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How Effective Is Venlafaxine for Depression?

By B. Chisholm
Updated May 17, 2024
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Venlafaxine for depression is very effective in some people. Depression can be caused by numerous factors, both external and internal, and the best antidepressant to use will depend on all of these factors. Venlafaxine is available by prescription only in most countries and may be known by different trade names according to the manufacturer.

When using venlafaxine for depression, it works by inhibiting reuptake of serotonin and noradrenalin, which means that it belongs to the serotonin and noradrenalin reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) class. Serotonin and noradrenalin are chemical neurotransmitters released in the brain that are thought to make a person "happy" or in a better mood. They are reabsorbed into nerve cells and then no longer have this effect. By blocking this reuptake, venlafaxine keeps the mood happy. Not only is venlafaxine effective for depression, it may also be effective in treating nervous and anxiety disorders.

As with any medication, the use of venlafaxine for depression may result in unwanted side effects. These may include dizziness, headache, anxiety and gastrointestinal side effects such as vomiting and constipation. It may also cause increases in blood pressure, especially at higher doses. The prescribing doctor will usually work up the dose slowly over some weeks to minimize these adverse effects.

The dose and dosing interval will be determined by the prescribing doctor, and adjusted according to response and tolerance. Most venlafaxine preparations are extended release and, therefore, are taken as a daily dose. The prescribed dose should never be exceeded. Tablets should be kept out of reach of children at all times.

When stopping the use of venlafaxine for depression, it should be withdrawn slowly to prevent discontinuation symptoms. Again, this should be done only under the supervision of the prescribing doctor and the withdrawal regimen suggested should be followed precisely. Venlafaxine drug interactions may occur with other medications. Any other drugs, including homeopathic, complementary and over-the-counter medications should be discussed with the prescribing doctor before initiating venlafaxine for depression. Pregnancy, desired pregnancy and lactation should also be discussed.

The treatment of depression can, in some cases, be difficult and the treating doctor may need to try different treatment options until the best one is found. It takes some weeks for most antidepressants to reach their optimal effect so the process may take time. Tolerance and response are the main factors which affect the choice of antidepressant. Usually treatment of depression will involve not only drug treatment but will include a counseling element too.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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