Hysteria and Self Loathing on Effexor

“I had repeatedly expressed suicidal tendencies.”

9 weeks ago I went to my doctor complaining of depression. Following a traumatic event I found myself weepy, irritable, unsociable etc – classic depression symptoms. I was prescribed Efexor 75mg. The first week was amazing – my partner and I thought it was a miracle drug. After that however things became markedly worse and I had to return to my GP. I was now suffering from states of near hysteria, self loathing, was unable to attend college and was suffering awful nightmares. All my original symptoms had worsened markedly. My dose was increased to 150 mg.

Shortly after this I started feeling suicidal and self harmed. We returned to the GP who insisted that the Efexor takes up to 8 weeks to work, and said that if I became suicidal again I was to go straight to casualty. By now I had no sex drive and my partner was unable to leave me alone when I was suffering from an ‘episode’. 2 days later we went to casualty due to suicidal thoughts and the fact that I had stockpiled all medications I could find and planned to go to a hotel to commit suicide. I was assessed by Psychiatric services where I told them everything, including my suicidal tendencies. They said that they would arrange for a community psychiatric nurse to visit me, and sent me home telling me to keep taking my Efexor. By this point I was drinking heavily with cravings for alcohol, something I have never experienced before, and my partner had found me unconscious on the floor from alcohol mixed with a sleeping tablet.

The CPN came out, assessed me and 5 days later came back to give me phone numbers for 6 month waiting lists for counseling. I continued to self harm and was now suffering from periods of intense rage, throwing furniture about to the point that my neighbors threatened to phone the police. I am usually a very mild mannered, appeasing person.

I was next given an appt with a counselor. I attended and she was so concerned about what I told her that she called the local Psychiatric Hospital and tried to have me admitted immediately. They asked if I could hang on for 4 days until the CPN could see me again. All through this I was seeing my GP at least once a week and was being told to just hang on until the Efexor kicked in. At this point I had to pick my prescription up weekly and give it to my partner as I had repeatedly expressed suicidal tendencies. I still managed to take an overdose of Efexor and was detained in hospital overnight. I requested that they hospitalize me as I was terrified, but instead was sent back to the CPN who spent half an hour with me then sent me home telling me that I had to think positive and accept responsibility.

My partner and I were scared stiff as each episode of self harm was worse than the last, and characterized by a feeling that I wasn’t in control. I had very little memory of the episode afterwards and during was premeditated enough to actually go out and purchase sharper knives to cut myself with. I was now concerned that I felt like harming others during these episodes as well. I became extremely aggressive and paranoid, imagining hidden meaning in what people said to me. I was so sure that this would end fatally that I started to prepare a will. I was still attending weekly appts and expressing the opinion that my medication was at the very least ineffective, and at the worst causing these symptoms.

4 days ago my partner left me alone for just over 2 hours. He returned to find a garbled note begging for help and hospitalization and expressing self loathing, and I was covered in blood and in shock from a multitude of wounds on my leg. I went to casualty again – the same one- where I required over 30 stitches and was sent home no questions asked. The next day I had another appt with the CPN, and his behaviour towards my partner and myself was so bad that I am making an official complaint. He attempted to pick a fight with my partner and also seemed to be daring me to get the pills I was contemplating overdosing on. That afternoon, I also had an appt with a psychiatrist. He spent 2 1/2 hours with my partner and I and told me to stop taking Efexor immediately. I was sent back to my GP where I have been prescribed another drug and told that it looks as though Efexor was the cause of 9 weeks of hell, that my partner and I don’t doubt would have ended fatally. Throughout I was told what a fantastic drug Efexor is and to keep taking it, and as a result will now be covered in scars. I have had to drop out of college as well. Certainly I was depressed and needed treatment, but I feel that someone should have listened to my concerns about my drug sooner. My GP stated that it is extremely difficult to prove that this was the Efexor or I would seriously consider suing. Now I’m just worried about the withdrawal symptoms. One of the worst things was that for a while – hours or days I would be depressed but not as bad, so we thought that this was a cycle of my moods caused by the depression.

Jennifer Pass

Effexor & Topamax

“I never want to take pills again.”

Hello all, My name is Denise and thankfully I am still alive to tell this story and hopefully help someone. I have been bulimic for 17 years, on and off but never sought treatment until 2000. My Dr. put me on Effexor. When I went back to see him I told him I couldn’t sleep he put me on Xanax. I did that for about 2 years but got tired of taking pills all the time. I went off the Effexor, and the withdrawals were horrible, headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, no appetite, but I made it.

After I stopped the meds I realized how poorly I was sleeping while I was on them because I always felt “Hyped up” mentally but physically worn out.

After about six months I got pregnant and then suffered a miscarriage. I went back on the Effexor and Xanax. Also the Dr. said Topamax was being used to treat bulimia. So then I was on 3 meds. One of the Great things about Topamax is it did help with my headaches/migraines. A few months later I stopped the Effexor again (another bad withdrawal) and cut way down on the Xanax. after 4 months of just taking Topamax, I starting getting SERIOUSLY SUICIDAL.

I wouldn’t leave my house or go to the gym. I didn’t want to go out. I went to the Dr’s Office and told him this and he gave me sample of Wellbutrin. As I left I thought “more meds!!!” So I decided to do my own research and discovered that Topamax can cause suicidal feelings/depression so I stopped taking it. I never want to take pills again. I am looking into B-Complex for the migraines.


Denise Lee

Addicted to Effexor

“(It)…was one of the most horrible things I have ever experienced in my life.”

I also have posted “my story” on another informational site about anti-depressants, but I believe my story needs to be heard on your site as well. It is quite a bit to read, but hopefully it will help some people…

My problems with depression first started when I was about 9-10 years old. I had “normal” depression symptoms: I slept a lot, and was doing poorly in classes at school. I had school counselors lecture me every week about it, but I was in the “gifted” program at school, so it wasn’t as if I didn’t understand the material. This went on until 7th grade, when I failed ALL of my classes. My parents met with the principal of the school, who was threatening to hold me back. My parents thought there was something wrong with me, so I had an IQ test done to check my “capacity”. After 6 hours of testing, they found my IQ was 186, so no problems there…

My parents refused to put me on antidepressants for a long time. They were in denial that there was anything actually “wrong” with me, especially my mother… which was odd, because depression runs on her side of the family. They kept having me tested for everything else that could be causing the tiredness (thyroid and iron levels are the two I can remember). They changed my diet and we joined a health club, but it did nothing for me.

The doctor I had at the time pressed my parents for so long to put me on an antidepressant. My first antidepressant I went on was Zoloft, when I was 15. At first, the feelings it gave me were nice – my energy level went way up, and my parents were pleased that I was doing things around the house instead of sleeping. However, I gained 20 pounds in one month of taking it, without changing my diet at all. And as the months went by, I gradually needed more and more Zoloft, so my doctor decided to switch me to Celexa.

I was on Celexa for 4 months, but it was like I was on nothing at all. I didn’t feel any different from taking it. I was then switched to Lexapro (which is made by the same manufacturer, and is very similar I’m told), but it also did nothing. I was then put on Paxil, which I was on for about 5 months. At this time I was a senior in high school.

Paxil was one of the most horrible things I have ever experienced in my life. Side story: I also started having acid reflux disease at the same time my depression began, which I ended up having surgery for, also when I was a senior in high school. I was taking the Paxil up until when I had the surgery. The side effects of Paxil were intense to begin with, but also didn’t agree with what else I had going on with my body – I had intense abdominal pain, freakish dreams at night, sweated constantly, was nauseated / vomited frequently (which I did not have before despite the acid reflux), was dizzy, anxious, and went between being overheated and incredibly chilled… not to mention I gained 30 pounds in two weeks. This was all without changing my diet! But still my doctor pressed me to stay on the Paxil, saying it would take time, that my weight would go back down, that the side effects would simply just “go away,” but they never did.

When I was scheduled to have acid reflux surgery, I had to quit the Paxil cold turkey. All I can say is it made me feel disgusting. The memory most prominent to me about it was my sense became very distorted, especially my vision and hearing. For a long time, everything sounded muffled, like I was underwater. When I would move my head, or even just my eyes, I would feel and almost hear these “electric zaps” in my head. I had to stop driving from the intense dizziness (and have yet to drive since then), and that my vision became very blurry. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and I was so paranoid of everything that I couldn’t be happy, or even FUNCTION… It took nearly half a year for the effects of this to go away.

Nine months after I had quit Paxil, things were too unbearable for me to live without help from an antidepressant. Despite what I had experienced in the past, I was stupid and desperate enough to try my luck again. I was prescribed Wellbutrin, which didn’t last for a week because I had an allergic reaction to it (my body broke out in a horrible rash and I looked like a lobster!). I had to wait 3 weeks for the rash to die down after stopping the medication to try a new one… this time Effexor.

Looking back on it now I wish I had NEVER, EVER started that drug. Some of the side effects I experienced at first were nausea, constant migraines, I was extremely tired but unable to fall asleep, dry mouth, nervousness, abnormal sweating, decreased appetite, vertigo, and irregular heartbeat, just to name a few. My doctor increased me to 300 mg within a month of starting – which I’m sure was far too much, because within the first few hours of taking it, I would feel almost manic and crazed… I developed social anxiety disorder, which I’ve never had in the past, and I become too scared, flustered, and embarrassed to speak in front of more than three or four people.

Well, I had been on Effexor for almost 7 months (which would have been almost a month ago, now), when I stopped taking it. The side effects were just too unbearable. Also I am having stomach problems again, this time with a hiatal hernia, so I’m unable to digest pills. My doctor tapered me off of the 300 mg of Effexor XR within a three week period – seems too fast for someone that was on that much … He tried putting me on liquid Prozac, but the medication tasted horrible and I threw up almost instantly after every time I took it, so the Prozac didn’t last longer than a week before I quit.

I am absolutely beside myself right now with my Effexor problems – nearly a month after I quit, and I am beside myself with frustration and agony. I feel like I am addicted to this drug. I threw away the bottle after I was told to stop taking it, and now I sadly regret it so much. My brain feels like it’s screaming at me to get more of these pills, the feelings I have without them are too unbearable. I literally feel like I’m going insane. My depression is more extreme right now than it has ever been in my life. I’m having borderline personality disorder symptoms. At first I was just very tired, depressed, and agitated with everything, but now I’m having the sensory disturbances again – my hearing sounds like someone is playing with a big volume knob in my head, as things are always almost too quiet for me to hear, or too loud to tolerate.

I’m too nauseated and have too much stomach/chest pain to want to eat anything, so I’ve stopped eating solid food and now just mostly consume Jell-O, broths, pudding, popsicles, and creamy soups. I take massive amounts of vitamins and protein shakes because my health has deteriorated so much from it… my coordination and vision have become so bad that I can’t drive now. I sleep 18+ hours a day, but usually wake up every 30 minutes during sleep because of intense, sick nightmares that I have, usually about me dying… I go between being incredibly depressed and almost manic, something else I’ve never experienced before. Everything feels like it’s tipped on a 45 degree angle; I’m very dizzy, and have intense vertigo. I go to art school, and had to take off the quarter it’s gotten so bad – not to mention I can’t draw now because the tremors in my hands are so bad.

When I go in for surgery for my hiatal hernia in a few weeks, I’m going to hospitalize myself because I need more help getting through this Effexor withdrawal. I honestly feel insane. I’m so depressed that I’ve started cutting my arms, and I’m not even sure why. Also I hallucinate every few hours and see things – just today I saw blood dripping down my wall, an alligator walk across my bedroom, and when I woke up from a nap this afternoon I honestly thought I saw a woman standing over my bed with a knife. I went back to see my psych for help, and all he told me was to “wait it out” and “there’s nothing I can do for you now.” Why the hell are people prescribed these drugs if the withdrawal symptoms are so HORRIBLE?!


Bad Effexor Trip Almost Killed Me

“I strongly believe Effexor should be yanked off the market IMMEDIATELY.”

Hi. I wanted to share my nightmarish experience with Effexor XR. I was put on Effexor XR in the year 2000 for what was believed to be major depression. This med is highly dangerous and I am pretty sure it can cause permanent brain damage, just like its illegal cousins.

When I was a rebel teenager, I used strong LSD, Speed, X-tasy and PCP, unfortunately. So I knew what those drugs did and felt like. Of course I quit a long time ago – it was just a teenage phase. Little did I know that I would “trip” again years later, but this time on a legal medication…

After a week on Effexor at 150mg a day, I started to feel unusually “high”. Felt like I was on some sort of stimulant or speed. I couldn’t sleep, I felt stoned, my thoughts raced and anxiety went up. I was told it was all normal. But as days passed, I began to feel like if I had used a potent hallucinogenic drug! I saw tracers (trails), doors bent and moved, walls gently caved in and out, colours were funny and I had a weird field of vision very similar to LSD but it didn’t feel cool or good at all. I was sweating profusely, had the shakes, was agitated and my pupils were dilated. My heart raced, my legs felt like Jello, I had a terrible headache, very weird thoughts and digestion problems. I knew that this was definitely not normal!

I began to become paranoid and started freaking out. My experience was nothing else than a full-blown chemical drug bad trip. And god knows those are extremely dangerous – some people don’t come back… I knew, I instinctively knew Effexor was the cause so I quit abruptly, refusing my treatment in the hospital. I accepted the other meds such as tranquilizers though. This is when it got really ugly.

A few hours after skipping my dose, I began to get electric shocks in my head and urges to move about. My head felt like it was in a huge vice, my vision was blurred and cloudy, my hearing was altered, I saw spots. I felt I was stuck in between dream and reality, on another planet. Physically, I was just exhausted but couldn’t sleep even on strong tranquilizers. And my stomach felt like I had eaten a slab of lead! But I bit wood and told myself that I would rather die than take another dose.

I got really scared – did a month of Effexor use fry my brain FOREVER? I tried to imagine what my brain would have felt like if I had used LSD or PCP for a month every single day… It would be gone, burnt, finished, deep fried! I came to the conclusion that Effexor destroyed my neurons for good and that I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life. This is when I tried to commit suicide to escape the pain that was just too horrible to describe in words.

After a nearly successful attempt (real close one), I was hospitalized again and put on Depakote. I told the doc that if they put me back on antidepressants like Effexor, I would kill myself with the first sharp thing I’d find. So I got things my way.

Gradually I got better as my brain VERY SLOWLY recovered. All in all, I was on Effexor a month and it took me 3-4 months for my brain to BEGIN functioning normally. A few years have past since then and I’d say my brain almost fully recovered. I was lucky. Some people say their brain stayed fried.

I strongly believe Effexor should be yanked off the market IMMEDIATELY. I have no idea how this got passed the FDA. Makes you wonder who works for who. It should be like totally illegal because way too dangerous! If your doctor wants to put you on Effexor because you are depressed, tell him you’d rather be depressed than risk killing your brain cells with an evil drug!

I now take Depakote, Seroquel and some Trazadone for my condition (Bipolar II) at medium-low doses and it works fine with no serious side effects. Not all meds are bad, some really help. Others can be deadly though. Psychiatry is not an accurate science, its about doctors too often acting like the sorcerer’s apprentice.

Martin M. (25 yo male with Bipolar disorder type II)

Effexor Prescribed for PMS

“PMS compared to this would be heavenly!”

I am 45 yr old mother of 4, working full time. I was prescribed Prozac 12 yrs ago , then was changed to Effexor 7 yrs ago and have not been able to stop. The withdrawal’s are too overwhelming and debilitating. Even the slightest reduction 1/8th, starts the withdrawal symptoms. I experience extreme crying spells, horrifying panic attacks, which has sent me to the emergency room, sweating and burning followed by shivering cold spells. I can’t sleep, work or even function . I was prescribed this drug to help with PMS. PMS compared to this would be heavenly! The drug companies need to be held responsible for their actions. I believe their greed became more important than the reason these drugs were developed, to help people. I am a Christian and firmly believe God’s Word, we shall reap what we sow. I would ask other believer’s to join me and pray that these drug companies would reap what they have sown. Destruction. I have not yet gone through ‘the eye of the needle’ withdrawal and freedom but I am believing god to go thru and I will follow. Our country messed up big time. Hopefully god will be merciful and get up through this!

Liz powers


12 drugs in 4 years caused near fatal effects

“Within 4 days of starting Paxil I was experiencing racing thoughts and was extremely suicidal.”

So that some of this makes sense, at the age of 7, I was hospitalized with an unknown virus that attacked my major organs. Although I recovered quite well given the severity of the illness, I was left with minor liver damage and it was noted in my medical records that I was very medication sensitive. I repeatedly told each psychiatrist I saw about the liver damage.

In 1999 at the age of 14 I was admitted to aN adolescent psychiatric unit for depression and suicidal ideation. One day later I was prescribed the antidepressant Prozac and addictive anti-anxiety drug Klonopin by a psychiatrist who I’d never even met. After my first dose of both drugs and for the next few weeks I felt like I was drunk, I could barely walk and was unable to stay awake. I was kept on these drugs for 3 months, in that time I began to self-injure and was kicked out of public high school because of repeatedly falling asleep in class, until I complained to my psychiatrist of severe memory loss, he had me quit both cold turkey and begin Paxil.

Within 4 days of starting Paxil I was experiencing racing thoughts and was extremely suicidal. When my psychiatrist found this out he quickly diagnosed me as bipolar and put me on Tegretol and Risperdal. I was pulled off the Tegretol 2 weeks later due to extreme dizziness. I was told that Risperdal was aN antidepressant and at that time I was one extremely physically ill 15 year old kid and in no position to question my doctor.

After 2 months of continual nightmares caused by Risperdal I began to experience a horrible (for anyone yet alone a teenager) side effect, my body started to act like I was pregnant! My period stopped and I began to lactate. I was taken off the Risperdal and given Effexor, which made me suffer from severe insomnia and agitation and was given Trazadone to help me sleep. At this time my psychiatrist was moving out of state and my mom chose a new one for me, neither she nor I knew he specialized in ADHD. I was then given Ritalin and told my anxiety and drug induced agitation was actually a sign of ADHD.

I took only one pill of Ritalin and spend the rest of the day curled in a ball on my bed unable to move because of extreme stomach pain. When my psychiatrist found out I’d only taken that one dose he admonished me for not giving it time to work and gave me a prescription for Dipresamine. I had a severe allergic reaction, my arms and legs were covered in a rash which then turned into hives and I started having trouble breathing. My mom called the psychiatrist. After a 4 hour wait he returned the call and began to yell at my mom for calling and bothering him, he finally told her to not give me any more Dipresamine and he’d phone the pharmacy with a prescription for Zoloft.

After I recovered from the reaction I started the Zoloft, within an hour of taking it began to throw up and continued to for a few hours, this repeated with each dose of Zoloft I took and I stopped taking it after a week. At this time a therapist I was seeing recommended a certain psychiatrist for me to see. I met with him and he prescribed Depakote. I told him I wouldn’t take medicines that required blood tests and he assured me I didn’t need them on Depakote (I now know that isn’t true).

After 3 weeks I felt like a zombie and began having hallucinations, hand tremors, and had gained a lot of weight. I asked the psychiatrist if Depakote could be causing it all and he told me absolutely not. He went on to say what I was obviously developing schizophrenia and gave me a prescription for Risperdal (yes, he did know of my previous bad reaction) which I never took.

A few days later my cousin who is a nurse’s assistant came to have dinner with me and my parents. We started talking and I told her about the weird problems and the hallucinations. When she’d heard everything, her exact words were “I’m taking you to the emergency room, NOW!” She took me to the hospital that she worked at and had a doctor she knew in the ER examine me. He ordered the first ever lab tests done on me, and told me that my liver enzymes were high and I had a dangerous level of Depakote in my body, and that if I continued to take the Depakote I would likely go into liver failure within a few weeks.

After being told to go to my regular doctor in a few weeks to have liver enzymes checked again, and to return immediately if I got worse, I was sent home and promptly threw the rest of the Depakote in the trash. It took over 3 months for the hallucinations, weight gain, and hand tremors to go away. My liver enzymes went down, but they never returned to what they had been before I’d taken the Depakote. I’ve been told that my liver functions at about 70% of what a healthy liver does, a large part of that damage is from the Depakote.

I’d like to say that was the end of my experience with psychiatric drugs, but I hadn’t quite learned my lesson. Recently another therapist insisted I see a psychiatrist, who gave me Buspar. Buspar is advertised as the only nonaddicting anti-anxiety drug. After taking it for 11 days I felt dulled and slowed so I stopped taking it. I suffered through 3 days of withdrawals including headaches, dizziness, lose of coordination, insomnia, and severe muscle aches. Now, I’ve learned my lesson!

I was told I had ever disorder imaginable, including schizophrenia, and that my future was long term hospitalization. I proved them wrong. I entered an alternative program funded by the public school district where we were considered to be public school students but attended class at a separate location from the public high school. In May 2003, I graduated with a 3.97 GPA, the highest in the alternative program, had a class rank of 13 out of 350 students at the public high school, and was chosen to give a speech at my graduation ceremony.

In August I’m starting college at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest and planning to become a special education teacher for children with behavior disorders.


Sturggling to Withdraw from Paxil

“Thanks for everything you’re doing to help people like me and for working so hard to get these drugs off the market.”

I’ve taken SSRI’s for nine years and am really struggling in my withdrawal from Effexor. I am unable to work due to my inability to focus, mood swings, fatigue, etc. I’m trying to read your book, but slowly. I have a hard time focusing. Its hard to believe these drugs are still being manufactured, marketed, and distributed the way they are in light of all the information and documentation you present.

I am on a nutrition supplement. If I wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t get any nutrition at all due to my low appetite. Today is a bad day, I can’t believe this is happening to me. I can’t work, I’ve never been unable to work for any reason. I’ve always worked and enjoyed working. Now I abhor the thought of trying to undergo the process of looking for a different job because I know I can hardly function at times. My husband and I will be celebrating our 1 year anniversary later this month, but my withdrawal has definitely taken some of the joy out of that. Not to mention the tremendous stress this has placed on our new marriage. My husband’s first wife died of cancer, he cared for her for several months as she deteriorated. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to handle this. He can’t understand why I just don’t find another job and start working again. I look like I’m fine, what’s the problem? I’ve tried to explain to him what this is like and what this is about but I think he completely discounts it. Its just not real to him. I don’t know what to do anymore. He’s getting tired of all this, as I am. But I didn’t ask for this, and I have tried to explain that to him to no avail. I feel really guilty and ashamed, putting this added pressure on him. Today was such a bad day, I woke up feeling hopeless and alone. I spent a good deal of it crying, and isolated. I just feel so spent, like there’s nothing much left in me. I don’t mean to sound like I’m whining, but I don’t know where else to turn. Do you have any suggestions or direction for me?

As far as my withdrawal goes, I did do my first cut back today in awhile. I have been on 37.5mg for a couple months and had been maintaining. I have the capsules, not the tablets. From what I’ve heard its easier to withdraw using the SR version. I divided the capsules as best I could, I think I’m probably at about 32mg now. I can’t wait until I’m off this drug. I’m exercising every day, but when I look in the mirror I feel disgusted because I put on about 30 pounds from being on this drug. I never had a weight problem in my life so that part of this is hard too. I guess that’s all for now. Hope this isn’t too long. Its hard for me to take the time to sit down and focus to do this so I think I get a little wordy because I’m afraid I won’t be able to write again for awhile. Thanks for everything you’re doing to help people like me and for working so hard to get these drugs off the market.


My Journey Through the Effexor Nightmare

“When did I die and go to hell?”


when did this nightmare begin? Autumn 2000. After a traumatic event in my life, I found myself booked in at Crescent Clinic, and been treated by a Psychiatrist – Doctor 1. After a brief session, he decided that I needed to be put onto 225mg of Effexor a day. He decided this, without really hearing my life story, my passions in life, my disappointments, and my major traumas. He also felt it was ok to give me this medication without telling me the serious side effects this legal drug has to offer.

After a few weeks of unbearable nausea, confusion, anxiety, agitation and numbness in my face, I contacted Doctor 1, who then suggested that the dose was to high ad I should cut down to 150mg a day. After a few days I was able to live in the world again and feel my face – wonderful.

Life continued but there were some really odd things going on in my body. Before I went onto this drug, I was one of those really lucky people who could eat what I like and never gained weight. I am 5’8” and my weight would always fluctuate between 48 and 53kg. I also never really had a major issue with food I would eat normal meals, but never crave food.

Now my weight had increased itself to 58Kg, and I felt I could just not get enough food. I would wake up in the middle of the night with hunger pains, and have to raid the fridge. I had become obsessed with food, Effexor had created this permanently ravenous state of being. Even after consuming a very large mans size portion of food I would still be starving.

Then there was the recurring short-term memory loss. From a person who was known to have a memory of an elephant, to remember the most minute details about events, numbers and dates, I had now developed a memory span of a goldfish. I could have a conversation with someone one minute or read a column in a magazine and the next minute have no idea what I had said or read – complete blank! I would find my self-staring into space wondering where or who I am.

The other problem I experienced was the fact that I was always on the same constant level of emotion, I was never happy or sad. I could be told or see something really sad, and no where in my body would I feel the slightest amount of compassion – I was emotionally switched off. The reverse is also true, something really wonderful could happen and once again I would feel nothing – “hello is there anyone home, is the light switched on in there?” I felt this was a definite problem, coming from the person I have always been, one who does get really happy about the good things, or really sad and empathetic about the sad situations in life. In fact I thought if I was going to become emotionally dead then why bother breathing anyway.

Sexual dysfunction, now here is an interesting side effect from Effexor. I had to look up what the word libido was in the dictionary, but alas by the time I had found L in the dictionary I had forgotten what I was looking for…and trust me this is where my sexual appetite began and ended on this drug.

It is now October 2001, I weigh 65kg, my family and friends cannot recognize me, my clothes have started packing themselves up and marching straight out of the house, in fear I would actually try and put my thigh or arm into them. My goldfish memory has not become a winner at work, my lack of sexual urge, has no longer become entertaining to prospective partners, and my complete emotionally dulled mind has become a nightmare to myself. Ok I am going off this stuff – I have had enough!

I read the pamphlet to the drug – no major issues on going off this stuff it appears. I quote “Patients who have received Effexor for 6 weeks or more should have their dose tapered gradually over a 1-week period” There is also no details given about actually having any such thing as withdrawal symptoms. In fact the package insert goes as far as to say”….clinical trials did not reveal any tendency for a withdrawal syndrome…” Cool that doesn’t sound too bad – what is one week. I decided that since I have been on other antidepressants and have never had a problem coming off of them, I think I will actually just stop taking the pills all together.

Oh my gosh – what is this! When did I die and go to hell? I am on Day 3 of taking my last pill, and have found myself in the midst of extremely debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Physically I am dizzy, have blurred vision, brain zaps, electrical shocks in all parts of my body, extremely tired, nauseous, gastro, and night sweats. Emotionally I fluctuate between feeling either angry, violent or just so upset I cry all the time.

I decide I must see a doctor about this on Day 4. After a very unenlightening discussion with Doctor 2, who firsts asks me whether I feel I should be going off this drug she then continues that she has not ever had experience with anyone going off of it, and really has no advice to give me. She does manage to wish me luck.

Day 5. After waking up from a very disturbed sleep I realize with dismay I am still alive, the withdrawal symptoms are still very much alive and partying a storm in my body. I decide to phone Crescent Clinic -after all they deal with drug rehabilitation. I speak to a nurse who also asks me whether I feel I should be going off this drug – I tell her yes. She then says she does not know what to suggest as she does not have any experience in this area, maybe a should contact a psychiatrist. I decided that to contact another drug pusher would not be the solution, and phone Tara. Ok is this dejevu, have I become delusional, as the conversation is exactly the same. I do learn though that illegal drug abusers usually take about 7 days to withdraw from a drug.

I saunter back to bed. The days have now become extremely hazy. Luckily I have a supply of sleeping pills, which I keep taking to knock myself out and pretend that I have died and gone somewhere pain free, not this living hell on Earth. Day 10 arrives, and hey I am beginning to feel ok. The nausea has gone, I can stand, the dizziness has disappeared, and I think the symptoms have left. I am over the moon.

One month later. I have started to lose weight, but hang on what is this? I wake up one day to find my body covered in this hideous rash. It is burning and stinging and I am very emotionally upset. I see Doctor 3, who asks no questions just gives me, a cortisone injection. The rash disappears in a few hours I am feeling ok. A week later the hives are back. I go to Doctor 4 who is on call. Still no questions are asked, no answers are given to me and I am given another cortisone injection, and the rash disappears in a few hours. Next week, we are on the same procedure – Doctor 5 on call asks a few questions but also decided cortisone is the best. Great now after 3 cortisone injections in one month, I am so bloated I look like the Oros Man. If I thought I had a weight problem before, well this overblown monster in the mirror I have to face is unbearable. Yes the next week I get the rash – I refuse to have another fat injection and decide to try a homeopath instead. I am given little white pills, told to bath with chamomile and lavender drops. After 2 weeks the rash has become very minimal and bearable.

During my rash episode a had also developed incredible lower stomach pains. My first point of call was the gynecologist – Doctor 6. After doing the usual pap smears, sonar, etc, he found nothing wrong and decided to do a laparoscopy. After this interesting procedure everything was found to be healthy, but I was left with 2 scars, and aching stomach muscles. I must say though it was a wonderful feeling during the anesthetic and the day after to have no stomach pains – perhaps I should consider taking anesthetic on a daily basis.

Ok a month later, I have not been able to have a normal day. The stomach pains are so bad, I can’t go out at night, I cant go out during the day, I am still suffering the cortisone side effects, and the only people I feel comfortable amongst would be the Michelin or Oros man. I have become increasingly agitated, depressed, I cry uncontrollably, and oddly enough for a placid person I have tended towards becoming violent. Suicide thoughts are on my mind completely. I would love to cut my stomach out with a spoon!

I phone Doctor 7 the gastroenterologist who books me into hospital for my severe stomach pains. He runs a few blood tests – everything appears to be normal, does a sonar – normal, and then decides to do a gastroscopy and colonoscopy. Great news everything is completely normal and healthy! He then proceeds to tell me that he feels everything is all in my mind, and calls in one of those drug pushers (psychiatrist) Doctor 8. After a futile discussion with Doctor 8, I decide I cant live in such pain; maybe all these medical practitioners are right after all and this must really be all in my head. I am back on Effexor.

Within a month, my rashes gave completely gone and my stomach pains to. Ok yes this must have been all in my head. It is strange though that it was never in my head before I had begun my Effexor journey into the unknown.

I decide one day to do a search of Effexor on the Internet. What’s this – loads of sites dedicated to the subject Flexor and associated withdrawal symptoms! My eyes grow wider as I read the countless accounts given by victims, who suffered the same debilitating effects I went through, the same lack of information from both their medical practitioners and from the information provided by the manufacturer of the drug Wyeth. Then I get a chill down my spine – countless people describe the horrendous rashes and abdominal pains they had on withdrawal of the drug! Now I am angry, I am very angry – this was not all in my mind – these pains were real, and a serious consequence from this evil drug. I have been put back on the drug, due to the misinformation of doctors 3 through to 8! I have suffered months of pain due to their apathy and the lack of information provided by the manufacturer of Effexor – Wyeth in their insert pamphlet.

Even more interesting was my fellow sufferers entries concerning, the emotional state they suffered after discontinuance of this drug. Most also reported feeling very angry, violent and suicidal. Sadly there had been some entries from relatives or friends noting that the sufferer had committed suicide during withdrawal from Effexor. I now realized why I was so incredibly depressed, angry and at times violent towards myself. But this makes complete sense. If an “e” user or any other illegal substance user comes down after going on their high, they get extremely depressed. These illegal drugs work on the same chemicals in your brain, as the antidepressants – serotonin and dopamine. It makes complete sense that after my brain had been fed these chemicals for so long, it would not know how to naturally function again, and yes spiral into a downward nightmare.

I feel that it is ironic that there is so much public information on the side effects of illegal drugs, so many support groups for illegal drug abusers, so may clinics for these abusers where they can be treated with empathy in safety – but none for the Abused legal drug users. This information has been locked way in a shrine of secrecy, doctors have not been bothered to update themselves on the lethal effects of these drugs, drug rehab clinics have not been informed on how to deal with these patients -are we destined to suffer this nightmare in silence, a world of non communication!

Then comes the next interesting fact, with continued use of the drug, patients are increasingly at risk of developing a potentially lethal toxic condition known as “Serotonin Syndrome”. It is characterized by changes in mental status, agitation, tremor and shivering. Effexor has also been documented to cause cardiovascular problems in some susceptible people after long-term use. Although Effexor initially increases concentration and energy, patients have reported long-term effects of impaired memory, impaired concentration and mental disability. I get alarmed over these facts and decide to contact the Psychiatrist Doctor 8. This was 5 months ago, and I still am waiting a response. Once again I have gained more weight, and have decided that the serious side effects do not outweigh the benefits of staying on this drug only due to addiction at this stage. I am going off this drug once more, this time with the information at hand, I am doing it incredibly slowly.

After many counts of unsuccessful withdrawal trials discussed on web boards, it seemed that the best way to wean myself off this drug is over a very long period. Withdrawal onset is rapid, only after missing one day’s dosage do you experience them, so doctors had found the only drug able to help with these effect was the drug Ondansetron, which is the drug used to treat chemotherapy patients for their side effects. I went to Doctor 9 to discuss my withdrawal programme. Once again he could not shed much light on the subject so I enlightened him on what prescription I needed. I handed the prescription to the pharmacist who then informed me that 2 weeks supply of Ondansetron would cost R2 000! What – is this stuff made from platinum or gold? I opted for a 1 weeks supply.

I start on my slow tapering off period – this is certainly not the “Patients who have received Effexor for 6 weeks or more should have their dose tapered gradually over a 1-week period” as quoted by the manufacturer. I try out my gold plated Ondansetron for my first daily withdrawal – yes I do not have the electric shocks, dizziness, confusion as before, but I still could not turn my head without inducing a paralyzing nausea.

During my enlightening web search I come across a petition from individuals who have been on Effexor to Wyeth to let them know they serous side effects of the drug and the fact that thousands of patients in the US and worldwide are unable to discontinue Effexor or even reduce dosage due to the rapid onset of severe withdrawal-like symptoms. I decide to contact the manufacturer Wyeth. After been unable to successfully get hold of the doctor or pharmacist there, I insist on speaking to the MD of the company. I ask her to please read the petition found at www.petitiononline.com/effexor/ and to supply me with her comments. She agrees to this and tells me she will get the pharmacist and doctor to contact me the next day. She did say that patients have been able to wean themselves off the drug after 6 months!! What?

Day 2 on contact with Wyeth. I speak to the pharmacist, who informs me that she would have to get their associates in America to answer my concerns. The doctor on call contacts me to basically inform me that she could not answer my questions directly to me, but would talk to my GP who could then pass on the information to me. In terms of commenting on the web site, I was told that she was not at liberty to comment on this.

The MD has not provided any feedback either. I find this broken telephone way of communication extremely frustrating. To not get to angry about this, I try and see things in the lighter side of life and realize with intense humour how strange it is that in the year 2002, the medical profession still insists on conducting business in the traditional ways, which were developed in the dark ages.

Day3 on contact with Wyeth. I receive an email from the company pharmacist, telling me that the information would be passed on to my doctor, and she sends me the package insert? Ok hello I receive one of these in every box I buy. Anyway I decide to do a bit more research on the web, turns out that the comments on discontinuance of this drug in the package insert, do not comply with the one that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in March 2000 – at least in the US it has been acknowledged that there is the existence of Venlafaxine (Flexor) withdrawal syndrome.

I find it incredibly disturbing that this has not been implemented in South Africa. I ask the pharmacist if she could please explain why this is the case. I await her response. I still await any response from the company on their comments on the website.

This issue is no longer a personal journey for me it has now become a public responsibility. I feel that all my pain and suffering I have been through and the pain which still awaits for the next 6 months will be all worth it, if I can reach just a few individuals who have been on the is drug, and wondering if the pains they feel are real or not, as well as all prospective patients who will be prescribed this drug. I know that if I had been given this information to make an informed choice in 2000, I would definitely have chosen not to go on it. I hope that these words have given future consumers the ability to make an informed choice.

So what have I learnt?

Yes Psychiatrists did go to medical school, they do have a medical background, but have they walked a mile in your shoes? Have they lived a day an hour or a minute in your body? The only person who has is you, and they cannot know your state of mind or your body better than you do.

Ethically doctors should be keeping up to date with the latest medical research – realistically I have not found this to be the case. With all the information available to us as patients on the Internet and in books, we now have the responsibility to ourselves to educate ourselves. Luckily we are no longer living in medieval times, were we would be at the mercy of our doctors.

Anti depressants are supposed to be used as a basis for trying to fix a chemical imbalance in your body. If you have just gone through a traumatic event in your life, or feeling depressed due to circumstances – there is no reason you should be going onto these potentially harmful drug. There are many alternative therapies available. Taking them would be like taking morphine for pain, it cures the pain not the problem. Taking these drugs could prove to turn out to be a very expensive life long journey.

Educate your doctor, so that the next time a patient walks in with a similar problem to yours, they would be able to get an educated, up to date answer.

South Africa



This is Survivor Story number 5.
Total number of stories in current database is 48

Wellbutrin and Effexor Made Me A Nervous Wreck

“My doctor was poisoning me.”


I have had numerous tragedies in my life. The worse being my 16 yr old son murdered 7 yrs ago, a brother died suddenly one month before. Both parents died , 9 mos apart in 85- 86. My nephew killed himself last year. I didn’t take antidepressants with the death of my son and divorce 9 mos later. I went to Christian counseling. It was hard. I lost 25 lbs. I made it through slowly and was happy, healthy again. These medicines were killing me. I kept thinking I was getting the flu. I know it was serotonin syndrome.

I became depressed after my nephew died. {He was born 9 mos. before my son, close growing up.}
I went to my primary care Dr. 3-02. He put me on one Effexor XR 150 mg daily. I was getting worse, not better.

I started going to a psychiatrist 10-02 after I had to quit my part-time job. I was sobbing in his office. He increased the EFFEXOR XR to 300 mg One Daily Dose. I slept all the time, thought the depression, didn’t care about anything, gained 13 lbs in all, didn’t want to leave the house, watch T.V., read etc.

He increased the Effexor XR 300mg and Wellbutrin 150 mg One Daily Dose. No better. No interest in sex.
I called two different times about the doses and administration, verification.

Another change to Effexor XR 150 mg and Wellbutrin 300mg One Daily Dose. Worse. A nervous wreck, couldn’t sit still, sighed constantly. 3-4 hrs sleep a night, losing concentration, unable to read, go to church, do much of anything.

He added sleeping pills first Trazadone, severe headache, changed to Ambien, headache, change to Sonata still headache.

Another change to Effexor XR 450 mg Daily Dose. I became so confused I couldn’t finish a sentence, forgetting what I was saying. I would start one thing in one room, forget, start something in another room. Drove on the wrong side of the road. Couldn’t find my counselor’s office {sis driving} after going to him 9 mos! My breast are swollen and tender.

I went to primary Dr. sobbing, worse, BP running 165/115 pulse 115-120. Having many migraines. Becoming suicidal, thinking “I am crazy”, so tired of all the medicines. He suggested I stop by Psych Drs office, he was already gone. I left a letter. His receptionist said I could go to Psych hosp. for eval . The Psych. Dr. responded by calling in Trileptal {100 mgs} No mention of appt.

Intake person said be glad I was just depressed, not “crazy”. He suggested a partial hospitalization program. Go 5 hrs a day, lunch and 2 breaks. Psych. Dr to monitor meds. I went 3 days. I was in a room with 15 people, group counseling. A murderer on my left, just out of prison, a girl who said ” I see dead people”, some people divorcing, death of family member. It was not for me.
However, the Psych Dr. I met shook his head when I told him about the meds. I was on. Three med students were with him. I mentioned my concern about “serotonin syndrome”. I also took 3 sumatripan shots a week for migraines. I had told other Dr about my concern. High SSRI’s and high SSRI antagonist doses. Even my neurologist said she had never heard of it ask the Psych DR! I had been having body aches, chills, shivering, severe nausea. My hands and feet were always ice cold. I was so thirsty I would drink 6 to 8 sodas a day also wake up in night and get water often. I even dreamed 3 times I was choking on gum etc. I have had a tremors, swollen, puffy face and hands, constipation. The new Dr and med students were concerned. The Dr. dropped meds down. Two wks later discontinued. However did put me on Celexa 20 mgs.

In two days already I could think clearly, finish my thoughts. Doing better with memory, finishing task. I am still aching, my lower back is sooo sore. I am experiencing “electrical shocks”. I am laughing again and eating better. This whole situation has been hell. Today day my BP was 117/80 soo much better, pulse 80!

I have been going to counseling every week since October. I fired original psychiatrist. I fired counselor for his ignorance. I fired neurologist I had for 8 yrs for her ignorance. I am beginning to get my life back. I have a patient husband. God has watched over me.
I trusted this Dr. He was poisoning me, with multiple contraindicated meds, potentially fatal.. I kept telling everyone something was very wrong. I pray I can stop someone else from experiencing this. I want to report this Dr.




This is Survivor Story number 13.
Total number of stories in current database is 48

I Thought I’d Lost My Mind on Effexor

“The Effexor was 10 times worse than (being hit by a truck).”


Was hit by a truck while a pedestrian…broken hand/ribs/head and thigh took a good whack. I was sleeping about 20 hours a day, no food/no appetite, but very thirsty…chicken broth/mineral water. Two weeks after accident, complaining of head aches, doctor prescribed Effexor. Asked if I was depressed–no–but anxious about outcome of injuries (who wouldn’t be?). Reluctant to take because drugs and I do not get along..allergic/anomalous rxns..other family members as well. Gave me physicians sample. First 2 days nothing…no headache relief…3rd day about 1/2 hour after taking, I had a horrific rxn—thought I had lost my mind, terrified–thought my heart would jump out of my chest–frightful images etc. Called the doctor for help…how to make it stop. Never called back. I drank copious amounts of water and climbed into a hot bath to try to sweat it out. The only thing that saved me was repeating to myself “this is a bad drug rxn. this will pass.” After this, I noticed blurred vision that came and went with no rhyme or reason. The Effexor rxn was 10 times worse than the accident. I got some aspirin at the drugstore and it worked great.




This is Survivor Story number 16.
Total number of stories in current database is 48