The use of opioids and opiates has risen to epidemic status in the U.S. As a result, there has been a tremendous amount of attention focused on how to cut down on the prescribing of opioids. There are also efforts to help reduce overdose deaths and to help people who are addicted to opioids stop using them. Opioids affect the brain in a very specific way. Regardless of if they are prescription painkillers or heroin, all opioids bind to certain receptors. This process activates a flood of dopamine, which is why the person taking opioids experiences feelings of euphoria. Opioids relieve pain, and following the euphoria, they also cause drowsiness and sedation. All of these effects change the brain’s chemistry. Reward pathways are activated, and the longer and more heavily a person uses opioids, the more profound these changes become.
The changes in brain chemistry are what cause addiction. Addiction is a chronic psychological disease. Opioid abuse may also cause physical dependence, and this dependence can occur even when using opioids as prescribed. If someone stops using opioids after becoming dependent on them, that person will experience withdrawal symptoms. Since detoxing is an essential component of receiving treatment, research has been done to help people go through withdrawal more safely and comfortably. Effexor is one medication people consider for opiate withdrawal, but what is there to know?
What Is Effexor?
Effexor is a brand-name, prescription medication used to treat depression, panic disorder and anxiety. The brand name of Effexor is no longer available in the U.S., but the generic version, venlafaxine, is. Venlafaxine is classified as an antidepressant. More specifically, it’s a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Taking Effexor or venlafaxine increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for maintaining a positive mood, and they can also help relieve pain.
Off-label use of venlafaxine includes treating hot flashes, diabetic nerve pain, migraines, tension headaches, bipolar depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome. While Effexor and venlafaxine aren’t necessarily considered addictive, dependence is possible. Venlafaxine withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, confusion, sleep disturbances, headaches and dry mouth. If someone becomes dependent on venlafaxine, their doctor can provide a schedule to taper their dose and avoid these side effects.
Effexor for Opiate Withdrawal?
There are quite a few medications specifically approved by the FDA to help treat opioid dependence, such as buprenorphine. There are also many others that have off-label uses for opiate withdrawal, even though the FDA does not approve them for that use. Venlafaxine may be one of these. Venlafaxine, or Effexor, is believed to help alleviate opiate withdrawal symptoms since it blocks the reuptake of serotonin. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done on Effexor for opiate withdrawal, but there are some indications that its ability to normalize serotonin levels could be helpful.
While using Effexor for opiate withdrawal may have benefits, the only time a prescription medication should be taken is under the advice and guidance of a physician. Opiate withdrawal can lead to complications and discomfort. There is also no way to determine which medications or combination of medicines will work best for an individual without medical guidance. The best course of action is to seek out a medical detox program. This increases the likelihood of successfully completing detox and reduces the risk of relapsing.
Contact The Recovery Village if you’d like to learn more about opiate dependence and addiction. We can answer questions you may have about medical detox and treatment.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.