Physical and mental health play an equally important role in the overall well-being of an individual. In much the same way our body and mind are linked, so too is addiction and depression. Studies have shown that depression and substance abuse are often linked to one another. A report by the National Bureau of Economic Research stated that people who have suffered from mental illness at some point in their lives consume 69 percent of all alcohol, 84 percent of all cocaine, and 68 percent of all cigarettes consumed in the United States.
This staggering link between depression and substance abuse shows how these issues can feed off of one another and create spiraling cycles of illness. Breaking this cycle is the best way to dig oneself out of the hole caused by depression and substance abuse. There are many medications that have been formulated specifically for battling depression which can aid in breaking this cycle. One of the more common medications prescribed for depression in the United States is Effexor.
What is Effexor?
Effexor, also known by its generic name of venlafaxine, is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Effexor is generally prescribed for adults suffering from Panic Disorder (PD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) with or without agoraphobia. Effexor has also been prescribed for off label treatment of migraine prophylaxis and diabetic neuropathy. Furthermore, Effexor has been used to some success in clinical trials for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Effexor XR replaced the original Effexor formulation in the United States and is presented in a capsule pill which is ingested orally. Effexor XR (XR meaning Extended Release) is most often taken once a day with food. Effexor functions by acting as a neurotransmitter receptor blocker which attempts to restore a natural balance of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. By blocking the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, Effexor alters communication pathways in the brain nerve cell circuits that are responsible for mood regulation.
What are the Side Effects of Effexor?
Effexor, much like most SNRIs, is associated with a few common side effects such as:
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
The original formulation of Effexor was particularly associated with headaches and nausea. Effexor XR has been relatively successful at reducing the commonality and severity of those side effects; however, many patients still report those side effects especially when first starting their SNRI therapy or during the first days of dosage increases.
Other side effects often associated with Effexor and other SNRIs are:
- Changes in sexual function such as erectile dysfunction, anorgasmia, or reduction in libido
- Loss of appetite
Rarely, patients may experience an allergic reaction to Effexor. If you or someone you know has recently started taking Effexor and experiences any of the following symptoms, immediate medical help should be sought:
- Rash, itching
- Swelling (especially of the throat, face, or tongue)
- Difficulty breathing
- Severe dizziness
There are also rare cases where Effexor patients experience dangerously elevated levels of serotonin which is a condition known as serotonin symptom or serotonin toxicity. Serotonin toxicity is more likely to occur in patients who are taking other medications that also increase serotonin levels. Those who are experiencing symptoms of serotonin toxicity should seek immediate medical aid.
The symptoms to look out for are:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Extreme dizziness
- Loss of coordination
- Severe nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Unexplained fever
- Unusual agitation or restlessness
- Muscle twitching
This should not be taken as an exhaustive list of all possible Effexor side effects. Negative side effects of Effexor are increased in likelihood when consuming alcohol or other drugs while taking Effexor. As such, it is recommended to reduce or eliminate entirely consumption of alcohol while taking Effexor. Severity and likelihood of negative side effects are further influenced by taking Effexor in a way that is not explicitly prescribed by your physician.
Is Effexor Addictive?
Effexor is not considered to be addictive by medical professionals as far as chemical dependence is concerned. SNRIs like Effexor are not typically habit-forming; however, emotional dependence can be formed to any substance or even activity. Due to Effexor’s use as a means of reducing depression, there is a potential for patients to form an emotional reliance on Effexor to make them feel better.
This can result in people suffering from depression taking additional doses of the drug when they are feeling especially down or have a specific desire to elevate their mood. Using Effexor in a way that isn’t explicitly prescribed can be very dangerous to the user and is never advised. Even though Effexor is not considered to be addictive, it can still be abused and pose a risk to the patient.
What are the Symptoms of Effexor Abuse?
Abusing Effexor or any other SNRI risks the possibility of overdosing which can prove fatal. Effexor has an increased risk of fatal overdose when compared to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
The possible effects of Effexor overdose are:
- Excessive vomiting
- Drowsiness or coma
- Increased heart rate
- Reduced blood pressure
- Extreme vertigo
- Chemical toxicity in muscles
- Liver cell death
- Slowed heart rhythms
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) changes
The risk of overdosing from Effexor abuse is not something to be taken lightly. In addition to risking overdose, Effexor abuse increases the chances of developing serotonin toxicity. Furthermore, abusing Effexor is also linked with an increased chance of suffering from Effexor withdrawal when halting medication.
What are the Symptoms of Effexor Withdrawal?
Effexor and other SNRIs like it pose the risk of causing discontinuation syndrome. Effexor can specifically cause venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome which has symptoms that are essentially the same as withdrawal from other drugs like heroin. The odds of suffering from venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome are drastically increased by abusing Effexor. withdrawal-like symptoms occur more often in patients who take large doses of Effexor or who take Effexor for a long period of time.
Effexor withdrawal (venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome) can have physical, neurological, and psychological symptoms.
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
Psychological symptoms associated with venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome are:
- Dysphoric mood
- Hypomania (racing thoughts)
Unlike other SNRIs, Effexor (venlafaxine) poses an increased likelihood of causing withdrawal due to its relatively short half-life. Effexor withdrawal is not 100% avoidable but Effexor detox programs can increase the chance of experiencing venlafaxine discontinuation syndrome or at least reduce the severity of the symptoms and make them last for a shorter duration.
What is Effexor Detox?
The best way to avoid Effexor withdrawal is to use the drug only as prescribed by your doctor. However, there are times when even that doesn’t prevent withdrawal from occurring when abruptly halting SNRI medication. It is recommended that patients are always tapered off of Effexor slowly over time when at all possible. An evenly paced reduction in Effexor dosage over time can help mitigate or even prevent the symptoms of Effexor withdrawal.
The Effexor detox program will help wean your body off the drug over time. A medical professional can help you control the rate of your Effexor detox by providing gradually lowered doses of Effexor. It is possible to suffer from acute withdrawal symptoms even when using a weaning process. In cases such as this, medical professionals can administer drugs like fluoxetine which help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal can be extremely taxing on a person’s body and mind. Some symptoms of withdrawal are particularly dangerous for the health of the patient. As such, it’s important that Effexor detox occurs in a controlled environment where the patient has someone watching over them. Symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea can lead to extreme dehydration and make it difficult for patients to keep liquids down. This can be extremely dangerous and may require the patient to have intravenous fluids administered to them to prevent harmful levels of dehydration.
Medical professionals can administer various drugs that can help ease the severity of withdrawal symptoms while also making sure the patient is kept safe from harm. In cases of heavy Effexor use or abuse, it may be necessary to seek out professional help such as the kind that can be found at detox centers and rehabilitation clinics.
What are the Signs of Addiction?
It can oftentimes be difficult to differentiate between the signs of addiction and the signs of depression due to their overlap. This is especially difficult when the addict is diagnosed with depression and maybe addicted to or abusing the medication they were prescribed for that depression.
Most addicts have a hard time coming to terms with their own addiction or even admitting they have a problem at all. This is due to the fact that addiction can cause extreme feelings of shame and guilt. Many addicts can be really good at hiding their addiction to the point that there is no apparent problem in their life.
One of the primary contributing factors to the difficulty of discovering someone who is addicted is the fact that addiction is often something that builds up over time. Changes in the person may have been gradual enough for others or even themselves not to notice. Identifying addiction in someone that’s close to you can be difficult, but there are some signs that are generally associated with substance addiction.
Some of the most common signs of addiction are:
- Sudden changes in behavior or personality
- Poor performance at work, school, or sports
- Inability to adhere to a schedule
- Lessened interest in going to social events
- Evasive/furtive behavior
- Quick to get upset or frustrated
- Unexplained financial difficulties
Sometimes the problem isn’t knowing whether someone else is addicted, but if you yourself are addicted to a substance. If you aren’t sure whether or not you have a problem, you may want to do some self-reflection and compare your life now to how it was before using.
Here are some things worth considering which may help you decide if you are addicted:
- You find yourself struggling to maintain relationships with friends, family, or coworkers.
- You hide your drug use or lie to others about the effect it has on you.
- You have noticed a change in your appearance or weight.
- You made an entirely new set of friends with whom you do drugs.
- You find yourself searching through other people’s medicine cabinets for something to take.
- You consume alcohol with your prescribed medications or with other drugs.
- You have difficulty limiting yourself and end up using more than you originally intended to.
If you believe you or someone you know may be addicted, it’s important that you seek help immediately.
How Can I Get Help With My Addiction?
When it comes to addiction, sooner really is better. Addiction can have a drastic impact on the life of the addict and those around them. Every day you remain a hostage to your addiction is another day you could overdose. Substance abuse can have lasting effects on the addict’s physical and mental health in addition to the damage it can do to a person’s relationships. Help is available for those who seek it.
Everyone deserves to be healthy and happy and there’s nothing shameful about asking for help. Oftentimes, the most difficult step to recovery is the first one. It’s never too late to find help.
The first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem and reaching out for assistance. WeRecover makes it easy for you to find professional help for yourself or another. Contact the experts at WeRecover today to start the process of recovery and take back control of your life.