Article at a Glance:

  • Cymbalta (Duloxetine) is a prescription drug used to treat anxiety, depression and nerve pain.
  • The typical dose of Cymbalta is 40-60 mg per day, although some people take up to 120 mg daily.
  • Cymbalta is not addictive but it can still take the brain time to adjust after stopping this drug.
  • Someone struggling from discontinuation syndrome after taking Cymbalta may benefit from addiction treatment.


Cymbalta is a prescription drug that is part of a class of drugs known as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SSNRIs. Known less commonly by its generic name, duloxetine, this medication works by helping to restore the natural balance of chemical neurotransmitters in the brain.

Duloxetine is used to treat several different problems, including generalized anxiety disorder, depression and nerve damage pain related to depression. It is also used to help people with nerve pain and diabetes as well as those with ongoing pain due to medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis or chronic back pain.

Taking Cymbalta can improve mood, sleep, appetite and energy levels while also decreasing nervousness. For medical conditions such as chronic back pain and fibromyalgia, it works to relieve pain.

Cymbalta (Duloxetine) Addiction/Abuse

Like every prescription medication, Cymbalta should be used with caution. Take this medication by mouth as directed by a doctor, usually one or two times a day with food, as this will decrease the possibility of nausea. The usual dose is 40mg to 60mg a day. Some people take up to 120mg daily, although there is no evidence that that a higher dosage is more effective than the 60mg dose. Since Cymbalta comes as time-released capsules, it is important to take this medicine in its pill form, as crushing or mixing it with liquid will release all the drug at once. This can increase the risk of side effects such as nausea, hallucinations and severe skin reactions.

Dosage requirements are based on a patient’s age, medical condition and response to treatment over time. Side effects can range from mild to severe. To reduce the risk of side effects your doctor may prescribe you with a low dosage to start and gradually increase that dosage over time. It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and take the medication every day around the same time to get the most benefits and lower your risk of side effects.

Do not for any reason stop the use of Cymbalta as prescribed, even if you are feeling well, without first speaking to a doctor or medical professional. Side effects are more likely to occur if you do so, and some conditions may even become worse when this drug is suddenly stopped. Symptoms such as mood swings, dizziness, headache and tiredness may occur.

Like any SSRI or SSNRI, Cymbalta is not classified as “addictive.” Big pharmacy companies are very clear about this fact and use careful language in brochures, advertisements and commercials to clarify the non-addictive nature of duloxetine. It is not like addictive drugs, such as LSD and cocaine, in that one cannot get “high” from taking it. People who misuse Cymbalta also don’t keep using it to get the same effects the way they might if they were addicted to alcohol or heroin.

In that sense, Cymbalta is not addictive.

However, those who take duloxetine and similar antidepressants may develop what is known as “discontinuation syndrome.” Discontinuation syndrome likely occurs because the cell receptors in the brain must adjust to lower levels of serotonin and other chemicals. Since Cymbalta is a quick-release antidepressant, it leaves the bloodstream quickly and tends to result in a more severe level of discontinuation syndrome. It is reported that over 50 percent of those who have been using duloxetine for any length of time and stop suddenly develop symptoms. For some, this may mean months of panic, anxiety, brain zaps, insomnia and crying fits.

Addiction treatment may be necessary for those struggling with discontinuation syndrome. Oftentimes, someone who has been misusing antidepressants is also grappling with an additional physical or mental illness, which is known in addiction treatment as dual diagnosis. It is very common to self-medicate when a mental illness is not being treated appropriately to help cope with challenges and thoughts of depression and loneliness.

Depression is a serious and life-threatening condition that should be treated as such. Meet with your doctor regularly to examine the status of your mental health, and talk with your doctor about treatment plans. Your doctor may suggest one-on-one or group therapy sessions where you can educate yourself on how addiction changes the brain’s development and ability to make sound judgments and decisions. In more severe cases, one may need to enter a rehab facility.

No one should have to deal with or treat mental illness all on their own. In many cases, the guidance of a counselor, doctor or psychiatrist is imperative to recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with these or other substance-related issues, please contact The Recovery Village. Our professional staff are here to answer any questions you may have.

If you or a loved one live with addiction or are using drugs recreationally and want to stop, The Recovery Village® can help. Reach out to one of our representatives today to learn how you can start on your path to recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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