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I’ve been wanting to talk about Efexor (it only has one ‘f’ in South Africa). It is a very controversial med that seems to provoke strong opinions, either for or against. Justifiably so - when Efexor is good, it is very, very good and when it’s bad, it’s NASTY.

Efexor has fallen in the ‘very,very good’ category for me but it hasn’t been without its fallout. I go on and off it, depending on my manic ebbs and flows. I have had (and may still be having, not sure) some serious side-effects, but that’s for another post.

... I was quickly prescribed xanax and effexor, eventually straterra and trazadone. The panic attacks stopped, but a whole other series of side effects began, first slowly, then escalated as medications were increased. I began drinking sporadically ending many years of not drinking. Got into trouble. Went to the mental clinic and was told I was bi-polar. Effexor was removed and replaced with Lamictal....

Schillaci wrote:

I tried Effexor a few months ago. While I enjoyed the manic episodes in the beginning, I was unable to sleep on it. Trying to compensate with alcohol was a bad idea. I discovered alcohol tasted much better than usual, and I basically started binge drinking....

... Once I learned I was supposed to take this medicine for a very long time, I quit cold turkey. This gave me the famous "brain zaps". Those were interesting in the beginning, but then the frequency increased, and the intensity increased to the point of nausea. Feeling nauseous every time I moved my eyes, that's basically the Effexor detox experience. I was not informed about this beforehand.

In hindsight it was a drug way too powerful. My heart still feels "weird" ever since. I feel as if something foreign took over my heartbeat. Now sometimes I get chest pains, and it's like I have to explicitly tell my heart to keep beating! I was not new to drugs, in fact I have tried a whole lot of 'em, but such side effects I had only encountered before with the lousiest of the lousiest ones. It's as if the chemists tried to make a drug like cocaine but without the addictive properties. Though when you're craving that one Effexor capsule to take away those horrible, horrible brain zaps, you don't care whether it's officially declared addictive or not. A substance as aggressive/intrusive as cocaine but without the fun, that's probably the best description.

As far as I'm concerned I'd put this drug on the same level as electroshocks, in the last resort tier… And as a final note, it was supposed to make me less anxious. But it actually made me more anxious.

A lesser known fact about Efexor, not in the package insert (I scoured it) and not acknowledged by most doctors is that Efexor can cause either a craving for alcohol, (even in people who have not previously had an alcohol problem) or alcohol intolerance. (It’s not alone, some of the SSRIs do too.) There is no research about this but there is strong anecdotal evidence which you’ll come across if you talk to enough people. This came to mind because you both mentioned increased drinking, which may or may not be connected.

I became interested in this because I developed a strong alcohol intolerance when I started to take it. At first I thought my liver had been damaged from my overdose all those years ago, but it passed liver function tests with flying colours. So I started looking for info and found this mentioned in quite a few places.

I wasn’t ever much into alcohol (my father was alcoholic, so I have a bit of a phobia about becoming one). Now I have 1-2 drinks a year and whenever I have one, I remember why I don’t! – a monster migraine moves in before I have finished even one drink. Hey, I’m not complaining, I’m very grateful for it.

I don’t want to put anyone off Efexor. I love it. It was a godsend for me and is known to pull many out of deepest depression where other meds have failed. But it's not for everyone. So I think it pays to know about what you’re taking. Knowledge is power!

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