Prescription drugs are invaluable tools for the treatment of illnesses of both the body and the mind; however, they are also often abused for recreational purposes or otherwise which results in the development of worsening or additional medical issues for those who are already suffering. Depression is an especially difficult illness to get under control due to the way it impacts the daily lives of those who suffer from it. Exacerbating this issue is the fact that depression often leads sufferers to self-medicating with various substances in an attempt to control their thoughts and moods.
Depression and Substance Abuse
Depression and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand. According to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, those who have ever suffered from mental illness in their lives consume roughly 69 percent of the nation’s alcohol, 84 percent of all the cocaine, and 68 percent of all cigarettes. Studies like these have shown that there is a direct link between substance abuse and mental depression.
Depression is a mental illness that often occurs with a substance abuse disorder. The relationship between these disorders is cyclical and bi-directional. In other words, those who suffer from substance abuse disorders are more likely to develop depressive disorders and vice versa. Furthermore, the cyclical nature of these disorders means they often feed into each other and create a feedback cycle where each disorder ramps up in severity in tandem. The worse the depression gets, the more tempting drug abuse is, and the more users abuse drugs, the more depressed they become.
This can be especially worrisome as most patients who suffer from depression are prescribed antidepressants which can be quite dangerous if used improperly.
What are the Signs of Depression?
The link between depression and substance abuse has been well established. However, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate the symptoms of substance abuse with the symptoms of depression. No two people experience depression in exactly the same way, but there are many common signs that someone may be suffering from depression. Some of the common signs are a general lack of enthusiasm for life, lethargy which can often be confused for laziness, or a quickness to anger due to increased irritability.
Losing interest in things that were previously found to be enjoyable happens often in those suffering from depression. Depression can also cause changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Many who are depressed also experience feelings of guilt or despair. Depression can also lead to difficulty concentrating and a lower tolerance for frustration. A lot of people suffering from depression feel tired all the time and tend to sleep fitfully without ever getting much rest.
Depression can also lead to suicidal ideation. Suicidal ideation has stages of severity associated with it that begin with the general thought of killing oneself. This idea can be further examined to the point where the person suffering from depression begins to fantasize or research different ways to kill themselves and may eventually result in more concrete plans for suicide being created. One of the biggest warning signs of suicidal ideation is planning not only how to do it, but also when.
Depression can be a debilitating illness that makes all aspects of life feel painful and burdensome. If you believe you or someone you know suffering from depression, you should seek professional assistance. There are many therapies and medications available for the treatment of depression. One of the more common prescriptions issued to those suffering from depression is Effexor.
What is Effexor?
Effexor is the name brand version of the generic drug called venlafaxine. It is most often prescribed for treating adults suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Panic Disorder (PD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) with or without agoraphobia. In addition to these uses, Effexor has been prescribed off label in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy and migraine prophylaxis. Effexor has also been tested and shown promise in clinical trials for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Effexor is a capsule pill which is ingested orally. The modern version of Effexor is Effexor XR (XR standing for extended-release) and is a formulation which is most often taken once a day. The Effexor XR formulation proved to be effective while reducing the likelihood of nausea to occur when taking Effexor.
Effexor acts on the patient’s brain as a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). The drug attempts to restore the natural balance of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain by blocking receptors or these neurotransmitters which are associated with anxiety and depression. Effexor, like other SNRIs, affects the brain chemistry of the patient by changing the communication in brain nerve cell circuitry which is responsible for mood regulation.
Obviously, drugs, especially ones which alter someone’s brain chemistry, can sometimes result in unintended side effects.
What are the Side Effects of Effexor?
The most common side effects that are associated with SNRIs like Effexor are:
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
Other side effects associated with Effexor and most other SNRIs are:
- Changes in sexual function such as erectile dysfunction, anorgasmia, reduced libido
- Loss of appetite
Venlafaxine (Effexor) has been linked with numerous potential side effects of varying degrees of severity and commonality. The most common side effects of Effexor are headache and nausea. The Effexor XR formulation helped to reduce the occurrence and severity of nausea symptoms, but they are still present in many cases. These side effects tend to occur more often and with more severity when patients first begin venlafaxine therapy as well as when they increase their dosage.
Effexor has been linked with some serious side effects which you should alert your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Bruising easily
- Wounds that bleed too much or heal slowly
- Decreased interest in sex or sexual ability
- Muscle cramps
- General weakness
- Tremors or shaking
Medical help should be sought immediately if you exhibit any of the following symptoms while taking Effexor:
- Chest pain
- Extreme headaches
- Black or bloody stools
- Shortness of breath
- A persistent cough
- Vomit with the appearance of coffee grounds
- Painful redness or swelling of the eyes
- Widened pupils
- Changes in vision such as blurriness
Effexor may also increase serotonin levels and in rare cases can cause a very serious condition called serotonin syndrome or serotonin toxicity. This risk is increased in patients who are also taking other drugs which increase serotonin. This is an example of why it’s imperative doctors are kept up to date on any medications the patient is currently taking.
If you or someone you know is taking Effexor you should seek medical help immediately if they are exhibiting any of the following symptoms:
- Fast or erratic heartbeat
- Severe dizziness
- Loss of coordination
- Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting that is severe
- Muscle twitching
- Sudden fever
- Atypical agitation or restlessness
A serious allergic reaction is also possible though rare. Seek medical help immediately if you notice signs of a serious allergic reaction such as rash, itching, swelling (especially of the throat, face, or tongue), severe dizziness, or difficulty breathing.
Is Effexor Addictive?
While Effexor and other SNRIs like it are considered to not be physically habit-forming chemicals, there is always the potential for psychological dependencies to form in relation to any substances or even activities. Effexor addiction can come about as a result of the feeling of dependence upon the drug to cope with bad moods. Users may believe that taking additional doses of the medication will help them overcome especially bad bouts of depression or might help them reach elevated states of elation.
Misuse of prescription drugs can be a very serious issue that can result in severe and potentially life-threatening issues. All medications should be taken exactly as prescribed by your physician. Substance abuse places you at serious risk of endangering your health.
Can Effexor Be Abused?
It’s true when they say that too much of anything can be a bad thing. This is especially the case when it comes to substances like prescription medication. These substances are controlled and only provided under the explicit direction of trained physicians due to the potential danger they can pose to those who use the drug in ways it was not intended to be used. Effexor abuse is not something to be taken lightly.
Consuming more than the prescribed dosage of Effexor or any other SNRI can result in fatal overdoses occurring. With Effexor in particular, overdoses can occur which cause increased heart rate, changes in consciousness (ranging from drowsiness to comas), vomiting, and seizures. Effexor overdose can also lead to low blood pressure, vertigo, toxicity from a chemical buildup in dying muscle cells, liver cell death, slowed heart rhythms, electrocardiogram (EKG) changes, and death. The risk of fatal overdoses with Effexor is greater than the risk with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Effexor abuse increases the risk of serious side effects occurring. Furthermore, consuming alcohol while taking Effexor can further exacerbate potential side effects and health issues. Effexor should never be taken recreationally or in ways that aren’t explicitly prescribed by the physician. Effexor abuse increases the risk of suffering from the condition of serotonin toxicity or serotonin syndrome. Effexor abuse may also increase the severity of withdrawal symptoms like venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome when stopping the medication abruptly.
What is Venlafaxine Discontinuation Syndrome?
Most antidepressants can lead to discontinuation symptoms when the user abruptly stops taking the medication or tapers off too quickly. Effexor (venlafaxine) and paroxetine pose an increased chance of causing discontinuation syndrome due to their relatively short half-lives. Venlafaxine is particularly notorious for causing severe discontinuation symptoms. The likelihood of suffering from venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome is further increased in patients who take large amounts of Effexor or who have taken it for long periods of time.
Venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome can cause many withdrawal-like symptoms that make for a miserable time and can even pose a health risk to the patient. This list is not exhaustive, but these are some of the more common symptoms associated with venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome.
Possible physical symptoms of venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome are:
- Dry mouth
- Flu-like symptoms
Possible neurological symptoms of venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome are:
- Dizziness, vertigo
- Fasciculation (twitching)
- Impaired coordination and balance
Possible psychological symptoms of venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome are:
- Dysphoric mood
- Hypomania (racing thoughts)
The best way to avoid Effexor withdrawal is to take the medication only as prescribed and to gradually taper off of the medication under a doctor’s guidance. If withdrawal symptoms occur anyway, there are some medications that can be prescribed to help reduce the acute symptoms. Withdrawal is not something to be taken lightly as the symptoms can place the patient in serious danger if they are not carefully looked after and provided with medical care. Effexor abuse drastically increases the likelihood of suffering from withdrawal.
What are the Signs of Effexor Abuse?
It’s not always readily apparent when someone is abusing substances. Many addicts are functional and have learned to hide their addiction from others. Substance abuse symptoms can vary depending on which substances the abuser tends to use.
Some of the most common behavioral signs that someone is hiding an addiction or a substance abuse problem are:
- A sudden change in personality or preferences
- General irritability or lack of patience
- Inability to stick to a schedule or show up on time
- Disinterest in activities that were previously appealing
- Unexplained financial troubles
- Drop-in performance at school or work
- General evasive behavior or unwillingness to answer questions
Physical signs that someone may be abusing substances are:
- Bloodshot eyes, abnormal pupil size
- Sudden changes in weight
- Strange odors on body, clothing, or breath
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Deterioration of physical appearance
- Development of poor grooming habits
Signs that may be specific to Effexor abuse in particular are:
- Difficulty remembering things
- Stomach cramps
- Increased suicidal ideation
- Sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction or anorgasmia
- Panic attacks
- Strange dreams
Sudden changes in a person’s character or personality may indicate a person is suffering from a drug abuse problem. Spotting these problems can be difficult in those who are taking Effexor as Effexor is most commonly prescribed as a medication for depression and many symptoms of depression overlap with signs of Effexor abuse.
It’s important to notify friends and family when someone is suffering from depression in addition to letting them know what medications are being taken and the possible side effects associated with them. Creating a safety net of friends and family can help with substance abuse issues and with general depression as well so it’s always best to keep others close and let them know what’s happening in your life.
Can Effexor Addiction Be Treated?
Despite the fact that Effexor is not typically considered to be habit-forming, continued use of any substance can result in users feeling a dependence upon the drug to function. Effexor use has been linked to withdrawal-like symptoms caused by venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome. Venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome is more likely to occur and with more severe symptoms in those who abuse Effexor or have used high doses for a long period of time.
Because of this, it’s imperative that someone who is discontinuing their use of Effexor does so in a gradual way under the guidance of trained medical professionals. Quitting Effexor and getting rid of your dependence may be difficult and even painful, especially at first. There are some medications such as fluoxetine that can help reduce the severity of the symptoms and help ease the process of weaning off of Effexor.
Some of the symptoms of Effexor withdrawal can pose a health risk during the first few days of recovery. Due to this, it’s important to have a support system around you and medical assistance ready to aid you if necessary. Recovering from an Effexor addiction is made much easier when provided with professional care and guidance to help the addict through the worst of it. It may be in the patient’s best interest to seek out an addiction treatment center to help them recover from their Effexor addiction.
Find Treatment Centers Near You
Finding a professional treatment center doesn’t need to be an arduous task. There are many recovery clinics out there that are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and expertise necessary to help drastically increase your odds of successful rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction or substance abuse, seek help immediately. Every day of substance abuse poses a serious risk to the health of the patient, but it’s never too late to seek help. The first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem and reaching out for help.
WeRecover can help you find a recovery center close by that can help get you through the worst parts of withdrawal and then equip you with the tools you need to find continued success on your road to recovery. Get in touch with the experts at WeRecover today to get the recovery process started today.