Effexor For Anxiety And Depression: Venlafaxine Uses

Last Updated: December 19, 2019

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Effexor is indicated in the treatment of anxiety and depression. When Wyeth Pharmaceuticals got venlafaxine sanctioned by the FDA, the government body approved the drug for use in the treatment of anxiety and depression.

Doctors also use it for the treatment and management of panic attacks, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Venlafaxine ER is also indicated in the treatment of neuropathic pain, migraines, and menopause-associated hot flashes.

The best time to take Effexor XR is in the morning or evening with food. Nevertheless, one needs to consult a doctor before taking the medication.

Effexor Indications

What is venlafaxine used for? The drug has numerous uses, many of them related to anxiety and depression. There are also some off-label uses for which doctors prescribe Effexor. Doctors will examine and ask about a patient’s wellbeing so that they can competently diagnose any of the following conditions for which the Effexor can be prescribed.

Effexor For Anxiety

The relationship between Effexor and anxiety has long been documented by the scientific community. Doctors use venlafaxine to treat anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD). For the treatment of these two iterations of anxiety, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of venlafaxine as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). So, does Effexor help with anxiety? The experts say it does.

effexor use for depression

Effexor For Depression

One of the Effexor uses approved by the FDA is the treatment of depression in adults. Venlafaxine increases the amount of serotonin – a chemical in the body that brings about feelings of happiness and general wellbeing. According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression is a major condition that affects all aspects of a person’s daily life. The affliction can show up in the form of generalized depressive disorder or major depressive disorder.

Effexor For Panic Attacks

Imbalance in the amounts of neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine causes various anxiety disorders, including panic disorder. Since venlafaxine ER has anxiolytic properties, doctors use it to manage panic disorder in patients.

The venlafaxine class of drugs keeps the neurotransmitters in balance. There is often the compare of using Cymbalta vs. Effexor for anxiety, as they work similarly; however, venlafaxine is often more useful and has fewer side effects. This is why doctors use Effexor for panic disorder treatment.

Effexor For ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that entails uncontrolled behavior, difficulty paying attention, and general overactivity. According to data from the National Comorbidity Survey, the lifetime prevalence of the condition in adolescents alone is 8.7 percent.

With this relatively big number, the use of Effexor for ADHD treatment of widespread. The same survey shows that 69.3 percent of children who were diagnosed with ADHD are taking venlafaxine for it. It stabilizes the mood and enables one to concentrate on the activity at hand.

off-label use of effexor for Bipolar Disorder

Effexor For Bipolar Disorder

Medical professionals also use Effexor for bipolar disorder treatment and management. This is a condition where the patient swings between extremes of moods. There are manic high energy phases and low, depressive periods. Effexor utilizes its ability to manage the neurotransmitters at a synapse. By balancing the amounts of serotonin and norepinephrine, venlafaxine can help those with bipolar disorder to control the symptoms.

Effexor For OCD

One of the Effexor benefits is the ability to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCD is a condition where someone has constantly recurring thoughts or behaviors. The person will have a hard time kicking these habits and will feel compelled to do them over and over again.

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that patients who had found no reprieve from the condition with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) showed some positive signs when doctors use Effexor for OCD treatment.

Effexor For PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that occurs when one experiences a shocking or upsetting event. Doctors use Effexor for PTSD in combination with psychotherapy. Effexor is an effective treatment for PTSD because it is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Per the American Psychological Association, the venlafaxine alters serotonin neurotransmission at low Effexor XR dosage.

Off-Label Uses

As more research was carried out into venlafaxine, it was discovered that it had other benefits. Doctors prescribe the medication for other off-label uses, enabling the patients to buy Effexor XR. However, it’s highly recommended not to use venlafaxine without preliminary consultation with a healthcare provider as the uncontrolled self-medication may cause significant harm to health. Here are the off-label indications for prescribing venlafaxine.

Effexor For Hot Flashes

Towards the end of a woman’s reproductive cycle, doctors may prescribe venlafaxine for hot flashes. During menopause, estrogen levels in women drop. Scientists believe this causes sudden feelings of extreme warmth and sweating – hot flashes. While serotonin is well known in the area of balancing the mood, the neurotransmitter also functions as a regulator of body temperature through its actions in the brain. So, why do doctors use Effexor for menopause? They do so because the venlafaxine regulates the amount of serotonin, effectively controlling the hot flashes women experience during menopause.

effexor use for migraines

Effexor For Migraines

A migraine is a very painful headache that is usually felt at the front or side of the head. Doctors administer Effexor for migraines because some studies have shown that it is effective in providing relief and well-tolerated.

According to a paper published in the Annals of Neurosciences, the levels of serotonin in the brain drop when one is experiencing a migraine. It is, therefore, logical that doctors use serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors like venlafaxine to balance the levels of the neurotransmitter. The restored levels of serotonin in the brain ensure that the migraine pain recedes.

Effexor For Pain

Although venlafaxine is not sanctioned to treat pain, doctors may use Effexor for pain management. The most common kinds of pain where the use of the drug is widespread include neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia. Neuropathic pain is the kind of pain when there has been damage done to the nervous system. On the other hand, fibromyalgia is a complex chronic condition that presents a pain all over the body alongside other symptoms. In these kinds of instances, the usual painkillers might not work effectively. Doctors, therefore, use Effexor for nerve pain treatment to provide some relief. Unlike the other antidepressants with a similar mechanism of action, the venlafaxine effects are more tolerable. This makes it a safer choice for use in the treatment of neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia.

Effexor For Opiate Withdrawal

One of the off-label uses of venlafaxine is in aiding those who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms after halting opiate abuse. Opiates include drugs like morphine, oxycodone, and codeine. These are highly addictive, and when their use is abruptly discontinued, the abuser experiences severe withdrawal symptoms. Some of these include moodiness, anxiety, sweating, and muscular pain. To mitigate these symptoms during withdrawal, venlafaxine has been shown to have a desirable expected effect. It works by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. This serotonergic action helps with the depression and anxiety associated with opiate withdrawal.

contraindications to use effexor

Effexor Contraindications

Like other drugs, venlafaxine has both positive and negative effects. There are some instances where the manufacturer and doctors issue venlafaxine warnings to those intending to take Effexor:

  • During and after pregnancy, mothers are prone to experiencing depression and might want to use venlafaxine. However, a study conducted in the United States showed that use during pregnancy resulted in birth defects in infants.
  • It is advisable for people who are allergic to venlafaxine not to take the medication.
  • Doctors also encourage Effexor discontinuation if the patient has a history of mania. An increased intake of the drug will exacerbate manic behavior.
  • In patients with liver cirrhosis and other liver problems, venlafaxine is not metabolized efficiently in the liver. Taking the medication worsens liver problems.
  • A similar situation occurs in patients with renal impairment. Continued administration of the drug will worsen the kidney disease.
  • There are also drug interactions between venlafaxine and other drugs. For example, concurrently taking Effexor and Xanax is dangerous, and it’s recommended to consult a doctor before taking these medications together.
  • Another important contraindication of venlafaxine usage is when someone has a history of seizures or brain disease. Taking it could worsen the episodes and the damage to the brain.
  • The drug is also contraindicated when people have heart disease, high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, and low blood sodium levels.
  • People who have uncontrolled angle-closure glaucoma should not take this drug either.

how to use effexor safely

Safe Use Of Effexor

Before taking venlafaxine, it is recommended to talk to a doctor and provide a detailed medical history. This is so that the doctor can ascertain if taking the drug is worth the risks associated with it. One of these risks is venlafaxine weight loss or its gain, which might occur. Depending on the condition that a patient presents with, a doctor will prescribe the drug over a specified period of time. If the patient feels that the Effexor stopped working, they should consult a doctor before getting off the drug.

Effexor recreational use is not advisable because it poses a serious risk to health and causes significant harm to a person’s wellbeing. Used alone, the side effects of venlafaxine can be dangerous. Misuse of the drug can result in abnormal heart palpitations, vomiting, seizures, and coma. This danger is further magnified if the drug is abused alongside alcohol. For example, alcohol can increase the drowsy feeling caused by taking Effexor liquid, tablets, or capsules.

Since Effexor XR is an effective antidepressant, many people abuse it. Reliance on the venlafaxine to maintain a good mood makes it addictive. It is, therefore, advisable to get substance abuse treatment if addiction to this drug has developed. Subsequently, it is recommended to find the right drug rehabilitation facility to treat the problem effectively.

Page Sources

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  2. Li X, Zhu L, Su Y, Fang S. Short-term efficacy and tolerability of venlafaxine extended release in adults with generalized anxiety disorder without depression: A meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017; 12(10): e0185865. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0185865. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5628888/.
  3. Venlafaxine (marketed as Effexor) Information. The US Food & Drug Administration. 2015. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/venlafaxine-marketed-effexor-information.
  4. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). National Institute of Mental Health. 2017. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd.shtml.
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  6. Polen KN, Rasmussen SA, Riehle-Colarusso T, Reefhuis J; National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Association between reported venlafaxine use in early pregnancy and birth defects, national birth defects prevention study, 1997-2007. Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology. 2013; 97(1): 28–35. doi:10.1002/bdra.23096. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4484721/.
  7. Ozyalcin SN1, Talu GK, Kiziltan E, Yucel B, Ertas M, Disci R. The efficacy and safety of venlafaxine in the prophylaxis of migraine. Headache. 2005; 45(2): 144-52. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15705120.
  8. Caan B, LaCroix AZ, Joffe H, et al. Effects of estrogen and venlafaxine on menopause-related quality of life in healthy postmenopausal women with hot flashes: a placebo-controlled randomized trial. Menopause. 2015; 22(6): 607–615. doi:10.1097/GME.0000000000000364. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610378/.

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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