Effexor is a brand-name drug based on the generic compound venlafaxine. Often prescribed to treat depression and anxiety disorders, Effexor works by increasing the amounts of certain neurotransmitters or chemicals in your brain that are related to mood. Effexor can cause dependency, so slowly weaning off the drug is a good idea in order to minimize the side effects related to withdrawal. Taking certain supplements during the weaning stage may help ease your transition, although ask your doctor about any potential chemical interactions that could threaten your health.
Effexor - Venlafaxine
Venlafaxine tablets are used to treat depression, whereas venlafaxine extended-release capsules are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorders. Tablets are usually taken two or three times a day with food, whereas extended-release capsules are usually taken once daily in the morning or evening with food. Venlafaxine is classified as a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, or SNRI, according to PubMed Health. It works by increasing levels of neurotransmitters called serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain, helping maintain mental balance. Low serotonin levels are associated with depressed mood, feelings of anxiety and obsessive / compulsive behavior.
Venlafaxine use can lead to a variety of side effects, the most common being amnesia, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness and insomnia, although increased risk of suicide and sexual dysfunction are reported also, according to the "PDR Guide to Drug Interactions, Side Effects and Indications." These symptoms are common with all drugs that inhibit serotonin reuptake, so switching to other brand names may not change your symptomatology. If you and your doctor decide that Effexor is not helping you, weaning yourself from the drug is always much safer than quitting "cold turkey" because your body is likely chemically dependent on it.
Potentially Beneficial Supplements
Many neurotransmitters in your brain contribute to mood, but serotonin is one of the most essential. When weaning off Effexor, supplementing with compounds that contribute to or stimulate serotonin production may help stabilize your mood. For example, tryptophan is an amino acid found in many complex carbohydrates that stimulates your brain to synthesize serotonin. A compound called 5-HTP is a metabolic intermediate in the synthesis of serotonin and works similarly to the antidepressant drugs Prozac and Zoloft. 5-HTP is sold over-the-counter in the United States as a dietary supplement. St. John's wort is a plant-based folk remedy for depression that has a significant effect on hormones and neurotransmitters related to depression and anxiety including serotonin, according to the "PDR for Herbal Medicine." Tyrosine is another amino acid involved with mood regulation, but its effects are mainly on the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Combining other compounds with Effexor may be dangerous, even if the supplement is considered safe taken by itself. Drug interactions are complex and often unpredictable, so consult with your doctor before you take any type of supplement, especially if it has a reputation of affecting brain chemistry. Altered brain chemistry can have serious consequences, such as debilitating depression, dangerous bouts of aggression and increased risk of suicide.