Venlafaxine Drug Class: What Type Of Drug Is Effexor?

Last Updated: December 19, 2019

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

What type of drug is Effexor? Effexor drug type is an antidepressant, mostly used in an extended-release formula to treat major depression and various anxiety disorders. Its generic name is venlafaxine, but this term is sometimes used interchangeably with Effexor XR, sold exclusively in the extended-release capsule formulation. Venlafaxine XR classification relates to the SNRI subtype of antidepressants, which distinguishes it from SSRIs and stimulants. Learn about what class of drugs is Effexor, and other common questions about pharmaceutical Effexor classification.

What Type Of Antidepressant Is Effexor?

Venlafaxine is an SNRI drug type (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor), which means that it affects the neurochemistry of serotonin and norepinephrine transmission in the brain. By inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, venlafaxine SNRI keeps these neurotransmitters in the synaptic gap, making them more available to the surrounding nerve cells.

Thanks to its dual effect on the two monoamine neurotransmitter brain systems, the Effexor class of antidepressants can be used to treat cataplexy, which is a special form of muscle weakness linked with narcolepsy. This is a clear advantage of this class of medications over more specific SSRIs. Moreover, due to the double mechanism of action, venlafaxine drug type can also be used to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and even post-traumatic stress disorder, which isn’t the case with most SSRI medications. Note that only a medical specialist should define a suitable product form and venlafaxine doses for each case.

Although venlafaxine belongs to the most modern class of antidepressants, Effexor XR drug interactions with other classes of medications are sometimes may be dangerous, especially when this substance is combined with MAOIs. This combination is potentially deadly, and it should be avoided at all costs. Substances increasing serotonin should not be taken with venlafaxine, as dangerous serotonin syndrome may appear.

Is Effexor XR An SSRI?

Effexor SNRI also affects the reuptake of serotonin, but Effexor XR is not an SSRI(selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), just as venlafaxine does not belong to an SSRI class too. SNRI drug type has a more general effect on the brain, affecting both norepinephrine and serotonin metabolism, while SSRI class only affects serotonin. This is the main difference between Effexor and Lexapro, while both medications treat depression.

Is Effexor XR An MAOI?

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are the first generation of antidepressants. While venlafaxine drug class affect the reuptake of norepinephrine and serotonin, MAOIs prevent the breakdown of these and other neurotransmitters, prolonging their stay in the synaptic cleft. In other words, the Effexor drug type does not belong to an MAOI class of medications.

Is Effexor A Tricyclic Antidepressant

Is Effexor A Tricyclic Antidepressant?

Venlafaxine is not a tricyclic antidepressant. Tricyclic antidepressants are the first class of antidepressants, and venlafaxine drug class replaced the tricyclic medication for depression, due to fewer health risks and side effects. However, there are still many side effects of Effexor XR medication class, such as lack of strength, headache, and sweating.

Tricyclic medications for depression are non-selective, influencing a wide array of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, 5-HT, histamine, muscarinic, and acetylcholine. On the other hand, SNRIs like venlafaxine medication have a much more selective mechanism of action, which is why these substances often have a more predictable and controllable effect.

Is Effexor A Narcotic?

Effexor does not belong to narcotic medications. Narcotics and venlafaxine drug classes have a different use, chemistry, and mechanisms of actions. Narcotics drug type is used primarily for treating pain, while venlafaxine class is used to treat psychological problems, although some doctors prescribe it to patients with diabetic neuropathy and migraine. Both narcotics and venlafaxine drug type may cause psychological dependence, and develop the addiction, however, venlafaxine doesn’t cause physical dependence and such adverse health complications as narcotics cause.

Is Effexor A Stimulant

Is Effexor A Stimulant?

Venlafaxine drug type is distinct from the stimulant drug type. Even though stimulants sometimes affect the same neurophysiological mechanisms as some antidepressants, doctors prescribe venlafaxine for anxiety, depression, and social anxiety, while stimulants are used to increase activity and induce pleasure. Stimulants medication type also affects serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters, but these medications also increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which isn’t the effect SNRI class of medications produce. Most stimulants also have a strong acute effect, like, for instance, strong euphoria and exaltation, while the Effexor type of drug increases the serotonin level in the body. Most SNRIs start to work only after a few weeks of therapy, which clearly sets them apart from the stimulant medication type that has a prominent and energizing immediate effect.

Is Effexor A Benzodiazepine?

Despite benzodiazepines and venlafaxine sometimes may be used to treat the same psychological conditions, like anxiety and panic disorder, the venlafaxine doesn’t belong to the benzodiazepine class. Benzodiazepines have completely different chemical properties and mechanisms of action that the venlafaxine class has. Benzodiazepine medication type affects GABA receptors, while SNRIs affect mainly monoamine neurotransmitters, excluding dopamine. Both benzodiazepine class of medications and Effexor class of medications are effective in treating panic disorders, and only a medical expert is eligible to choose suitable medications for these conditions.

Is Effexor A Controlled Substance?

According to the legal substance classification, the Effexor drug type is not on the list of controlled substances. All these substances are often scheduled and rigorously controlled, whereas no schedule level has been assigned to a venlafaxine class of medications. Effexor medication type is legal in the U.S.

Addictive Properties Of Effexor Drug Type

Patients who misuse venlafaxine antidepressants for a prolonged time may develop signs of addiction, most prominently related to psychological addiction, at the same time, the physical symptoms, like stomach cramps, may appear also. Venlafaxine weight gain and weight loss were reported while prolonged use of this medication type. Due to the half-life of Effexor, addiction may occur with chronic use, and the problem perpetuates, even more, when patients increase the doses of medication without consultation with a medical specialist. Doses should never be adjusted without contacting a doctor first. A sudden stop of venlafaxine use without medical supervision would also lead to venlafaxine withdrawal symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and anxiety. If there are any allergic reactions or side effects appear or if the venlafaxine price is not suitable, it’s advised to ask a healthcare provider to prescribe another medication from the same or different classes.

People experiencing symptoms of addiction to venlafaxine medication type can seek treatment in an addiction center, which often has specific programs for the elimination of detrimental habits. These centers offer various drug addiction treatment, like individual or group psychotherapy, work therapy, art therapy, and many others. Professional doctors would define the most suitable form of treatment and therapy, which would be particularly helpful for eliminating psychological addiction to the Effexor class of medication.

Page Sources

  1. O'Connor EA, Whitlock EP, Gaynes B, et al. Screening for Depression in Adults and Older Adults in Primary Care: An Updated Systematic Review. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2009. (Evidence Syntheses, No. 75.) Table 2, List of antidepressants and their categorizations.
  2. Amsterdam JD, Lorenzo-Luaces L, Soeller I, Li SQ, Mao JJ, DeRubeis RJ. Short-term venlafaxine v. lithium monotherapy for bipolar type II major depressive episodes: effectiveness and mood conversion rate. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2016; 208(4): 359–365. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.115.169375.

Published on: November 29th, 2019

Updated on: December 19th, 2019

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.


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