Cymbalta® Withdrawal

Cymbalta Withdrawal

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What is Cymbalta Withdrawal?

When a drug has a short half-life, the drug begins to exit the patients system very quickly, and that sudden depletion of the drug in the patient’s body, leads to withdrawal. Cymbalta withdrawal refers to the symptoms a person experiences when they stop taking Cymbalta, also called discontinuation-emergent adverse events (“DEAEs”).

The frequency of Cymbalta withdrawal is associated with a drug’s “half-life.” The term “half-life” means the amount of time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body after one stops taking it. In his book, The Antidepressant Solution, Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard, explains that “the frequency with which antidepressants cause withdrawal reactions correlates with how short their half-lives are.” When a drug has a short half-life, the drug begins to exit the patients system very quickly, and that sudden depletion of the drug in the patient’s body, leads to withdrawal. Conversely, drugs that have a long half-life, leave the body gradually and generally have less frequent and severe withdrawal effects.

Common side effects of Cymbalta withdrawal:

  • Brain zaps – electric shock-like sensations in head
  • Body zaps – electronic shock-like sensations in body (not in head)
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Agitation and/or irritability
  • Aggression
  • Nightmares and/or sleep disturbance
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Vertigo
  • Dizziness and/or light-headedness
  • Headache and/or migraines
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Memory and concentration difficulties
  • Suicidal thoughts (ideation)
  • Suicide attempts
  • Self-mutilation
  • Hallucination and/or sensory disturbances
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Flu-like symptoms (abdominal discomfort, weakness, etc.)

Cymbalta has an extremely short half-life of about twelve hours. This means that, on average, when taking Cymbalta, half of the drug leaves the patient’s system within twelve hours. This is an extremely fast rate. And, among antidepressants, Cymbalta is the second fastest. With such a short half-life, you would expect Cymbalta users to experience very high rates of withdrawal effects. You would also hope that the manufacturer of Cymbalta would properly warn patients and their physicians about this serious risk through the drug label and in Cymbalta advertising.

Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms Word Cloud

How Severe are Cymbalta Withdrawal Effects?

According to Lilly’s own clinical trials, in many cases, Cymbalta withdrawal reactions were moderate to severe. In the short term trials, one out of every ten patients experienced severe reactions. In one 52-week trial, at least one in six patients was severely affected. In another study, 25% of those who experienced withdrawal effects had severe reactions.

In 2008, the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry published a report of a 26-year-old woman who was so traumatized by the nausea, dizziness, and “electric shocks inside the head” when she tried to withdraw from Cymbalta that she requested to be put on another antidepressant immediately and “expressed a real fear of having these shock-like reactions again.” The authors observed that, “Antidepressants with a short half-life tend to be associated with a significant rate of DEAEs and a higher severity level” (emphasis added).

Cymbalta withdrawal effects, including extreme mood swings (anger, irritability), debilitating brain zaps, and physical and neurological problems, can be severe and extend for weeks and even months. The volume of patient complaints and the severity of the symptoms reported on multiple websites (including on such websites as the People’s Pharmacy and Depression Forums) leaves little doubt about the seriousness of Cymbalta withdrawal. In many patients, Cymbalta creates what amounts to a physical dependence that makes it nearly impossible to quit taking the drug.

How Long Does Cymbalta Withdrawal Last?

Like with any patient, the time it takes for a patient to stop experiencing withdrawal depends on the patient. According to Lilly’s own analysis of the Cymbalta studies, after a two week withdrawal period, over 50% of patients were still experiencing withdrawal side effects. Just how long the withdrawal effects lasted for those patients is unknown because Lilly never evaluated the effects of Cymbalta withdrawal beyond two weeks. This means patients and doctors have no idea just how long Cymbalta withdrawal could last.

Lilly’s conduct with respect to Cymbalta withdrawal is particularly suspect given that it was Lilly that orchestrated a campaign to promote Prozac as superior to other competing antidepressants such as Paxil and Zoloft based on the fact that Prozac had a long half-life and, thus, less frequent or severe withdrawal symptoms. While Lilly conducted studies in the 1990s comparing withdrawal rates of Prozac against other antidepressants in order to illustrate how much better Prozac was compared to the other antidepressants, Lilly never conducted similar studies of Cymbalta. Lilly knew, based on its research regarding Prozac, that with Cymbalta’s very short half-life, the drug would no doubt be associated with a high rate of withdrawal symptoms.

Before stopping any medication you must first consult with your healtcare provider.