I Did It: How to Stop Taking Effexor

I had taken Effexor XR for almost four years. At every appointment with my oncologist, I would mention that I didn’t feel it was necessary to continue the drug since I was originally prescribed the anti-depressant to help with hot flashes during chemotherapy. I had long been finished with chemo and the hot flashes had subsided but I couldn’t stop taking Effexor without dealing with the horrible withdrawal symptoms. My oncologist repeatedly recommended to wean to the lowest dosage available and then begin an every-other-day regimen until I finished the prescription.

But, it wasn’t working!

I felt dizzy, drunk-like, almost. I had blinding brain zaps. I felt nauseous, tired and sick. I could not function without taking that pill every day. I do remember considering to stop cold turkey but who knew how long the symptoms would last. It could be a weekend or it could be a month. I wasn’t willing to white knuckle my way through it.

I finally found some info online about why I was having such a hard time weaning from Effexor XR. I’m guessing since you’re reading this, you are also trying to find a way to get off the anti-depressant without the debilitating withdrawals. {Edited} Be sure to read the almost 200 comments on this post, you are not alone.

I took what I read online to my general practitioner and thankfully she was familiar with the Effexor-Prozac Bridge. If you don’t know what “the bridge” is, please take a few minutes to read this here:  Effexor-Prozac Bridge  In sum, it explains the chemistry of Effexor and Prozac.

how to wean from effexor

In less than TWO WEEKS I was able to stop taking Effexor!

After speaking with my doctor about the bridge, she prescribed a 30-day dosage of 10mg Prozac. She strongly advised that if I started to feel the Effexor withdrawal symptoms to open the Effexor capsule and take 3/4 of the granules.

On her advice, this is what I did to stop taking Effexor XR.

This information is not intended to replace any medical advice. This is my own, personal experience successfully weaning from the anti-depressant. 

Day one – I replaced one 37.5 mg capsule of Effexor XR with one 10 mg capsule of Prozac.


The first day I simply swapped pill for pill.  Whamo!  I started feeling those awful flu-like withdrawal symptoms and worried I wouldn’t be able to break free from my Effexor addiction.  And then I remember my doctor’s advice – TAKE THE EFFEXOR!  I broke open one Effexor capsule, poured out and counted the granules (there were about 35 in the pill).

You can see from the photo below, I put the granules in applesauce to swallow them.

Day two –  I took one 10 mg of Prozac and 26 Effexor XR granules.  I continued that ratio for another two days.

Days five and six – I took one 10 mg of Prozac and had reduced the number of Effexor granules by 1/2, taking about 15 or so.  I continued that particular ratio for another two or three days.

Days nine, 10, and 11 – I took 1 10 mg of Prozac and about 8 Effexor granules.

Day 12 – 1  10 mg of Prozac and NO Effexor!


How long did you stay on the Prozac?

I finished the 30 day prescription of Prozac and refilled for one additional month. I was worried weaning from Prozac would be difficult considering my experience with Effexor XR. I reduced my Prozac dosage to every other day, then every third day and simply stopped by the end of the second prescription.


It took me roughly two weeks to stop taking Effexor.  Two weeks to stop taking a drug that I thought I’d never be able to move on from.  Two weeks!  Don’t accept that you have to take Effexor XR forever. Talk to your doctor about the Prozac bridge.

Have you ever taken Effexor XR?  Tell me about your experience!

PLEASE NOTE: This experience with Effexor XR and withdrawal regimen is totally my own at my doctor’s advice.  Please do not replace this information as professional medical advice.  Please talk to your doctor. If you are feeling suicidal, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

Effexor XR and Prozac | Bridging the Two Drugs

So you’re wondering what a Prozac bridge is, right? Well, if you take Effexor XR and have been trying to wean yourself from the drug but simply can’t get below 37.5mg, 75mg, or even more than maybe the Prozac bridge is the answer. Or not. You should DEFINITELY consult with your doctor before changing the dosage of any medication. This is NOT intended to replace your doctor’s advice. I’m sharing with you what my research has yielded and I will bring my findings to discuss with my own doctor when I see her next month.


A few days ago I wrote about how I can’t stop taking Effexor XR. I’ve successfully gotten down to the lowest available time-released dosage of the medication. For a short time I was even able to get into an every-other-day regimen but currently I am taking it daily.

I’ve spent a good amount of time reading message boards and online forums from people with the same problem as mine. I came across a Q&A with Dr. James Phelps (I don’t know anything about this guy — he could be some random dude playing a doctor online — so consult with your doctor first!). He references Joseph Glenmullen’s book, Prozac Backlash and a chapter called “Held Hostage” where the author writes about the theory behind “Prozac bridging.” In the simplest terms: you replace Effexor XR with Prozac.

Now I know it sounds like you’re just replacing one med for another but there is science behind this idea and it has to do with the “half-lives” of the drug. All anti-depressants have “half-lives” and what that means is how quickly the drug leaves a person’s blood stream after you’ve taken your last dose. Effexor XR has an extremely short “half-life” which is the reason behind the horrible withdrawal symptoms. Phelps explains the details here. I also found EffexorWithdrawl.com to be a good source too in understanding “half-lives.”

So what’s Prozac have to do with it? Prozac is an extremely long “half-life.” It takes Prozac 7-9 days to leave the blood stream (as compared to Effexor XR at 15 hours). Withdrawal symptoms are considered unusual when taking Prozac. When you are able to get to the lowest dose possible on Effexor XR is when you are suppose to replace – or bridge – it with Prozac. It’s up to you and your doctor when you decide to wean from the Prozac but apparently it’s supposed to be head and tails easier to do than Effexor XR.

A couple of suggestions I received from this week’s earlier post on the subject that I thought were worth considering:

– My friend and nurse Kathleen suggested progressively lengthening the intervals. “It might be inconvenient (maybe having to set an alarm for the middle of the night), but you could make up a schedule for every 48, 50, 52 hrs, etc…? Or try taking one every 2.5 days (60 hr intervals)?” My note: I don’t know for sure if this would work considering those pesky short “half-lives.” I think lengthening the time between is just prolonging the withdrawal symptoms and then you are back at square one once you take it.

– Another friend suggested seeking help from naturopathic doctor. I’m seriously considering consulting with the specific doctor she recommended for this and possibly other issues I am experiencing (inflammation, fatigue, etc.).

– A family friend and pharmacist suggested taking the immediate release Effexor (I currently take the XR – “extended release”) which at its lowest strength is 25mg and it comes in tablet form that can be cut in half and quarters to decrease the dosage over time. The XR comes in capsule form which cannot be cut. Her thoughts on bridging Effexor and Prozac “would basically be adding a different drug that has the same mechanism of action” and “would not gain a great deal from that switch.”

I’m not exactly sure what avenue I’m going to pursue yet. I’ve really considered the white knuckle approach but I’m so worried that the side effects would last longer than three days. I’ve read some people feel sick up to a month. I really don’t want that. I’m definitely going to discuss the options with my general practitioner (as opposed to my oncologist who said I should just keep taking it). I’ll keep you posted.

This information is not to replace any advice your personal doctor has given you.  I do not make any claim that Prozac bridging works.  This is simply the research I have found.  Go talk to your doctor!

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