Effects of Effexor

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Effexor or by its genetic name, “Venlafaxine” is an arylaklanomine serotonin-noerpinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).  It was first used to treat major depressive disorder, as an anxiolytic (antianxiety drug) and related “off label” uses such as diabetic neuropathy and migraine headaches and other more investigative use situations.  It is FDA approved to treat major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and menopausal hot flashes.

Substantial weight loss in patients with major depression taking this drug has been noted as well as generalized anxiety disorder, and social phobias, but the manufacturer does not recommend its use as an anorectic (appetite suppressant) either alone or in combination with phentermine or other amphetamine-like drugs.

How it Works and Uses

Venlafaxine hydrochloride is in the phenethylamine class of modern chemicals, which includes amphetamine, methylendioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), and methamphetamine and yet some patients find venlafaxine highly sedating despite its more common stimulatory effects. Venlafaxine is not approved for the treatment of depressive phases of bipolar disorder.  Patients with bipolar disorder taking this drug are at risk for drug induced mania, mixed states, rapid cycling and/or psychosis common in some bipolar patients, particularly if they are not also being treated with a mood stabilizer.  Due to its action on both the serotoninergic and adrenergic systems, venlafaxine is also used as a treatment to reduce episodes of cataplexy, a form of muscle weakness, in patients with the sleep disorder narcolepsy.  Effexor has a tendency to increase blood pressure and as a result of its modulative effects on the autonomic nervous system, is often used to treat orthostatic intolerance and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.

Risks and Adverse Side Effects with Effexor

  1. The FDA asked the manufacturers of Effexor to include the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) in prescribing data as of July 19, 2006. Medications such as Effexor containing venlafaxine caused an average heart rate increase of 4 bpm in clinical trials along with a sustained increase in blood pressure.
  2. Venlafaxine containing drugs such as Effexor can increase eye pressure, so those diagnosed with glaucoma are at risk for blindness and will need to have frequent eye pressure checks.
  3. While treating major depressive disorder, 44% of patients experienced "failing memory" Incidents. The severity of venlafaxine-induced memory loss was also noted to increase with larger dosages and longer lengths of treatment.
  4. Some patients stopping venlafaxine use experience "SSRI discontinuation syndrome," which is likely due to venlafaxine's short half-life.
  5. The development of a potentially life-threatening serotonin syndrome ("serotonin toxicity") may occur with Effexor treatment, particularly with concomitant use of serotonergic drugs (including SSRIs, SNRIs, tramadol, meperidine/pethidine and triptans) and with drugs that impair metabolism of serotonin (including MAOIs). Serotonin syndrome symptoms may include mental status changes such as agitation, hallucinations, coma, autonomic instability such as tachycardia, labile blood pressure, and hyperthermia, neuromuscular aberrations such as hyperreflexia and incoordination and finally gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Venlafaxine-induced serotonin syndrome may also result when Effexor has been taken in an intentional or accidental overdose situation.

Overdoses and Symptoms

Some patients who have overdosed with venlafaxine developed only mild symptoms; however, severe toxicity can also result with the most common symptoms being CNS depression, serotonin toxicity, seizure, or cardiac conduction abnormalities.  Venlafaxine's toxicity level is higher than other SSRIs, with a fatal toxic dose reached much sooner than other SSRIs. Doses of 900 mg or more will likely to cause moderate toxicity while death may result from very large doses of this drug.  This is a drug that poses multiple, significant physical and mental health risks not the least of which is death by overdose and serotonin poisoning with resulting mental confusion and physical adverse reactions.  If you or your loved one was harmed by taking this chemical it is important to seek the assistance of a medical malpractice or products liability attorney in order to best prevent any additional harms and to preserve the rights and interests of that injured person.

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