The information below is presented as a generalized and educational overview. The specific details of treatment protocols mentioned in this article may not reflect the protocols utilized by A Mission for Michael.
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What Is Effexor XR (Venlafaxine)?
Effexor XR is the branded extended-release (XR) form of the generic antidepressant, venlafaxine. It is used as both an antidepressant and a way to treat nerve pain.
Effexor is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). This means that it works in the body by altering brain chemistry. Specifically, it reduces the reabsorption of two neurotransmitters, serotonin, and norepinephrine, in the body, allowing for larger amounts of chemicals to interact with neurons. Overall, it creates a greater impact from serotonin, which is a “good mood” chemical, and norepinephrine, which increases alertness. The benefits of Effexor XR, then, are that it targets both the cause and symptoms of many mental health disorders for greater effectiveness.
Effexor XR is used for the treatment of a variety of disorders dealing with central nervous symptoms, which include mental health disorders as well as physiological concerns.
Use To Treat Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
One of the most common uses of venlafaxine is the treatment of major depressive disorder, or MDD.1 MDD is a mood disorder characterized by reduced mood and negative perspectives of self. It can also decrease the quality of day-to-day life, thereby impacting an individual’s ability to interact with their environment due to mental and physical fatigue as a result of a chemical imbalance.
Effexor XR helps target serotonin to improve mood while also increasing alertness and reducing fatigue in individuals.
Use To Treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
On top of helping to regulate mood, serotonin is responsible for a variety of other brain processes as well, including thoughts and anxiety. Effexor XR is used to help regulate excessive anxiety while also working to help increase alertness.
Use To Treat Social Anxiety Disorder
In the same way that Effexor XR can benefit those with generalized anxiety disorder, it can also help treat social anxiety disorder. As an SNRI, it can reduce anxiety while creating more awareness in social situations that may be a cause of increased anxiety.
Use To Treat Panic Disorder, With Or Without Agoraphobia
Studies have also shown that Effexor XR can be an effective treatment for panic disorder.2
Off-Label Uses For Effexor XR
While Effexor XR is most often prescribed to treat mood disorders, there are also several off-label uses for conditions not typically advertised. Effexor XR is not approved by the FDA for these treatments, meaning this type of use is not necessarily unsafe but that the benefits for these conditions have not been studied as thoroughly as on-label uses.
Effexor XR For OCD
One of the defining chemical characteristics for OCD is a change in specific brain chemicals, such as serotonin. SSRIs are most commonly prescribed for OCD as it is theorized that serotonin affects obsessions. The norepinephrine present in Effexor XR can also help target symptoms while the body adjusts to the new natural levels of serotonin.
Effexor XR For Migraine
Serotonin is also responsible for the dilation of blood vessels in the body. When blood vessels are narrow, such as when serotonin levels are low, they can decrease the available oxygen traveling around the body. Lack of oxygen is one of the leading causes of a migraine.
Effexor XR’s ability to regulate and increase serotonin can help improve circulation throughout the body, making it an effective, off-label treatment for migraines.
Effexor XR For Pain
Like with migraines, Effexor XR may be an effective way to treat pain, especially that related to nerve pain. Serotonin and norepinephrine can help inhibit pain in the body by altering the transmission of chemicals between neurons in the brain.
Effexor XR Dosage
Depending on the disorder being treated and the individual, Effexor XR may require different dosages. Due to its extended-release quality, it is most often taken once in the morning. Since many of the conditions being treated are similar, there are many similarities in dosages.
Dosage For MDD
When Effexor XR is prescribed for depression, dosages typically begin at 75mg once per day. This dosage can be gradually increased but should not exceed more than 225mg a day.
Dosage For GAD
Like for depression, dosages typically begin at 75mg once per day and should not exceed more than 225 mg/day.
Dosage For Social Anxiety Disorder
Dosages tend to be 75mg/day. Larger doses are not more effective in treating social anxiety disorder and as a result, are not commonly prescribed.
Dosage For Panic Disorder
Dosages begin at 37.5mg once per day and are increased in weekly increments. This means that by the second week, the dose may be raised to 75mg, though this number may vary based on the individual and the severity of their disorder, as well as whether it occurs with or without agoraphobia.
The daily dose should not exceed more than 225 mg/day.
What Happens If You Miss A Dose?
If you miss a dose of Effexor XR and realize it soon after, you should take the prescribed amount for that day. However, if it is closer to your next dose, you should avoid doing this. For further concerns, reach out to the prescribing health provider.
What Happens If I Overdose?
Overdoses can occur any time too much of a substance is consumed whether intentional or accidental and are considered a medical emergency. If you happen to overdose on Effexor XR, call emergency services (911 in the United States) and explain the situation.
Side Effects Of Effexor XR
Certain side effects may be experienced when taking venlafaxine. These effects can vary in severity but often lessen with time. Severe side effects or common Effexor XR side effects that last for long periods should be discussed with the prescribing health professional.
Common Side Effects
Common Effexor XR side effects are usually low in severity and tend to cease over time or when the substance is not active in the body. They can also be more prevalent when first beginning to take Effexor XR. While uncomfortable, these side effects are often typical with antidepressants and similar substances and can include:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite
- Decreases in sex drive and performance
- Increased sweating.
Serious Side Effects
In rare instances, Effexor XR may result in serious side effects. These should be discussed with a doctor immediately.
Serious Effexor XR side effects may include:
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Tremors or shakiness
- Muscle weakness and cramps.
Often, serious side effects can be reversed or reduced by lifestyle changes or lowering the dose. However, your doctor may prescribe an Effexor XR alternative depending on the severity.
Effexor XR Alternatives
In some situations, Effexor XR may not be the best medication for an individual. As a result, there are several alternatives available that may be utilized in its place depending on the disorder present.
Alternatives For MDD
While Effexor is an effective antidepressant, it may not be the best option for everyone either due to individual-specific ineffectiveness or due to allergies, side effects, or other concerns. However, there are many alternatives available for treating MDD, including therapy, counseling, and alternative medicine options.
Other medications used to treat MDD include:
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Vilazodone (Viibryd).
Many of these Effexor XR alternatives are SSRIs, which are similar to SNRIs except that they only impact serotonin.
Alternatives For GAD
Due to Effexor XR’s ability to raise heart rate as a result of norepinephrine, it may not be the best choice for anxiety in some cases. As a result, other medications may be used to treat generalized anxiety disorder.
Other medications used to treat GAD include:
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
- Buspirone (Buspar)
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
Alternatives For Social Anxiety Disorder
The only other FDA–approved treatments for social anxiety disorder are Paroxetine (Paxil) and Sertraline (Zoloft). However, citalopram (Celexa) is often used off-label for treatment.
Alternatives For Panic Disorder
Other medications used to treat panic disorder include:
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Paroxetine (Paxil)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Alprazolam (Xanax).
However, non-pharmaceutical options may also be utilized, either separately or in combination with medications, to help treat panic disorders. Therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy (PFPP) are also useful.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Effexor XR
Questions may arise during and before beginning Effexor ER, including these frequently asked questions. Additional questions should always be discussed with the prescribing medical professional.
What Other Drugs Affect Effexor XR?
Several drugs may interact with Effexor XR and affect the way it functions, including:
- Blood thinners
- MAO inhibitors
- Other SNRIs
What Should I Avoid While Taking Effexor XR?
Any drugs that interact with Effexor XR should be avoided. However, aspirin can be used to reduce the risk of a heart attack. In this case, aspirin should be continued to be taken as directed by a doctor unless told otherwise.
Additional substances to be avoided are caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.3
Is Effexor XR Approved For Use In Children?
According to the FDA, Effexor XR is not approved nor recommended for treating mood disorders in children due to its ability to aggravate symptoms and a higher risk of negative effects such as suicidal thoughts.4
How Does Effexor XR Make You Feel?
Many individuals will experience some mild side effects when first beginning Effexor XR. The doctor will often begin with a low dose to help prevent these side effects while slowly raising the dose until it effectively treats the condition.
As an SNRI, Effexor XR can cause extended feelings of calmness and mild euphoria by elevating serotonin and norephedrine to a natural level.