Effexor XR (Venlafaxine) - what you should know about it

Effexor XR (Venlafaxine) – what you should know about it

Klaus Bernhardt
by Klaus Bernhardt

You have been prescribed EFFEXOR XR and are unsure what to make of this drug. Your concern is not unfounded, because this antidepressant does have dangerous downsides. Depending on whether you’ve been prescribed the drug for depression or anxiety disorder, there are a few things you should definitely be aware of:

Effexor XR (Venlafaxine) – indication depression

Effexor XR (Venlafaxine) for anxiety disorders: Please click HERE

If you suffer from depression and your doctor is prescribing Effexor XR as a hopeful drug, you should think twice before really allowing this antidepressant into your life.

Because this medication don’t provide you necessarily the promised momentum to get through everyday life again. The opposite can also happen. In fact, according to the latest studies, antidepressants work no better than placebos, or harmless sugar pills, at least for mild, moderate, and not-too-severe depression. However, unlike placebos, which do not contain any active ingredients, the active ingredient venlafaxine has a variety of possible side effects that can make your condition even worse.

As with many medical treatments, it is sometimes helpful to get a second opinion or consider other treatment approaches. This blog aims to inform you in this sense.

Effexor XR (Venlafaxine) – reportedly significantly better than older tricyclic antidepressants

Venlafaxine is sold under the trade name Effexor-XR, formerly called Effexor. The original version of Effexor was discontinued because it required two or three doses daily and very often caused nausea. In contrast, Effexor-XR is touted as being better tolerated. The Effexor XR delayed-release capsule is taken once a day and should therefore be more compatible for the body as the active ingredient is released more slowly.

That sounds promising at first. And in general, venlafaxine is described as a highly effective drug because it has a novel chemical structure with no relation to the old tricyclic antidepressants, which are less used nowadays, primarily due to their wide range of unpleasant side effects.

In contrast, venlafaxine is said to be much more selective and tolerable. However, more selective and tolerable is not synonymous with tolerable, but means “does not harm quite so much!” Accordingly, the package insert for Effexor-XR lists some adverse reactions that are common or even very common. Well tolerated or even harmless definitely looks different.

Adverse reactions of venlafaxine using Effexor-XR as an example

The list of adverse reactions of EFFEXOR XR® capsules (Venlafaxine Extended-Release) is long: nauseadizzinessdrowsinessinsomniasweatingdry mouth and constipation are most common. In addition, those affected suffer from other common adverse reactions that can be dangerously destabilizing to the body. To name a few:  Hypertension, palpitation, akathisia, loss of sexuality, serious vision problems, skin disorders, and disorders of consciousness.

A special note on the use of EFFEXOR XR® during pregnancy indicates the serious influence of the drug on the whole body. Since increased stillbirths occurred in animal studies with rats when dosing began during pregnancy, EFFEXOR XR® should be used during pregnancy only if clearly necessary. In plain language, this means that EFFEXOR XR® may cause serious damage to the health of the newborn.

Long degradation time and life-threatening interactions

Taking Effexor-XR with its active ingredient Venlafaxine is therefore definitely not as harmless as some doctors claim. In this context, it is also interesting to know how quickly the active ingredient leaves the body and what interactions there are with other drugs.

When administered once, the maximum serum concentration of venlafaxine in the blood is reached after about two hours. When dosed over several days, the active substance reaches constant levels in the blood after about three days. In the process, the antidepressant is degraded to 90% in the gastrointestinal tract. As it passes through the liver, O-desmethylvenlafaxine, an active metabolic intermediate, is formed along with other breakdown products. While venlafaxine leaves the body after about 5 hours, the active O-desmethylvenlafaxine remains in the body for another 10 hours. Patients with liver or kidney weakness in particular should therefore refrain from taking venlafaxine or take the drug in a very low daily dose in close consultation with their doctor. Likewise, taking venlafaxine with other medicines may lead to an undesirable accumulation of various active substances in the body. In combination with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, there is a risk of prolonged bleeding in the body. This can be life-threatening for patients with gastric ulcers, for example.

Threatening withdrawal symptoms

Unfortunately, that’s not all the bad news about venlafaxine. If you take this drug for a period of months and suddenly stop, you can expect severe withdrawal symptoms. The package insert of EFFEXOR XR® warns against abrupt dose discontinuation. The symptoms that can occur resemble a horror scenario from a medical thriller: Among other things, there is talk of vomiting, tremors, flu-like symptoms, sensory disturbances (including shock-like electrical sensations), but also tinnitus, and seizures.

However, it also becomes fatal if you suffer a so-called relapse syndromeIn this withdrawal syndrome, earlier depressive phases occur more frequentlywhich can lead to you mistaking these withdrawal symptoms for a recurrence of depression and your doctor prescribing you antidepressants again, but this time with an increase in dose. This is how you get into a vicious cycle of constantly trying new antidepressants and end up in drug addiction.

Therefore, you should never stop EFFEXOR XR® or other antidepressants abruptly or on your own. Rather, you should gradually reduce the medication in consultation with your treating physician.

Miracle pill antidepressants: a myth and its origins

You have probably read or heard from your doctor that depression is triggered by a chemical imbalance in the brain. This involves the messenger substances serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine. The image that the finely differentiated brain chemistry can become imbalanced has become entrenched in public perception. Treatment with drugs designed to rebalance this chemical messengers therefore seems only logical. But is this true?

I would like to briefly tell you something about the history of the origin of antidepressants. Be prepared for the impossible:

On December 29, 1987, a new antidepressant from the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company was launched on the U.S. market. The drug was called Prozac and, thanks to the company’s massive advertising campaign, quickly became the star among antidepressants. Time magazine hailed Prozac as the “pill of the year.” A pill that makes you happy around the clock, with no side effects! But how is it possible that Prozac could be sold to society and doctors as a true miracle pill and that the myth lives on unbroken to this day?

To this end, it should be noted that the drugs of choice for the treatment of depression at that time were tricyclic antidepressants. Today, these are referred to as the “first generation” of antidepressants. However, it was already clear at the time that antidepressants caused severe side effects: Cardiovascular disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sleep disturbances, weight gain, sedation, and sexual dysfunction. And the list of undesirable side effects and interactions is much longer.

Antidepressants – a massive advertising campaign and its consequences

And this is precisely where Eli Lilly came in with a sophisticated and aggressive advertising strategy that turned out to be seriously misinforming and continues to have an impact to this day.  The pharmaceutical giant advertised that Prozac, with its active ingredient fluoxetine, specifically restores the serotonin balance in the brain and is also much better tolerated. A dangerous and misleading promise, as I will explain below.

Prozac was the first of these selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs for short.  EFFEXOR XR® with its active ingredient venlafaxine also belong to the group of serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Behind the incomprehensible neurological abbreviations is the hypothesis that depression is about disturbed communication in the brain. Our brain consists of about ninety billion nerve cells. As soon as one of these nerve cells registers a stimulus, it sends out messenger substances called neurotransmitters, which include serotonin and norepinephrine. These messenger substances enable nerve cells to exchange information with each other, just like people who are engaged in lively conversation. According to numerous studies, these messenger substances must remain in balance, otherwise stimulus transmission in the brain falters. Figuratively speaking, the conversation between the nerve cells then stumbles along and at some point, dissolves into a no longer comprehensible gibberish in our brain. This is then the depression.

In view of the difficult-to-understand terms explaining how antidepressants work, the pharmaceutical companies spoke in simple language to patients seeking help, then as now: Antidepressants specifically intervene in the messenger substance chaos in our brain. As a result, the happiness hormone serotonin, among other things, can better develop its effect in the nerve cells, bringing light and hope back into the dark emotional world of those affected. This sounds too good to be true. But the effect of these words remains unbroken to this day. However, if one takes a closer look at the alleged pharmacologically proven effect of antidepressants, justified doubts arise.

The inconvenient truth about Effexor XR & Co.

For over 30 years, there have been countless studies supporting the effectiveness of antidepressants with numerous statistics and data. But only in the last few years have more and more studies come to the public’s attention that empirically demonstrate precisely that depressives have no problems at all with their neurotransmitter levels. This is a frightening fact, because it means that the carefully formulated medical justification for the use of antidepressants falls apart like a house of cards. And in the meantime, the doubt about the neurotransmitter hypothesis has even arrived in current research, because in very many cases antidepressants have no effect beyond the placebo effect! The use of antidepressants is therefore highly questionable and only shows a short-term mood-lifting effect in the treatment of very severe depression.

Perhaps you are now shaking your head in disbelief and wondering why the critical studies on antidepressants have not yet found their way into the media. It is very difficult to refute an opinion or claim once it has been socially accepted and to erase it from the collective perception. Think about the liquor after the meal. The habit of drinking liquor after a fatty meal is widespread. This is because it supposedly stimulates digestion. But this actually causes the exact opposite to happen: Alcohol inhibits digestion and even hinders gastric emptying. A walk or warm tea would actually be much better.

With this in mind, you should perhaps also critically question the use of antidepressants. Because while the effect of antidepressants today is scientifically very controversial, at least the health risks are well documented. It almost seems that it is not so much the patients who benefit from antidepressants as the pharmaceutical industry. Their profits are immense due to the continuously increasing sales of these drugs.

This is probably the moment when you ask yourself: Is there a promising alternative to medication for depression? The answer is yes!  To do this, we should take a look at the possible causes of depression, because these are generally often neglected or not mentioned at all.

Getting out of depression: recognizing little-known causes

I can really understand if the idea of simply popping a pill to combat depression sounds tempting to you. Especially since the myth of the proven effectiveness of antidepressants persists in the public. But the causes of depression are very complex, and such a mental low doesn’t just happen overnight. Rather, there is a whole range of possible causes that influence each other, such as:

  • A deficiency of BDNF proteins triggered by too little exercise
  • Side effects of medications that have been incorrectly combined
  • Food intolerances
  • Deficiency of minerals, trace elements and vitamins
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Changes in social behavior due to social media and cell phones
  • Unrecognized or improperly treated anxiety disorders
  • Sleep disorders and incorrect sleeping habits
  • Traumatic experiences and repressed grief
  • Negative thinking and so-called calculated pessimism
  • Forced changes in life circumstances, such as during a lockdown

If one or even several of these points come into question for you, you can first try to reduce these triggers as much as possible. Because this often leads to a significant improvement of depressive phases. Especially if you have been suffering from anxiety for a long time and no treatment has helped you so far, resulting depressions are not uncommon. In this case, instead of drug treatment, you should follow another therapeutic approach. And this approach is to use the neuroplasticity of the brain to first overcome the anxiety disorder and thus also the depression permanently. You can learn MORE about this therapeutic approach here.

Depression, anxiety, and negative thoughts

You probably don’t know much about the term “neuroplasticity of the brain” and wonder how it can help you escape depression. The possible causes of depression play a role here. It is often overlooked that depressive disorders are often related to persistent strong feelings of anxiety and pronounced negative thinking patterns. In this case, you can use the neuroplasticity of your brain to free yourself from depression.  In principle, there is a simple method behind it, which you can learn yourself: It’s about letting new positive neuronal structures develop in your brain through special mental exercises. What sounds complicated is actually simple and based on the latest results of brain research.

When I first tell patients about this option, I often hear, “That doesn’t work for me! How am I supposed to train myself to think positive thoughts when there is only emptiness, total lack of drive, or deep black sadness?” But I can assure you, even the emptiness in your head as well as the deep black sadness are based on thoughts. Behind it is a neuronally networked, negative thought structure that may have developed unnoticed in your head over years. At some point, these negative data lines were then in the majority and the psychological effects could no longer be stopped.

But if a certain way of thinking leads to depression, then there must also be a way of thinking that reverses this process. And this is where the Bernhardt-Method comes in. It’s not about just muttering a few positive mantras every day. Rather, you need a special mental training that specifically addresses all 5 senses in such a way that a “reprogramming” of a depressed brain becomes possible really quickly.

Instead of Effexor XR – Get to the bottom of the real causes of your depression

Especially when you are deep in depression, the call to actively search for causes yourself to ensure more joy in life yourself may sound like sheer mockery. But it’s worth getting to the bottom of the real causes of your depression in order to feel significantly more joy in life again. Because the drug alternative doesn’t sound promising: you decide to take a drug that not only has numerous side effects, but can also be addictive and, what’s more, doesn’t even work properly in 86% of all cases!

A quick look at the statistics shows how little Effexor XR (venlafaxine) actually helps:  In 2017, it was the 49th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States with more than 16 million prescriptions. But what does that mean in concrete terms? In 2018, a new analysis of federal data by the New York Times shows that almost 25 million adults have been taking antidepressants for at least 2 years. This is a 60% increase since 2010 and the numbers continue to rise.

If antidepressants really worked as well as is often claimed, wouldn’t a doubling of prescriptions lead to a significant decrease or at least a stagnation of cases of the disease? In fact, however, depressive disorders are on the rise not only in the U.S. but around the world. According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), around 322 million people were affected in 2015. That’s 4.4 percent of the world’s population. An effective medication looks different, at least by my definition.

It is therefore worthwhile to stop trusting in the questionable promises of the pharmaceutical industry and to do something for one’s mental balance oneself.

Effexor XR (Venlafaxine) for anxiety disorders

If you have also read the text passage about depression, then you already know that antidepressants (such as Effexor XR) do not even work particularly well for depression, according to the latest studies. In fact, at least for mild, moderate, and not-too-severe courses, they don’t help any better than placebos, which are harmless sugar pills. Unlike placebos, however, which contain no active ingredients, Effexor XR, with its active ingredient venlafaxine, has a variety of potential side effects that can actually make your condition worse.

But if a drug is not even particularly helpful for the illness to which it owes its name (anti-depressant), how does it behave with disease patterns for which it was not originally developed? After all, antidepressants are now marketed as a cure for all kinds of problems: whether anxiety disorders, ADHD, burnout, eating and sleeping disorders, chronic pain, slipped discs, stress-related bladder weakness, premature ejaculation, or migraines, all of these can or supposedly do get significantly better through the use of antidepressants. No wonder, then, that the number of prescriptions has more than doubled in the last 10 years. It’s funny, though, that none of the previously mentioned illnesses has drastically declined since then. Anxiety disorders in particular are still on the rise and now affect more than 40 million adults in the United States.

The real triggers of an anxiety disorder cannot be eliminated by Effexor XR

As appealing as the idea of being able to treat dozens of diseases at once by manipulating a few neurotransmitters in the brain may be, it is at the same time unrealistic. After all, it is rare that any of these diseases can be reduced to a single trigger. Especially for anxiety disorders, such as agoraphobia or generalized anxiety disorder, completely different causes are responsible than the alleged serotonin or norepinephrine deficiency.

The 4 main triggers of an anxiety disorder

In the many years that we have been helping anxiety patients to finally lead a beautiful and life free of fear and panic again, we have been able to observe four main triggers that have causally led to an anxiety disorder.

Cause number 1: Ignored warning signals

In the run-up to your first anxiety attack, you yourself either failed to recognize certain warning signals or even consciously ignored them, thus unconsciously neurally preparing the first appearance of the pathological anxiety. Most of you probably know these warning signals, because they are psychosomatic complaints that often manifest themselves in the form of stomach and intestinal problems, dizzy spells, hot flashes, unexplained back pain or even sleep disturbances.

Cause No. 2: Certain substances that can trigger anxiety and panic

These include mainly drugs, certain medications, but also some seemingly harmless foods. In the case of drugs, it is mainly the active substance THC, but also MDMA, which includes ecstasy, as well as cocaine and mushrooms with psychedelic effects, so-called magic mushrooms, which can quickly lead to panic attacks. It does not matter whether you have used these drugs for the first time or have many years of experience with them. EVERY SINGLE TIME you expose yourself again to the risk of your brain not doing what you would like it to do. When it comes to medications, it is mainly neuroleptics and certain thyroid hormones that can cause panic attacks. Especially with the latter, a change in medication can work wonders.

Cause 3: Frequent negative thinking

By the way, this also includes the so-called calculated pessimism. Because the way you think wires your brain every day.  This is how brain automatisms are built up, which at some point ensure that it is no longer YOU who control your brain, but YOUR BRAIN that controls you. By the way, whether you have inherited this way of thinking from your parents, or whether certain experiences you have had are ultimately responsible for you focusing only on the bad and the lack, is NOT decisive for the occurrence of anxiety disorders. Even though many old-school psychoanalysts like to claim that it is. If you want to read more about this topic, we recommend the book “The Anxiety Cure” by Klaus Bernhardt, which has been on the bestseller list in the original German version for years.

Cause 4: The so-called secondary gain

This is always the case when, on the one hand, those affected suffer from their anxiety disorder, but on the other hand, they also have a hidden advantage as a result, which they are often not even aware of. It could be, for example, that your partner behaves more considerately and attentively again because you suffer from an anxiety disorder.  Or the illness serves as a legitimate excuse for not having to do a job that you haven’t enjoyed for a long time. You probably can’t imagine, but I experience something like this regularly in my practice. Panic attacks disappear just like that, from one day to the next, simply ONLY because the person concerned finally had the courage, for example, to look for a new, better job or to finally separate from a partner who has not been good for her or him for a long time.

Real root cause research instead of Effexor XR

So before you take a drug for an anxiety disorder that on the one hand has been proven to help little and on the other hand has many side effects, some of them severe, try REAL ROOT CAUSE RESEARCH first.  Especially considering the fact that the list of side effects of Effexor XR is quite long:

Side effects of Effexor XR

Very often (i.e., in more than 10% of all patients), the following problems occur:

  • Nausea 
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Somnolence
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation 

In addition, up to 10% of all concerned suffer from other side effects, such as: 

  • Sexual dysfunctions
  • Palpitations 
  • Weakness
  • Vision disorders
  • Skin diseases
  • Consciousness disorders

Real root cause research with the help of a video course

So instead of risking developing one or even more of these side effects, our advice would be to do some REAL root cause research. By the way, this is not as difficult as it might seem. Because the Institute for Modern Psychotherapy has developed a video course especially for this purpose, which introduces you step by step to the true causes of an anxiety disorder and also gives you tools with which thousands of affected have already managed to completely free themselves from anxiety and panic, even without medication. You can find more information about this video course HERE.