Pristiq (Desvenlafaxine) Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment
Desvenlafaxine is the generic name for the drug Pristiq. It is a type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). It works by increasing the absorption of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which improves the user’s mood and reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Pristiq has been approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder and it may also be used to treat hot flashes associated with menopause. Patients taking this drug are strongly urged to only do so under the close supervision of a doctor. Pristiq is a very powerful drug that can quickly cause dependence and addiction if it is misused.
Pristiq is manufactured in the form of an extended-release tablet, which should be taken once daily without crushing or chewing it. Doing so could release the entire dose at once, magnifying the severity of its potential side effects. The prescribed dose of desvenlafaxine will vary from person to person, but most often, a doctor will prescribe a low dose and gradually increase it over time.1
Antidepressants like Pristiq can cause or contribute to suicidal thoughts or behaviors in children, teens, and young adults, so this drug is generally not prescribed to people under the age of 24, as studies did not show an increase in the risk of suicidality in people beyond this age.2
The generic drug desvenlafaxine is also sold under the brand name Khedezla.
The following terms are street names or slang for antidepressants like Pristiq:
- Happy pills
- Wonder drug
- Bottled smiles
- Miracle drug
Like many other antidepressants, Pristiq comes with an FDA black box warning that communicates the serious risks of abusing this drug. If you are taking Pristiq for depression, it may take a few weeks to experience its effects and get any relief from your depressive symptoms. Unfortunately, some people taking Pristiq believe that taking larger or more frequent doses of the drug will provide faster or stronger relief. However, this is not the case. Taking more Pristiq than you were prescribed will only intensify its negative side effects and contribute to the risk of developing tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
Some people may misuse Pristiq in an attempt to self-medicate for depression while others may use it to enhance the effects of other sedatives like alcohol. There are many different forms of antidepressant abuse, including chewing or crushing the tablets, using them with other drugs, or taking larger or more frequent doses than necessary.
According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 17 million Americans ages 12 or older abused prescription antidepressants like Pristiq at least once in the last year. Many of these individuals also reported misusing prescription painkillers, tranquilizers, sedatives, and stimulants.3
Not surprisingly, Pristiq abuse can have serious physical and psychological damage and contribute to many other issues, such as unemployment, criminal behavior, and damaged or lost relationships. Pristiq addiction is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition, but it is not impossible to beat it. With the right treatment and support, you can overcome it.
If someone is abusing Pristiq, his or her risk of becoming addicted is much higher than someone who is taking it as medically prescribed. Some of the signs of Pristiq addiction include:
- Taking larger doses of Pristiq than is necessary
- Taking more frequent doses of Pristiq than was prescribed by your doctor
- Taking Pristiq without a prescription
- Taking Pristiq with other prescription drugs or illegal drugs to get high
- Seeing multiple doctors to get prescriptions for Pristiq
You may be addicted to Pristiq if you:
- Want to cut back or stop using Pristiq but can’t
- Need larger or more frequent doses of Pristiq to achieve the effects you want
- Suffer from physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when the effects of Pristiq wear off
- Keep abusing Pristiq even though it causes problems at work, school, and in your personal life
Some common side effects of Pristiq abuse include:4
- Swelling of the area beneath the skin
- High blood pressure
- Serotonin syndrome
- Suicidal behavior or thoughts
- Extreme sensitivity to sunlight
- Slurred speech
If you are addicted to Pristiq and suddenly stop taking it, you will likely experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Common Pristiq withdrawal symptoms include:5
- Electric shock sensations
- Rapid mood swings
- Excessive sweating
Since Pristiq withdrawal symptoms can be severe, gradual tapering is always recommended for safe and effective detox.
If you are addicted to Pristiq, a medical detox program can help you safely get sober with 24/7 care in a safe and supportive environment. Each detox program and tapering regimen is designed with your needs and circumstances in mind to provide the safest and most effective detox process that will prepare you for ongoing treatment in rehab.
Quitting Pristiq cold turkey at home may seem like the best way to beat your addiction, but quitting abruptly can produce even more severe withdrawal symptoms that you may or may not be able to manage on your own. If you are particularly stressed or experiencing a big life change like a new job or a divorce, trying to quit on your own may be even more difficult. Enrolling in a detox program provides peace of mind with round-the-clock medical and clinical care, more comfortable withdrawal, and professional support to help you stay sober.
Unfortunately, there is no set timeline for Pristiq withdrawal because there are many different factors that may influence what kind of withdrawal symptoms you experience, how severe the symptoms are, and how long they last. Examples of factors that contribute to the timeline of Pristiq withdrawal include:6
- How long you have been taking Pristiq
- The dosage you’ve been taking
- Your daily habits, such as diet, exercise, other drugs you take, etc.
- Your physiology
- Whether you quit cold turkey or taper
Generally, Pristiq withdrawal symptoms begin to appear between two and four days after the last dose. They may last anywhere from four to six weeks (or longer) depending on your dosage and how long you’ve been taking Pristiq.
For example, if you’ve been taking a higher dosage of Pristiq, the full tapering process may take six months or more to complete.7 While you don’t have to remain in detox this whole time, it is highly recommended that you work closely with a doctor throughout the process to minimize the negative side effects.
Just like any other chronic medical condition, Pristiq addiction recovery requires ongoing treatment and management. This is a long-term process that may include treatment programs such as medical detox, inpatient rehab, IOP, sober living, aftercare, and community support groups.
After you’ve completed detox, the next natural step in the addiction recovery process is rehab. Research shows that long-term drug rehab that lasts 90 days or longer provides clients with the best opportunity for sustained, lasting recovery and genuine life change.8
Although rehab can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’ve never gone before, it’s an opportunity to address your addiction to Pristiq head-on and conquer it. During rehab, you’ll work with medical doctors, addiction counselors, recovery specialists, and your peers to address the core causes of your substance abuse and make positive and permanent life changes.
Drug rehab programs vary but high-quality evidence-based treatment programs often include the following aspects:
- Educational lectures related to addiction and recovery
- Structured recovery programming like the 12-Step Program
- Life skills development
- Several different types of behavioral therapies
- Other therapies like art therapy, animal-assisted therapy, and music therapy
- Family therapy
Inpatient and outpatient rehab are two of the most common types of drug addiction programs that are available for people who need help overcoming a substance use disorder. While both types of rehab are highly focused on long-term and sustainable recovery, they are not the same. Knowing the main differences between them can help you make a better decision about which is best for you. You can also ask an addiction treatment specialist or your doctor for recommendations.
In residential rehab, clients:
In outpatient rehab, clients:
While the cost of rehab is often a barrier that keeps people from getting help for their addiction(s), many drug rehab centers offer various payment methods that help reduce the financial burden. Depending on the facility, payment options may include:
- Health insurance benefits
- Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
- Financed healthcare loans
- Credit cards
- HSA funds
Once you’ve completed drug rehab for Pristiq addiction, you may also choose to continue your treatment by moving into a sober living home or enrolling in aftercare. Both of these types of programs are ideal for people who are newly sober and need help making the transition.
Sober Living Programs
Sober living programs provide safe and sober living environments for people who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. They are designed to provide personal and peer support, accountability for relapse prevention, and a supportive place to gradually adjust to a sober life and the responsibilities that come with it.
Many sober living houses also offer structured programming and recovery support services, including:
- Drug and alcohol testing
- Structured programming for residents
- Curfew and house rules
- Educational planning
- Employment assistance
- Volunteer placement services
The cost of a sober living home will vary depending on its location, amenities, and recovery support services offered, but payment is often collected monthly.
Aftercare consists of weekly recovery meetings that are hosted in a safe, clinical environment and led by a recovery support professional or counselor. These groups offer an accepting and supportive environment where clients can feel free to talk about recovery-related personal issues, ask questions, and encourage their peers in recovery.
Group meetings also provide additional opportunities for clients to cultivate healthy relationships and build upon the skills they gained in rehab.
If you are addicted to Pristiq, there is a way out of it. You don’t have to go it alone and help is available for you right now. Please call to speak with a representative at Nova Recovery Center for more details.
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