Can You Avoid Effexor Withdrawal with the Wet Finger Method?
In This Article
What is Effexor?
Effexor is the brand name for the antidepressant medication Venlafaxine. It’s in a class of drugs called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).
SNRIs work by blocking serotonin and reuptake back into the nerve cells that released them. This blocking action increases the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. This may boost your mood and improve your focus.1
The medication comes as an oral tablet in an immediate-release (Effexor) and extended-release (Effexor XR) formula. Unlike Effexor, Effexor XR only needs to be taken once per day.
Effexor has been discontinued in the United States. Effexor XR is still available by prescription.
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Panic disorder (PD)
Health professionals also sometimes prescribe Effexor off-label to treat other conditions, including:
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Hot flashes
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
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Avoiding Effexor Withdrawal: The Wet Finger Method
What is the Wet Finger Method?
The wet finger method in Effexor withdrawal is a nonscientific and non verified way to taper the drug if you take the capsule form. The wet finger method can’t be followed if you take an Effexor tablet.
Although it hasn’t been studied, the wet finger method mimics how an official taper would work.
Generally, the wet finger method involves these steps:7
- Open the Effexor capsule and pour the small beads into a small bowl.
- On detox days 1 through 3, wet your finger and touch the beads 3 times, removing them from the bowl. Consume the remaining beads.
- On detox days 4 through 9, wet your finger and touch the beads 5 times, removing them from the bowl. Consume the remaining beads.
- On detox days 10 through 14, wet your finger and touch the beads 7 times, removing them from the bowl. Consume the remaining beads.
If you develop withdrawal symptoms at any time during the wet finger method in Effexor withdrawal, you should stop the taper and talk to your doctor.
Many people have found this remedy useful in relieving Effexor withdrawal symptoms. However, this method hasn’t been scientifically proven. The wet finger method for Effexor withdrawal involves a direct intake of active ingredients, which can cause more harm than good.
Signs and Symptoms of Effexor Withdrawal
Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (ADS) can occur in people who stop taking antidepressants abruptly.
Healthcare providers usually decrease the dosage of antidepressants gradually when it’s necessary to stop the medication. However, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can still occur.
Common Effexor withdrawal symptoms include:4
- Flu-like symptoms, like fatigue, muscle pain, and nausea
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety or worsening of depression
Severe withdrawal symptoms include:4
- Abnormal sensory disturbances
- Problems with concentration
- Short/lived narcolepsy
- Cataplexy (the loss of muscle tone triggered by strong emotion)
- Brain zaps
Effexor has one of the highest rates of ‘brain zap’ frequency linked with antidepressant discontinuation.8 Brain zaps refer to an electric shock sensation that can include visual disturbances. Doctors aren’t sure why brain zaps occur.
While brain zaps resolve quickly in most people, others can experience brain zaps for months or years after taking Venlafaxine.
Factors Influencing the Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms
Many factors impact the severity and duration of Effexor withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Body mass
- Hydration levels
- Dosage levels
- How often and how long Effexor was abused
- Whether Effexor was abused with other drugs or alcohol
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Effexor Withdrawal Timeline
Effexor has a half-life of four hours, so it’s entirely out of the system within a day. Antidepressants with longer half-lives remain in the body for more extended amounts of time. This may limit the onset and severity of withdrawal symptoms.
The Effexor withdrawal timeline varies, but here’s a typical schedule:
- 1-3 Days: 1-3 days after the last dose, mild withdrawal symptoms may start to appear.
- 4-5 Days: Withdrawal symptoms often become more intense 4-5 days into Effexor detox. They may include nausea, shakiness, dizziness, and insomnia, among others.
- 1-3 Weeks: Withdrawal symptoms may persist but gradually fade over time. Usually, symptoms are gone three weeks after starting an Effexor detox and withdrawal.
How Long Does it Take for Effexor Withdrawal Side Effects to Stop?
Effexor withdrawal symptoms usually resolve within 1 to 2 weeks. However, some people may continue to experience mild withdrawal symptoms for several months.3
It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized guidance and support during the Effexor withdrawal process. They can help manage the symptoms and monitor your progress for a safe and comfortable transition off Effexor.
How to Wean Off of Effexor Safely
The best way to prevent Effexor withdrawal symptoms is to discontinue use gradually. An Effexor taper schedule should vary from person to person. However, a general guideline is to reduce the Effexor dose by 10 mg every two weeks for a minimum of four weeks.
Here are a few steps to consider when going through an Effexor taper.
Team up with your doctor
Your doctor is there to help you prevent and cope with symptoms of Effexor withdrawal. Discuss the benefits and risks of discontinuing Effexor. Work together to determine how and when to stop taking the drug slowly.
Undergoing psychotherapy while discontinuing an antidepressant can reduce your risk of relapse.
Seek Extra Support
Be sure to ask a close friend or family member for support when undergoing Effexor withdrawal. Discuss what they should expect as you work with your healthcare provider to wean off the drug.
Keep up with follow-ups
It’s essential to keep in touch with your healthcare provider while weaning from Effexor and after you’ve stopped altogether. You may need to organize monthly check-ins until discontinuation symptoms have eased and there are no signs of relapse.
As you’re experiencing withdrawal, practicing self-care is more important than ever.
Make sure to:
- Eat healthily
- Get regular sleep
- Practice stress management
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Effexor Withdrawal Relief
Natural and Complementary Treatments
Some natural and complementary treatments can help alleviate Effexor withdrawal symptoms.
However, these treatments shouldn’t replace professional medical advice. You should always consult with healthcare professionals before changing your Effexor withdrawal treatment plan.
Some people find certain herbal supplements helpful in managing Effexor withdrawal symptoms.
Supplements like St. John's wort and omega-3 fatty acids are known to have benefits in managing depression symptoms. However, they may interact with medications or have side effects.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into specific areas of the body. Some people find it helpful in reducing anxiety, improving mood, and managing withdrawal symptoms.
However, find a qualified and licensed acupuncturist for safe and effective treatment.
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medications
Always consult a healthcare professional before taking any new medication or supplements, even if they’re available over the counter.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen may minimize withdrawal symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, and joint pain.
If you experience nausea or vomiting during Effexor withdrawal, medications like Benadryl (dimenhydrinate) or Bonine (meclizine) can relieve these symptoms.
Withdrawal from Effexor can sometimes disrupt sleep patterns. This can lead to insomnia or sleep disturbances.
OTC sleep aids containing diphenhydramine or doxylamine succinate may be considered for short-term use under healthcare professionals' guidance.
Sometimes, a healthcare provider may prescribe a short-acting benzodiazepine to help manage severe anxiety or agitation during withdrawal. For example, lorazepam or diazepam.
These medications should only be used under close medical supervision and for a limited period due to their potential for dependence.
When to Consult a Healthcare Professional for Withdrawal Symptoms
Reach out to a healthcare professional if you notice significant or distressing withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Severe anxiety
- Suicidal thoughts
- Intense mood changes
- Persistent insomnia
Your doctor can provide guidance, monitor your progress, and help develop a management plan to ensure your safety and well-being throughout the withdrawal process.
Commonly Asked Questions
How Do I Get off Venlafaxine Safely and Effectively?
The best way to stop taking Venlafaxine (Effexor) and prevent withdrawal symptoms is to gradually discontinue the medication under healthcare professionals' guidance.
A general guideline for an Effexor detox may involve reducing the dose by 10 mg every two weeks for a minimum of four weeks.
What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Taking Venlafaxine?
When you stop taking Venlafaxine (Effexor), your body experiences a process of adjustment and adaptation. As an antidepressant medication in SNRI class, abruptly discontinuing Effexor can lead to withdrawal symptoms due to changes in brain chemistry.
Gradually tapering off Effexor with a healthcare provider helps reduce these withdrawal symptoms. This allows your body to adapt slowly to lower medication levels and facilitates a smoother transition.
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- Shelton, Richard C. “Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors.” Handbook of experimental pharmacology, 2019
- Effexor® (venlafaxine hydrochloride) Tablets, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2012
- Warner, Christopher H et al. “Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.” American family physician, 2006
- Campagne, Daniel M. “Venlafaxine and serious withdrawal symptoms: warning to drivers.” MedGenMed : Medscape general medicine, 2005
- Sabljić et al. “Venlafaxine withdrawal syndrome.” Psychiatria Danubina, 2011
- National Guideline Centre (UK). Evidence review: Withdrawal symptoms: Medicines associated with dependence or withdrawal symptoms: safe prescribing and withdrawal management for adults: Evidence review D. London: National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2022
- Does The Wet Finger Method For Effexor Withdrawal Work?, Meds Safety
- Papp et al. “Brain Zaps: An Underappreciated Symptom of Antidepressant Discontinuation.” The primary care companion for CNS disorders, 2018