Effexor side effects and benefits by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
March 26 2017

Effexor, also called venlafaxine, is an antidepressant made by Wyeth, based in Madison, N.J. Deaths have occurred from Effexor overdose. Although effective in many users, doctors should consider natural substances used for depression remedy such as 5-HTP or SAM-e or St. John's wort before resorting to prescription medications.

Effexor side effects
There have been reports of deaths and serious injuries in patients who overdosed on Effexor, also known as venlafaxine, predominantly when taken with alcohol and/or other drugs. To limit the risk of overdose, doctors should prescribe the "smallest quantity of capsules consistent with good patient management," Wyeth wrote in a letter to doctors. Overdosing on any antidepressant can be fatal. But there may be a greater risk of deadly overdose associated with Effexor than with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors -- antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and Lexapro.

Pharmacopsychiatry. 2014. Acute Bilateral Parotitis Occurring during Venlafaxine Titration in an Adolescent Female with Major Depression. Parotitis (inflammation of a parotid gland) is a fairly uncommon adverse drug reaction of psychopharmacological treatment. Here, we report on an acute bilateral parotitis, which was associated with titration of venlafaxine in a 20-year-old female suffering from a severe depressive episode. The parotitis recovered quickly with oral penicillin and was most likely caused by bacteria assumed to spread from oral flora into Stensen's duct as a complication of pronounced venlafaxine-induced xerostomia.

For some patients seeking relief from frequent tension headaches, the antidepressant Effexor XR may reduce the number of days with headache. Dr. N. P. Zissis, at Wyeth Hellas in Athens, recruited patients with tension headaches that occurred more often than on five days per month. The 60 participants were randomly assigned to Effexor XR or an inactive placebo. They could also take aspirin or paracetamol / acetaminophen but no other pain killers. At the end of the 12-week trial, the average reduction in the numbers of days with headache was significantly greater in the Effoxor XR group (45 percent) compared with the placebo group (16 percent). Cephalalgia, 2007.
   Dr. Sahelian comments: I wonder if 5-HTP would have a similar effect.

Interactions with herbs, caution, danger
The Brazilian Journal of Pulmonology and international databases. 2014. Simultaneous interstitial pneumonitis and cardiomyopathy induced by venlafaxine. Venlafaxine is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor used as an antidepressant. Interindividual variability and herb-drug interactions can lead to drug-induced toxicity. We report the case of a 35-year-old female patient diagnosed with synchronous pneumonitis and acute cardiomyopathy attributed to venlafaxine. The patient sought medical attention due to dyspnea and dry cough that started three months after initiating treatment with venlafaxine for depression. The patient was concomitantly taking Centella asiatica and Fucus vesiculosus as phytotherapeutic agents.

I have been taking 300 mg of Effexor for four years. During the past few weeks, it is not as effective for my chronic depression as it had been. I would like to withdraw and switch to the herbal 5-HTP serotonin precursor as a more effective alternative and stop being on a drug. I am 88 years of age. You suggested for a patient taking 225 mg Effexor daily to reduce that by 75 mg for one week. In my case, would stop taking 150 mg for one week enable a safe, problem-free withdrawal?
   A. Each person is completely different in their reaction to withdrawals or switching to 5-HTP, but in general it should be done gradually and with medical supervision.

Q. A few weeks ago I had emailed you regarding bad side effects of excessive menstrual bleeding, poor control of depression when I added 5-htp and tryptophan to my Effexor treatment. I spoke to the School of Pharmacy at my local university and they advised that my heavy bleeding would have been caused by taking 5HTP, tryptophan and Effexor. They said this combination was too much and that I shouldn't be taking all 3. They said if I wanted to take either 5HTP or Tryptophan with Effexor, Tryptophan seems to have the best results for boosting depressive symptoms.  Since I have been doing this my period this month is fine and my depression is wonderful. Seems Tryptophan with Effexor is better than 5HTP with Effexor for me. I'm only on low doses of both to avoid excess serotonin though - 500 mg Tryptophan and 75 mg Effexor / day. Just wanted to let you know that your product is in fact very good but I was not using it in the right manner or amount. It's often a matter of trial and error but thought this info may help somebody else. I don't wish my name to be made public though if you choose to use this info. Thanks for your time and a best tryptophan product.

Q. I am a 39 year old female on Effexor for clinical depression. Libido is quite low and am interested in Passion Rx. Is it safe/effective to take in addition to Effexor, and if so, does it matter if I take it with the yohimbe or not?
   A. We don't recommend the use of Passion Rx the same day as an antidepressant such as Effexor since unexpected side effects could occur when potent drugs and herbs are combined. If your doctor approves and feels you can skip the Effexor on certain days if your depression is under control, you could try half a capsule of either Passion Rx formula on the days that you are not taking the Effexor. However, with this low dose, it may take a few days to notice a sexual enhancement.

Q. I'm currently taking Effexor 150mg a day for anxiety, I understand anxiety and depression go hand and hand - I've been on this medication for a few years now and I want to try a natural alternative. I'm 36 years old and I have a benign tremor. Taking Effexor I feel increases my tremor so my Dr. recommend I take propanolol to subside the tremors. I'm simply not happy with side effects from Effexor, I want to stop taking it and see who I'm with out it. I'm considering taking Sam-E, but before I ordered it from your website, what do you recommend my dosage be and how do I transition from Effexor to Sam-E?

Q. I take 150 of Effexor xr daily, have no sex drive. i am 51 will Passion Rx be a good product for me?
   A.  It is difficult to predict the reaction to the combination of Passion Rx with Effexor antidepressant medication. Effexor is known to cause loss of sex drive. Passion Rx can enhance sex drive but it may be more difficult since there is always the inhibition going on from the Effexor drug. If your doctor approves, you could try half a capsule of Passion Rx every other day, or two days on, one day off. And be patient for 2 weeks to one month. If you find you are having trouble sleeping, reduce the frequency of use of Passion Rx. Mind Power Rx may be taken at one capsule during the days when Passion Rx is not being used. If you notice any side effects with the combination, stop the herbs and resume at a lower dosage after two days. Your doctor may also advise you to perhaps reduce the dosage of the Effexor by half on the days that you take Passion Rx or Mind Power Rx or Prostate Power Rx which also helps with sexual enhancement. Or better yet if your doctor says ok to skip the Effexor on the day that you take Passion Rx, that would even be better.

Q. I have been taking Effexor since 1997. I started on 75 mg. I have gradually gone up on the dosages 150 mg. and now 225 mg. I have had many bouts of depression over the years. At Age 27 and i am now 61. I suffered many many years without taking anything until 1997 I had to give in and start on Effexor XR 75 mg. I have heard amino acids and another natural supplement is good together. I am wondering if I can cut back gradually on Effexor XR 225 and get on with the amino acids and natural supplements. I am very sleepy and fatigued. I am finding it hard to cope with my chores like this.
   A. It is possible that natural supplements could help. See the depression link at the top of the page. Each person is unique in terms of which supplements they respond to and in what dosage.

Q. I really like your conservative approach to supplements. I use Tryptophan and was recently put on Effexor 75mgm for severe depression (sudden onset--adjustment disorder) and the Dr. did not know about Tryptophan or if I could take them together?
   A. Tryptophan supplement use leads to enhanced serotonin production. Effexor also influences serotonin levels. Some people may tolerate the combination, others may not. Much depends on the dosages used. If the dosages are very low, they may be used together, but there is a wide range of response among individuals and each case is handled differently.

Q. Thanks for your honesty and responsible behavior on your website and in your newsletters. Very rare indeed especially when the comments are coming from someone that sells the products they are discussing. I can honestly say that I donít think I have ever read anything from a supplements related company that wasnít somewhat cluttered with their bias and desire to sell their products. You would be the exception. Thank You.
   I have a brief question. Iím sure you have probably already covered this so please accept my apology. I am going to try Passion RX even though I am not having any real problems. Iím 48 years old and take 37 mg of Effexor nightly. Iíve tried to stop taking it for a long time but it makes me too sick even when I wean off slowly. Itís the lowest possible dose so I guess I will deal with it until Iím able to get off of it. Iíve been taking it for about 10 years. What I notice is that my libido is pretty low and even though I do orgasm it is not very strong. I do not have a problem getting or sustaining an erection. My question is do you think that Passion Rx would benefit me as far as a stronger orgasm and increased libido? I know this may be hard to answer but I would appreciate your thoughts. I am currently not taking any other vitamins although I do drink Xango mangosteen daily.
   A. It is difficult to predict the response of any individual when taking a supplement, particularly when that supplement is combined with a medication. Effexor does decrease sexual interest and libido and could decrease sensation. Passion Rx helps in this area. However, unexpected reactions can occur when combining medications and herbs. If your doctor approves, you can start on a low dosage of about a quarter of a capsule (they can be easily opened by pulling on each side of the capsule) and use it 2 days on and 1 day off and be vigilant for any potential interactions. After a week, if needed, the dosage can be increased to a third of a capsule. It may take a couple of weeks or much longer for the results to occur but it is a safer approach.

My husband has been taking Effexor XR 75 mg. for about 2 months now. He decided not to take it any longer because he didn't like the way he started to feel. He had taken it before, for about the same amount of time. But this time he's getting some side effects. He's getting those "brain shocks" and he's irritable. Could snap at anyone for little things. This is only the second day he's gone without taking Effexor. He did some looking on line and found a lot of people are saying that taking Benadryl 25mg, valerian root and omega 3's help with the withdrawals. I was wondering if that was true? And if you could suggest something that would be better in helping him getting rid of the withdraws. I've read that the symptoms could last up to several months. I really hope not. I just want to find something that can help him, so any suggestions will be wonderful.
    I am not able to provide specific advice but the page on natural treatment of depression may be helpful.