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What is Cymbalta (Duloxetine)?

Cymbalta (duloxetine) is an FDA-approved drug for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).1 It also treats generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), diabetic neuropathy, long-term muscle pain, and fibromyalgia.2

Cymbalta works as a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).3 It helps to regulate mood by increasing serotonin and norepinephrine activity in the brain.

Because the medication does not produce a high when taken in large quantities, misuse of Cymbalta is uncommon. However, a person can suffer adverse withdrawal symptoms if they stop using.

When prescribed by a physician, Cymbalta is taken orally 1 to 2 times a day with or without food. Your physician may start you at a lower dose and increase gradually. To get the most benefit out of Cymbalta, follow your doctor's directions carefully.

Side Effects & Risks of Cymbalta

Duloxetine, the active ingredient in Cymbalta, may induce specific side effects in some people. However, in most cases, they generally do not need medical care. As your body adjusts to the medication, these side effects may go away throughout treatment.

Common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dry mouth 
  • Sneezing/coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Dizziness
  • Increased sweating
  • Stomach pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Constipation
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Frequent urination
  • Chronic musculoskeletal pain

This is not a complete list of Cymbalta’s side effects. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, other frequent severe symptoms include changes in urine, vomiting, heartburn, and stomach discomfort.4 Additional side effects include chronic muscle pain or cramps, changes in sexual desire, and uncontrolled shaking.

If you're also taking aspirin, NSAIDs (like Advil), or blood thinners, Cymbalta may cause an increased risk of bleeding or bruising. This kind of bleeding may be life-threatening.

As the body adapts to Cymbalta, these symptoms may disappear. Nausea, for example, usually goes away after a week or two. However, if you have any worrisome symptoms, you should consult your doctor for professional medical advice.

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How Addictive is Cymbalta? (+ Symptoms) 

Cymbalta is generally thought to be non-addictive, although it may lead to physical dependence. People who have a history of severe depression or are on one or more antidepressant medications are more likely to misuse Cymbalta.

Whether you're taking Cymbalta to prevent uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms or to experience the pleasurable effects, watch the amount you take to avoid overdoses.

Symptoms of Cymbalta dependence include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Faking symptoms to obtain a prescription
  • Changes in physical appearance
  • Financial challenges
  • Reduced appetite
  • Taking the drug together with alcohol to enhance the effects

What Happens if You Stop Taking Cymbalta Abruptly?

Those who attempt to decrease their dosage or stop using Cymbalta often suffer from unpleasant withdrawal symptoms also referred to as discontinuation-emergent adverse events (DEAEs) that may last weeks or even months.

The intensity of Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms has led some people to continue taking the drug despite their desire to stop. As a result, it creates a cycle of dependency in which users develop a tolerance to the drug and need to take more and more of it to achieve the desired effects.

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Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms (Common & Severe)

Your brain must adapt to decreased amounts of serotonin and norepinephrine after you stop taking Cymbalta. In this case, the brain may take days or weeks to adjust to its new normal. 

These adjustments may produce symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Pins and needles
  • Anxiety

Severe effects of Cymbalta withdrawal include:

  • Suicidal thoughts (increasing the risk of dangerous behavior)
  • Electric shock like sensations known as brain zaps
  • Mood swings that suddenly transform irritation into rage 
  • Seizures 
  • Muscle spasms or tremors

How Long After Stopping Cymbalta Do Withdrawal Symptoms Start?

Symptoms of duloxetine withdrawal typically appear within two to four days of stopping use and can last up to a few weeks. According to research, most reported withdrawal symptoms of Cymbalta are often mild to moderate.5

The likelihood of having Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms while using serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like duloxetine or venlafaxine varies based on the: 

  • Amount of time a patient has been on the drug
  • The dosage they are taking
  • Their medical history

Due to the way duloxetine interacts with serotonin and norepinephrine receptors in the brain, patients who have been taking it for at least four weeks are at risk of suffering withdrawal symptoms.

While many people experience withdrawal symptoms after they stop taking Cymbalta, many patients are unaware of this until their doctor tells them. This is unlike medications that induce clear physical dependencies, such as central nervous system stimulants or opiate pain relievers such as oxycodone or morphine.

If you've been taking Cymbalta for more than four weeks, you'll need to gradually lower your dosage with the help of a healthcare expert to avoid or minimize withdrawal symptoms, commonly known as Cymbalta discontinuation syndrome.

How Long Do Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

As stated earlier, Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms can last up to a week. This is based on a study investigating the symptoms following abrupt discontinuation of Cymbalta medical treatment in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).6 

The study found that 44.3 percent of the patients experienced withdrawal symptoms within two to four days and lasted a week. However, some patients still experienced withdrawal symptoms for weeks. 

Most short-term withdrawal adverse effects may persist up to 6 weeks, but the drug's half-life can affect this. Although data on these instances are scarce, chronic withdrawal problems may produce symptoms that linger for months.

How Dangerous is Cymbalta Withdrawal?

The withdrawal symptoms of Cymbalta may be unpleasant, but the good news is that they will rarely cause any adverse health effects. However, if you have stopped taking this drug and are experiencing unusual or worsening symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, reach out to your doctor.

Knowing how to minimize and manage the symptoms of Cymbalta withdrawal may help a person in addiction recovery to prevent a relapse.

Is it Safe to Withdraw From Cymbalta Alone?

You may experience severe withdrawal symptoms if you stop using Cymbalta. As a result, Cymbalta should never be discontinued or tapered down without first consulting a doctor. 

If you suffer adverse effects as a result of the withdrawal process, keep in mind that they are just a transient reaction to a change in your brain chemistry.

Seeking medical and social assistance, using over-the-counter medicines to relieve symptoms, and being honest about how you're feeling may go a long way in ensuring a successful recovery. Your doctor can always adjust your taper if your withdrawal symptoms become too much to bear.

Detox & Treatment Options for Cymbalta Addiction

Although it's difficult to predict how long Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms may last, a medical detox program is the safest way to quit using the drug. An expert doctor will be able to give you appropriate Cymbalta therapy and progressive tapering, as well as detox medications tailored to your specific needs.

Despite the fact that a Cymbalta detox program can successfully and safely wean a person off the medication, the patient may choose to continue therapy with a rehab program. Since Cymbalta is not categorized as an addictive prescription drug, many individuals who misuse it also use other substances such as prescription medications or alcohol.

Using Cymbalta, alcohol, or other addictive drugs to deal with life's stresses is a behavioral issue that requires counseling and professional treatment. A successful addiction treatment and counseling program, whether inpatient or outpatient, can address the underlying problems that lead to substance misuse behaviors.

Inpatient Vs. Outpatient Cymbalta Addiction Therapy

Enrolling in a treatment program also allows individuals to stay in a secure and sober environment for a longer period. This promotes physical and mental recovery and increases the chances of forming healthy habits and behaviors.

A typical rehab program for managing Cymbalta addiction may include the following:

  • Chemical dependency education
  • Relapse prevention strategies
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Life skills development
  • 12-Step Program work

A person recovering from Cymbalta misuse or polysubstance addiction may participate in either a residential or outpatient treatment program.

The residential Cymbalta rehab program is an inpatient program that offers gender-specific addiction therapy, sober living spaces, and a structured daily schedule to individuals suffering from addiction. Patients in Cymbalta rehab reside on-site for the length of their therapy.

On the other hand, an outpatient Cymbalta rehab program offers recovery support and behavioral therapy in a less structured setting. In this case, patients attend a series of group sessions and are allowed to live at home, work, and go to school while undergoing therapy.

The majority of individuals who need medical therapy for Cymbalta withdrawal do not require the rigorous treatment provided by a medical professional in a residential rehab facility. 

However, for someone who misuses several medications, including Cymbalta, or has a history of substance addiction issues, an outpatient treatment program may be very beneficial.

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Resources

MORE
LESS

Cymbalta (Duloxetine),” Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: When Worry Gets Out of Control” National Institute of Health (NIH)

Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors: A Pharmacological Comparison,” National Institute of Health (NIH), March 2014

Cymbalta- duloxetine hydrochloride capsule, delayed release,” U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM)

Symptoms following abrupt discontinuation of duloxetine treatment in patients with major depressive disorder,” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

Symptoms following abrupt discontinuation of duloxetine treatment in patients with major depressive disorder,” Journal of Affective Disorders, December 2005

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