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Run down on Cymbalta: The Good and the Bad


In 2008, the FDA approved Cymbalta for the treatment of fibromyalgia, and the drug was effectively classified as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor antidepressant. This was good news for the fibromyalgia (FM) community as before this approval, there was only one other drug accessible for the treatment of FM.

While Cymbalta was great news, it was/is an antidepressant at the end of the day, and so the medical fraternity was already aware of potential withdrawal symptoms if patients abruptly stopped using it. Still, no one was ready for the severe Cymbalta withdrawal that is experienced by patients. It is so bad that the medical fraternity has coined a term for it: Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome.

Apart from FM, Cymbalta is also prescribed for patients suffering from depression, anxiety, pain from nerve damage, and even long-term muscle pain. For these other conditions, the FDA had already approved the drug in 2004.

Positive Feedback from Users

Many users have given positive feedback on Cymbalta, attributing it to mood-stabilizing, ease of anxiety, and even positive outcome when used for fibromyalgia. Patients have found it more effective than any other drug on depression and anxiety. However, stopping the use of this drug has been attributed to some severe withdrawal symptoms.

Discontinuation of Cymbalta

The prescription information says that the medication should not be discontinued abruptly, but rather through a gradual process, preferably overseen by medical personnel. Immediate withdrawal could lead to serious symptoms, which have been experienced by several users.

Some of the antidepressant withdrawal symptoms that have been reported wit Cymbalta include the following.

  • Brain Zaps

Some people experience some sort of electric shock in the brain after discontinuing this medication. It is accompanied by dizziness, headaches, and nausea, and this could last as long as two weeks. The longer you are on the drug, the more severe the symptoms.

  • Suicidal Thoughts

The FDA listed those aged between 18 and 24 as potential candidates for suicidal thoughts upon the withdrawal of Cymbalta’s use. This is because the use of the drug is said to increase or cause hostility, hypomania, impulsivity, and aggressiveness in this age group. Interestingly, these suicidal thoughts were seen to reduce or disappear for those aged above 25. However, suicidal thoughts are not limited to Cymbalta users. Any antidepressant could cause this symptom.

  • Low Sex Drive

Low libido is common with antidepressants and Cymbalta is no different. Users have reported a reduced sex drive that won’t go away even with reduced doses of the antidepressant. The length of this side effect differs from one patient to the other.

  • Drowsiness and Lightheadedness

One of the antidepressant withdrawal symptoms is fatigue and drowsiness. Some patients experience it when they are still using Cymbalta, if you consult a doctor to direct you on how to discontinue the use of Cymbalta, they could recommend that you take your reduced dose at night when this side effect will not be felt.

Other side effects that are attributed to the discontinuation of Cymbalta include excessive sweating, tinnitus, involuntary crying or laughing, and insomnia.

What can you do?

The smarter way to counter these side effects is by talking to your doctor about a discontinuation plan. Some doctors switch their patients’ medication to a different antidepressant such as Prozac. This allows you to cross taper onto Prozacy bypassing Cymbalta’s withdrawal symptoms. You can read more about the cross taper method here.

Many individuals have found success in treating the underlying conditions these antidepressants may be masking. Treating these underlying conditions will ultimately be healthier and more sustainable in the long term.

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