What is Effexor?
Effexor and Effexor XR are brands of venlafaxine, a medication used to treat depression. Effexor XR (long-acting) capsules are also used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD; excessive worrying that is difficult to control), social anxiety disorder (extreme fear of interacting with others or performing in front of others that interferes with normal life), and panic disorder (sudden, unexpected attacks of extreme fear and worry about these attacks).
Studies have shown that mental disorders are among the leading causes of the global health-related burden, with depressive and anxiety disorders being leading contributors to this burden.
Effexor and Effexor XR is in a class of medications called selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
Both medications are non-addictive. However, psychological addiction is possible and frequent abusers of the drugs may also become physically dependent. On the streets, Effexor is known by the following names happy pills, bottled smiles, miracle drug, and wonder drug.
How should this medicine be used?
Effexor and Effexor XR are available as tablets and capsules to take by mouth. The tablet is usually taken two or three times a day with food. Effexor XR is usually taken once daily in the morning or evening with food. Take Effexor at around the same time(s) every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take Effexor exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often or for a longer period of time than prescribed by your doctor.
Swallow the Effexor XR capsule whole; do not split, chew, crush it, or place it in water. If you cannot swallow the extended-release capsule, you may carefully open the capsule and sprinkle the entire contents on a spoonful of applesauce. Swallow (without chewing) this mixture immediately after preparation and then drink a glass of water to make sure that you have swallowed all of the medication.
Your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of Effexor and gradually increase your dose, not more often than once every 4 to 7 days. Tell your doctor or healthcare provider how you are feeling during your treatment so that he or she can adjust your dose properly.
Stopping Effexor After 5 Days
When you stop taking Effexor or while you are decreasing your dose, you will immediately start experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. In General, Effexor withdrawal symptoms occur in about 20 percent of patients who have taken the medication for at least six weeks and then abruptly stopped.
Effexor withdrawal symptoms may include:
- A general mood of misery and depression
- Sensations that feel like electric shocks (also sometimes called “brain shivers”)
Studies have shown that:
• Within eight to 12 hours of missing a dose of Effexor or Effexor XR: Withdrawal symptoms start to manifest. Serious withdrawal symptoms may occur within hours of cessation or reduction of the usual dosage.
• Within 18 hours of missing a dose of Effexor or Effexor XR: Withdrawal symptoms worsen or become severe.
• Within 5 days of missing a dose of Effexor or Effexor XR: Withdrawal symptoms become very severe and may include nausea, shakiness, dizziness, and insomnia, among others.
These symptoms occur because when you stop taking Effexor and Effexor XR, the sudden change impacts the chemical makeup of the brain. To avoid Effexor withdrawal symptoms, your dosage of Effexor or Effexor XR should be tapered (gradually decreased) over several weeks. Abrupt Effexor discontinuation involves a high risk of withdrawal syndrome
Effexor withdrawal symptoms can resolve within 24 hours after you start taking Effexor again, even if you take a lower dose than before.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Effexor and Effexor XR may cause side effects. Call your doctor if any of the following symptoms are severe or do not go away:
• weakness or tiredness
• stomach pain
• dry mouth
• change in the ability to taste food
• loss of appetite
• weight loss
• uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
• pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in part of the body
• hot flashes or flushing
• frequent urination
• difficulty urinating
• sore throat, chills, or other signs of infection
• ringing in the ears
• sexual problems in males; decreased sex drive, inability to get or keep an erection, or delayed or absent ejaculation
• sexual problems in females; decreased sex drive, delayed orgasm, or unable to have an orgasm
• enlarged pupils (black circles in the middle of the eyes)
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
• difficulty breathing or swallowing
• chest pain
• fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
• unusual bruising or bleeding
• small purple spots on the skin
• fever, sweating, confusion, fast or irregular heartbeat, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
• problems with coordination
• hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
• coma (loss of consciousness for a period of time)
Effexor and Effexor XR may slow growth and weight gain in children. If your child is taking Effexor, your child’s doctor will watch your child’s growth carefully. Talk to your child’s doctor about the risks of giving Effexor to your child.
Effexor and Effexor XR may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).