Most antidepressants come with an unlabeled warning. Once you start, don’t try to stop on your own! This subtle warning comes at a price if disobeyed, as you would have to deal with withdrawal symptoms – physical and mental symptoms that result when you stop taking a drug.
Managing withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, tasking, and in some cases, severe, if not properly managed. This article gives an overview of Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms and simple ways you can ease them.
Another drug similar to Cymbalta is Lexapro, and it has its own withdrawal symptoms too. You may want to read more on Lexapro withdrawal symptoms, timeline, and treatment.
What Is Cymbalta?
Cymbalta is the brand name of the medication Duloxetine. It belongs to the class of medication known as Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). Other drugs in this class are Milnacipran (Savella), Venlafaxine (Effexor), and Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq).
Cymbalta is a prescription medication. The usual dose is about 40mg – 60mg per day with a maximum daily dose of 120mg. It comes in capsules of 20mg, 40mg, and 60mg strengths. It is a slow release medication, formulated to be released gradually over time.
If all the drug is released at once, the risk for dependence is increased. This means that your body would get used to the drug quickly and would elicit withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it.
Cymbalta is enteric – coated, that is, it is designed for release in the intestine. It is thus designed to be swallowed as a whole capsule not chewed or taken in powdered form.
How Does Cymbalta Work?
Cymbalta works by increasing the levels of two neurotransmitters – serotonin and norepinephrine – in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals which nerve cells release in order to communicate with nearby nerve cells.
When a nerve cell releases a neurotransmitter, the neurotransmitter will be picked up by nearby nerve cells. Excess neurotransmitters are usually taken up by the nerve cell that released them, in a process called reuptake. Cymbalta prevents the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine.
Serotonin is known to contribute to feelings of happiness and wellbeing, while norepinephrine is associated with alertness and vigilance. By inhibiting their reuptake, Cymbalta makes these neurotransmitters more available in the brain, thereby increasing their effects- improving sleep, appetite, and energy levels.
Withdrawal Symptoms Of Cymbalta
Up to 80 percent of people who stop using Cymbalta abruptly experience withdrawal symptoms. The timeline for the manifestation of these symptoms varies from patient to patient depending on the length of drug use and the dose being used. These symptoms could be both physical and psychological and some of them include;
- Severe headache
- Nausea – the sensation of wanting to vomit
- Anxiety and irritability
- Fatigue – feelings of tiredness or lack of energy
- Nightmares and inability to sleep
- Excessive sweating
- Paresthesia – burning or prickling sensation in the arms, legs, hands, and feet
- Suicidal thoughts*
*On their own, these withdrawal symptoms may not be lethal, however, if depression was previously being managed or treated, the chances of suicidal thoughts are higher and there would be a need for extensive clinical monitoring.
How To Ease The Withdrawal Symptoms Of Cymbalta
Here are five things to do when considering stopping the medication.
1. Return To The Medication and Taper Off.
If you have tried to quit ‘cold turkey’, that is, by stopping the medication abruptly and you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, you may need to go back to the drug. Quitting abruptly usually results in very intense and sometimes unbearable withdrawal symptoms because your body was too used to the drug and was not ready to quit.
It is best you return to your initial dose of the medication and then taper off gradually under a doctor’s supervision.
Your doctor will design a gradual dose reduction schedule for you so that your body gets used to less and less amount of Cymbalta before you eventually stop the drug altogether. With a reduced dose, you may experience some mild withdrawal symptoms which would decrease over time. Then your doctor can prescribe a further reduced dose. The dose-reduction method of drug withdrawal is called ‘tapering off’.
In some cases, it may be necessary to reduce the dose in very minute bits. This is called micro-tapering. It is a long term process which can span over several months and it is best done under the supervision of a doctor. Your pharmacist would be helpful in compounding specific doses if the required reduced dose is not readily available. With micro tapering, you could almost bypass withdrawal symptoms.
Choosing to use this method requires extreme patience, consistency and professional supervision. It is helpful when you focus your mind on the benefits of withdrawal rather than the length of time it takes to get off the drug.
2. Talk To Your Doctor
The importance of talking to a doctor cannot be overemphasized. Always get professional guidance. Make sure your doctor is aware of the withdrawal symptoms you are having.
If your doctor creates a tapering off schedule for you, make sure you stick with the schedule. Be committed to the new dose regimen and keep your doctor informed about any symptoms you may be experiencing.
If you had been taking Cymbalta for the management of depression, chances are the symptoms of depression may return as you gradually reduce your dose. Be quick to report such symptoms to your doctor.
In order to ease the returning symptoms especially in the case of management of depression, your doctor may replace Cymbalta with another antidepressant which has milder withdrawal effects, such as Fluoxetine (Prozac).
3. Maintain Very Helpful Social Connections
Asides the extreme discomfort, withdrawing from Cymbalta might also lead to withdrawing from family and friends that care. A good support system is important.
Resist the temptation to withdraw from people, rather, stay around people that care and are supportive. Be quick to share whatever emotions you may be feeling no matter how overwhelming it may seem to you.
You may also consider checking in to a facility that has recovery programs that support antidepressant withdrawals. Some facilities do admit their clients, while others just require regular visits.
Being in groups and following up on the recovery process of others can be a good way to help ease yours. You may consider an online support group as well, they are also quite beneficial.
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is recommended in the management of depression and it has other mental health benefits. Exercise can improve your mood and motivation. Aim at an exercise schedule of at least 45 minutes a day for three days a week.
Group exercises are also recommended. Again, please discuss your exercise plans with your doctor, so you can get professional counsel. Some exercise routines may not be good for you.
5. A Healthy Diet and Supplements
The cliché ‘you are what you eat’ stands true in managing withdrawal symptoms from Cymbalta. Tilting towards healthier food options such as nuts, vegetables, whole-grain, lean protein foods will be highly beneficial. Withdrawing from Cymbalta may result in a reduced appetite; hence you must be deliberate about not skipping meals and eating healthy.
Alongside a healthy diet, supplements that are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and Magnesium are recommended for use in Cymbalta withdrawal as they are beneficial in easing the withdrawal symptoms.
In a Nutshell
Easing Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms requires you to be deliberately patient with yourself and consistent with your withdrawal regimen.
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