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Nasty, Dirty and Induced Alcoholism
Citation:   AHirst. "Nasty, Dirty and Induced Alcoholism: An Experience with Venlafaxine (exp100019)". May 28, 2020.

75 - 150 mg oral Pharms - Venlafaxine (daily)
    repeated smoked Tobacco - Cigarettes  
    repeated oral Alcohol  
I have a history of depression and social anxiety, diagnosed roughly 9 years ago. I have tried many antidepressants during this time, ranging from common SSRIs (paroxetine and citolpram) to RIMAs (moclobemide). SSRIs always give me sexual dysfunction (anorgasmia, reduced sex drive). The only one that has had any effectiveness for me was moclobemide, but unfortunately its effectiveness wore off over time.

I was put on venlafaxine in January, so 3 1/2 months ago at the time of writing, after various things in my life made my mental health significantly worse than it had been for years. Before taking it I knew it was a bit of a gamble; plenty of anecdotal evidence and experience reports suggest that whilst it works wonders for some, it is hellish for others. Despite reading a large amount of experience reports, nothing could have prepared me for how unpleasant this drug really was.

I initially started on 75mg once a day, moving up to 75mg twice a day after a week. At first, I experienced a lovely, almost MDMA like high. This should have been the first sign something was wrong, as no decent antidepressant should induce borderline hypomania in that fashion. This dropped off after a couple of weeks. When I went up to 75mg twice a day, nearly every single side-effect I could possibly have had started to appear.
When I went up to 75mg twice a day, nearly every single side-effect I could possibly have had started to appear.
My appetite went down to nothing; I could eat breakfast, but as soon as I had a pill I wouldn't be able to eat until about 10pm, when I would end up being so hungry I just gorged myself. I profusely sweated whenever I did anything vaguely physical, even just walking to the bus. I had constantly clammy hands. My limbs ached. I had severe night sweats and intensely vivid dreams/nightmares. I would often wake up confused, drenched in sweat, and unrested. The sexual dysfunction made me entirely unable to orgasm.

Despite all this, I stuck with it, hoping for some kind of noticeable improvement in mood. This never came. Unfortunately, the worst of the side-effects was yet to come.

I noticed after a few weeks that I was smoking more than usual (I have smoked for a few years, but only about 3 a day on average). My cigarette cravings were increasing. Eventually, after another few weeks, I was up to about 10 a day - very, very high for me. The worst thing by far was that my alcohol cravings also shot up. I have a checkered history with alcohol; having social anxiety means that I sometimes drink too much at social events and have had periods of time where I've drank every night. In general, however, I've managed to keep it (relatively) sensible, and have always managed to hold down work and excel academically. This dramatically changed on venlafaxine. All of a sudden, I was unable to control myself. I was sneaking out from my flat when my girlfriend (who I live with) was in bed to buy alcohol, and I was hiding the bottles from her. I started drinking in the day. One week about 2 months into taking venlafaxine I drank about 120 units. I ended up tearfully breaking down and confessing this to my girlfriend and my doctor. She took my bank card off me and made sure I couldn't buy alcohol.

At first I thought it was just my own fault; using alcohol to hide emotional pain is one of the oldest stories in the book. The thing is, it was so much worse than it ever has been before that I suspected the venlafaxine might be to blame. I did a quick Google search for 'venlafaxine alcoholism' and was absolutely shocked by the number of anecdotal reports from people who'd experienced exactly the same thing as me. There were literally hundreds of reports within the first few search result pages. Now, anecdotal reports aren't exactly concrete evidence, but the sheer number of reports here was unsettling, to say the least.

I am now withdrawing from venlafaxine. This is the drug's final insult - the withdrawal is magnitudes worse than anything I've experienced before. It's not even like I quit cold turkey! I've been gradually reducing my dose for weeks now. I've had the brain zaps before from coming off citolpram and paroxetine, but the venlafaxine brain zaps are 10 times worse. My body feels like it's quietly pulsating. I feel nauseated. My head is spinning.

In sum: venlafaxine is mental and physical Russian roulette. It apparently works wonders for some, but it is a hellish experience for others. I, unfortunately, fall in the latter camp.

Exp Year: 2013ExpID: 100019
Gender: Male 
Age at time of experience: 27
Published: May 28, 2020Views: 1,075
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Pharms - Venlafaxine (191) : Retrospective / Summary (11), Difficult Experiences (5), Depression (15), Post Trip Problems (8), Medical Use (47), Not Applicable (38)

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