This is What Happened When I Went off of Cymbalta.
It was harder than I thought it would be.
May 6, 2020 · 8 min read
It’s been about ten weeks now since I decided to stop taking the Cymbalta (duloxetine) meds that I had been on for fibromyalgia pain for three years. I decided to do this because they weren’t working anymore and I wanted to try CBD oil instead. (I could have increased the dose, but considering the withdrawal that I had from a low dose I am soooo glad I didn’t go that route.)
I went through 4 weeks of hell.
In hindsight, this was the absolute worst time to stop taking any type of medication that has a withdrawal syndrome attached to it, but because I had started to decrease the meds before all of this Covid craziness I had to keep going. Plus I did not want to have to go to my doctor to get a new prescription in the midst of a pandemic.
It is a difficult medication to take in smaller doses because it is in a capsule, with tiny white pellets inside. I couldn’t just cut a pill in half.
I went from a dose of 30mg each morning (which is a very low dose- the highest is 120mg) to every other day to start the transition. I read online that some people were opening the capsule and painstakingly counting out the number of pellets to halve the dosage but that was very nit picky, and sounded almost like performing delicate surgery. (I have since read that people opened the capsule and poured the pellets into a glass of juice, then drank that over a few days — I suppose that would work.)
The reason I wanted to stop taking it is because I didn’t think that it was working anymore for the fibromyalgia pain. I was still having flare-ups with unbearable aches in my legs during the night. Plus the Cymbalta doesn’t help at all for the arthritis, and the degenerative disk disease pain. Cymbalta is also used to treat depression, which I have. I had been off of my other antidepressants for quite a while, so for me it was more about the fibromyalgia pain than the depression. But it probably helped my mood a bit.
There are also too many horror stories from people who have run out of their prescription and had to wait a few days or longer to get a new supply. The withdrawal symptoms they have experienced are scary nasty. I don’t ever want to be in a similar situation. (Unfortunately with the restrictions placed on us because of Covid I am sure there have been thousands of people affected in this way.) Best to just get off of it and stay off of it.
When I started doing research on how to go off of duloxetine I was pissed to find all of the withdrawal symptoms – I was not told any of that. I will never blindly take another similar type of medication without researching it first. Neither my doctor nor my pharmacist warned me.
Here are some of the withdrawal symptoms: suicidal thoughts, irritability, insomnia, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, vomiting, liver damage, changes in urination, vivid nightmares, muscles spasms or tremors, seizures, electrical shock sensations called ‘brain zaps’ or ‘brain shivers’, feelings of anxiety — to name just some of them. There’s actually a name for it — ‘ Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome’.
When I saw my doctor recently he said- “Oh, just stop taking it.”
Really. He obviously doesn’t know anything about the medications he is prescribing.
I want to tell you the withdrawal symptoms I had just so you know what can happen when you stop taking these SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) meds.
Here’s what the weaning off has been like: I started just skipping a day.
Week 1: Day 1- took pill, Day 2-no pill. Day 3- woke up with headache, some dizziness, and brain zaps. These are indescribable. They are the weirdest freaking sensations I have ever had in my life. I took a pill. (As for the headaches I do have chronic migraines, especially in March, but these were different headaches that I was experiencing.) Day 4-feel okay. Day 5-felt the same as Day 3- took a pill. Day 6-felt okay. Day 7- same withdrawal symptoms as before- took a pill. The symptoms would stop within hours of taking the pill.
Week 2: My initial plan was to start skipping 2 days now, but I didn’t like how I was feeling so I did the same as Week 1, and had the same symptoms.
Week 3: My plan is to skip 2 days now. Day 1&2-no pill. Day 2, started getting the brain zaps and dizziness in the evening. Day 3-upon waking I had major brain zaps, extreme tiredness, a feeling of vertigo and was very headachy. Took a pill in the morning. Day 4- I’m feeling just okay but exhausted and headachy. Taking the pill on Day 3 seemed to level out the withdrawal symptoms. Day 5-no pill, same as Day 4. Day 6- Woke up with brain zaps again, plus nausea and dizziness. Took a pill. Day 7-same as Day 4 and 5.
I’m finding this harder than I thought. I’m starting to worry that I might have to keep taking this damn pill. The weirdest thing is the brain zaps.
Thankfully the fibromyalgia pain has not increased, yet.
Week 4- Day 1-Sunday- This should be a no pill day. I’m still feeling so freaking tired. I’m also starting to have different withdrawal symptoms. Stomach issues — more nausea and diarrhea. I had to take a Gravol and I slept for the whole afternoon. I also had more brain zaps so I took a pill even though I wanted to wait until the next day. Day 2- I am feeling better again, just tired and no stomach problems. Maybe it was just a bug I caught? Now that Covid-19 has been declared a pandemic I have that to worry about too!
(As I am editing this story now I see that a couple of the symptoms I had are also Covid related — hopefully just a coincidence. I also have seasonal allergies that I have started to take Reactine for already. I wrote a story about seasonal allergies and Covid symptoms if you are interested. Similarities for sure.)
Day 3- Feeling just ok. No need to take a pill yet. Day 4- again just ok. I’m having brain zaps in the evening but I want to wait until Thursday morning to take a pill. Day 5- Thursday- waiting until morning to take a pill was maybe not wise but I need to push it to the 3 day spacing. Very headachy and fatigued, with constant brain zaps. I haven’t been dizzy for a while. took a pill. Day 6- feeling a bit better, but still fatigued. The brain zaps are stopping after I take the pill. Day 7- Saturday- pretty much the same.
I made it through three weeks . I can do this.
I’ve been to the grocery store to stock up on food a bit- they are saying you should have at least two weeks of food in case you can’t leave your house. (Fretting about the Covid-19 virus, and not being able to find the toilet paper is not helping with the withdrawal.)
Week 4:- Sunday- Day 1. I’m super tired today, but not having brain zaps so I’m going to push to the next day with no pill. Day 2- Monday- huge mistake. I woke up with major vertigo and stomach problems again- nausea and diarrhea, plus the brain zaps. Exactly one week after the other nausea incident. Now I’m pretty sure it’s a major withdrawal symptom as it has been 3 full days since the last pill, same as the last time I felt sick. This really sucks! I took a pill and had to sleep most of the day again.
I really want to get to at least three days in between pills. That would be until Thursday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can do it.
Social distancing is expected now because of the virus, and I work at home so I’ve been able to manage the withdrawal symptoms a lot easier than if I was working out of the home. That would be incredibly hard.
Day 3 & 4- so far so good. Day 5- Thursday- I took a Gravol on Wednesday night. I thought that it might help if I was to have any dizziness or nausea this morning. And it did help! I’m just headachy and have very few brain zaps. I’m going to take a pill tonight- I am kind of scared that I might wake up feeling really crappy again with it being 3 full days with no pill. Day 6 and 7- still feeling just okay, and luckily the brain zaps have diminished. Still getting them but just a couple of times a day.
I made it through 4 weeks of hell. Even though I did not have major withdrawal like some people have described online it has been a nightmare. (I can’t imagine what withdrawal from recreational drugs or alcohol must be like. I am sure 1000 times worse than what I experienced.)
Those were the worst weeks. For a couple of weeks after I ended up taking a pill maybe every 4 or 5 days just to take the edge off. That seemed to help. I have had an increase in the fibromyalgia pain, which I am hoping to manage on my own with some over the counter meds. I stopped having the brain zaps.
I did decide to take a low THC CBD tablet that I had one night when I was in some pain, and ended up having some brain zaps the next day. I don’t know what is up with that. My plan to try CBD oil for pain management might be unwise. I will have to do some research on that — maybe the CBD works the same way on the brain as the Cymbalta.
I have also started to have changes in urination, but I don’t know if that’s related to this or another issue. What I do know is that I won’t blindly go on a brain altering med again unless I am severely in pain, or I am hitting a deep depression again.
I have learned to accept pain, live with it as part of my life. It’s not easy, but it is doable. Most people my age have some kind of aches and pains, and they are surviving. So can I.
Here’s a quote that I will be thinking of going forward —
Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
Writer on Invisible Illness, Illumination, the Tribal Escape, Beautiful Voyager newsletter. Thanks for reading.
It’s been about ten weeks now since I decided to stop taking the Cymbalta (duloxetine) meds that I had been on for fibromyalgia pain for three years. I decided to do this because they weren’t working…
Cymbalta and Medical Marijuana
Home / Blog / Cymbalta and Medical Marijuana
Cymbalta and Medical Marijuana
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 05/17/2019 in Medical Marijuana
Updated on August 26, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Cymbalta is a drug used for several purposes, including anxiety, depression, and chronic pain—conditions that also appear on many state lists of approved uses for medical marijuana. Patients who have been prescribed Cymbalta may have questions that need to be answered, such as whether the drug can be taken alongside medical marijuana and whether medical cannabis can serve as a replacement for Cymbalta. This article will answer those questions.
Overview of Cymbalta
Cymbalta, also known as duloxetine, is a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI). As the name implies, SSNRIs increase the serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Therefore, Cymbalta helps manage the chemicals in your brain that influence mood and pain levels.
It comes in the form of a capsule that you take with water or another drink. The standard capsule immediately releases the medicine, providing an immediate and strong benefit. On the other hand, the delayed release capsule slowly releases the medicine into your system, producing a milder effect that lasts longer.
Side effects of Cymbalta range from mild to severe. Common and minor side effects include aches, frequent urination, excessive sweating, sleep issues and weight loss. Rarer side effects include digestive issues and sexual problems.
In extreme cases, a patient can experience withdrawal symptoms you should immediately get emergency medical care for. Some have to do with muscle control, such as muscle spasms, tremors, coordination problems, overactive reflexes and loss of bladder control. Others relate to overstimulation, like agitation, restlessness, sleep issues and uncontrollable excitement.
If you use Cymbalta for depression, be aware it can worsen your depression symptoms, sometimes to the extent that you feel suicidal. If you deal with increased depression when you take it, contact your doctor right away.
Who Uses—and Shouldn’t Use—Cymbalta?
Cymbalta can be used to treat health issues such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Other chronic pain related to bones and muscles
- Pain from nerve damage
Keep in mind that Cymbalta isn’t suited for every population. People who have certain health conditions, including diabetes, problems with urination, high blood pressure and liver disease, shouldn’t use it. And research hasn’t definitively concluded whether it can be safely taken by children, the elderly, pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding.
Drug Interactions With Medical Marijuana
While marijuana and Cymbalta can be used for similar purposes, you should use caution if you take them together. Some of their side effects are also similar, which means they could be magnified if the two substances are taken together.
The problems that can occur when the two drugs interact tend to be related to cognitive and motor function. Cognitive side effects include concentration problems, confusion, impaired judgment and difficulty thinking. Motor side effects include impaired coordination and dizziness. These side effects can become even worse when you use alcohol.
Drugs.com classifies the interaction between Cymbalta and marijuana as moderate. According to the site’s guide, doctors should recommend the combination only in special circumstances. If you and your doctor decide that the benefits outweigh the risks and you try taking both together, closely monitor your symptoms and stay in touch with your physician.
Cannabis as a Replacement for Cymbalta
Marijuana has been shown to provide relief from a wide variety of conditions, including those for which doctors prescribe Cymbalta.
Marijuana may relieve depression symptoms, for example. Research has shown that patients who use medical marijuana experience less depression than patients who don’t use it.
Cannabis can ease anxiety as well. One of the major components of marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD), was found to reduce anxiety in clinical trial subjects. Since marijuana can also heighten anxiety, monitor your symptoms closely if you medicate with cannabis.
Chronic pain is one of the most common uses of medical marijuana. According to the National Pain Report, 62% of medical marijuana patients said that cannabis relieved their pain very effectively. Meanwhile, 10% of study participants thought Cymbalta was very effective.
Drugs.com classifies the interaction between Cymbalta and marijuana as moderate. According to the site’s guide, doctors should only recommend the combination in special circumstances.
Resources From Marijuana Doctors
Consider this blog post a primer on Cymbalta and marijuana. As always, medical professionals well-versed in cannabis medicine can answer the other questions you have. Start the search for a trained physician or medical dispensary near you.
Wondering if you can replace Cymbalta with medical marijuana or even if you can use them together? Read on to learn more!