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Approximately 298 million people across the world suffer from depressive symptoms on a day-to-day basis. This percentage continues to grow at an alarming rate with each passing day, with more and more people turning to antidepressant medications for management. Cymbalta is one of the most commonly used antidepressant medications to control major depressive episodes and allow users to lead happier life. Despite its efficacy and success, the medication carries a high risk of withdrawal, even in people who have recovered well and no longer require it. Understanding what Cymbalta withdrawal looks like and how to manage it can help people safely get through the process without risking their health and comfort.
An Overview of Cymbalta Withdrawal
Cymbalta is a type of antidepressant drug belonging to the category of medicines called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI). As indicated by the name, SNRIs work on norepinephrine and serotonin neurotransmitters and alter their balance to provide better control over depressive thoughts, anxiety, chronic pain, and other associated issues. Cymbalta withdrawal describes a collection of emotional and physical symptoms an individual goes through when they suddenly stop using this medication. Note that not everyone is at risk of developing these symptoms as Cymbalta affects different people differently, depending on their genetic profile and current health. Nevertheless, it is imperative to remember that the risk of these withdrawal symptoms still exists once you stop taking your medication.
Because antidepressant medications work differently in different people depending on their health, gender, and age, consider talking to your healthcare professional regarding your risk of experiencing a withdrawal based on your personal circumstances. Long-term use of Cymbalta can also cause dependence in many people due to the drug’s ability to alter the body’s physiological adaptation.
Mentioned below are some reasons why a person may experience Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms:
- Missing a dose: Antidepressants, such as Cymbalta, must be taken for a certain duration as prescribed by a healthcare professional. Missing or skipping a dose and breaking the set schedule can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
- Switching to a different medication: Different antidepressant medications have different mechanisms of action based on their chemical components. If you change your medication from Cymbalta to another category of antidepressants, the risk of experiencing withdrawal increases.
- Dependence: Cymbalta carries the potential to alter the brain’s neurochemical balance, leading to dependence. Once the body becomes habitual of having this drug in the system, quitting it can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
- Quitting cold turkey: Suddenly stopping Cymbalta or any other antidepressant medication without consulting a healthcare professional can put anyone at an increased risk of developing withdrawal symptoms.
The Common Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms
When you suddenly cease using Cymbalta after taking it for a long time, the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain experience a dip. The brain finds this dip problematic and may take several days or weeks to adjust to this new normal situation. During this adjustment phase, the body may undergo several symptoms known as withdrawal symptoms. In the case of Cymbalta, these withdrawal symptoms may include the following:
- Pins and needles sensations
- Trouble sleeping
- Strange sensations in the body, such as brain zaps
Symptoms normally appear within two to four days of stopping Cymbalta and may continue for a few weeks before eventually subsiding. The best way to minimize or avoid these symptoms is by slowly decreasing the medication dose instead of stopping it at once. Compared to other antidepressants, such as venlafaxine, the symptoms of Cymbalta withdrawal are relatively milder.
Safely Tapering Off Cymbalta
To help patients safely come off Cymbalta, doctors will likely plan a tapering program that lasts at least two weeks. Tapering means gradually reducing the drug dose over an extended period instead of suddenly stopping its use. Experts are not clear if tapering off Cymbalta can prevent withdrawal symptoms; however, it is the safest method to stop using an antidepressant medication so far.
Most experts plan the tapering program over four weeks or more. However, these plans may vary depending on personal factors, such as how long a person has been taking Cymbalta, their current dose, past medical history, and more. A sample tapering schedule for a person who is currently taking 90 mg of Cymbalta is mentioned below:
- Initial dose: 90 mg
- Following the first dose reduction: 60 mg
- Following the second dose reduction: 30 mg
- Following the third dose reduction: 20 mg
Following the third dose reduction, most individuals will stop taking Cymbalta altogether and closely monitor themselves for relapsing symptoms. Most of them may still experience certain withdrawal symptoms; however, they are likely to be milder and easier to cope with using simple self-care tips.
Remember that everyone must have a personalized tapering schedule that they make with a healthcare professional. Avoid following someone else’s plan as it may not work well for you even if they helped them gain recovery.
Coping With Cymbalta Withdrawal
Dealing with Cymbalta withdrawal can be difficult for many people; however, certain lifestyle modifications and self-care strategies can make coping easier. These tips include the following:
- Follow the prescribed tapering plan: If your healthcare provider has given you a set plan to slowly taper off Cymbalta, stick to it as much as possible to avoid severe withdrawal effects. Don’t hesitate to return to your doctor if the withdrawal gets too much to handle, as they can always readjust the schedule.
- Manage the side effects: Many withdrawal symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, and headaches, are easily manageable with over-the-counter substances. However, make sure to double-check with your doctor before adding any new medications to ensure that there is no risk of interactions.
- Seek help from loved ones: This is the best time to turn to your family members and friends and seek support. Open up about your feelings whenever possible, as it can help release your depressive and anxious thoughts and relieve the burden on your mind.
- Consider integrative remedies: There are plenty of home remedies proven to reduce the severity of certain withdrawal side effects. However, consult with your doctor before trying any of these herbal or integrative medicines.
- Practice self-care: Self-care is one of the most crucial yet neglected parts of recovery from mental health issues. Regardless of the reason you are stopping Cymbalta, ensure to take out time for yourself and indulge in activities that make you happy.
- Try detox medications: If you are slowly tapering off Cymbalta under professional care, ask your team if you can take any detox medications to balance the withdrawal effects or make them more tolerable.
- Join support groups: If you have no friends or loved ones to lean on or require extra help, consider joining a local support group. These support groups are the best place to meet people fighting similar struggles as you and form a community to help each other in the worst times. These groups can also give you strength and advice to make the Cymbalta withdrawal experience more tolerable.
Long-Term Treatment Following Cymbalta Withdrawal
Withdrawing successfully from Cymbalta is only the first step in the recovery process. Most people require ongoing treatment to maintain this discontinuation safely and successfully without relapsing. The nature of the treatment they need depends on various factors, such as their current mental health status and the reason for stopping Cymbalta.
Antidepressants like Cymbalta are different from other medications, such as antibiotics, that can work well for almost everyone. On the other hand, antidepressants are more like a hit-or-miss opportunity as one person may respond perfectly to them while another may end up feeling worse with lots of side effects. These variations in outcomes are due to the complexity of brain chemistry, which may vary from one person to another based on factors like nerve cells, individual brain structures, genes, and neurotransmitter balance. These multiple factors interact with each other in different and rather unpredictable ways, making depression a difficult condition to treat and manage.
If your reason for stopping Cymbalta is its failure to make a difference in your depressive episodes, talk to a doctor about the possibility of switching to another medication. Treating depression generally involves a lot of trial and error, and a doctor may put you on various medications before finding the one that works the best for you. On the other hand, if you are stopping Cymbalta because your depression has lifted, ensure that you keep in touch with your doctor, who can monitor any re-emergence. Remember that depression has a very high reoccurrence rate, with almost 50 percent of people developing additional depressive episodes after making a recovery.
Life After Cymbalta: The Need for Maintenance Therapy
If you have weaned off Cymbalta but have experienced one or more relapses with depression, it might be a sign to consider commencing maintenance therapy. Maintenance therapy generally means continuing with a therapeutic dose of antidepressant medication to minimize relapse. However, other forms of therapy, such as psychotherapy, can also make a difference in keeping depression at bay.
The best way is to contact a mental health professional and discuss your case. In the meantime, watch out for the following symptoms that may indicate a return of your depression:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or hollow inside
- Experiencing frequent outbursts of anger, tearfulness, or frustration
- Feeling anxious, restless, or agitated
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Constantly feeling tired
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Fixating on perceived faults or failures
- Thinking, speaking, or moving slowly
- Losing interest or excitement in activities you previously used to enjoy
- Sleeping too much or too little
Why do people use Cymbalta for?
As per the FDA, the following are some approved uses of Cymbalta:
- Management of depression and generalized anxiety disorder
- Management of musculoskeletal pain
- Fibromyalgia treatment
- Minimizing nerve pain secondary to diabetes
What does Cymbalta withdrawal look like?
The symptoms of withdrawal from Cymbalta vary depending on various factors, such as personal medical history, the severity of underlying psychiatric illness, current dose, duration of use, etc. Most people experience symptoms such as nightmares, insomnia, excessive sweating, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, irritability, body pain, diarrhea, numbness, and anxiety. Each experience can be entirely different from the other as there is a high risk of unpredictability associated with the process.
What is Cymbalta withdrawal timeline?
Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms generally appear within one week of discontinuation. The active ingredient in Cymbalta, known as duloxetine, has a half-life of 12 hours, meaning it needs half a day to halve its dose in the body. However, the duration of time it persists in the body can also vary based on other factors, such as your initial dose. Most people overcome the withdrawal effects within one week of onset.
What is the best way to taper off Cymbalta to avoid a withdrawal?
Recent guidelines suggest antidepressant medications like Cymbalta must be slowly tapered off within four weeks. The exact process can vary based on how long you have been taking the medication, your current dose, and your past medical history. Due to these variations, it is imperative to undergo tapering with a doctor’s help.
I am about to discontinue Cymbalta after long-term therapy. What questions should I ask my doctor?
Ask your doctor the following questions regarding discontinuation of Cymbalta:
- Will stopping the medication be dangerous?
- What are the risks of discontinuing it?
- Should I stop using it at once or slowly over time?
- When should I expect the withdrawal symptoms to kick in?
- Who should I contact if I feel sick?
- What should I do if something feels wrong during my Cymbalta withdrawal?
- Can stopping Cymbalta worsen my depression?
- Should I start another medication to combat the Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms?
- Will my family history determine how my withdrawal will look like?