How to Get Off Antidepressants Effexor/Pristiq (Venlafaxine/Desvenlafaxine)
Or other bothersome antidepressants.
Generally, following the rules I wrote about last week on how to stop antidepressants while minimizing withdrawal work, and most people can successfully withdraw from antidepressants with few side effects.
Some Antidepressants Are Hard to Get Off Of
Unfortunately, some antidepressants are not so easy to get off of no matter what you do. (You can learn more about this through http://drugabuse.com/ and other similar sites.) Some antidepressants:
- Resist a taper strategy
- Have intolerable withdrawal effects anyway *
People Have Trouble Withdrawing from these Antidepressants
Any antidepressant can feel impossible to withdraw from, but the antidepressants people have most trouble withdrawing from are:
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Venlafaxine (Effexor, any version)
- Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
But by far, venlafaxine and desvenlafaxine (Effexor and Pristiq) are the ones I hear about. In my opinion, these two drugs are a nightmare to come off of for most people. ^ (I’m not saying everyone has trouble with these antidepressants, just that many do.)
Here are tips on how to get off of horrible~ drugs like venlafaxine (Effexor) and desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).
Did I mention yet I’m not a doctor? Ah, well I’m not. None of this is to be considered medical advice; this is an informational article only. Never alter your treatment without talking to your doctor. Thanks.
Getting off Venlafaxine (Effexor)
Particularly, when getting off venlafaxine (Effexor) remember the rule that says to reduce the dosage much more slowly than you think you should, and remember to stop withdrawing any time, for any reason. If you remember those things, you’re going to go through much less pain and be at much less risk.
Venlafaxine (Effexor) Has Beads
Luckily (or unluckily) for you, Effexor is in a capsule which contains beads. This is great news. It means that every day you can open the Effexor capsule up and take out one more beads. So on the first day, you take out one bead, on the second day you take out two, and so on.
You can count the venlafaxine beads using creased paper and tweezers. Dump out the beads onto the paper, count out the appropriate number, and then use the creased paper to dump the remaining beads back into the Effexor capsule before taking it.
Sound like fun?
Well, I never said it was fun. I just said it was doable. And consider yourself lucky because you could be stuck with a pill you can’t divide (like the lucky folks on Pristiq).
I Refuse to Count Venlafaxine (Effexor) Beads
If you’re really stubborn and refuse to do it the right way, in the alternative, you can open the capsule, take out about one quarter of the beads and then after 6-8 weeks, take out half the beads and so on.
Getting Off Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
Unfortunately, desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) has no beads and the smallest dose it comes in is 50 mg – and you cannot cut a Pristiq tablet (you need its coating as it effects the metabolizing of the drug). Often, going from 50 mg to 0 mg is way too big a drop for people. You can try to alternate off and on days with Pristiq (in an attempt to get an actual dose of 25 mg in your blood stream) but that may still produce too many withdrawal effects.
Fluoxetine (Prozac) Helps Get You Off Other Antidepressants
Yes, that’s right, getting on an antidepressant can help get you off an antidepressant. The only way (almost, see below) doctors know to soften the blow when withdrawing from short half-life drugs like Pristiq is to add fluoxetine (Prozac).
You can add 20 mg of Prozac to any other antidepressant (like desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) or venlafaxine (Effexor) for that matter) and then get off the Pristiq. Once the Pristiq is gone, you can taper off the Prozac using the previously discussed rules.
This works because fluoxetine (Prozac) has a long half-life making it much easier to get off of than drugs like Pristiq.
Compounding Pharmacies Can Help (I Think)
I have no experience with this, but I am told compounding pharmacies can take higher dosages of drugs and break them down into lower dosages for you. This is a good way to taper if you can find someone to do this for you; I’d say it’s pretty uncommon.
Reminder – Don’t do any of this without talking to your doctor.
Getting Off Antidepressants – The Series
This article is the third in the series on getting off of antidepressants. You may wish to read the first two parts:
- When to Get Off of Antidepressants in Bipolar Disorder
- How to Stop Antidepressants While Minimizing Withdrawal
* Yes, the cynical part of me thinks drug makers do this on purpose. They have no motivation to make it easy for you to get off their drug. And if you can’t stand the withdrawal, then more money for them. And don’t get me started on the fact that doctors don’t warn patients about the problem; that’s a whole other article.
^ Whomever in the drug company finds this acceptable should be tortured for a while – just like the people trying to get off these meds.
~ Obviously, just my jaded opinion.
About Natasha Tracy
Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.
Natasha’s New Book
Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Find Lost Marbles on Amazon.