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Pristiq Withdrawal: How To Stop Taking Desvenlafaxine

Last Updated: June 22, 2022

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Pristiq, under the generic name Desvenlafaxine, is one of the medications that is used for the treatment of depression. In 2019, around 3.2 million prescriptions of Desvenlafaxine were issued in the United States. Moreover, for patients taking this drug, whether due to it not working, experiencing side effects, or just wanting to live medication-free, many of them are interested in stopping the use of this drug. However, coming off Desvenlafaxine can be difficult. Users need to understand Desvenlafaxine withdrawal and how to avoid it.

Causes Of Desvenlafaxine Withdrawal

The main cause of discontinuation syndrome is when a patient suddenly stops the use of the medication. However, there are also different factors that can lead to Pristiq withdrawal. Some of these include the following:

  • Desvenlafaxine Dependence– According to the FDA, this medication does not cause dependence. However, patients with a history of drug abuse and addiction are possible to become dependent on the drug, causing them to experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • Desvenlafaxine Tolerance– When a patient develops tolerance, the tendency is that the patient will increment the dose of the drug or there will be a need to use the drug for a longer period of time. According to the study of healthcare professionals from the USA, the longer a patient uses a certain medication, the higher the chance for that patient to experience withdrawal.
  • Reduced Dose– According to a study published in the journal of Contemporary Drug Problems, reduction of dose may also cause withdrawal. In this study, it was reported that if the reduction is frequent, severe withdrawal symptoms may occur.

Homeostasis process allows the body to adjust to different conditions, and substances such as alcohol and drugs can interfere with this. Therefore, when there is abrupt discontinuation of substances, the brain cannot maintain homeostasis, leading to withdrawal.

Different pills scattered on the table.

Pristiq Withdrawal Symptoms

Like every drug in its class, Desvenlafaxine may cause antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Even when ending Desvenlafaxine use is done safely, it doesn’t mean there is no risk of experiencing withdrawal. In fact, it is still quite likely that the symptoms will be felt, even if just mildly. Some of the factors that affect the severity of Pristiq withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Duration of drug use
  • Frequency
  • Quantity consumed

Take note that the severity of symptoms is not the same for every patient using the drug. Factors such as genetics may affect this severity. Furthermore, patients who experience abstinence syndrome may encounter physical withdrawal symptoms such as the following:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Strange neural sensations, such as brain zaps or unexplained itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea

According to the study of medical doctors from Ohio, the most common physical withdrawal symptoms were nausea and dizziness. Moreover, there are also psychological Pristiq withdrawal symptoms such as the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Struggles with sleep
  • Problems with coordination

Working directly with a doctor can also help in reducing  Pristiq withdrawal symptoms as much as possible. Additionally, it is important to note that the drug is used for depression treatment, the onset of depressive symptoms can be very concerning. Users should contact and make plans with their doctor what alternatives they can consider once they have fully withdrawn from the medication, for example Pristiq vs Zoloft can be an option.

How Long Does Pristiq Stay In Your System

Some may wonder, how long does Pristiq stay in your system? According to the study of a medical doctor from Arizona, generally, Desvenlafaxine can stay in the system for around 2.5 days. However, there are different factors that affect this length. Depending on the dosage used, this drug can stay in the system for up to a week. Moreover, the drug can also be detected in the urine, blood, saliva, and hair.

Sample Period
Urine Up to 3 days
Blood Up to 3 days
Saliva Up to 3 days
Hair Up to 90 days

For the hair test, like the other medications, a substance may remain in hair cells for up to 90 days. The standard hair drug testing offers up to a 90-day window for drug detection and patients who will undergo a hair drug test must stop using the medication beforehand. However, when stopping a medication, a doctor’s medical intervention is required.

Pristiq Half-Life

Assuming someone is taking Desvenlafaxine according to the doctor’s orders, there should not be a lot of concern over how long it remains in the system. However, if someone needs to take a medication that interacts with it or is worried about potential drug testing if they are abusing the medicine, there might be a need to know.

The first thing to understand is the Pristiq half-life. This comes in at 11 hours. However, having this Pristiq half-life does not mean it is safe to take contraindicated substances after this time. As for drug testing, antidepressant drugs are not typically screened. However, Desvenlafaxine can cause a false-positive result for phencyclidine. As such, anyone taking Desvenlafaxine and being tested for Phencyclidine use should disclose this to the person administering the test.

Pristiq Withdrawal Duration

According to a study published in the journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, the Pristiq withdrawal symptoms may start 36 hours after the last dose and may continue for up to 6 weeks. However, take note that every patient will experience this differently, based on numerous factors, including:

  • If they chose to stop cold turkey or if they opted to wean off Pristiq.
  • If they tapered, how large their dose reductions were.
  • How long they had been on the medication treatment before deciding to stop.
  • What dosage they were taking.
  • If they sometimes took a larger dose.
  • If they were abusing Desvenlafaxine.
  • How well their organs function and are able to filter the medication out.
  • Their overall health and ability to respond to the absence of the drug.

Patients who are worried about these symptoms may contact their doctor regarding making a health plan to cope with them or may consider other resources such as rehab centers. That way, when they arise, it will be easier to get through withdrawal. Anyone who has been misusing the drug should contact or seek specialized care when withdrawing, as according to a medical doctor from Spain, there is a greater risk of health complications in terms of Desvenlafaxine discontinuation syndrome.

A woman sits on sofa and suffers from Pristiq withdrawal symptoms.

What Helps With Desvenlafaxine Withdrawal?

The best way to manage Pristiq withdrawal is through the help of a medical detox program. According to a study of a medical doctor from Tokyo, this program is the most optimal method especially for those with alcohol addiction as it can help patients manage both of their physical and psychological manifestations.

Aside From This, There Are Also Different Ways to Manage Pristiq Withdrawal Such as the Following:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Consuming a healthy, balanced diet
  • Joining support groups
  • Staying hydrated

A patient who has an addiction to alcohol or other drugs such as Desvenlafaxine may experience a depleted body. According to a study of a medical doctor from India, substances such as alcohol and drugs for the treatment of depression can reduce the functionality of the body. Therefore, consuming a balanced, healthy diet and keeping the body hydrated would help in replenishing the lost nutrients in the body, leading to faster healing from Pristiq withdrawal.

How To Stop Taking Pristiq

Choosing to stop taking medication is not a decision that should be made lightly, especially when it is one for the treatment of a mental health condition. Stopping Desvenlafaxine can mean experiencing many negative effects, including the return of depression symptoms and suicidal thoughts. Before making the decision, the user should contact their doctor and speak about their concerns about Desvenlafaxine medication.

Should the patient and their doctor decide that coming off Desvenlafaxine is best, they will need to decide what method of stopping the use is better. The goal should be to avoid negative side effects of Pristiq that can be exacerbated when ending use.

Stopping Pristiq Cold Turkey

One option that patients often take is stopping Desvenlafaxine cold turkey. This option is not ideal. Going off antidepressant drugs suddenly can result in a wide variety of problems, some of which can be life-threatening. Because these symptoms are so numerous and quite difficult to cope with, it is suggested that patients gradually wean off Pristiq instead of suddenly stopping.

Tapering Off Pristiq

Users who work with their doctors to stop Desvenlafaxine will be given a tapering schedule. While tapering schedules can be found online, users should not follow these on their own. It is best to work with a doctor so they can tailor one to the needs of the patient.

Generally, it is recommended to taper the dose over a minimum of 4 weeks. The schedule will have the user taking steadily smaller Desvenlafaxine doses, cutting down the dose as prescribed. The patient should remain in communication with their doctor throughout the process and adjust their tapering schedule as needed. Eventually, they will be able to come off Desvenlafaxine safely and transition to other medications if needed.

Stopping Pristiq Safely

Discontinuation symptoms of this medication may promote risks to the health that is why it is important to consider looking for resources to prevent or minimize these symptoms. So, if someone is interested in stopping their use of Desvenlafaxine, especially if it has crossed the line into abuse and addiction, one of the resources they may consider is drug rehab centers. These facilities understand how to manage discontinuation symptoms and can help in keeping patients comfortable, all while taking care of their mental health. The right addiction treatment program makes it possible to get on the road to a better life.

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Published on: February 13th, 2020

Updated on: June 22nd, 2022

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.