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What Is Paroxetine Withdrawal?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Paroxetine withdrawal is a phenomenon occurring in some users of the drug, especially if they have used it for more than four weeks and abruptly discontinued it. Many people experience brief and mild symptoms of withdrawal as their bodies adjust to the drug's absence after a physical dependence has developed. A relatively small percentage of users — about 10% — may experience many more symptoms that can last for several weeks or months.

Also sold under the name brand Paxil®, this drug isn't the only selected serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that can create withdrawal symptoms. The syndrome often occurs in drugs called selected serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Paroxetine appears to be one of the SSRIs most associated with more frequent and severe forms of withdrawal.

Minor symptoms of abrupt discontinuation of paroxetine include things like stomach upset, vomiting, and headache. For people not considered in paroxetine withdrawal, these flu-like symptoms generally pass in two or three days. People with withdrawal usually experience more symptoms that last a longer time.

Signs of paroxetine withdrawal might include headache, flu-like symptoms, agitation, and irritability. Other symptoms include excess crying, exhaustion, and sleep disturbances. Brain zaps or electrical sensations occurring in the head can also occur, as can changes in vision, dizziness, vertigo, and facial numbness. Some patients have expereinced hypersexuality.

Patients with paroxetine withdrawal probably won't have every symptom. Most will usually experience enough of them to cause discomfort, however. The effects of paroxetine withdrawal can last from a few weeks to several months.

Medical studies demonstrate that newborns may suffer from paroxetine withdrawal if their mothers took it in the third trimester. Signs of this condition are vomiting, agitation, low blood sugar levels, and necrotizing enterocolitis. The last is a condition that causes tissue death in the bowels and is most often seen in premature infants. Research suggests that some SSRIs may cause birth defects, so paroxetine use by pregnant women is discouraged.

Paroxetine withdrawal syndrome is generally avoided if the medication is discontinued at a slow rate or if people are switched to other SSRIs that have a lower withdrawal rate, like fluoxetine. To reduce the medication incrementally, patients are often switched to liquid forms of the drug to achieve more precise tapering. Withdrawal syndrome should be differentiated from increases in symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, for which the drug was prescribed. These don't necessarily mean withdrawal is occurring, but they indicate the continued need to address the unresolved condition.

Up until the mid 1990s, manufacturers of SSRIs marketed their drugs as non-habit forming. Drug manufacturers created a name for this condition, "discontinuation syndrome," in an attempt to disassociate their products from the idea of addiction. Others have suggested that withdrawal is still a better descriptive term.

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.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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