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What is Effexor (venlafaxine)?

Effexor is used to treat various mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. It belongs to a class of medications known as selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Effexor is also available as an extended-release capsule called Effexor XR.

What is Effexor used to treat?

Effexor is most commonly used to treat the major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. It can also be used to treat other conditions, such as social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Effexor works by increasing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. This helps to improve mood and decrease symptoms.

How do you take Effexor?

Your doctor will prescribe an Effexor dose based on:

  • The nature and severity of your condition

  • Any other medical conditions you may have

They may prescribe a low dose to start with, then modify it over time to establish which dose works best for you.

The following information outlines widely used or suggested doses, but you should only follow the prescription your doctor gives you.

Dosage

The recommended initial dose of Effexor tablets is 75mg per day,¹ split into two or three equal doses. The dose may be raised to 150mg per day, depending on how well you tolerate the medication and your need for further treatment. The dose can be raised to 225mg per day if necessary.

For social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder, Effexor XR is usually taken as a 75mg² starting dose, once per day.

Effexor and Effexor XR should be taken with food.

Other information

Before you begin using Effexor, and each time you receive a refill, read the medication guide issued by your pharmacist. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have any queries.

To minimize the chance of adverse effects, your doctor may instruct you to begin with a low dose and gradually increase it. Take this drug consistently to maximize its effectiveness. To aid your memory, take it at the same time each day.

Keep taking this medicine even if you feel better. Do not discontinue your treatment without first consulting your doctor.

Seeing results

Most people see results within a week or two, but it may take longer for some. If you don’t see any improvement after four to six weeks, your doctor may increase your dose or suggest a different medication.

Potential side effects of Effexor

Common side effects of Effexor include nausea, headache, dry mouth, drowsiness, sweating, and increased appetite. These side effects are usually mild and temporary.

Effexor can also cause more serious side effects, including:

  • Agitation

  • Hallucinations

  • Fever

  • Fast or irregular heart rate

  • Overactive reflexes

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Seizures

  • Changes in vision

  • Easy bruising or bleeding

  • Unusual weakness

  • Numbness, tingling, or burning pain in your hands or feet

  • Loss of coordination

  • Confusion

  • Muscle stiffness or twitching

  • Shallow breathing (hyperventilation)

  • Feeling like you might pass out

  • Changes in mood or behavior

The drug may also cause an allergic reaction. You might experience itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, or trouble breathing.

If you have any serious side effects or symptoms of an allergic reaction, get medical help right away.

Long-term use of Effexor

Effexor is generally considered safe for long-term use. However, like all medications, there are potential risks involved with taking Effexor for an extended period of time.

Some of the most common side effects associated with long-term Effexor treatment include:

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about taking Effexor for an extended period of time. They will be able to determine if the benefits of taking Effexor outweigh the risks. If you and your doctor decide that long-term treatment with Effexor is right for you, they will closely monitor your progress to make sure you are responding well to the medication.

If you have been taking Effexor for an extended period of time and you are experiencing any negative side effects, it's important to talk to your doctor. They may decide to adjust your dose or switch you to a different medication.

Don’t stop taking Effexor suddenly, as this can cause withdrawal symptoms. If you and your doctor decide that it’s time to stop taking Effexor, they may slowly taper off your dosage over the course of several weeks.

Missed doses

If you forget to take a dose of Effexor, take it as soon as you remember. If it’s almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take two doses of Effexor at the same time.

Overdoses

The most common Effexor overdose symptoms include a racing heart, altered consciousness (ranging from drowsiness to coma), seizures, vomiting, and pupil dilation.

Get emergency medical help if you think you or someone else has taken too much Effexor.

What to discuss with your doctor before taking Effexor

Tell your doctor about any past medications you have taken to help treat your condition, and let them know if you are taking any other medications now (to treat this condition or any other). Your doctor also needs to know if you are taking supplements or herbal medicines, or plan to do so in the future.

Your doctor should know if you have ever had an allergic reaction to Effexor or any other medication. They may decide Effexor is unsuitable for you.

Tell your doctor if you are getting non-pharmacological treatment, such as talk therapy. Your provider can explain how these alternative therapies may work together with Effexor.

Discuss any other health conditions with your doctor, as well as your family’s medical history.

Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or plan to become pregnant.

Stopping Effexor

You should always taper off Effexor under the guidance of a doctor. Stopping suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Tiredness

  • Sweating

  • Irritability

Some people benefit from tapering off Effexor over several weeks or even months. Others only need to reduce their dose over a few days. It depends on how long you have been taking Effexor and the dose you have been prescribed.

Effexor and pregnancy

Effexor is categorized as a pregnancy category C medication according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meaning it’s unclear whether the drug is safe to take during pregnancy.

Consult your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and wish to take an antidepressant. They can advise you on the safest course of action.

Interactions with other drugs

Tell your doctor about any other medications (prescription and nonprescription), supplements, and herbal medicines you are taking or plan to take before starting Effexor treatment. This is especially important for those taking:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as Nardil or Parnate

  • Other antidepressants

  • Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Zoloft, Paxil, or Prozac

  • Lithium

  • Tryptophan

  • St. John’s wort

Effexor can also interact with certain drugs used to treat:

Some of these interactions can be dangerous, so you must be transparent with your doctor before taking Effexor.

Allergy information

Effexor may cause a serious skin reaction. Symptoms may include:

  • Skin rash

  • Hives

  • Itching

  • Flu-like symptoms

  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat

Get medical help immediately if you develop any of these symptoms, and stop taking the medication.

Do not take this medication if you are allergic to venlafaxine or desvenlafaxine (Pristiq). Taking these medications can increase your risk of a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome occurs when the level of serotonin in your body gets too high.

Symptoms include:

  • Agitation

  • Hallucinations

  • Fever

  • Sweating

  • Shivering

  • Muscle stiffness

  • Twitching

  • Loss of coordination

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room.

Clinical trial history³

Five placebo-controlled, short-term trials assessed the efficacy of Effexor for treating major depressive disorder. Effexor was found to be more effective than placebo in all five studies.

Effectiveness was assessed based on three measures: the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Hamilton depressed mood item, and the Clinical Global Impression-Severity of Illness rating.

A daily dose from 75–225mg was found to be more effective than a placebo in outpatient studies, while a mean daily dose of 350mg was effective in inpatients.

Tips and advice for taking Effexor

Here are some tips to help you have a better experience and stay safe when taking Effexor:

  • Talk to your doctor before starting Effexor. This medication can cause serious side effects, so it’s important to know what to expect.

  • You can take Effexor with or without food, but taking it with food may reduce the risk of nausea.

  • Remember that some medications interact with Effexor, so your doctor should be aware of any other medications, supplements, or herbal products you’re taking.

  • Don’t stop taking Effexor without talking to your doctor. Stopping the medication abruptly can cause unpleasant withdrawal effects.

  • Take Effexor exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Don’t increase or decrease the dosage.

  • Be patient when taking Effexor. It may take a few weeks for the medication to start working properly.

  1. Effexor | Rx List

  2. Effexor XR | Rx List

  3. Effexor - venlafaxine hydrochloride | Food and Drug Administration

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Disclaimer

Here at HealthMatch, we’ve done our best to ensure that the information provided in this article is helpful, up to date, and, most importantly, accurate.

However, we can’t replace the one-to-one advice of a qualified medical practitioner or outline all of the possible risks associated with this particular drug and your circumstances.

It is therefore important for you to note that the information contained in this article does not constitute professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or recommendation of treatment and is not intended to, nor should be used to, replace professional medical advice. This article may not always be up to date and is not exhaustive of all of the risks and considerations relevant to this particular drug. In no circumstances should this article be relied upon without independent consideration and confirmation by a qualified medical practitioner.

Your doctor will be able to explain all possible uses, dosages, precautions, interactions with other drugs, and other potential adverse effects, and you should always talk to them about any kind of medication you are taking, thinking about taking or wanting to stop taking.

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