Cymbalta (Duloxetine HCl): Drug Abuse And Addiction

Last Updated: June 3, 2020

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Cymbalta (duloxetine HCl) is an antidepressant drug that millions of people in the United States use on a daily basis. However, only a few know what duloxetine is for real. Additionally, patients need to be aware of Cymbalta abuse, as well as addiction, and how to deal with it.

What Is Duloxetine?

Cymbalta, also known by its generic name of duloxetine, is a prescription medication. The primary ingredient in the medication is duloxetine HCL. What Cymbalta is used for varies. It was developed to treat major depressive disorder; however, it is now used to treat numerous mental health conditions, as well as some pain disorders.
The duloxetine drug class is antidepressant, and it belongs to the antidepressant subclass called selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs. What duloxetine dosage is needed depends on the patient and the condition being treated. In general, whatever the dosage, it is taken once per day.

Generic Cymbalta

Brand-name Cymbalta has been available since 2004. In 2013, the first generic form of this drug was introduced to the U.S. market. The Cymbalta generic name is simply duloxetine, though manufacturers can choose to give a branded name to their generics.
Many patients choose to use generic for Cymbalta. This usually is because the Cymbalta generic cost is much cheaper than the name brand, and sometimes insurance providers will not cover the more expensive version without special approval. However, if a Cymbalta alternative is not suited to a patient, the name brand may be the only option.
cymbalta generics

The duloxetine brand name Cymbalta is manufactured by Eli Lilly. Generic manufacturers include:

  • Actavis Elizabeth
  • Aurobindo Pharma
  • Breckenridge Pharm
  • Hetero Labs
  • Prinston Inc
  • Sun Pharma

While only certain duloxetine manufacturers are allowed to produce and sell the medication in the U.S., sometimes foreign pills will make their way to the U.S. market through online pharmacies and street sales. Users should be aware that these medicines may not be as controlled as those allowed to be sold in the U.S. Some foreign brand names of duloxetine include:

  • Abretia (Mexico)
  • Alacir (Uruguay)
  • Ambidext (India)
  • Cymbi (Brazil)
  • DUlasolan (Hungary)

Cymbalta Ingredients

While there is just one that is active, there are numerous Cymbalta ingredients. What is in the medicine can vary depending on the manufacturer. All versions will have the same active ingredient, but inactive ingredients can vary amongst generics.

The inactive ingredients and their purposes are as follows:

  • FD&C Blue No. 2 to color the pills
  • Gelatin to give structure to the capsules
  • Hypromellose to give structure to the pills
  • Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose acetate succinate to help aid in carrying the drug through the system
  • Sucrose to give sweetness to the medicine
  • Sugar spheres to help aid in sustained release of the medication
  • Talc to improve powder flow
  • Titanium dioxide to color the pills
  • Triethyl citrate to create a coating for the medication

cymbalta ingredients

All ingredients, both active and inactive, have the potential to cause duloxetine interactions when taken with other substances. Additionally, users can be allergic to the ingredients used in the Cymbalta drug. Close medical supervision can help keep users safe.

Benefits Of Taking Cymbalta

All medications come with risks and benefits. For most users, the benefits of Cymbalta make any side effects worth it.

These benefits include:

  • stimulation of two neurotransmitters that impact depression rather than just one;
  • a more balanced sense of emotions when compared to single-action antidepressants;
  • the ability to treat physical symptoms of depression;
  • a lower occurrence of side effects when compared to some other antidepressant medications.

Is Cymbalta Safe?

Many patients worry that duloxetine is dangerous to use. While there are Cymbalta side effects that can be severe, they are rare. Users need to be aware of the risks of Cymbalta medication but should trust their doctor’s guidance in prescribing it.

Overall, the use of duloxetine is safe. As long as the patient is taking duloxetine hydrochloride as directed by a doctor and has proper medical supervision, the chances are good that nothing will go wrong. However, if the medication is misused, problems will arise.

Cymbalta Abuse

The abuse of this drug is rare when compared to many drugs from other classes. However, there is a Cymbalta abuse potential. Because the medication is designed to alleviate depression, some users find it gives them a sense of euphoria. Duloxetine abuse can begin because the user is attempting to chase that high.

Abusing the duloxetine drug is dangerous. When taken in high amounts or mixed with other substances, Cymbalta overdose is possible. Additionally, misuse can make Cymbalta withdrawal even stronger when the user stops the drug. Abuse of the medication should be avoided at all costs.

Cymbalta Abuse Potential

The duloxetine abuse potential is considered to be quite low. This is because the supposed high it delivers is really just the medication helping to relieve depression, and abusing the medication does not actually increase the feelings of euphoria. Additionally, misuse tends to increase the negative side effects to such a degree that most people tempted to abuse the medication will quickly stop doing so. Despite this, there are some people who do chase the Cymbalta high. In most cases, addicts attempt to potentiate the drug with other substances, such as mixing Cymbalta and alcohol. No one should take duloxetine except as directed by their doctor.

Symptoms Of Cymbalta Abuse

Duloxetine abuse is hard to observe as an outsider. Many of the signs and symptoms can look like side effects of the medication or may seem to be symptoms of the illness the medication is meant to treat. For example, abuse can increase Cymbalta weight gain, but doctors and loved ones might just assume this is a natural effect of the medication. However, if multiple signs are observed, abuse should be suspected.

In addition to increased side effects, signs of duloxetine abuse include:

  • unclear speech
  • red eyes
  • sudden and unreasonable changes in behavior, including hygiene and physical appearance
  • loss of appetite
  • sleeping problems: insomnia or constant sleepiness
  • facking the symptoms to get a medication prescription
  • lack of finances and often money borrowing

cymbalta abuse symptoms

Is Cymbalta Addictive?

Given that the medication is sometimes abused, many people wonder if Cymbalta is addictive. The official stance of the medical community is that duloxetine is not addictive. However, abuse and misuse undoubtedly occur, and both physical and psychological dependence is possible.

Duloxetine addiction, which is more dependence, is possible because the body and mind can become accustomed to the presence of the drug, and abusing the medication generally means there are large amounts of the medication present in the body. Physically, a person’s body can become so dependent on the drug that withdrawal occurs not long after Cymbalta half-life is reached, pushing the user to take more of the drug. Mentally, users can fear what life will be like without the drug and feel compelled to continue using and abusing it.

For many people misusing the drug, addiction and dependence do not feel all that different. Treatment for both is the same. The user must seek help in weaning off Cymbalta and then undergo therapy to help them avoid abuse in the future.

Cymbalta Lawsuits

Although the medical community’s consensus is that duloxetine is safe, not everyone agrees. There have been numerous Cymbalta lawsuits in the past, as well as pending litigation that has yet to be resolved. Most of these are the drug withdrawal lawsuits, claiming that the manufacturer is not being transparent about how dangerous stopping duloxetine can be and is not giving proper guidelines for withdrawing from duloxetine safely. There has even been a generic Cymbalta recall due to issues with dissolution. While Cymbalta lawsuit settlement amounts are not known, Eli Lilly alone has settled with over 200 patients out of court.

Stay Aware Of Duloxetine Dangerous

When taken correctly, duloxetine is almost always safe. However, abuse and misuse make the drug dangerous. Anyone who is using the drug improperly should seek help in getting and staying clean. While the doctor can guide and advise to find the proper drug addiction facility, the patients need to be willing to undergo treatment for better outcomes.

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Published on: May 30th, 2019

Updated on: June 3rd, 2020

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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  • Wenda L Plowman
    I have been taking Duloxetine HCL ER 30 mg cap for one month and it is helping with back pain, sleep, ocd, tinnitus (not eliminating, but flattening), arthritis (again, not eliminating pain, but reducing to a acceptable level), and depression. The only side effect has been headache. With all these benefits so far it concerns me to think that I may become dependent on it. But what are the alternatives?