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What is Duloxetine?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Duloxetine is a prescription oral drug used to treat symptoms of major depression and anxiety disorders. It is occasionally prescribed to ease chronic nerve pain as well in diabetic patients and fibromyalgia sufferers. The medication is classified as a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI). Like other drugs in its class that affect the central nervous system, duloxetine can cause unwanted side effects that are usually mild but may become serious. A doctor can choose an appropriate dosage and monitor changes in behavior over time to make sure the drug is safe and effective.

SSNRIs such as duloxetine increase the amount of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. A lack of these two neurotransmitters is highly correlated with depressive and anxious thoughts and behaviors. When their levels are increased, most patients are able to start feeling better physically, emotionally, and mentally. Research also suggests that duloxetine can decrease painful chronic nerve activity, though the exact mechanisms of action are not well understood.

A patient who is diagnosed with major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder is usually given a small initial dose of duloxetine. If the drug appears to make a difference in symptoms over the first two or three weeks without causing adverse reactions, the doctor can gradually increase the dosage amount. Most adult patients eventually get placed on a 60-milligram per day dosage schedule. It is essential for patients to follow instructions on their prescriptions exactly to avoid an overdose and achieve the maximum positive effects.

Many patients experience minor, temporary side effects when taking duloxetine. Common side effects include dry mouth, drowsiness, stomach cramps, and nausea. Some people experience trouble sleeping and unusual weight loss or gain with prolonged use of the drug. It is important to contact the prescribing doctor immediately if symptoms of joint pain, chest tightness, difficult urination, or mental confusion occur after taking duloxetine. A small number of people have serious adverse reactions, including seizures, heart palpitations, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

A person who experiences major reactions needs immediate treatment at the emergency room. Doctors can reassess his or her treatment plan and determine if another medication would be safer to use. A different SSNRI or another type of depression medication may prove more effective at treating symptoms without adverse effects. Patients who do not have problems taking duloxetine can usually remain on the medication for several years and enjoy long, symptom-free periods.

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