Anxiety Medication Overview: Withdrawal From Effexor

The antidepressant Effexor, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), was first introduced in 1993 and is approved for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. While Effexor can be very effective at treating anxiety disorders, many people find that they have troublesome withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop taking the medication. These types of symptoms are found in the discontinuation of a variety of SSRIs and SNRIs, but Effexor appears to have a particularly high risk of causing withdrawal symptoms among users.

The type and severity of Effexor withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. Some people who stop taking Effexor do not experience any side effects at all, while others suffer from them no matter how gradually they taper the dosage of the drug. In some, withdrawal symptoms appear within hours of missing a dose. These symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, headache, insomnia, tremor, vertigo, confusion, irritability, agitation, hostility, numbness, tingling, nightmares, and "brain zaps" (a symptom that appears to be unique to SSRI/SNRI discontinuation, and which sufferer describe as an electric shock sensation in the brain).

Effexor should never be stopped suddenly, as this greatly increases the risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Instead, it should be tapered gradually, under a doctor's supervision. In cases where withdrawal symptoms are particularly severe, certain SSRIs (such as Prozac) may be prescribed to ease symptoms while the Effexor is tapered.

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