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Stopping Duloxetine Leads to Terrible Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness and 'brain zaps' can make coming off duloxetine (Cymbalta) a terrifying ordeal.
Cymbalta duloxetine

Before anyone starts taking an antidepressant, the prescriber should give them some guidance on how to quit. As it turns out, getting off a medication like duloxetine can be extremely difficult because of the dreadful withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms from Stopping Cymbalta:

Q. I’ve been taking duloxetine (Cymbalta) for about nine years for depression. When I first started taking it, I was told I would be better in a year and could just stop taking it. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that that isn’t true!

The side effects of trying to come off it are horrific. Missing even a day causes nausea, headaches and dizziness. When I’ve accidentally run out, I’ve landed in the hospital because I’ve been so ill.

I feel my personality has changed and not for the better. I really need to get off this medication, but I’m scared stiff at the thought of being so sick. I never would have taken this medication if I’d known how addictive it is.

How Can You Minimize Withdrawal Symptoms from Stopping Cymbalta?

A. Stopping almost any antidepressant suddenly can result in severe withdrawal symptoms. Many people report brain zaps, dizzy spells, nausea, headaches, sweating and visual disturbances. This can be extremely debilitating.

Gradual tapering over several months may reduce the discomfort. We provide more details and other approaches for supporting mental health in our Guide to Dealing with Depression. 

You can also find some recommendations on how to discontinue this medication in this article. If you are interested in other people’s experience with these withdrawal symptoms, you will find more than a thousand testimonials here.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I’ve been on Cymbalta about 8 months. I started having seizures and symptoms like if I had Parkinson’s: shaking my head & imbalance. So I decided to stop taking it and it’s the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life.

I feel horrible. I haven’t slept for three days. I wasn’t sleeping with the Cymbalta because it kept me awake at night. Now that I’m trying to stop taking it, which I did, it’s actually making it worse. I haven’t slept in 72 hours. I get this deep vertigo and I’m feeling tingling in my hands and getting chest pains

I am currently trying to wean off cymbalta. I feel like a zombie. All I want to do is sleep. My heart hurts. Crazy dizziness. My head is killing me. Sweating. I don’t feel like talking to anyone. I can’t do it.

Having had a number of spinal surgeries over the years as a result of general wear and tear due to the type of work I was doing, I was eventually diagnosed with failed back surgery syndrome. The end result being I have been left in permanent pain extending from lower back down both legs to my toes. Having had a neurostimulator implanted I was then put on nortriptyline, Amitriptyline and Duloxetine.

I decided 6 months ago that I wasn’t getting enough benefit from the drugs to justify continuing with them so I came off them one at a time, going cold turkey with each in turn. I started with the nortriptyline then after 3 months stopped taking the Amitriptyline as well. Whilst there were some side effects of this cold turkey they were manageable and ceased after several weeks for each.

As of a week ago I stopped taking my Duloxetine. I was on the relatively small dose of 60mg a day but within 24 hrs of stopping I have found the side effects to be somewhat alarming. For me the most noticeable are suddenly getting hit with dizziness out of the blue, the feeling of being detached from my surroundings, the inability to get out of bed of a morning, an extreme lack of any energy and an increase in the volume of my tinitus (this tinitus that only started after I started taking Duloxetine being the main reason for wanting to cease taking these meds in the first place).

I intend to stick with the cold turkey for another week or two and if there are no changes for the better I will then seek additional help from my Doctor.

For anyone considering coming off these types of drugs and especially Duloxetine, I would suggest you make sure you fully educate your family and friends into the likely effects so that they can at least adjust to the changes they will see in you whilst you are fighting these symptoms. Oh and for heavens sake DO NOT DRIVE whilst the symptoms are bad. I have chosen a period when I know i can avoid using the car for a few weeks whilst i struggle with this.
Good luck all.

I want to share a success story with getting off Cymbalta (I did experience some manageable side effects, but no horror stories here).

I was on 60mg of Cymbalta + 2400mg gabapentin for 12 months for chronic nerve pain in my tongue and throat (it’s a unique and weird situation). My neurologist decided to try Cymbalta to replace amitriptyline because the amitriptyline wasn’t doing much for me (gabapentin helps, but I still have bad pain days).

The Cymbalta didn’t do very much for the pain. If I went up higher than 60mg, I just became exhausted all the time, so I stuck with 60mg. I think I was less anxious during the year, but that was not the reason I was taking the drug (I do have an anxiety disorder though, so I guess there was some benefit).

During the year I had two nerve ablations, and they helped increase my pain control somewhat (though not as much as we had hoped).

I have also been practicing yoga (in a studio) 5x/week and take HIIT classes 2-3x/week, and this has helped my pain management more significantly than my medications and procedures have. It has also helped me to manage my anxiety in what I feel is a healthier way.

My neurologist and I decided that I would wean off Cymbalta (the overall goal we have is to get me off most medications, and to have me on the lowest dose possible of the ones I need to be on).

He advised that I taper slowly and prescribed the lowest dose pills available to help with the transition, but other than that he didn’t provide much help/guidance. I want to post what I did because I had extremely mild/minimal withdrawal symptoms, and I hope that my experience can help others.

Things to keep in mind: I was on 60mg of Cymbalta for 12 months. Withdrawing took me another 8 months. Yes, 8 months. You can probably go a little faster, but if you’re very afraid of withdrawal symptoms like I was (and I’m also quite sensitive to medication side effects) then just prepare to go slow.

I had 30mg pills and 20 mg pills. I started my wean by taking 50mg (a 30 and a 20) every day for 6 weeks. I reduced by 10mg every 6 weeks.

The worst side effects I experienced were really horrible night sweats, which kicked in around the 40mg time point in the very beginning. I would wake up soaking wet in the middle of the night. It was uncomfortable and unpleasant, but honestly, not the end of the world and it didn’t last forever.

It was winter in New York (i.e., very cold!), and I was sleeping with the air conditioner on, but it didn’t help. I got bamboo pajamas and bed sheets, and this seemed to help at least keep me dry and more comfortable while I was going through it. It lasted about a month. I haven’t had any night sweats since then.

When I got to 20mg, I didn’t have any lower dose pills. I know that you can cut the pills open an count the little beads. This is what I had planned to do if what I planned to attempt hadn’t worked for me. What that was, was switching to 20 mg every other day, and then eventually every third day, and then as frequently as I needed (every fourth day, every fifth day, and so on) to control side effects.

I went to every third day after six weeks, and then eventually stopped taking the pills because I would forget, and I didn’t have any side effects to remind me (so I never went to the “every fourth day, every fifth day, etc.” part of the plan). I haven’t taken a pill for over a month, so I think I’m free of the drug.

The biggest thing for me is that I wake up MUCH earlier now, which is incredible. I struggled so much for the past 20 months to get out of bed in the morning. I would hit snooze for an hour on my alarm clock, get out of bed way too late, and then be rushing around. I would sleep until 10 or 11am on weekends. This was something I never did before the chronic pain started, and I had blamed the gabapentin because fatigue is a major side effect, and I had increased my dose around the same time I started Cymbalta. I had actually been warned that Cymbalta could make it hard to fall asleep, so I took it in the mornings.

However, after reading more about this recently, I have learned that Cymbalta can shorten your REM sleep, which makes it harder to wake up in the morning. The fact that I now wake up at 6:30am without an alarm clock on weekends (like I used to!), and can wake up early to have time to myself in the mornings before week (again, like I used to!) has me attributing this fully to Cymbalta, since I am still on the same high dose of gabapentin.

I hope this helps anyone attempting to wean off Cymbalta. I think taking it very slow is the key.

I had bad experience with duloxetine , lots withdrawal synonyms still suffering for side effect now.

I was prescribed Cymbalta in2005 for depression. In 2008, I was diagnosed as having fibromyalgia. Tried various drugs for that, none worked, then my psychiatrist said perhaps a higher dose of Cymbala would help. I thought it did, for about 3 years. Then I realized it was not helping, but by then, I was in LaLa Land. I was not capable of thinking clearly, but didn’t know it. I would go to work, and spend the day reading emails. I’m sure there weren’t that many emails, I was just rereading them over and over, trying to absorb what they said. My job performance went downhill, and I was forced to take early retirement in 2012. I stopped reading, one of my favorite pasttimes, because I could not absorb what I read. All this time, my doctor would only ask me how I felt. I felt zombie happy. He never asked how work was going (badly), was I managing my finances normally (no), (I live alone), were there changes in my friendships (yes). There were personality changes that all my friends commented on but the psychiatrist didn’t notice. Some friends put up with them, some didn’t.

I developed major heart arrhythmia in 2011, and had to have surgery in 2012 and 2013. When I was finally able to get off the blood thinners in 2014, I determined to get off of everything. The psychiatrist did not want me to quit Cymbalta, so I had to go online to find out how to do it. I was on a very high dose, so it took over a year; I would decrease it just a little, then wait until the headaches, lightning bolts, dizziness and nausea settled down, then decrease a bit more. It was awful, but I was determined. Meanwhile, all I was capable of doing was watching TV.

A few months after I took the last dose, I realized that my fibromyalgia did not hurt any worse without it, and I wasn’t appreciably less happy, either. It was six months before I could read and remember even the lightest reading again. I’ve been off it for almost two years now, and I am realizing that I can no longer think as fast as I used to. I used to be good at one-liners and quick comebacks, but I can’t do it anymore. My friends do say I am getting closer to the “me” I used to be, but I’m not there yet.

I now address my fibromyalgia and depression with a fresh food diet, lots of fruits (especially berries) and vegetables, dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, salmon and chicken. No red or processed meat, no packaged foods, and boswellia. I tried curcumin (turns out I’m allergic) and a couple of other herbs, but, for me, boswellia is a miracle herb. I feel better than I have since well before I was diagnosed.

I was prescribed Cymbalta & Provigil for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Narcolepsy, and later prescribed Lyrica.
In Sept. 2017 my Insurance Co. suddenly decided to not pay for my prescriptions. This lasted for 5 1/2 months.
My Provigil alone is $4.500.00 a month !! I could not afford to buy anything for 3 1/2 months. I had no idea about the side effects of stopping CYMBALTA suddenly! I was going Crazy !!! Suicidal — The most HORRIBLE I ever felt in my LIFE !! It has been nearly 7 months since the “onset’. I have been in bed for3 3/4 months. Just a few steps EXHAUSTS ME ! I am dizzy — cannot walk straight I BOUNCE off the walls and hit the sides of doorways ! It is as if I have from limited to NO CONTROL over my upright body. I take all my heart and narcolepsy meds, but still sleep 18-21 hours a day !!
I KNOW it is from the suddenly stopping CYMBALTA !!! Over 12-15 years of taking it. Helped a LOT at first, after 5 years I just got used to it. Kept taking for years, until insurance refused to pay in Sept.2017.

My life has been a WRECK Ever since — Still is !!! A living HELL !!!!!!! Unable to find a solution !!! Anyone ?

My experience is that very few medical doctors’ know how to diagnose. I do not know how or if they learned it in medical school, etc. To my knowledge there is a list of questions used and diagnosis is tried to be answered from that list or a list. It includes what tests to be done, etc. That is scary. I do know that there are a few medical professionals who are “talented” in diagnosis; which is wonderful. I wish I could find one now. For me, especially lately, where I now live I received little or no communication when I recently had an appointment. I asked questions and received no answer. I further pursued and it did not go well. This included questions on medications and what do I do next. I was told to stay on same medications (the doctor did not know details about why, how long I have been taking them), status would be the same, and I would be seen in four to six months. This was a “reputable” doctor in practice for over 25 years. Two of the medications are Cymbalta and a medication in Lyrica family. I have had similiar experiences in past. This is not my only experience. I don’t have an answer about what to do. I don’t feel I can stop seeing medical people, but I am not confident about anyone anymore.

Selling antidepressants is a multi-billion dollar business in Big Pharma. The ads on TV are deceptive in so many ways. For example the focus of the ads usually show a depressed individual BEFORE taking the antidepressant and they look very depressed. AFTER they take the antidepressant they are shown smiling and laughing and even the people around them are smiling and laughing. The TV audience sees this and pays little attention to the voice over reciting all the side effects- some very serious.

Big Pharma needs to take some social responsibility AND pay less attention to their swelling bank accounts.

I took Cymbalta for years and got off of it a few years ago. It was very difficult. I ended up opening the capsules and counting beads. I made very gradual adjustments and it took months to get off of. I felt withdrawals from the slightest decrease. I agree with the above comment. Eat good quality foods (lots of fruits and vegetables) and take quality herbs. The best thing you can do with medications like Cymbalta is to throw them away!

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