The drug Effexor seems to work for many people, but is there a natural alternative?
“First introduced by Wyeth in 1993, now marketed by Pfizer, it is licensed for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD), as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, and comorbidindications in certain anxiety disorders with depression. In 2007, venlafaxine was the sixth most commonly prescribed antidepressant on the U.S. retail market, with 17.2 million prescriptions.” – wiki.
It has some negative side effects, including lack of interest in sex and inability to have an orgasm, which can last up to years after someone stops taking the drug.
Some people recommend St John’s wort as a natural SNRI. Does St John’s wort work for depression? Yes, it seems so:
An analysis of twenty-nine clinical trials with more than five thousand patients was conducted by Cochrane Collaboration. The review concluded that extracts of St. John’s wort were superior to placebo in patients with major depression. St John’s wort had similar efficacy to standard antidepressants. The rate of side-effects was half that of newer SSRI antidepressants and one-fifth that of older tricyclic antidepressants.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and other NIH-affiliated organizations hold that St John’s wort has minimal or no effects beyond placebo in the treatment of major depression. This conclusion is based primarily on one trial of 340 volunteers, with negative outcome conducted by NCCAM. The authors of the study themselves, as well as several others, pointed out the low assay sensitivity of this study, and how only limited conclusions can be drawn from its results. The same study also indicated that sertraline (Zoloft) has no positive effects vs. the same placebo.
St. John’s wort is “associated with aggravating psychosis in schizophrenia”.
Cool, you might try St Johns wort but, don’t just stop your current anti-depressant cold or you may end up committing suicide. Work with a doctor to reduce your dose safely.
Note: Venlafaxine should not be taken when using St John’s wort. Wait at least two weeks after stopping one before starting another. It takes 4 to 8 weeks before positive effects are felt. Again, don’t take St Johns wart with Effexor or any other anti-depressant. You may die from serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening adverse drug reaction.
Unfortunately, St Johns wort has the same potential side effects as venlafaxine, such as lessened interest in sex, but the problems occur less frequently than with meds, according to the studies.
- Dry herb (in capsules or tablets): The usual dose for mild depression and mood disorders is 300 mg (standardized to 0.3% hypericin extract), 3 times per day, with meals. St. John’s wort is available in time-release capsules.
- St. John’ s Wort is also available as a liquid extract or a tea. Ask your doctor to help you find the right dose.
It may take 3 – 4 weeks to feel any effects from St. John’s wort. Don’ t stop taking St. John’ s wort all at once, because that may cause unpleasant side effects. Gradually lower the dose before stopping. – umm.edu
Also, if you are taking venlafaxine, avoid drinking: “Although the synergistic effects may not be as bad as with other antidepressants, it is still not recommended to take venlafaxine with alcohol.“ – wiki
More on how venlafaxine works in the brain:
Venlafaxine is part of a class of drugs called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs for short. SNRIs act on specific chemicals within the brain known as serotonin and norepinephrine. These are two of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another. As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release serotonin or norepinephrine. The serotonin or norepinephrine enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any serotonin or norepinephrine that remains in the gap between cells. This is called “reuptake.” Normally, this process works without any problems. But when the levels of serotonin or norepinephrine become unbalanced, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression. Venlafaxine helps to block the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine so that more remains in the space between the brain’s nerve cells. This gives the chemicals a better chance of activating the receptors on the next nerve cell.
I guess I’m lucky. I’m generally calm and happy if I get regular exercise and enough sleep a few times a week, but I’m still interested in this topic for others I know and love.
Antidepressant users: If you have successfully moved to St John’s wort or some other natural cure (light therapy, exercise, 5-htp) from Effexor, please leave a comment and let us know your experience.
Psychiatrists: Have you had any patients who have transitioned successfully from an SNRI to a natural alternative with fewer side effects?