this medication if I’d known how addictive it is.

How Can You Minimize Withdrawal Symptoms from Stopping Cymbalta?

A. Stopping almost any antidepressant suddenly can result in severe withdrawal symptoms. Many people report brain zaps, dizzy spells, nausea, headaches, sweating and visual disturbances. This can be extremely debilitating.

Gradual tapering over several months may reduce the discomfort. We provide more details and other approaches for supporting mental health in our Guide to Dealing with Depression. 

You can also find some recommendations on how to discontinue this medication in this article. If you are interested in other people’s experience with these withdrawal symptoms, you will find more than a thousand testimonials here.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I’ve been on Cymbalta about 8 months. I started having seizures and symptoms like if I had Parkinson’s: shaking my head & imbalance. So I decided to stop taking it and it’s the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life.

I feel horrible. I haven’t slept for three days. I wasn’t sleeping with the Cymbalta because it kept me awake at night. Now that I’m trying to stop taking it, which I did, it’s actually making it worse. I haven’t slept in 72 hours. I get this deep vertigo and I’m feeling tingling in my hands and getting chest pains

I am currently trying to wean off cymbalta. I feel like a zombie. All I want to do is sleep. My heart hurts. Crazy dizziness. My head is killing me. Sweating. I don’t feel like talking to anyone. I can’t do it.

Having had a number of spinal surgeries over the years as a result of general wear and tear due to the type of work I was doing, I was eventually diagnosed with failed back surgery syndrome. The end result being I have been left in permanent pain extending from lower back down both legs to my toes. Having had a neurostimulator implanted I was then put on nortriptyline, Amitriptyline and Duloxetine.

I decided 6 months ago that I wasn’t getting enough benefit from the drugs to justify continuing with them so I came off them one at a time, going cold turkey with each in turn. I started with the nortriptyline then after 3 months stopped taking the Amitriptyline as well. Whilst there were some side effects of this cold turkey they were manageable and ceased after several weeks for each.

As of a week ago I stopped taking my Duloxetine. I was on the relatively small dose of 60mg a day but within 24 hrs of stopping I have found the side effects to be somewhat alarming. For me the most noticeable are suddenly getting hit with dizziness out of the blue, the feeling of being detached from my surroundings, the inability to get out of bed of a morning, an extreme lack of any energy and an increase in the volume of my tinitus (this tinitus that only started after I started taking Duloxetine being the main reason for wanting to cease taking these meds in the first place).

I intend to stick with the cold turkey for another week or two and if there are no changes for the better I will then seek additional help from my Doctor.

For anyone considering coming off these types of drugs and especially Duloxetine, I would suggest you make sure you fully educate your family and friends into the likely effects so that they can at least adjust to the changes they will see in you whilst you are fighting these symptoms. Oh and for heavens sake DO NOT DRIVE whilst the symptoms are bad. I have chosen a period when I know i can avoid using the car for a few weeks whilst i struggle with this.
Good luck all.

I want to share a success story with getting off Cymbalta (I did experience some manageable side effects, but no horror stories here).

I was on 60mg of Cymbalta + 2400mg gabapentin for 12 months for chronic nerve pain in my tongue and throat (it’s a unique and weird situation). My neurologist decided to try Cymbalta to replace amitriptyline because the amitriptyline wasn’t doing much for me (gabapentin helps, but I still have bad pain days).

The Cymbalta didn’t do very much for the pain. If I went up higher than 60mg, I just became exhausted all the time, so I stuck with 60mg. I think I was less anxious during the year, but that was not the reason I was taking the drug (I do have an anxiety disorder though, so I guess there was some benefit).

During the year I had two nerve ablations, and they helped increase my pain control somewhat (though not as much as we had hoped).

I have also been practicing yoga (in a studio) 5x/week and take HIIT classes 2-3x/week, and this has helped my pain management more significantly than my medications and procedures have. It has also helped me to manage my anxiety in what I feel is a healthier way.

My neurologist and I decided that I would wean off Cymbalta (the overall goal we have is to get me off most medications, and to have me on the lowest dose possible of the ones I need to be on).

He advised that I taper slowly and prescribed the lowest dose pills available to help with the transition, but other than that he didn’t provide much help/guidance. I want to post what I did because I had extremely mild/minimal withdrawal symptoms, and I hope that my experience can help others.

Things to keep in mind: I was on 60mg of Cymbalta for 12 months. Withdrawing took me another 8 months. Yes, 8 months. You can probably go a little faster, but if you’re very afraid of withdrawal symptoms like I was (and I’m also quite sensitive to medication side effects) then just prepare to go slow.

I had 30mg pills and 20 mg pills. I started my wean by taking 50mg (a 30 and a 20) every day for 6 weeks. I reduced by 10mg every 6 weeks.

The worst side effects I experienced were really horrible night sweats, which kicked in around the 40mg time point in the very beginning. I would wake up soaking wet in the middle of the night. It was uncomfortable and unpleasant, but honestly, not the end of the world and it didn’t last forever.

It was winter in New York (i.e., very cold!), and I was sleeping with the air conditioner on, but it didn’t help. I got bamboo pajamas and bed sheets, and this seemed to help at least keep me dry and more comfortable while I was going through it. It lasted about a month. I haven’t had any night sweats since then.

When I got to 20mg, I didn’t have any lower dose pills. I know that you can cut the pills open an count the little beads. This is what I had planned to do if what I planned to attempt hadn’t worked for me. What that was, was switching to 20 mg every other day, and then eventually every third day, and then as frequently as I needed (every fourth day, every fifth day, and so on) to control side effects.

I went to every third day after six weeks, and then eventually stopped taking the pills because I would forget, and I didn’t have any side effects to remind me (so I never went to the “every fourth day, every fifth day, etc.” part of the plan). I haven’t taken a pill for over a month, so I think I’m free of the drug.

The biggest thing for me is that I wake up MUCH earlier now, which is incredible. I struggled so much for the past 20 months to get out of bed in the morning. I would hit snooze for an hour on my alarm clock, get out of bed way too late, and then be rushing around. I would sleep until 10 or 11am on weekends. This was something I never did before the chronic pain started, and I had blamed the gabapentin because fatigue is a major side effect, and I had increased my dose around the same time I started Cymbalta. I had actually been warned that Cymbalta could make it hard to fall asleep, so I took it in the mornings.

However, after reading more about this recently, I have learned that Cymbalta can shorten your REM sleep, which makes it harder to wake up in the morning. The fact that I now wake up at 6:30am without an alarm clock on weekends (like I used to!), and can wake up early to have time to myself in the mornings before week (again, like I used to!) has me attributing this fully to Cymbalta, since I am still on the same high dose of gabapentin.

I hope this helps anyone attempting to wean off Cymbalta. I think taking it very slow is the key.

I had bad experience with duloxetine , lots withdrawal synonyms still suffering for side effect now.

I was prescribed Cymbalta in2005 for depression. In 2008, I was diagnosed as having fibromyalgia. Tried various drugs for that, none worked, then my psychiatrist said perhaps a higher dose of Cymbala would help. I thought it did, for about 3 years. Then I realized it was not helping, but by then, I was in LaLa Land. I was not capable of thinking clearly, but didn’t know it. I would go to work, and spend the day reading emails. I’m sure there weren’t that many emails, I was just rereading them over and over, trying to absorb what they said. My job performance went downhill, and I was forced to take early retirement in 2012. I stopped reading, one of my favorite pasttimes, because I could not absorb what I read. All this time, my doctor would only ask me how I felt. I felt zombie happy. He never asked how work was going (badly), was I managing my finances normally (no), (I live alone), were there changes in my friendships (yes). There were personality changes that all my friends commented on but the psychiatrist didn’t notice. Some friends put up with them, some didn’t.

I developed major heart arrhythmia in 2011, and had to have surgery in 2012 and 2013. When I was finally able to get off the blood thinners in 2014, I determined to get off of everything. The psychiatrist did not want me to quit Cymbalta, so I had to go online to find out how to do it. I was on a very high dose, so it took over a year; I would decrease it just a little, then wait until the headaches, lightning bolts, dizziness and nausea settled down, then decrease a bit more. It was awful, but I was determined. Meanwhile, all I was capable of doing was watching TV.

A few months after I took the last dose, I realized that my fibromyalgia did not hurt any worse without it, and I wasn’t appreciably less happy, either. It was six months before I could read and remember even the lightest reading again. I’ve been off it for almost two years now, and I am realizing that I can no longer think as fast as I used to. I used to be good at one-liners and quick comebacks, but I can’t do it anymore. My friends do say I am getting closer to the “me” I used to be, but I’m not there yet.

I now address my fibromyalgia and depression with a fresh food diet, lots of fruits (especially berries) and vegetables, dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, salmon and chicken. No red or processed meat, no packaged foods, and boswellia. I tried curcumin (turns out I’m allergic) and a couple of other herbs, but, for me, boswellia is a miracle herb. I feel better than I have since well before I was diagnosed.

I was prescribed Cymbalta & Provigil for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Narcolepsy, and later prescribed Lyrica.
In Sept. 2017 my Insurance Co. suddenly decided to not pay for my prescriptions. This lasted for 5 1/2 months.
My Provigil alone is $4.500.00 a month !! I could not afford to buy anything for 3 1/2 months. I had no idea about the side effects of stopping CYMBALTA suddenly! I was going Crazy !!! Suicidal — The most HORRIBLE I ever felt in my LIFE !! It has been nearly 7 months since the “onset’. I have been in bed for3 3/4 months. Just a few steps EXHAUSTS ME ! I am dizzy — cannot walk straight I BOUNCE off the walls and hit the sides of doorways ! It is as if I have from limited to NO CONTROL over my upright body. I take all my heart and narcolepsy meds, but still sleep 18-21 hours a day !!
I KNOW it is from the suddenly stopping CYMBALTA !!! Over 12-15 years of taking it. Helped a LOT at first, after 5 years I just got used to it. Kept taking for years, until insurance refused to pay in Sept.2017.

My life has been a WRECK Ever since — Still is !!! A living HELL !!!!!!! Unable to find a solution !!! Anyone ?

My experience is that very few medical doctors’ know how to diagnose. I do not know how or if they learned it in medical school, etc. To my knowledge there is a list of questions used and diagnosis is tried to be answered from that list or a list. It includes what tests to be done, etc. That is scary. I do know that there are a few medical professionals who are “talented” in diagnosis; which is wonderful. I wish I could find one now. For me, especially lately, where I now live I received little or no communication when I recently had an appointment. I asked questions and received no answer. I further pursued and it did not go well. This included questions on medications and what do I do next. I was told to stay on same medications (the doctor did not know details about why, how long I have been taking them), status would be the same, and I would be seen in four to six months. This was a “reputable” doctor in practice for over 25 years. Two of the medications are Cymbalta and a medication in Lyrica family. I have had similiar experiences in past. This is not my only experience. I don’t have an answer about what to do. I don’t feel I can stop seeing medical people, but I am not confident about anyone anymore.

Selling antidepressants is a multi-billion dollar business in Big Pharma. The ads on TV are deceptive in so many ways. For example the focus of the ads usually show a depressed individual BEFORE taking the antidepressant and they look very depressed. AFTER they take the antidepressant they are shown smiling and laughing and even the people around them are smiling and laughing. The TV audience sees this and pays little attention to the voice over reciting all the side effects- some very serious.

Big Pharma needs to take some social responsibility AND pay less attention to their swelling bank accounts.

I took Cymbalta for years and got off of it a few years ago. It was very difficult. I ended up opening the capsules and counting beads. I made very gradual adjustments and it took months to get off of. I felt withdrawals from the slightest decrease. I agree with the above comment. Eat good quality foods (lots of fruits and vegetables) and take quality herbs. The best thing you can do with medications like Cymbalta is to throw them away!

Recently, I had a horrific experience with Lyrica, which was prescribed to me for peripheral neuropathy. I started it last summer and then upped my dosage as my neurologist requested in the fall. In December, I had called in a refill 5 days ahead of time as it needed my doctor to authorize. Due to the pharmacy, doctors office, then my car not starting, the mechanic who never called me back….it was a little over a day since I had taken a pill.

My car was started by a neighbor, who then wouldn’t stop talking and I didn’t want to appear rude since he just started my car. Once I got away, I left without water to drink with my Lyrica. I went through the drive through at the pharmacy still feeling okay. And then it hit me a block from home.

I had to pull over and stop my car-I was that sick instantaneously. Couldn’t call anyone as I couldn’t talk. I really thought I was going to die that day in my car. After about half an hour, I forced myself to drive home. Then I couldn’t get out of my car. I waited probably another half hour when a neighbor got home. She thought I was just waving at her, but finally she sensed something wrong and came over. It took two women and someone’s walker to get me inside.

Had I come across myself, I would’ve call for an ambulance.

My dosage of Lyrica was about in the middle range. And not on it that long with taking two a day. I told my GP, and we planned how to get off it slowly-very slowly. There were some rough times, but I finally made it through and am now on my 7th day off! Yeah!!

And the pain? I searched all over the internet for natural remedies and started 3 new supplements. They have helped, though I still have some pain-but then Lyrica never took all the pain away either.

And my neighbor told me about her experience with an antidepressant. She decided not to take it anymore and went off cold turkey. She ended up in the ER thinking she was having a heart attack. They concluded she wasn’t having one and it was because she didn’t taper off the meds.

I was given Rivotril and later Lyrica for some 24h lasting migraines and severe stinging all through my body which lasted altogether for 10 years! Two drugs which changed my life forever.

Both of them made me feel odd as if some other have ‘some other person’ wanted to take hold of my soul. Then ‘some voice’ in my head said to me to ‘go and take the lot, then it’s all over’. The first medication made me wake up in the. middle of the night as ‘someone was trying to push me off a high cliff, -I saw the foaming sea and was waving my arms wildly to stay up on the cliff. I rang my doctor, a toxicologist in Sydney, and he was very concerned as I had reactions to a 250th part of a normal prescription!

‘A normal prescription? What for?’
‘Since when do I have epilepsy?’
‘It’s also for pain of unknown causes.’
I had to wean myself of by counting the little crumbs of medication and reducing them over several weeks.
The feeling of being possessed by a foreign entity still came up every now and then.

Lyrica was prescribed 2 years later, even though I told the doctor that I had already all of the side effects listed.
It made me wake up completely scared (as if the first experience wasn’t scary already!) again in the middle of the night, as the long-nailed fingertips of a skinny, bony, grey skinned hand, -coming out of a whitish-grey cloak with a face hidden under a hood-, were just about to scratch through my chest to grab out my heart.
I sat straight up in my bed and shuddered all over. I jumped up to put on all the lights in my house and didn’t go to sleep anymore.

I rang my doctor, a neurologist, but he couldn’t help me except to say to wean myself of it.
Same procedure.

I would like to voice my concerns and to ask all those who are in responsible positions, to have ALL medications which are produced in foreign countries tested for:
– proper mixtures
– poisonous additives
– poisonous conservation materials
– nano particles

Especially nano-particles, which have been used for more than 20 years without regard for the full implications of their use and/or the patients knowledge of those facts, -namely, that it is possible to do surgery with them or have them ‘spill at a later date’, makes it all a gamble between healing and causing bodily harm and more…

Plus, I would like to add that ALL my pains stopped, – knife stabbing pains everywhere, stinging migraines down to vomiting and stinging in my breasts which had swollen up to triple their size! – after the petrol station around the corner had its underground tank fixed.

Shortly after that I moved back to Europe to be with my mum.
I still have CFS which was diagnosed by the toxicologist in Sydney but I have no doctor who wants to have a look at the fat file.
I as on a pension but here in Europe my pension was denied as my files where disregarded.
I am too weak to do the doctor-run-around.
My husband carries all the load.
I am ‘numb all over’, have problems concentrating, remembering things( memories of my youth I had to find like a lost dream), memory problems, severe digestive problems, weakness and just a constant general exhaustion, tiredness and soreness after a little work, I lost good half of my person to what?
Please, all you dear doctors, go and fight for your patients to be diagnosed first, to have all possible causes looked at before you prescribe something you can’t really guarantee for.
Thank you.

This is a terrible drug to get off of. The fda should never have approved it. I have had all the symptoms of this drug listed in the article,plus the sexual side effects are very bad. When you do get off this drug you will have a minimum of ten days of hell.

Cymbalta is one of the drugs that is recommended as a short-term fix for IBS-D. I was on it for 6 months and it worked beautifully. The difficult part came when I had to wean off of it as I was on the lowest dose, already. I didn’t think it would be that difficult but now, a year and a half later, I am left with permanent tinnitus and still get brain zaps when I am overly tired and sometimes when I wake in the morning. Yes, this drug worked for me, but it was temporary help as my IBS came back again. I would rather live with the IBS-D than take Cymbalta again. As for another IBS treatment…check your Vitamin D levels and look into melatonin regimen!!

I took Cymbalta for several years to treat fibromyalgia. It stopped working after a few years but the side effects were horrific. The headaches were bad enough but the “dizziness” I got was full on vertigo, and brain zaps from hell. It took me over a year to get off it. I worked with my primary care doctor and went did it slowly. From 60 mg every other day to 30 mg daily. Weaned down to 30 mg every other day, then 20 daily. I even bought empty gelatin capsules to split the 20 mg caps to lower doses. Work with your doctor. It can be done. I couldn’t just go cold turkey, I had to work. Had I known what that drug was like I’d have never taken it at all.

I have been on Cymbalta for 10 years. I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to stop taking it twice and became so ill I couldn’t do it. The one time I was off for almost 3 weeks, I cried about everything. I was a mess!

It helps me tremendously with depression so I’ve just decided to take it the rest of my life. I was trying to wean myself to see if the forums were correct that it’s almost impossible to get off. It is right on! I also wondered if I would be okay without it now that all my stressors are gone from my life—NOT!

I asked my Dr. if it causes AZ and she said she checked into that and no, it does not. Who really knows what these drugs cause or do to our systems? We are ALL just a bunch of guinea pigs who sometimes make it into the medical records as having a certain disease because of a certain medication we’ve taken.

I am about to try tapering off of this medication and am scared to death because I’ve inadvertently stopped before and went through hell. Like you, I thought I’d just be on it forever, rather than deal with the horrid withdrawal. So even though I take less and am tapering, I still get my script filled, if you know what I mean. That way I have some in an emergency or if I need to go back up a tad if I taper too quickly.

I had an awful withdrawal experience with this med.

Talk to your doctor about ways to step down from it. I found several online forums where people shared the ways they were dealing with the symptoms. Not medical advice just people sharing info. Good luck with this and be well.

I think you should not take Cymbalta in the first place. My wife was given lyrics, and it changed her. She was told to take more, up to five times a day, and after several years she wasn’t the same person. I told her to throw them away. The doctor told her she couldn’t. Well, she did throw it out. It took her over a year before she felt normal. Most doctors don’t even know what this junk will do to you. Stop wasting your money on that garbage and buy good food, herbs and SPICES it will change your world! EXERCISE!

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