The medications Effexor and Pristiq are similar in composition and produced by the same manufacturer, so many people are unclear about how the two medications differ from one another. Although either medication may be useful in reducing the symptoms of major depressive disorder, examining specific aspects of each medication may give people a better idea of which would be best for them. However, people should always talk to a doctor for specific advice regarding which antidepressant medication to use.
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Effexor and Pristiq treat the symptoms of major depressive disorder, but Effexor also can treat the symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder as well. Both medications are classified as selective serotonin and norepinphrine reuptake inhibitor medications, which work by balancing the chemicals in the brain that control moods. Pristiq does not require the same liver metabolism as Effexor, so there are generally less issues with drug interactions, explains Wayne C. Jones, MD on his blog AskDrJones.com.
Effexor should be taken with food, while Pristiq can be taken with or without food. Both medications should be taken at the same time each day. It may take several weeks for patients to see a noticeable difference in their symptoms with either medication.
Many people require a lower dosage of Pristiq than they do of Effexor. Jones writes in his blog that the 50 mg dose of Pristiq has about the same efficacy as the 75 to 150 mg dose of Effexor. Taking a lower dosage of a medication may reduce the occurrence or severity of side effects, which may give Pristiq an advantage over Effexor in some situations. However, increasing the dosage of Pristiq above 50 mg does not seem to improve the effectiveness of the medication, explains John M. Grohol, Psy.D. in his article “Pristiq versus Effexor XR” published on PsychCentral.com. If the 50 mg dosage of Pristiq doesn’t do a decent job at reducing depression symptoms, it is possible that higher dosages of Effexor may work better at relieving those symptoms. People should always discuss all dosage concerns with a doctor, regardless of which medication they decide to take.
Side effects that may occur while taking either Effexor or Pristiq include sexual dysfunction, dry mouth, drowsiness and constipation. Effexor side effects include changes in weight, increased appetite, blurred vision, mild nausea, dizziness or nervousness. Pristiq side effects include mild headache, insomnia, loss of appetite, dizziness and tiredness.
Individuals with bipolar disorder, cirrhosis or liver disease, glaucoma, bleeding or blood-clotting disorders, seizures or epilepsy, high cholesterol, kidney disease or high blood pressure need to use caution while taking Effexor or Pristiq. These conditions put them at risk for potentially dangerous complications when taking these medications. People need to avoid taking either medication within 14 days of taking an MAO inhibitor.
Both medications may cause suicidal thoughts in adolescents or individuals younger than 24 years old. Family and friends of young people taking these medications should report any behavioral changes or comments about suicidal to a mental health professional immediately.
Although Effexor and Pristiq may reduce depression symptoms individually, they should never be used simultaneously. Doing so may cause serious medical complications. Individuals who have taken both medications at the same time should seek immediate medical attention.