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September 21st, 2010
10:23 AM ET

How can I stop using Paxil without the side effects?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Tuesdays, it's Dr. Charles Raison, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, and an expert in the mind-body connection for health.

Question asked by Sharon Reynolds of Tampa, Florida: I have been taking 10 mg of Paxil for nine years. I would like to get off of it but have heard of the many side effects associated with stopping it. Brain "buzzes" and various other frightening possibilities.

How can I stop Paxil without those side effects? I started taking it after a complete hysterectomy that resulted in extreme anxiety.

Expert answer: Dear Sharon,

There is good news and bad news about your situation.

The good news is that only about 20 percent of patients who take antidepressants experience these type of withdrawal symptoms when they discontinue the medications, and when experienced, these symptoms are usually mild and resolve in a week or two.

The bad news is that you have two risk factors for experiencing an antidepressant withdrawal syndrome. First you have been on your antidepressant for an extended period. Second, you are taking Paxil (generic paroxetine) which - because of its short "half-life" in the body - is especially notorious for causing withdrawal problems.

There are two very important things you can do to reduce your risk of having the type of symptoms you describe.

First, you should work closely with your health care provider. Second, you should never just stop the medication.

Probably the all-time best way to experience antidepressant withdrawal is to just suddenly stop the medication. Doing this is a shock to the nervous system, which has adjusted its neurotransmitter release based on the presence of the antidepressant.

In the case of medications like Paxil that affect serotonin, we believe most of the withdrawal symptoms are related to a sudden increase in serotonin activity for which body and brain are not prepared.

The first thing a good clinician will do is closely examine whether stopping the Paxil is a good idea in the first place. If you have been on the medication for 10 years and are emotionally stable, it might be the right thing to do.

Even if it makes sense to do this, a good clinician will be carefully watching, not just for withdrawal symptoms, but also for any sign that the psychiatric condition that prompted you to take the medication in the first place isn't coming back.

The most common symptoms of a Paxil withdrawal syndrome are feeling like you have the flu, often in combination with dizziness, sensory disturbances (like the buzzing you describe) and anxiety/agitation.

The trick to lowering your chances of having these symptoms is to reduce the dose of the antidepressant as slowly as possible. For people who are really sensitive it can take months to get off an antidepressant slowly enough to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

But remember that most people can stop an antidepressant cold and won't have symptoms. Whether you would be similarly fortunate or more unlucky is probably not a question you should test out. Rather, I recommend starting to work with your clinician to slowly lower the dose. If you feel fine you might try lowering the dose more rapidly as it feels comfortable.


soundoff (1,620 Responses)
  1. Jane

    I decided to stop Paxil after 9 years because of its addictive nature, if I forgot to bring my pills with me my head "buzzed" and I felt dizzy. Getting off of Paxil was a very hard thing to do and I would not recommend quitting cold turkey, that is too much suffering! I slowly cut down my intake over at least a months time and stilll suffered withdrawal symptoms such as the head buzzing, feeling flu like symptoms but I believe they were less severe because of the slow reduction in my body.

    September 21, 2010 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • don

      I'm not sure the withdrawal syndrome (due to abrupt) discontinuation is due to a sudden INCREASE in serotonin for which the brain and nervous system are not prepared. That sounds more like the serotonin overload from taking Imitrex or other such drugs while on Paxil.
      The withdrawal is more from the brain's own serotonin production not ramping up fast enough to compensate once reuptake inhibition ceases. Paxil is among the worst in this regard.
      gone.
      Eh?

      September 21, 2010 at 14:34 | Report abuse |
    • Kristine O'Grady

      My cold turkey withdrawal was as difficult as that of some heroin addictrs. Brain buzzes,extreme temper and inclination to violence, nausea so severe I had to carry a garbage bag around with me in the car for a week. No warning that this was going to happen. These drug executives are criminals.

      September 21, 2010 at 17:28 | Report abuse |
    • Regina

      I took Paxil for two years after my brother's tragic death. I was smart about it and took three months to slowly decline my dosage to avoid the well publicized withdrawl symptoms. It was a truly horrible experience. I had vertigo the entire time, experienced continual "zaps" and did not fell like myself again for another three moths after my last pill. Had the doctor told me what to expect with this drug I would never have agreed to taking it.

      September 22, 2010 at 06:33 | Report abuse |
    • Laurie

      "a good clinician will be carefully watching, not just for withdrawal symptoms, but also for any sign that the psychiatric condition that prompted you to take the medication in the first place isn't coming back."
      Sadly, withdrawal can make that "original condition" seem like a walk in the park, which few psychiatrists will acknowledge. The doctors answer to Sharon highlights how little psychiatry knows about withdrawal and weaning. His advice will get her one place...back on Paxil. Paxil withdrawal is one nasty process, but it is possible to get off paxil and still have a life while doing it.
      http://www.paxilprogress.org

      September 22, 2010 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
  2. Paxil User 2

    Thanks for bringing this question up. I am thinking the same about getting off of it. Now I will certainly ask my Dr. I won't just go off of it.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Mark

    I know very well what the head buzzes feel like from using Paxil, must be a better money maker to have a drug that feels like an electric shock to the head when the patient stops using it. A person might be better off smoking marijuana.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      Smoking helped me tremendously when I was tapering off of Paxil.

      September 21, 2010 at 12:40 | Report abuse |
    • Clara

      If I wasn't pregnant then maybe I would of sparked one! I'm glad I'm off the Paxil, if I'd even miss one day I'd experience horrible "brain zaps", although detoxing from it was a wretched experience indeed... Especially when combined with first trimester pregnancy discomforts.

      September 22, 2010 at 11:40 | Report abuse |
  4. Amy

    I had the "brainshocks" for three months (after taking Paxil for less than a year), after tapering off the Paxil for a week per doctor's orders. In hindsight, I should have tapered off over a much longer time. First two weeks were the worst–those mid-sentence shocks were quite disconcerting (to myself and whomever I was attempting to converse with)! After that, the shocks came less often and were mild enough that they didn't intefere with my daily activities. I sincerely wish you a smooth and symptom-free transition–but I suggest you plan ahead and try to clear your schedule as much as possible over the first week or two, just in case!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Rebecca

    Be very, very careful about stopping Paxil. I had taken Zoloft in the past and tapered off without problems. I was fine for a while, then started having anxiety in addition to depression, so my doctor put me on Paxil. It was the lowest dose possible (5 mg or 10 mg, I can't remember exactly). I took it for 3 days.

    The side effects were so bad that I had to stop. Since I had only been on it for 3 days, I didn't think I needed to taper down – I just didn't take any more pills. Within about 5 hours of missing the 4th dose, I felt like I was going out of my mind. I couldn't concentrate on anything, not even long enough to finish the sentence I was speaking. Also, I've never felt more naseous in my entire life.

    It was horrible, and after about 6 hours of that, my husband took me to the ER. They gave me an IV drug they normally give to chemo patients who are experiencing nausea, and the first IV bag of that didn't even touch the nausea. The ER doc thought I was making it up, but thankfully the nurse was much more compassionate and got me a second IV bag, and that finally started to help. It took about 36 hours before I felt well enough to eat again, and I didn't drive for 3 days because my concentration just wasn't there, and I didn't want to put anyone at risk on the road.

    So if your doctor suggests tapering in what you think is a ridiculously slow way (i.e. take a lower dose for 6 months, then lower it again for 6 months, etc.), listen to him/her. I know Paxil is a life-saver for many, but it's nothing to mess around with when coming off of it.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gary

      Rebecca, I am glad to be down to 10mg soon to be off for good.

      September 21, 2010 at 12:23 | Report abuse |
  6. Vicki

    Same thing here!!!!!! The work around for me was to go on another SSRI that didn't have such a short life. Switching did not cause a problem. THEN – it was still a slow withdrawal, but no vertigo. No head buzzes! Eventually, I had to go back on SSRI, because obviously I needed it. Without SSRI, I cried at absolutely everything and nothing. So – never never never will I let anyone tell me that Paxil is a good thing. There are other meds that are better for me. My first vertigo attack w/ Paxil occurred when I was 3 hours late in taking my dose! Whew!!!!

    September 21, 2010 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Kay

    A friend of mine took Paxil for the first time and the very same day she said she felt like ripping all of her hair out. Please be careful when taking this drug.
    My husband had several severe depressive episodes in his life and this is one of the many drugs he used over the years. He took it for about 2 years and then it was time to try a new drug. He and his doc worked out a plan to taper off his dosage. Once he completely stopped, he had about 3-4 days of "sofa time". He had the flu like symptoms along with many other really horrible feelings that he couldn't even accurately describe to me but he did mention feeling dizzy and like he was going out of his mind. He wasn't working so he did have the luxury of just kind of checking out for those few days. I kept an eye on him as much as I could and he just pretty much laid there without much interaction letting it work itself out. It did.
    Anyone considering taking this medication should really only do so to basically save their life. And make sure your doc keeps good tabs on you.
    Kay

    September 21, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gary

      Kay I understand the flu,dizzy crappy feelings I experience it about once every month for the past 12 years if I skip a dose..

      September 21, 2010 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
  8. Dan Felsen

    I took Paxil for a short time. It is actually much more of an anti-anxiety drug than an antidepressant. I found the result interesting, it did allay my anxiety, which I didn't know I had until I was able to isolate it through the Paxil. But it didn't do anything for my depression, so my doctor and I tapered me off. Take one every other day for a week, then every third day, and so on. I did have one day where I felt very strange, everything around me seemed ominous and foreboding. Again, because I anticipated some effects, I was able to observe them with interest and curiosity.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. AEvans

    I have taken Paxil since 1998. For the first time in my entire life, I know what "normal" emotions are. The withdrawal symtoms of going off it scare me, as does switching medications. But the ramifications of going off it scare me more. I took it throughout both of my pregnancies and have two healthy girls. For some, it is a life saver – literally.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicole

      AEvans, I have taken Effexor for about 3 years now, and am in the 5th month of my second pregnancy. My daughter is healthy and happy, and I am a normal person again since taking it. Good for you for making the decision to do what was best for you and your babies, I don't disagree with those who quit when they are pregnant, but for others like me, the symptoms I would have had without it were considered worse.

      September 22, 2010 at 15:38 | Report abuse |
  10. Gary

    I have been on paxil since 98 too. the I have finally weaned down to 10 mg's I have had terrible withdrawal symptons in the past. I love the vivid dreams. I practice buddism and meditation now and no longer need paxil.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Joe B.

    It took me around 8 weeks to taper off Paxil. 20 mg to 10 mg was easy and took just over a week. I then tried to take a 10 mg pill every other day, but had bad withdrawal symptoms on the day I didn't take anything.

    I went back up and stayed on 10 mg/day for 10 days until I stabilized. I then cut the 10 mg pills into quarters. I took 7.5 mg for 2 weeks, 5.0 mg for 2 weeks (this was still a little difficult the first few days), then 2.5 mg for 2 weeks.

    Paxil is also available in liquid form, should you need to drop the dose by 0.5 mg every few days. It is much more expensive than the pills, though.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kake79

      You bring up an excellent option; liquid suspension.

      1. Paxil really is a very short acting drug so trying to taper off by taking it every other day is a horrible idea.

      2. If you need to step down less then 5mg at a time, switch to a liquid suspension as it allows you to step down in tiny increments.

      3. Consider switching to a different SSRI and then tapering off of it. Choose one that is much longer acting than Paxil.

      September 21, 2010 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
  12. Maria

    I also took Paxil for a few years. I lost my job and medical insurance. Needless to say, I coudn't afford the meds anymore. I had no choice but to stop cold turkey. It was the worse feeling ever. I didn't sleep for three months. I was lucky to get three hours of sleep a day. It felt like I had Vertigo and I was very paranoid, dizzy and shakey. I would be up at three in the morning cleaning my kitchen from top to bottom, doing laundry late at night and always keeping busy, I couldn't stop. It was like my "stop" button was broken. I finally started feeling better and vowed to never take Paxil again and to do whatever I could to ween myself off of something if I need to take anything else again. Now I just tell everyone my story so that they don't go through what I went through. Good luck out there.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paxil Survivor

      I went through the same thing; after six years on Paxil I changed jobs and it took me a while to get new insurance. I paid full price for a month; Paxil is so expensive! The second month I decided that I wasn't going to give the drug company that much of my money and quit cold turkey.

      I had six weeks of misery. I had very frequent head buzzes, dizziness, weakness, a complete inability to concentrate, nausea, and despair. I found myself going through every drawer in my house looking for a stray pill like a junkie. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. The head buzzes tapered off over a six month period.

      I've had no issues since I finished going through withdrawal. I will never, Ever take Paxil again; I think the company that makes it should pull it off the market. I can't believe they get away with marketing such an expensive, addictive drug. The experience gave me a lot of compassion for anybody who is going through withdrawal.

      September 22, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse |
  13. Freeatlast

    It took almost four months for me to get off of Paxil. I felt pretty horrible most of that time. Would reduce by 5 mg. every two weeks. When I got down to about 20 mg. a day, I suplimented with 10 mg. of citalopram along with 10 mg. of paxil. This helped – especially with the head "buzz". This is nothing to mess with. FYI-I was on Paxil for approx. 5 years at 45 mg. per day. Good Luck. It can be done!

    September 21, 2010 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Susan B.

    I went through intense withdrawals with Effexor which is similar. I've been off for at least 6 months now but it took me about 4 months to taper off of it. Marijuana definitely helped with the intense withdrawal symptoms.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Csh

    I've been on and off paxil over the last 15 years of so for anxiety. It's different each time. I've noticed that it takes less each time to stabilize my anxiety but the 'buzzes' are worse when I get off. The longest I've ever been on it was 2 1/2 years. The worst side effect for me was that after about 18 months it messes with my metabolism and I gain weight. The best for me was the timed-release Paxil. It seems to level off the side effects and makes getting off easier. I can take it every other day.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. clark1b

    10 mg of paroxetine daily .... and the advice is to "slowly" decrease if you decide to get off of the medication. short half life and the lowest dose of paroxetine that comes in a tablet ... equals there is no slow tapering method available unless you choose to switch to the liquid form. or you could take the dose every 36 hours for a week and then every 48 hours for a week .... but the short half life means that you will have very wide swings in concentration.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Freeatlast

    Also – I found that my Dr. didn't have a clue as to how severe the withdrawal can be. I starting losing weight shortly after I got off Paxil which was a real plus. (I gained about 35 lbs. being on Paxil). Just be aware of the types of withdrawal symptoms you may face and acknowledge them and work through it. You can do it. I found some very helpful information on the Internet also from people that have gotten off this stuff. I told myself I would take three to four months to get off Paxil and set up a plan with my Dr. and followed it. I feel so wonderful now that I can hardly explain it. I feel alive again.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Saveyourself

    From everything that I know about Paxil, the folks that use it are the ones that ARE at risk, from the drug....

    September 21, 2010 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Candice Grant

    I spent twelve years on Paxil and have been off a year. It took me three attempts to finally get off this horrible drug. I would shake uncontrollably, had fever, naseua, diarhea, feeling of my brain shaking inside my head, depression (which I had never experienced before), night sweats, and a general sick feeling. I finally had tot ake time off work and slowly wean my body off this med because I coudlnt function trying to come off of it while working. It took months after being off it before the withdrawal symptoms completely went away. I have been Paxil free for a year now and am managing my anxiety in other ways than drugs. Take things slow coming off it and be prepared for effects for several months after. Good luck to you!

    September 21, 2010 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Zounds

    I had a nightmarish experience with Paxil. I had a prescription through my internist, and when I told her that it was not only not helping my depression but I was starting to have suicidal thoughts she just told me that's impossible, take more. Finally I tapered off the drug myself and promptly went insane. Fortunately I was able to find a competent therapist who helped me get it together and referred me to a psychopharmacologist who put me on Zoloft, which really has helped (and didn't make me fat or give me nightmares the way Paxil did either.)

    SSRIs are not Mentos. They are serious psych drugs that need to be used under the supervision of an MD psychiatrist who knows exactly what he or she is doing.

    September 21, 2010 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gary

      Zounds, I enjoy the vivid nighmares and interesting dreams but the rest of the withdrawal/side effects are terrible ....I am going to ask my doc about Zoloft. Thats good news if it dosnt cause weight gain l

      September 21, 2010 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
    • kake79

      Just remember that every drug works very differently for every person. Because Paxil was horrible for Zounds and Zoloft was great, doesn't mean it'll be the same for you.

      Also, I am a very firm believer in only psychiatrists writting prescriptions for psych drugs. There are way too many people on antidepressents and anti-anxiety meds in our country and I feel that the two main reasons are general practitioners that hand it out like candy for a wide variety of issues for which the drugs are not approved and patients who hit a little bump in the roads of their lives and want a quick fix with drugs. It's up to the doctors to be the responsible ones and not acquiesce to their patients demands; they are the experts, not the patient.

      And I say all of this as someone that has suffered from severe anxiety and depression since I was a child and have been on various medicines for over 20 years. I'm lucky to have found an excellent psychiatrist and psychologist that can keep me on the absolute minimum effective dose of medications and, when I'm doing well, work with me to step down in a responsible manner in the hopes of one day being off these damn drugs.

      September 22, 2010 at 09:18 | Report abuse |
  21. My#1dissent

    I've been taking Paxil (40mg) for about 10 years now. About a year ago I decided that I wanted to wean myself off of it. After 6 months of decreasing the dose to 10mg every 3rd day I figured I had it beat. Stopped taking it and after 5 days the withdrawals kicked in.....absolutely horrible!. Head buzzes, dizzy and I had absolutely no patience with anyone. Actually tried to hit a dog on the road because he started to cross the road in front of me. I was seriously afraid I was going to commit a violent act or be arrested. After 2 days I went back on it and it took 4 days before I started feeling normal again. I've decided that 1) It is a miracle drug for me and I'm going to continue taking it; 2) If I have to stop taking it I will definitely do it under my doctors supervision. The only reason I tried to quit was that I didn't like taking med's everyday, though skipping a day has never caused any symptoms it's only after 2-3 days I start noticing the withdrawals. If you need it Take it; if not work with your doctor to get off of it.

    September 21, 2010 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. JimCC

    Terrible drug! I was on it for a few months. While taking it, it was impossible for me to have an orgasm. When I tapered off over several weeks, I felt terrible.

    If you doctor wants you on Paxil, get a different doctor.

    September 21, 2010 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Matt

    I find it funny that only a small percentage of patients using Paxil are supposed to experience these withdrawal symptoms, yet seemingly everyone I know who has used it has had the "brain zaps"...including myself. They were absolutely unbearable. I switched to Luvox, and when I tried to stop that, guess what? Same thing. Apparently not all health care providers are clued in to the issue, either, as my doctor made it seem like the problem was "all in my head" (so to speak) when I brought it up to him.

    September 21, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Robert

    I've been on Paxil for at least ten years. Excellent drug for my problem and I won't disparage it. I take half of a ten mg. pill once a day and if I forget to take it for a couple of days there are no problems. I guess I'm trying to say that not all people have problems.

    September 21, 2010 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Gary

    I also have experience weight gain. shakes,headaches and extreme tiredness when trying to mountain bike when I forget a dose. The doctors say only a small percentage suffer side effects and withdrawal symptoms that is bullsh#$. The worst symptons I had in 08 fo r3 months was severe low back pain radiating down into my feet. ...I am going to try to ween off 10 mg starting with 7.5 this week!

    September 21, 2010 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Mary

    And you were brainwashed to think that only illegal drugs were bad for you.

    September 21, 2010 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gary

      Mary, you are correct ..these are all mind altering drugs. I found ectasy to be a great depression fighting drug in the 80's No side effects I was never addicted and damn sure didnt gain weight...

      September 21, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
  27. Dee

    At least they tell people now. In 1995 I ran out and was told by the dr's receptionist I could just wait until next week when the doctor got back. Well it didn't exactly work out well. But there was no label yet on the bottle because the manufacturer was hiding the data so technically the dr's office had no reason to think there would be a problem. Nice system.

    September 21, 2010 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Tara

    I've been on antidepressants for years, and it took months to transition from Paxil to something else. I tried to get off Paxil when I was pregnant with my first child, but the buzzes and rebound depression were awful...I didn't bother the second time! I knew the risk of effects on an unborn child's development, but coming off was too horrible, and my mood would get so bad that my husband and I were willing to take the chance, because I had been close to suicidal before Paxil. Slowly got off it, but not fun. It's been a few years, and I'm getting off the replacement now...nice and slow!!!

    September 21, 2010 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. momof2

    I've been on 10 mg for several years (and have used Paxil for several periods over the last 10 years). I've gone off of it 2x for both of my pregnancies-I never had any trouble, since I slowly weaned myself off of the medication per the doctor's instructions. I'm sure people can react differently, but I have had no trouble going off of it when I needed to.

    As far as the cost, it's $4 at Walmart for 10 mg of generic Paxil (30 day supply). Pretty inexpensive.

    September 21, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. momof2

    And yes-I've had withdrawal symptoms, if I forgot to refill my prescription and had to go a few days with out it-after a day or 2 of no Paxil, I'd feel shaky, lightheaded, heart pounding...basically felt like crap. My doctors have always stressed to me, to *not* do that! I've always been told to slowly wean myself off over several weeks (probably longer, if a higher dosage). Every doctor has always said "don't just stop taking it".

    September 21, 2010 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Bob Albrecht

    My best friend committed suicide 3 weeks after stopping Paxil because he couldn't afford the medication. Nice drug.

    September 21, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gary

      Bob Albrecht, very sorry to hear that.

      September 21, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
    • Bob Albrecht

      I really miss him. I knew him since kindergarten (1965).

      September 21, 2010 at 16:17 | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      @Bob, how devastating for you. I'm so sorry for your loss.

      I'm scratching my head over how it's the drug's fault, though, given that his symptoms flared up when he could no longer afford to take it. Wouldn't the fault lie with the medical system that makes drugs so expensive and ties health insurance to employment status?

      September 21, 2010 at 16:31 | Report abuse |
    • GreatFriend

      Boy your best friend and you could not HELP him...I am glad you are not in my circle of friends...If it was my "best friend" I would have paid for his medication....but that is just me

      September 23, 2010 at 07:28 | Report abuse |
  32. Allanna P.

    I am very happy to read about the experiences of trying to get off Paxil since I've tried multiple times and any dose less than 10mg makes my temper and agitation come to a boiling point. After 6 months of weaning down finally to 5mg, I wanted to get out of the car and beat up a woman in a BMW who cut me off at an intersection. That episode created the shakes followed by depression that I could do something like that ... I promptly went back up to 10mg where I've been for the last 8 years.
    It keeps my mood level and I function in a manner that feels normal to me. I no longer have mood swings and I have come to terms with probably living with this medication for the rest of my life. Honestly, I am scared to death to try and get off it now since my many attempts (2 days – no meds) resulted in suicidal thoughts and depression. Good luck to those of you trying to wean yourselves off – I truly wish I could do it.

    September 21, 2010 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Bill

    Paxil is unique in its withdrawal symptoms, and this article does not do that justice!

    I've been on many different antidepressants over the years. I'm currently on Paxil, and it does work better for me for anxiety/depression than any other one that I've tried. BUT, Paxil is not your typical SSRI or antidepressant when it comes to withdrawal. Twice I've gone off Paxil. The withdrawals are very very bad, and in my case involved head zinging and nausea for over two weeks. The article mentions 20% of antidepressant users get withdrawal. Well, everyone who I've talked to went off Paxil had terrible withdrawals. If you're on Paxil more than a couple of weeks, you will probably have a hard time getting off it.

    September 21, 2010 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Sadiegirl

    I've been on Paxil for 15 years due to anxiety and panic attacks. Take 20mg each morning. Then I take 10mg around 3pm when I "feel" it wearing off. I wanted to get off it years ago and weaned off with doc's help, but the anxiety and panic attacks were horrible. I went back on. I asked my doc if it's dangerous for me to continue to take it and if I should try to get off again, but his response is that it's working so well for me, there's no reason I can't continue. So for me, it's doing the job quite well.

    September 21, 2010 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Former Zoloft

    SSRI’s, I believe, are prescribed far too often and at dosages that are higher than necessary. Although I was not taking Paxil (I took Zoloft instead), I was increased from 50mg/day to 200mg/day in under 6 months. I continued at that dosage level for 2 years before beginning to wean off. The weaning process took several months and I still continued to have brain buzzes, nausea, and vertigo for nearly six months. If faced with the choice of experiencing nearly debilitating anxiety or those withdrawal symptoms ever again, I will take the anxiety. The withdrawal symptoms were not disclosed to me by my doctor, and I foolishly did not do my own research. Never have I made that mistake again.

    September 21, 2010 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Vicki

      Like you, I had no clue what I was getting into, and my doctor said nothing. When I was a couple hours late with a dosage and got extreme vertigo – I called the medical center consulting nurse. She said that the Paxil would not cause this problem. Oh yeah? I didn't believe her, and finally did the research. Needless to say, I am no longer on that one! I have had to accept, however, that I won't ever be SSRI free. It has been the matter of finding something that works better, and I am there now.

      September 30, 2010 at 21:55 | Report abuse |
  36. Janet

    Why stop the Paxil at all I am not pro drugs but I think it is one of the best drugs for depression out there. It does create weight gain in all of people but I would say stay on it. I know people who have taken it for 10 years and it works great.

    September 21, 2010 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gary

      Janet, Weight gain! high triglicerides ,increase in diabitis type 2, heart disease enough said.

      September 21, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
    • Sadiegirl

      Gary, I've not gained on pound and my annual blood work is PERFECT. As with any medication, drugs affect each person differently. I don't think it's fair to "scare" people off Paxil when it's doing it job for those who need it without any reprecussions. JMHO

      September 22, 2010 at 11:11 | Report abuse |
  37. TalktoyourDOCTOR

    Wow a CNN health article that is true...please talk to your doctor who prescribed this medication to you.It is not advisable to quit abruptly but don't take my word for it talk to YOUR DOCTOR ....a step down therapy which means a decrease in dosage each day/week is the new(not so new but)approach and has been effective............

    September 21, 2010 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Carol Johnson

      I agree that it is good to see the medical profession actually addressing the withdrawal "hell" from discontinuing anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, I do not agree with parts of this article. I do not believe that only 20% if people experience WD symptoms! My experience in talking to other folks, it is closer to 100%!! There is A LOT of money made off these meds, and it is smart for the medical community to downplay their side-effects and withdrawal. We were originally told they were not addictive (or habit-forming, the term the pharmaceutical companies, like to use), so of course we would have no problem in discontinuing their use. I am obviously frustrated with any doc telling us we who suffer WD symptoms are in the minority and that it only lasts 2 weeks!

      September 21, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse |
  38. Post-Paxil

    Welcome to hell! "Brain buzzes" and other so-called withdrawal symptoms are for amateurs. Try three months of hell – sweats, twitching, no sleep, all cognitive abilities gone, constant dizziness and balance problems, rebound depression.

    No wonder the lawyers advertising on late-night TV target this hideous drug. FDA won't pull it – all you can do is litigate, expose its horror, and make it unprofitable for the manufacturer.

    There is hope. Find a mental health professional who knows how to get people off Paxil (sometimes starting with an LCSW is the best way to get hope, referrals to decent psych MDs, and accurate information). For a short time you may need another drug to help ease the Paxil hell. General practitioners have no business prescribing this drug, and NO business trying to wean you off it. Do NOT go cold-turkey!

    September 21, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Thomas

    I tool Paxil for a year and half starting at 10 MG, then up to 20 and ended at 30 MG's of which I was at, for a year. My doctor told me it wasn't habit forming. HE gave it to me to treat ADHD, and it a great job for a while then I turned into a raving lunatic. I was broke at the time and couldn't afford to keep taking it and I was really behaving poorly on it. I read what they said in this article of a week or two to come down, I went through six weeks of hell getting off of it because I went cold turkey. This proved to me it is habit forming. Headaches, muscle aches, a pit of paranoia and angry fits and I couldn't sleep at all. Awful business it was...

    September 21, 2010 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Andrew

    I took 20 mg Paxil for 8 years. I tried getting off it 4 different times before finally being successful.
    I had to taper over a period of 15 MONTHS. I know many other people who had to do that too. For a lot
    of people Paxil is EXTREMELY hard to get off of.

    September 21, 2010 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Brad

    My doctor said the Paxil level should take about 8 weeks to do all of its adjustment – I had a VERY hard time going to 10mg to 5mg over 2 months, then trying to go lower. I'm ENCOURAGED to hear that other people are saying it can take LONGER – as opposed to it not being POSSIBLE, as my doctor has told me, after it hasn't worked in the past several months.

    September 21, 2010 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Pirate65

    I'm printing all of this and showing it to my doctor, who told me "There are no withdrawal symptoms from Paxil. It's just that your brain has a chemical imbalance, and when you stop taking the Paxil, the chemical imbalance comes back." The head buzzes and nausea KILL me when I try to stop taking this med.

    Is there a lawsuit against the makers yet? There definitely should be!!!!

    September 21, 2010 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Dan

    I've been taking forty milligrams a day for over twelve years. I want off this stuff in the worst way, but every time I bring it up, my doctor says no, that I need to stay on it. It will periodically knock me out for 24 hours or more, the kind of sleep that produces great dreams but leaves me shaking and unable to perform the least complicated act. I'm considering another doctor, even though I've been with this guy for a long time and he's been really great except for this one instance. I don't like the idea of doctor shopping anyway. So, I guess I'm stuck for the time being.

    September 21, 2010 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Carlita

    I didn't have trouble going off paxil. I was sad to stop taking it since it helped my OCD, however the side effects I got (facial rash), weigh gain, and loss of sex drive, made learning coping skills a better option. I will never take another antidepressant.

    September 21, 2010 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Nik

    I had similar experience with Paxil withdrawal when going off of the med. My Psychiatrist switched me to a very long acting SSRI, which was Prozac, and then I was able to slowly taper off from the longer acting drug. There is no way I would have been able to just ween off of Prozac without the other SSRI substitute. All in all it took 1 year to go off of the drug, and the worst withdrawal symptoms occured when I was on the smallest tolerable does of Paxil. The Prozac was key for me and I would bet it will work for you.

    September 21, 2010 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Nik

    I mean There is no way I would have been able to just ween off of Paxil without the other SSRI subsitute, ie Prozac. One of the reasons Paxil is so difficult to ween from is that it has such a short half life. On small doses, Paxil is "in" your system and then it is "out" of your system. Switching to Prozac, which I believe has a four day half life, reduces the "on/off" effect that your body feels and really makes it possible to get off of Paxil and, subsequently, Prozac.

    September 21, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Melissa

    While the withdrawals were horrible and at the time I was super angry that no one had warned me, I don't regret taking Paxil or Lexapro (which was also incredibly physically difficult to wean off of). I just wish the medical community was able to be honest about the addiction and the pain of withdrawal and help lead people to alternatives to meds. Meds should be reserved for individuals who really are stuck in a chemical imbalance. I haven't met a soul who didn't experience horrible withdrawals from anti-depressants or anti-anxieties so this 20% thing is crap. That said, very few of those people have regretted the experience and the help they provided for getting them living again.

    September 21, 2010 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Tracie

    I went through a month of Paxil withdrawal when I was 14 and a freshman in high school, back in April 2000. Even all these years later I still remember it vividly. DO NOT quit any psych med cold turkey, or start tapering down without the help of a doctor. It's dangerous. I'm glad I went through it before I got my driver's license, because if I had tried driving while in withdrawal I probably would have gotten in a wreck.

    September 21, 2010 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Bob

    Effexor can be a bitch getting off of too.. I wish these Drs would counsel their patients regarding the side-effects and withdrawel effects before they prescribe them.. Better yet leave it to a qualified Psychiatrist. Maybe my son would still be alive today!

    September 21, 2010 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. meandmec

    I stopped taking antidepressants after 17 years with a method that involved opening the capsule and taking three grains a day out of the pill. It took several months and i still had rebound, brain zaps and agitation for months more. It has now been one and a half years since my last dose, and i feel ok. Very difficult but worth it.

    September 21, 2010 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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