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Cymbalta Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline & Detox Process

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

When you are living with depression, anxiety, or chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, life can seem incredibly difficult and bleak. It is common to feel exhausted, hopeless, and frustrated. Thankfully, we now live in a time where there are medications that can help us solve these issues so that we can live happier, healthier, and fuller lives.

One of these medications is duloxetine, which is available under the generic name of duloxetine but which is also marketed under the brand names Cymbalta and Drizalma. While this medication is highly effective, for some people, this drug can also cause an unhealthy dependence to develop. This is true even if the drug is taken exactly as prescribed.

What Is Cymbalta?

Cymbalta is a brand name for the drug duloxetine, which is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, or SNRI. Duloxetine may also be sold under the brand name Drizalma.

It is FDA-approved to treat a number of conditions, including all of the following:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Nerve pain associated with diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal pain

Duloxetine withdrawal can happen with abuse of the drug or simply through long-term use as prescribed by a doctor. It is common for your body to become accustomed to the presence of the drug, so stopping or lowering your dose too abruptly can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

What Causes Cymbalta Withdrawal?

As mentioned above, it is incredibly common for people to experience withdrawal symptoms from duloxetine. In fact, there is even a name for it: Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome.

Cymbalta works by balancing the levels of specific neurotransmitters in your brain so that they remain at healthy levels. When these neurotransmitters are dysregulated, it can cause chronic pain and poor mental health. Cymbalta was designed as a pharmaceutical that was made to combat these neurochemical processes.

For most people, taking Cymbalta as prescribed leads to improvements in mood, sleep, energy levels, appetite, and anxiety levels. These positive changes are often life-altering for patients, and this is one of the many reasons that the drug is so persistently popular. It is regularly prescribed for issues with depression and anxiety by psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners.

Unfortunately, drugs like duloxetine can cause physical dependence at very high rates. One particular study from 2005 noted that nearly 44% of participants experienced withdrawal symptoms. This is because the brain becomes used to the drug’s ability to increase the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine present. This is called “developing a tolerance.”

When a patient changes a dosing schedule or stops taking the drug too quickly, withdrawal symptoms will set in fairly quickly. Professionals will provide a weaning schedule when this is taken under the care of a doctor.

What Does Cymbalta Abuse Look Like?

Abusing SNRIs like duloxetine is not common because these drugs do not give users any kind of euphoric “high” like other prescription drugs can.

A more common abuse situation occurs when a person feels like he or she needs to take a larger-than-normal dose of duloxetine to achieve better results. In some instances, people will even crush up their duloxetine medication and mix it into a liquid in order to feel the effects more quickly.

Signs of duloxetine abuse include:

  • Increasing the dosage without consulting a physician
  • Drowsiness or passing out as a result of duloxetine ingestion
  • Vomiting
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden changes in physical appearance
  • Noticeable changes in sleep patterns

In severe cases, Cymbalta can actually cause suicidal thoughts or seizures, and these effects can be fatal. Those who have been diagnosed with severe depression or who take more than one type of antidepressant are at a much higher risk for misusing duloxetine, so it is important for users as well as loved ones to keep this in mind.

How Long Does Cymbalta Stay in the Body?

Cymbalta does not stay in the body for long, which is part of the reason that it can so easily create a physical dependence. How long a drug stays in your system is measured by what is known as its “half-life,” which is the amount of time that it takes for half of the drug to leave your system. Duloxetine has a very short half-life of only 12 hours.

This is why it is so important for people to keep up a regular dosing schedule; otherwise, they may begin to experience mild withdrawal symptoms in a short amount of time.

What Are the Symptoms of Cymbalta Withdrawal?

The negative effects of Cymbalta can be experienced both as side effects and as withdrawal symptoms depending on the person. It is extremely important to keep an open and honest channel of communication with your doctor as well as your psychiatrist so that he or she can help you through any negative effects that the drug might have on you.

Remember that any physical dependence you may have developed is not your fault, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Your physical and mental health is much more important than any shame or guilt that you may feel over admitting that you are having withdrawal symptoms associated with duloxetine use. Your doctors want the best for you, so they will do everything in their power to help you overcome the dependence that you feel.

The effects of Cymbalta withdrawal can vary widely from one person to the next. How severe your symptoms are will depend on how long you have been taking the drug, the size of your dose and other personal health factors.

Any of the following symptoms may occur as withdrawal sets in:

  • Dry mouth
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Vivid nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • “Brain zaps”
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Muscle weakness
  • Skin rash
  • Constipation
  • Mood swings

In more severe cases, some people have reported experiencing sexual dysfunction, abdominal cramping, and convulsions. This is more likely to happen to people who attempt to bypass the extended-release capsule by mixing the powder into a liquid.

It is also critical to remember that duloxetine is an antidepressant drug, so any sudden dosage changes can lead to devastating psychological withdrawal symptoms as well. These can include rebound anxiety, worsened depression, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts. Because of the seriousness of these potential withdrawal symptoms, it is always best to gradually step down duloxetine use with the close supervision of a medical professional.

How Long Do Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

For most people, mild or moderate withdrawal symptoms may last up to three weeks. In some of the milder cases, patients have reported that the worst of their withdrawal symptoms resolved themselves within about a week.

While the withdrawal symptoms listed above are generally not debilitating, they can be extremely uncomfortable. This is why it is best to taper down Cymbalta use gradually with the help of a doctor. There are also uncommon cases where withdrawal symptoms can become more severe or dangerous. For long-time users or those who have grown accustomed to a high dosage, there are specialized detox programs that can help patients safely and painlessly come off of duloxetine.

How to Manage Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms

The best way to manage duloxetine withdrawal is under the care and supervision of medical professionals. This can be done at home or through a professional treatment program. You should never try to simply quit “cold turkey” because your withdrawal symptoms will be much more serious.

Use a Taper Schedule

The primary way to manage the intensity of any duloxetine withdrawal symptoms is to follow a slow tapering schedule. This involves working with your doctor to gradually lower your medication dose, which allows your body to adjust over time to the absence of the drug. For most people, a tapering schedule of two weeks is enough to wean them off of the drug. However, some people may need to step down more gradually, and there is no harm in taking longer than two weeks to wean off of Cymbalta.

Supplement With Detox Medications

In more severe cases, some people may need detox medications to help resolve their withdrawal symptoms. This is not common, but doctors can give medications to help with nausea, headaches and other common detox symptoms. Generally speaking, if withdrawal symptoms are too extreme, the best course of treatment is to resume a baseline dose and to start a more gradual tapering schedule.

Enter a Professional Program

Duloxetine withdrawal can be especially difficult for some people. This is most common for people who have been taking Cymbalta for a long time, people who take a high dosage of the medication, or people who take multiple antidepressants.

In these cases, a doctor might recommend enrolling in a professional detox program because withdrawal symptoms can feel quite debilitating. There is also a higher risk for serious, negative psychological effects, so it is safer to be in an environment where trained professionals can monitor your physical and mental health as you come off of the duloxetine. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

Many rehab facilities offer specific programs that are tailored to antidepressant detox. These often include holistic approaches to healing in addition to medical care, so they can be an excellent option for anyone who feels that weaning off of Cymbalta may be too difficult to do alone. This is especially true for those who have unsuccessfully tried to stop taking duloxetine in the past.

Get Started Down the Path to Your Best Self

There are many reasons why people choose to stop taking Cymbalta. In some cases, their doctors determine that there are other, more effective ways to manage the conditions that were being treated with duloxetine. In other cases, the patient may start experiencing side effects and decide that it is best to stop taking duloxetine.

It is rarely easy to make changes to your medications, especially when it comes to antidepressants and other prescriptions that can easily lead to physical dependence over time. Whether this is your first time attempting to stop taking Cymbalta or you have tried before and did not have success, it is important to know that you are not alone in this.

Even though you may not have misused duloxetine, you may have become dependent on it. This is not your fault, and you should not feel shame or regret, especially if you are looking for a way to wean yourself off of the drug in the hopes of living a better life.

As long as you keep an honest conversation going with your doctor and mental health care provider, you will be able to safely come off of Cymbalta with as little discomfort as possible, and you will be one step closer to becoming your best and brightest self. If you need more assistance, Granite Recovery Center is here to help you. Our staff knows the signs and effects of Cymbalta withdrawal, and we are able to help you throughout the detox process. Give us a call if you or your loved one needs help.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.