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Venlafaxine: uses, side effects and precautions

Venlafaxine: uses, side effects and precautions

August 16, 2022

There are almost as many types and subtypes of antidepressant drugs as there are disorders and conditions with depressive or anxious symptoms. This is because each one of them presents singularities that can be effective for each of the disorders.

One of these drugs is venlafaxine, an antidepressant It was first introduced in 1993 and since then it has become one of the most prescribed medications for depression.

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What is venlafaxine?

Venlafaxine is an antidepressant that is included within the category of Selective Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) , being the most common and administered of the whole range. It is prescribed, mainly, in cases of major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and in specific cases of anxiety disorders with depression.


Selective Inhibitors of Reuptake of Serotonin and Noradrenaline exert an effect on these two neurotransmitters, which have an important role in the mood of people.

At the functional level, the action of venlafaxine is related to that of tricyclic antidepressants. However, by not interfering with the muscarinic, histaminergic or alphaadrenergic receptors, they do not exert such undesirable side effects with such intensity, among which are sedative, hypnotic reactions or side effects that affect the cardiovascular system.

Finally, administered in very high doses, venlafaxine also exerts a subtle inhibitory effect of dopamine reuptake ; since recent studies have shown that the driver of noradrenaline also transports dopamine in small amounts.


If, in addition, we take into account that the reuptake of serotonin in the frontal cortex will also activate dopamine and that this brain region has only dopamine receptors; venlafaxine will favor the neurotransmission of dopamine also in the frontal cortex.

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In what disorders is it used?

As discussed above, venlafaxine is an antidepressant. Therefore, this is a psychotropic drug administered both in cases of depressive disorders, and in some disorders with anxious symptoms.

Venlafaxine It is mainly used in patients with major depressive disorder . This condition is characterized because the person experiences a low state of mind in an invasive and persistent way. In addition, it is often linked to low self-esteem and lack of interest or enjoyment in those activities that were previously considered pleasurable.


However, it is sometimes administered by prolonged-release capsules for certain disorders related to anxiety. Among them:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder : the person experiences an exaggerated and uncontrollable worry.
  • Social anxiety disorder: exacerbated fear of interaction with other people.
  • Panic disorder : Sudden and unexpected crises of intense fear and feelings of worry associated with these crises.

Finally, venlafaxine is also administered in some cases of narcolepsy sleep disorder. The reason is that, thanks to its effects on the serotonergic and adrenergic systems, it can help to moderate the episodes of muscle fragility or cataplexy associated with this condition.

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How is it administered?

Venlafaxine is sold in two different formats depending on the type of action: the usual tablets or prolonged-release capsules. In any case, being a drug, its use must always be indicated by a doctor.

In general, the tablets should be ingested between two and three times a day whereas in the prolonged-release capsules it is sufficient with one dose per day, being able to be administered in the morning or at night. Due to the effects of this antidepressant, a gradual start of treatment is recommended , starting at a small daily dose of venlafaxine that will progressively increase once every 4 or 7 days.

However, regardless of the case or state in which the patient is, he should always follow the instructions offered by his doctor, which will adjust the dose to the conditions in which he is.

In no way can the patient modify the doses of venlafaxine, nor stop taking it or taking it in more quantity than recommended; since this can lead serious consequences on the health of the person, such as withdrawal syndrome .

If you think the medication has no effect on you or is harming you, you should contact your doctor to adjust it before changing anything on your own.

Side effects of this drug

Like all antidepressant drugs, venlafaxine can exert a series of side effects about the person. These can be distinguished between serious or non-serious side effects.

If the patient experiences some of the non-serious side effects in a severe or recurrent manner, it is recommended that you inform your doctor so that you adjust the dose. In the case of serious side effects, the patient should contact the doctor immediately.

Less serious side effects

These are the mild side effects of venlafaxine.

  • Drowsiness .
  • Feeling tired.
  • Vertigos
  • Headaches
  • Nightmares.
  • Nausea and / or vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal disorders .
  • Loss of appetite and / or weight.
  • Tremors .
  • Tension and / or muscle spasms.
  • Sweating .
  • Problems in urination.
  • Throat infections
  • Alterations in sexual desire.

Serious side effects

Among the side effects of venlafaxine that are more serious, the following stand out.

  • Skin problems such as rash, hives or itching.
  • Problems in breathing and swallowing.
  • Pectoral pain
  • Arrhythmias
  • Convulsions
  • Cardinals without apparent cause.
  • Vision problems.
  • Fevers .
  • Alteration in coordination.
  • Hallucinations .
  • Eat temporary.

Finally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), after a recent study that linked the consumption of antidepressants (specifically venlafaxine) with an increased risk of suicides, requires that all antidepressants include a warning about this possible contingency.

What precautions should be taken?

Like the side effects, venlafaxine also has a series of contraindications or conditions to take into account before starting the treatment. It will be necessary for the patient to inform his / her doctor of any special health condition that he / she has, regardless of the nature of the condition.

It should be reported both allergies, as all drugs, vitamin supplements and natural complexes that the patient is consuming, to avoid possible interference with treatment. Likewise, you should also report your habits regarding alcohol intake and diet, among other things because venlafaxine often causes significant weight loss.

The patient should also bear in mind that due to the effects of drowsiness caused by the medication, your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery it can be altered.

Finally, in cases of pregnancy, although there are no controlled investigations; Some studies suggest that venlafaxine may double the risk of spontaneous abortion, as well as significant malformations in the fetus. Therefore, it should only be administered in rigorously justified and necessary cases.


Effexor XR (Venlafaxine) - Anti-Depressant/Anti-Anxiety (August 2022).


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