The medical industry plays a large role in modern society. There are a vast number of medications available that help treat everything from hair loss and acne to chronic pain and depression. It’s difficult to find people who aren’t taking some sort of prescription for one thing or another these days. This means drugs are readily available in just about every household.
While medications play an important role in helping people live happier and healthier lives, the misuse and abuse of medication are also drastically impacting today’s society. It’s important that we do everything we can to ensure medication is used only as prescribed to help ensure the safety of everyone. Substance abuse is a big problem in the United States and so is mental illness. The fact is that substance abuse and illness are directly related to one another.
Depression and Substance Abuse
According to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, people who have suffered from mental illness at some point in their life are responsible for the consumption of 69 percent of the nation’s alcohol, 84 percent of the nation’s cocaine, and 68 percent of the nation’s cigarettes. These kinds of studies have proven there is a link between depression and substance abuse. This link is considered to be bi-directional, which means those suffering from depression are likely to resort to substance abuse, and those who habitually abuse substances are more likely to become depressed.
This relationship is cyclical and creates feedback where someone is depressed so they abuse substances and then that substance abuse results in a deepening depression as the abuse has worsening effects on the mental and physical wellbeing. As the depression gets worse, so does the temptation to abuse drugs, and vice versa.
This issue is especially troublesome considering many sufferers of depression are prescribed antidepressants that can be particularly dangerous to a person’s health if used improperly. One of the more common antidepressants prescribed in the United States is Effexor.
What is Effexor?
Effexor is the non-generic form of a drug called venlafaxine. Effexor (venlafaxine) is typically prescribed for the treatment of adults who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Panic Disorder (PD), and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) with or without agoraphobia. Aside from being prescribed for these conditions, Effexor has also seen use in off label treatments of migraine prophylaxis and diabetic neuropathy. Furthermore, clinical trials with Effexor have been conducted which showed its promise in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Effexor is packaged in a capsule pill which is taken orally. The original formulation of Effexor has been discontinued in the United States and replaced by Effexor XR (Extended Release). Effexor works on the human brain by blocking the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters. Specifically, Effexor functions as a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) which attempts to restore the natural chemical balance of serotonin and norepinephrine in the patient’s brain. SNRIs like Effexor modify the chemistry inside the brain by altering communication pathways in the brain nerve cell circuits that are responsible for mood regulation.
What is the Dosage of Effexor?
When patients are prescribed Effexor (or generic venlafaxine), they are typically started with the lowest recommended dosage of 75 milligrams per day which is generally taken in 2-3 separate doses with food throughout the day. Starting with the lowest recommended dose will help the patient adjust and discover if they will have any adverse effects from the medication. Depending on tolerability and severity of the depressive condition, increases doses can be given in increments of 75 milligrams per day up to a maximum of 375 milligrams per day. Dose increases should be made at intervals of no less than 4 days.
Effexor XR, on the other hand, is administered as a single dose with food and should be taken either in the morning or the evening at approximately the same time each day. Capsules should be swallowed whole with fluid and never crushed, chewed, divided, or dissolved in water. An alternative method for ingestion is opening the capsule and sprinkling the entire contents onto a spoonful of applesauce. Otherwise, dosage recommendations remain the same for Effexor and Effexor XR formulations with 75 milligrams per day recommended as a starting point and 375 milligrams per day considered to be the maximum recommended dose.
Effexor doses may need to be modified on a case by case basis, especially in patients with hepatic or renal impairment. When discontinuing the use of Effexor or Effexor XR, a gradual reduction in dose is recommended whenever possible. Effexor is not recommended for use in all patients.
Are there People that Shouldn’t Take Effexor?
Aside from cases of intolerability of the medication, Effexor is generally not recommended for use in anyone under the age of 25. Studies have shown reductions in the effectiveness of the medication for young adults and children. Additionally, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are cautioned against the use of Effexor, especially pregnant women in their third trimester. Physicians should carefully weigh the potential risks and benefits of Effexor treatment for women who are pregnant or nursing.
Alcohol use should also be limited if not avoided completely while taking Effexor due to the chance of negative side effects becoming more likely when taken with alcohol.
What are the Side Effects of Effexor?
Effexor has been linked with numerous side effects of varying degrees of severity and likelihood of occurring. Most commonly, Effexor use can result in headaches and nausea. The chances for developing these symptoms is increased when first starting Effexor therapy or when doses are increased initially. Effexor XR was formulated to, among other reasons, reduce the likelihood of causing nausea. Effexor XR has a reduced chance of causing headaches and nausea, but the risk is still apparent in this formulation.
Effexor is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), and like most SNRIs, it can have the following side effects:
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
Other side effects often associated with SNRIs like Effexor but with slightly less commonality are:
- Somnolence (drowsiness)
- Changes in sexual function such as erectile dysfunction, inability to orgasm, or lessened interest in sex
- Loss of appetite
Effexor has specifically been linked with less common but more serious side effects such as:
- Bruising/bleeding easily
- Muscle cramping
- General weakness
Emergency medical help should be sought if you or someone you know is taking Effexor and begins exhibiting the following symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Black or bloody stool
- Intense headaches
- Shortness of breath
- A persistent cough
- Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Widened pupils
- Troubles with vision
- Painful redness or swelling of the eyes
On rare occasions, patients may have a serious allergic reaction to venlafaxine (Effexor). Immediate medical help should be sought when developing symptoms such as rash, itching, swelling (of the throat, face, or tongue especially), severe dizziness, or difficulty breathing.
Effexor, in rare cases, may increase serotonin levels and cause a serious condition known as serotonin syndrome or serotonin toxicity. The risk of this occurring is increased when taking Effexor in addition to other drugs which increase serotonin. As such, it is imperative that physicians are made aware of any and all medications the patient is currently taking. Doctors need to have a complete understanding of the patient’s medical history including past and current prescriptions to ensure issues like these are avoided whenever possible.
Some of the known symptoms of serotonin toxicity are:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Extreme dizziness
- Loss of coordination
- Severe nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Unexplained fever
- Unusual agitation or restlessness
- Muscle twitching
If these symptoms are exhibited by someone who is taking Effexor or any other serotonin influencing medication, immediate medical help should be sought.
The likelihood of negative side effects to occur is increased when patients consume alcohol or other drugs while taking Effexor. Taking Effexor in any way that is not explicitly prescribed by the physician can also increase the risk of developing harmful side effects. Effexor should only be taken as prescribed by your medical professional.
Is Effexor Addictive?
Effexor is not considered to be physically addictive. Having said that, addiction doesn’t always require a chemical dependence to be present. It is possible to establish an emotional dependence on just about anything, including non-addictive medications. Taking additional doses that were not explicitly prescribed in cases of extreme distress can be symptomatic of emotional dependence.
It may be tempting for those taking Effexor to take additional doses when they are feeling especially down or want to elevate their mood, but this is dangerous behavior that could lead to the formation of habitual use and emotional addiction. Abusing Effexor can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.
What are the Symptoms of Effexor Abuse?
Too much of anything can be a bad thing and this is no less the case for prescription medications. This is even more true for SNRIs like Effexor which directly impact the chemistry of the patient’s brain. The human brain is an incredibly complex and delicate structure that controls and dictates every aspect of our personality and functions. Toying around with the brain by using drugs like Effexor in ways that are not prescribed is incredibly dangerous.
Fatal overdoses of Effexor are possible. In fact, Effexor, in particular, has an increased risk of fatality when overdosing when compared to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Effexor overdose can result in increased heart rate, excessive vomiting, changes in consciousness such as extreme drowsiness and even coma, seizure, and death.
Effexor overdose can also cause blood pressure to drop to dangerous levels, extreme vertigo, toxicity in muscles from dying cells, liver cell death, electrocardiogram (EKG) changes and slowed heart rhythms. The risk of overdose is much higher when users abuse Effexor and don’t strictly follow the guidelines for its use set out by their physicians. Effexor should never be taken in a way that wasn’t explicitly prescribed by a trained physician.
Abusing Effexor increases the likelihood for serotonin toxicity or serotonin syndrome to occur which can be extremely dangerous to the patient’s health. Additionally, Effexor abuse can increase the likelihood and severity of withdrawal-like symptoms called venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome which occurs when a patient stops taking Effexor.
What is Venlafaxine Discontinuation Syndrome?
SNRIs like Effexor can all result in discontinuation syndrome which presents as withdrawal-like symptoms when patients abruptly stop taking the medication or taper off too quickly. Paroxetine and venlafaxine (Effexor) have an increased chance for causing discontinuation syndrome due to their relatively short half-lives when compared to other antidepressants. The chances of suffering from venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome are increased in patients who take Effexor over a long period of time or who take large amounts of it.
Venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome can present various psychological, physical, and neurological symptoms.
Psychological symptoms associated with venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome are:
- Dysphoric mood
- Hypomania (racing thoughts)
Physical symptoms associated with venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome are:
- Dry mouth
- Flu-like symptoms
Neurological symptoms associated with venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome are:
- Dizziness, vertigo
- Fasciculation (twitching)
- Impaired coordination and balance
Avoiding Effexor withdrawal is not always possible, especially in those who have taken large doses over long periods of time; however, the best way to avoid or lessen the symptoms of venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome is to slowly taper off of the medication under the guidance of a medical professional. Another way to potentially avoid withdrawal symptoms from Effexor is to never abuse the drug and only take it exactly as prescribed.
However, even when Effexor is taken exactly as prescribed, there is still a chance for withdrawal-like symptoms to occur. Some users experience acute symptoms that can be incredibly uncomfortable or even potentially dangerous to the patient’s health. In cases of acute Effexor withdrawal, it is recommended that users seek medical help in a hospital or recovery center. Acute symptoms can require close monitoring and medical aid such as administered doses of fluoxetine which can help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
What are the Signs of Addiction?
Addiction and depression are common companions and it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate the signs of one from the other. The most common signs of addiction are:
- Sudden changes in behavior or personality
- Worsening performance at school or work
- Inability to adhere to a schedule
- Lack of desire to attend social gatherings
- Evasive or furtive behavior
- Quick to upset and gets frustrated easily
- Unexplained financial difficulties
Addiction can cause damage to not just the addict, but also those around them. Addicts often push their loved ones away out of shame and guilt. Drugs can impact the physical and mental wellbeing of an addict in profound ways and result in drastic changes in personality. Addiction can make people extremely fragile and volatile. Mental and physical health are inherently linked and equally vital for the overall happiness and well-being of each individual. This sudden change in behavior drives people away which can push addicts further into their addiction and depression.
The cyclic nature of how addiction and depression can feedback into one another creates a ticking time bomb that could go off at a moment’s notice. It can be difficult if not impossible to pull yourself out of the rut of addiction and depression. The first step towards recovery can be the most difficult, but it’s also the most important one. There is no shame in admitting that you have a problem. It’s imperative that those suffering from addiction seek help.
Finding Help With Addiction
Addiction can be a crippling affliction that has detrimental effects on a person’s health and happiness. Depression is very common in those suffering from addiction, which can make it difficult to ask others for help or guidance. It’s important to know that there is help available for those suffering from addiction. Recovery centers and rehabilitation clinics are nearby and are equipped with the tools and information necessary to ensure you find success in your pursuit of recovery.
Each day that passes for an addict increases the risk of that person doing lasting harm to themselves. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem and reaching out for help, and the sooner the better. However, it’s never too late to get help and start working towards a better life. WeRecover is ready to help you find a recovery center near you that can help increase the chances of successful recovery.
If you believe you or someone you know has an addiction, contact WeRecover today. They will help guide you through the process of recovery one step at a time. Addiction centers can help get you through the worst parts of recovery and equip you with the tools you need to find continued success on your path to recovery.