Venlafaxine is often prescribed for anxiety disorders and depression.
The drug is also known under the brand name Effexor.
Do you often suffer from feelings of anxiety that seem to appear out of nowhere?
Do you know where your fears come from, but fail to overcome them?
Do you want to know what the risks of Venlafaxine are and which side effects it can cause?
Then read this article carefully because this medicine is not without risk.
NB! This article is not intended as medical advice. I wrote it only to inform you about the use of this drug.
What is Venlafaxine?
Venlafaxine belongs to a group of medicines called serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). This medicine is used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. Venlafaxine or Efexor is mainly prescribed for generalized anxiety disorders, social anxiety disorders and panic disorders .
Neurological research has shown that people who are depressed or anxious have lower levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.
And what turned out? Social anxiety has an influence on the structure of certain brain regions and it is precisely this structure that is hereditary.
Both serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the body’s own chemical elements. They provide communication between nerve cells. Serotonin affects your mood. Noradrenaline stimulates your alertness.
SNRI stands for ‘Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor’. This means that these drugs act on these two neurotransmitters.
They give them a helping hand, as it were. This makes you feel less depressed and anxious when you take Venlafaxine.
It is important to know that it takes a while for Venlafaxine to work. Unlike benzodiazepines, you don’t immediately feel the effect of SNRIs.
If you take a medicine such as Tema zepam , for example , you will notice after about half an hour that you become calmer.
This is usually not the case with SNRIs such as Venlafaxine. You will find out in the next section how long it takes for Venlafaxine to work.
How long does it take for Venlafaxine to work?
How long it takes for Venlafaxine to start working depends on what you are using it for.
For depression, anxiety, panic disorders and tension
If you take Venlafaxine, you should notice improvement after about 6 weeks. If this remedy does indeed help you, it is recommended that you continue to use this medicine for 6 months to a year.
If you do not notice any improvement after 6 weeks, it is not much use to continue taking this medicine.
Because social phobia is a fairly complex phobia, it may take a little longer for you to notice an improvement. You must not only get rid of your fears but also find the courage to get back into social situations.
It can take up to 4 months before you notice the effect of Venlafaxine.
It is important that you take this drug consistently for Venlafaxine to work properly. It is also better to always take it at the same time of day.
It is generally believed that SNRIs are safe if you follow your doctor’s prescription.
Side Effects of Venlafaxine
According to statistics from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, slightly more than 1 million Dutch people use an antidepressant.
Research has shown that in about 30 to 50% of these users these drugs do not have the desired effect.
#1 Gastrointestinal Disorders
Gastrointestinal disorders are very common when you start taking Venlafaxine.
Once your body is used to this drug, these usually go away on their own. Usually these gastrointestinal disorders are quite annoying, but not dangerous.
However, if you have a serious condition such as a stomach ulcer or intestinal disease, Venlafaxine can be dangerous.
#2 Weight gain
Researchers from King’s College London have compared the weight of antidepressant users and those who do not take antidepressants.
People of normal weight took the least amount of antidepressants. More than 25% of the obese patients were taking antidepressants. This study spread over several years.
And it turned out that the patients who took antidepressants gained more over the course of this period than people who did not take SNRIs.
The conclusion of the study was that the use of SNRIs could contribute to an obesity epidemic.
It is clear that there is a link between weight gain and SNRIs. Researchers don’t really know exactly why this is the case.
It’s generally believed that if you’re anxious or depressed, you don’t have much of an appetite. When the drug starts to work, you feel better, which also makes you more hungry.
Venlafaxine can lead to obesity and that is actually a cause for concern.
#3 Tiredness and drowsiness
Real fatigue is not very common when taking Venlafaxine. However, you may feel quite drowsy while taking this medicine.
Feeling drowsy can negatively affect your responsiveness.
It is therefore dangerous to perform activities where you have to concentrate optimally. I am thinking mainly of controlling machines or monitoring processes at work.
Even chores around the house can be dangerous if your concentration is not optimal. It becomes all the more dangerous if you are in traffic. Driving is therefore not recommended when using Venlafaxine.
#4 Interaction with alcohol and narcotics
Alcohol and narcotics enhance the effect of Venlafaxine.
Although fatigue with the use of Venlafaxine is not very common, the combination of alcohol and Venlafaxine can make you quite sleepy.
This can of course lead to very dangerous situations at home, at work and in traffic. Never use alcohol or narcotics while taking Venlafaxine!
#5 Feeling rushed, palpitations and shortness of breath
You can feel very restless and excited, especially if you have just started taking Venlafaxine.
This rushed feeling can also cause palpitations and shortness of breath.
#6 Dizziness, blurred vision and fainting
Earlier I explained to you how antidepressants affect neurotransmitters such as serotonin and noradrenaline.
This often results in unwanted blockages of certain receptors in the central nervous system.
This sudden drop in blood pressure can make you feel dizzy, have blurred vision and even pass out.
#7 Sleep disorders
If you use Venlafaxine, you often sleep less well.
The reason for this is that the amount of serotonin and noradrenaline increase, making your body more active.
The result of a bad night’s sleep is, of course, that you can feel tired during the day.
This reduces your reaction time and your concentration, which can lead to dangerous situations in daily life.
#8 Increase in depressive thoughts
It probably sounds terribly contradictory, but an anti-anxiety drug like Venlafaxine can actually promote depressive thoughts.
It can also make you terribly restless and even aggressive.
Research at the Nordic Cochrane Center has shown that young people in particular are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts.
#9 Habituation and dependence
As many as 30% of antidepressant users have a hard time getting rid of them.
Once you have started with a drug such as Venlafaxine or Efexor, your body quickly gets used to it.
It is true that most users do not reach for higher doses. The effect of this medicine remains the same over time.
If you want to stop taking Venlafaxine, you may experience intense withdrawal symptoms, especially if you stop taking Venlafaxine abruptly.
That is why it is important to taper off this drug slowly.
#10 Withdrawal Symptoms
If you gradually reduce Venlafaxine, the withdrawal symptoms will be less intense.
However, this does not mean that you cannot suffer from it.
Yet you can also get complaints such as trembling limbs or the feeling that there are, as it were, ‘spiders crawling under your skin’.
Psychological withdrawal symptoms are mainly irritability, depressive thoughts, fears and even suicidal tendencies.
Taking Venlafaxine or Effexor is not without danger. It is true that people can react very differently to this drug.
I would therefore like to let a few users have their say. By reading their stories you can get a better understanding of the use of Venlafaxine.
Experiences with Venlafaxine
Below 3 users tell about their venlafaxine experiences:
I have been taking Venlafaxine for 6 years. It all started with a social phobia that often caused me to have panic attacks . During my puberty I developed such low self-esteem that I completely closed myself off from others. At school I often had panic attacks and decided to terminate my studies prematurely.
My mother decided it couldn’t go on like this and took me to the doctor. He prescribed me Venlafaxine. This remedy works very well for me: I feel that I am stronger in life and I have also been able to slowly rebuild my self-confidence. Since I have been taking this product I have gained a few kilos, but I am happy to add that. One day I hope to be able to go through life without Venlafaxine again.
Four years ago my mother got cancer. I cared for her until the last hours of her life. When she died, my whole world collapsed. Not only had I lost my mother, I suddenly seemed to have nothing to do. I slipped into a deep depression and developed a particularly intense fear of death . I visited several therapists for this, but therapy alone did not help me. My psychiatrist then prescribed Effexor for me.
I thought I could overcome all my fears with this. The first 6 weeks everything seemed to be going well. I had some side effects like stomach pain, headache and dizziness, but I could live with that. However, after these 6 weeks I felt more and more depressedbecome. I had anxious dreams and thought the world would be better off without me. I immediately decided to stop taking Effexor. My fears came back and they were much worse than before. After being admitted to a psychiatric clinic, I am now going through life without Effexor.
The story of Senne
My daughter has autism. As a single father, it’s really not easy to deal with. I don’t know how her condition will evolve and that makes me extremely anxious. I have been taking Venlafaxine for 2 years now on the advice of my GP. This drug suppresses my fears but also all other emotions. I find it difficult to give my daughter the love she deserves. This often makes me feel depressed, even though I take Venlafaxine. I would like to find another solution to get rid of my fears, but do not dare to stop with the drug. Once I tried it and I was miserable. I don’t feel well with this medicine, but unfortunately I don’t see any other solution.
As these experiences show, Venlafaxine is not a panacea to get rid of your fears. This is not a drug by the way.
Medicines flatten your emotions, but you won’t be able to overcome your fears with medicines.
If you want to go through life without Venlafaxine, it is important to gradually reduce this drug. If you don’t, you can get very intense withdrawal symptoms.
Weaning off with Venlafaxine
Because suddenly stopping Venlafaxine can be very dangerous, it is important to taper off this drug.
It is best to do this in consultation with your doctor, but I am happy to give you some tips.
#1 Phase-out schedule
If you want to stop taking Venlafaxine, your doctor will suggest a tapering schedule.
Your dose of Venlafaxine will then be reduced slightly each week. Follow this phase-out schedule very closely.
Even if you are having a difficult day, it is important not to reach for a higher dose. Always do this in consultation with your treating doctor!
#2 Duration of tapering off Venlafaxine
Don’t expect every day to be the same.
Even if you gradually taper off Venlafaxine, you may still experience withdrawal symptoms.
However, these will be less intense than if you stop taking this medicine abruptly.