Cymbalta (duloxetine) is an effective antidepressant for depression, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and chronic pain. However, when it comes time to stop taking Cymbalta treatment — or any drug – antidepressant withdrawal symptoms may occur. Some research suggests that an estimated 44% of people who discontinue antidepressants like Cymbalta might experience some form of withdrawal or antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.
Knowing the potential signs of Cymbalta withdrawal and Cymbalta discontinuation syndrome and how to handle them is critical in safely stopping this medication. Keep reading to learn more.
Can You Go Off Cymbalta Cold Turkey?
Stopping any medication cold turkey — including Cymbalta treatment — can be dangerous. This is because your body is used to having a certain amount of the drug in its system. Suddenly removing it could cause severe withdrawal symptoms, antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, or other health issues.
Before abruptly discontinuing Cymbalta, consult your doctor to ensure the process can be done safely.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Cymbalta
A common withdrawal symptom of Cymbalta is the so-called “brain zap”, nausea or vomiting. The sudden lack of duloxetine in your system can lead to a digestive system reaction. Other symptoms that may occur include:
- Brain zaps
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
- Low blood pressure
- Emotional volatility or annoyance
- Looseness of the bowels
- Cold- or flu-like symptoms, like shivering or perspiring
“Cymbalta is a dual receptor medication that works on serotonin and norepinephrine systems. Abruptly stopping the medication can cause a lot of unwanted symptoms.”– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir
In some cases, you can experience more serious Cymbalta side effects, including hallucinations and suicidal thoughts — although this is rare.
How Long Does Cymbalta Withdrawal Last?
Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms can range from a few days to multiple weeks. The duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on things like the length of time you were on Cymbalta and individual physiology.
Psychiatry and Prescriptions Online
Receive an evaluation and prescription for mental health medication (if needed) from a psychiatry-trained medical provider.
If you’ve been on Cymbalta for longer than 6 months, the withdrawal effects and each abrupt discontinuation symptom could be more intense and take longer to diminish.
Cymbalta withdrawal timeline
There’s no set Cymbalta withdrawal timeline, but when discontinuing any antidepressant medication, there can be 2 phases: acute withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Most often, withdrawal symptoms will resolve in about 1 – 3 weeks.
- Acute withdrawal has physical symptoms like brain zap, nausea, dizziness, headache, fatigue, and insomnia. While duration and severity can be different for everyone, symptoms typically begin 1 – 3 days after you stop taking Cymbalta.
- Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a more prolonged phase that can last up to 6 months or more, depending on factors like body chemistry, original dosage, and length of time you were on Cymbalta.
PAWS symptoms can include feelings of unease and sadness, agitation, mental confusion, difficulty with cognitive tasks, and sleep disruption.
When does Cymbalta withdrawal peak?
Cymbalta withdrawal can peak at various times, but most people experience the worst symptoms within 1 – 2 weeks after cessation. After that, symptoms will most often eventually reduce or resolve, but they can last for multiple weeks or even months in some cases. Notably, everyone’s withdrawal experience will be unique, and there’s no defined timetable for healing.
How to Cope with a Cymbalta Withdrawal
Unfortunately, discontinuing Cymbalta can be challenging, especially if you stop taking it abruptly. If you want to quit taking Cymbalta, you can reduce the chance of significant side effects or withdrawal symptoms by getting the right plan in place.
Talk to your doctor to determine the best way to discontinue Cymbalta. They will likely recommend tapering off slowly over several weeks or months. Sometimes they’ll recommend using over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to alleviate withdrawal discomfort.
“It can vary from feeling nauseous to irritable and having bad headaches. Sometimes you’ll have tingling and pins and needles sensations, which can sometimes cause tremors and impact sleep cycles. Some people report having nightmares. There are also reports of increased sweating. Some patients describe having brain zaps or electric sensation in their head.”– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir
How Do I Safely Come Off Cymbalta?
Never stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor first. Together, you can come up with a safe, effective plan to minimize the risk of withdrawal symptoms and come off Cymbalta with as little disruption to your life as possible.
- Use a taper schedule: Slowly reducing the use of Cymbalta is suggested. The timeline for this process depends on how long you were on Cymbalta and your dose, but current best practice when weaning off an antidepressant suggests gradually reducing use for at least 4 weeks. This process, known as “tapering down,” is designed to help reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms as the body slowly adjusts to its natural balance.
- Practice self care: One way to manage Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms is by caring for yourself. Practicing self care, like eating well, getting enough sleep, and doing yoga or meditation, can help you transition as you come off Cymbalta.
- Consult with your doctor along the way: Consulting a mental health professional experienced in managing the effects of medications like Cymbalta will be beneficial. They can provide invaluable insight into how best to address potential challenges associated with discontinuing the drug and offer you strategies for dealing with any difficult emotions that might arise during this process.
“Make sure to talk to your psychiatrist before coming off of Cymbalta.”– Talkspace psychiatrist Dr. Muhammad Munir
Talk with a Licensed Psychiatrist
Going off Cymbalta can be hard, but the steps discussed here can help. Start by speaking with your doctor about tapering off the medication gradually. Make sure to prioritize self-care during this time by getting sleep, being physically active, eating nutritious meals, and attempting calming strategies like controlled breathing. Connecting with someone sympathetic who understands what you’re going through can be very beneficial. Finally, seek professional help if necessary.
Talking to a licensed psychiatrist is one of the best ways to manage Cymbalta withdrawal. A qualified mental health professional can help you understand and cope with any symptoms that arise during the process and provide support throughout the entire experience.
When seeking a psychiatrist, it’s essential to look for someone with experience treating people with antidepressant withdrawal. Ask for referrals from people you trust, like friends and family, to find someone. You can also consult your primary care physician for a recommendation.
At Talkspace, you can connect with an online psychiatrist to either get Cymbalta online with a prescription or talk to them about getting off of Cymbalta safely.
- Perahia DG, Kajdasz DK, Desaiah D, Haddad PM. Symptoms following abrupt discontinuation of duloxetine treatment in patients with major depressive disorder. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2005;89(1-3):207-212. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2005.09.003. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16266753/. Accessed March 9, 2023.
- Switching and stopping antidepressants. Australian Prescriber. 2016;39(3). doi:10.18773/austprescr.2016.039. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4919171/. Accessed March 9, 2023.
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