Paroxetine Side Effects: What Is Paroxetine?
Paroxetine is an antidepressant medication used to treat a variety of disorders including major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is a member of a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which work by increasing the amount of serotonin available in your brain. It is not uncommon for someone to experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit Paroxetine.
More than 40 million people in the U.S. take antidepressants. Most of them received their prescription from a family doctor rather than a psychiatrist. SSRI withdrawal symptoms have been well documented in medical literature, but prescribing doctors, who are often without psychiatric expertise, sometimes neglect to tell their patients about what to expect.
A significant proportion of the people taking Paroxetine and other SSRIs for a long enough period experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit or reduce their dose. About 50% of people on antidepressants have been taking them for over five years. And one in four has been on them for ten or more years.
Unfortunately, Paroxetine is notorious for being among the hardest antidepressants to quit. It has even been described, in the medical literature, as the antidepressant from hell. Due to its short half-life, Paroxetine withdrawal can hit hard and fast. Overall, more than 56% of people who quit antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms of some kind. The occurrence rate may be even higher among Paxil users.
Paroxetine Side Effects, which range in intensity from mild to severe, can include irritability, dizziness, nausea, and prickling sensations. Some people describe electric-like sensations in their heads. This is sometimes described as brain zaps, brain shivers, or electric shocks. These sensations may appear rarely or up to several times per day and can sometimes be triggered by rapid eye movements.
Changing or stopping your dose of antidepressants also increases your risk of a recurrence of the mood or anxiety symptoms it was treating. Your risk of suicide may also go up following antidepressant cessation.
Paroxetine Side Effects
While it is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms after stopping any antidepressant, some are notoriously worse than others. Paroxetine is among the worst offenders. This is to some degree due to its half-life, which means the amount of time it takes for half the drug to effectively leave your body. Paroxetine has a relatively short half-life of 21 hours. This means that withdrawal symptoms often develop fast, typically within two to three days.
Symptoms associated with withdrawal from SSRIs include the following:
- Digestive: You may experience nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, or appetite loss.
- Balance: You may become dizzy or lightheaded, sometimes making it difficult to walk.
- Sleep problems: You may have nightmares, unusual dreams, excessive/vivid dreams, or insomnia.
- Overall: You may have flu-like symptoms including headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, cramping, and tiredness.
- Mood: You may have extreme anxiety, agitation, panic, suicidal ideation, depression, irritability, anger, or mood swings.
- Bizarre sensations: You may experience brain zaps (like an electrical shock or shiver in your brain), pins and needles, ringing in the ears, strange tastes, or hypersensitivity to sound.
- Heat tolerance: You may have excessive sweating, flushing, or an intolerance to high temperatures.
- Motor control: You may have tremors, muscle tension, restless legs, unsteady gait, or difficulty controlling speech and chewing movements.
Paxil withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly bothersome to severe and incapacitating. The Discontinuation-Emergent Signs and Symptoms Scale (DESS) is a checklist you can use to evaluate your symptoms and their severity. This checklist should serve as a reference only, your clinician will use this or something similar to diagnose you.
Paroxetine Side Effects: Withdrawal and Detox
Paroxetine, which also goes by the generic name paroxetine, is a common type of antidepressant classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It’s considered non-addictive by both the medical community and the federal government. Patients who stop taking the drug still experience withdrawal symptoms referred to as discontinuation syndrome.
Doctors routinely prescribe SSRIs like Paroxetine to patients in drug and alcohol recovery when they fit the criteria for major depressive disorder. Mental health disorders like depression are common among people with substance misuse issues, and they often go undiagnosed. For recovering addicts whose depression is caused by serotonin deficiency, paroxetine can reduce withdrawal symptoms while improving overall brain chemistry.
Paroxetine Side Effects: Withdrawal Symptoms
Paroxetine inhibits the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain. In doing so, Paxil increases serotonin’s ability to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression. For most people who take paroxetine, the drug, at some point, becomes ineffective. Getting off of an SSRI like Paxil isn’t nearly as challenging as recovering from recreational drug use. Symptoms are usually mild and are easily managed by gradually decreasing the dose.
The following are common paroxetine withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, irritability, dizziness, headache, flu-like symptoms, vertigo, nausea, confusion, anxiety, excessive dreaming and suicidal ideation. Suicidal thoughts are most common when the patient unexpectedly misses a dose or stops taking the drug without first consulting their doctor.
Paroxetine Side Effects: Withdrawal Timeline And Symptom Durations
How long symptoms last and the severity of those symptoms are largely dependent on the unique physiology of the individual, the size and frequency of the doses being taken at the time of cessation, and the length of time that the patient has been taking the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms usually begin within the first 24-48 hours of reducing the dose. Symptoms peak in intensity at four to five days. For most people, withdrawal symptoms cease completely after two to three weeks. New research suggests that it can take as long as 90 days before the brain has fully adjusted to being off of Paxil. During this period, it’s critical for the patient and doctor to keep a close eye on fluctuations in symptoms.
Paroxetine Side Effects: Managing Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of discontinuation syndrome from Paroxetine are most severe when doses stop abruptly. Accidentally missing treatments can trigger the onset of withdrawals. A person who has been taking large and frequent doses of paroxetine will, on average, have more intense withdrawal symptoms than someone who’s been prescribed smaller doses.
Paroxetine doses range from 10 mg to 60 mg depending on the country in which the drug is administered. Patients who have been taking 50 mg doses for a year will take longer to wean off of paroxetine than someone who has been taking infrequent doses of 25 mg extended-release pills.
When doses are stopped all of a sudden, the best way to manage and reduce symptoms is to get back on the prescribed dose and then gradually decrease doses from there. Never stop taking Paroxetine without first consulting your doctor and formulating a plan for getting off the drug.
Eating a low-inflammation diet and exercising can also be helpful for managing withdrawal symptoms. Long-term use of prescription medications can lead to inflammation that damages the gut lining. Eating plenty of dense leafy greens and supplementing with pharmaceutical-grade probiotics can help recolonize healthy gut bacteria and reduce symptoms of anxiety. Exercise can help normalize metabolic activities as well as reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Paroxetine Side Effects: Medications And Detox
Even gradually reducing the dose of Paxil can trigger the onset of feelings of depression, anxiety and persistent thoughts of suicide. Suicidal ideations are most common in individuals under the age of 25. If symptoms worsen, notify your doctor immediately. Fixing the problem is often as simple as temporarily increasing the dose.
Your doctor may also try putting you on fluoxetine. Fluoxetine is an SSRI similar to paroxetine and has a shorter half-life. The shorter half-life of fluoxetine, in many cases, results in milder withdrawal symptoms.
Paroxetine Side Effects: Long-Term Treatment
Your long-term treatment plan will depend on your initial diagnosis and your current symptoms. It is best to work with your doctor to make a plan that fits your individual needs. If you didn’t tolerate Paxil well but are still experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, your doctor may want to introduce a new medication or combination of medications.
If you no longer wish to take medication, your doctor may recommend alternative therapies, such as psychotherapy. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) is an evidence-based treatment for depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD that can help relieve and prevent depression. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and other universities have found that people who participate in therapy while coming off their antidepressants are less likely to relapse than those who do not.
Complementary and alternative therapies include:
- Equine therapy
- Mindfulness training
- Dietary changes
- Natural supplements
Reclaim Your Life From Paroxetine Side Effects
Paroxetine Side Effects can cause major health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Paroxetine withdrawal and side effects with professional and safe detox. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 Mojtabai R, Olfson M. National patterns in antidepressant treatment by psychiatrists and general medical providers: results from the national comorbidity survey replication. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Jul;69(7):1064-74.