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Brintellix (Vortioxetine) Withdrawal Symptoms + How Long They Last

Brintellix (Vortioxetine) is considered an atypical antidepressant that was co-developed by pharmaceutical companies Lundbeck and Takeda. Most consider Brintellix to be a new antidepressant as of 2014 due to the fact that it was approved by the FDA in September of 2013. In clinical trials, it proved to demonstrate substantial efficacy for the treatment of major depression among adults.

Analyses of randomized trials suggested that this drug superior in efficacy to Celexa, Viibryd, and Zoloft and more tolerable. Although it outperformed other antidepressants in this comparative analysis, most research indicates that no single antidepressant is best compared to others. In any regard, doctors and patients alike always want to try the latest “flashy” medications to treat depression; especially when analyses suggest it is more effective than the older crop of drugs on the market.

Although Brintellix’s unique mechanism of action as a “serotonin modulator and stimulator” may elicit a favorable antidepressant response in many individuals, some people just don’t tolerate it well. It is widely known that just like every other antidepressant, Brintellix’s side effects can be difficult to deal with. For others, it just may not work well enough to treat their depression in order to justify its usage. In these cases, a person will likely want to withdraw from the drug.

Factors that influence Brintellix withdrawal

There are several factors that play an important role in influencing withdrawal symptoms. The primary influential factors include: time span, dosage, speed of tapering, and individual variation.

1. Time Span

How long did you take Brintellix? Logic suggests that the longer you take a particular drug, the more changes it makes to your brain and nervous system. On the other hand, the shorter the time span over which you took this particular drug, the less changes it will have made to your functioning. If you had taken this medication for years, you would have likely built up some sort of tolerance and possibly needed to increase the dosage, which solidifies drug-induced changes.

Expect to have a protracted withdrawal period if you took Brintellix over an extended period (e.g. years). If you only took Brintellix for a couple months, your brain and nervous system will likely recover at a quicker rate than if you had taken it for a longer duration. Those who take the drug for a few days may only exhibit minor withdrawal symptoms for a short period.

2. Dosage (5 mg / 10 mg / 15 mg / 20 mg)

Most people start out taking 10 mg of Brintellix per day. Dosage is then increased to 20 mg per day as long as the individual is able to tolerate this increase. In clinical trials, higher dosages of Brintellix such as 20 mg demonstrated superior antidepressant efficacy over lower ones. Therefore, it is likely that most people will be titrated upwards to the maximum dose that they can tolerate in order to treat depression.

If you are taking the full 20 mg per day or greater, expect your nervous system to incur a greater degree of drug-induced alterations, and inevitably a more severe withdrawal. If you were taking a lower dose of the drug, your nervous system should heal at a quicker rate. This is why as a general rule of thumb, it is a good idea to take the minimal effective dose of any drug.

3. Cold turkey vs. Tapering

The rate at which you taper off of Brintellix will influence your withdrawal experience. Those who quit cold turkey generally deal with an onslaught of difficult symptoms quickly and for longer durations than those who taper. While tapering can certainly take a significant amount of time, it is usually recommended due to the fact that it is easier on your nervous system.

Tapering allows your nervous system to slowly adjust back to functioning without the medication. If you quit cold turkey, you may create chaos within the nervous system due to the fact that it had been receiving the drug, and now has to learn how to restore normative functioning. In general, tapering is always recommended when discontinuing antidepressants to minimize the severity of withdrawal.

4. Individual Variation

Why does Brintellix withdrawal last a few weeks for Person A and months for Person B? It all boils down to individual variation. This includes all of the factors listed above such as: time span, dosage, how quickly tapering was conducted. It also includes: genetics, physiology, habits, diet, stress, whether the person is taking other medications, etc.

In many cases a person who is taking another drug with Brintellix may mitigate some of the withdrawal symptoms with that other drug. Similarly, if a person stops taking Brintellix to transition to a different medication, that other drug will likely offset some of the severe withdrawal symptoms and may influence the withdrawal duration.

Brintellix Withdrawal Symptoms List

Below is a list of withdrawal symptoms that you may experience upon discontinuation of Brintellix. Understand that not everyone will experience every symptom listed below. The number of symptoms experienced as well as the severity is highly subject to individual variation.

  • Anger: When quitting any antidepressant, it is common to experience anger. The drug has likely altered your neurotransmission, making it difficult to produce adequate levels of serotonin. Outbursts of anger were reported as a “common” discontinuation symptom in clinical trials. Fortunately, you will likely notice your anger subsiding as you plod through withdrawal.
  • Anxiety: Upon discontinuation of any drug that has influenced serotonergic functions within the brain, you may feel anxiety. The anxiety may be mild or more extreme during the early stages of withdrawal. If you feel more anxious than usual, and have recently stopped this drug, it is likely due to the fact that your neurochemistry needs to readjust, specifically that which involves serotonin.
  • Brain zaps: Many people experience electrical shock sensations called “brain zaps” when they quit taking an antidepressant or skip a dose. In most cases, these can be lessened by conducting a gradual taper off of Brintellix. Despite the fact that these are highly uncomfortable sensations, they will eventually pass.
  • Concentration problems: Some individuals may notice a slight degree of cognitive enhancement from this medication. Upon discontinuation, not only will the enhancement disappear, but you may actually notice significant concentration problems. This is mostly a result of your brain trying to function without the drug. In the meantime, you’ll likely experience “brain fog.”
  • Depression: Taking an antidepressant may help depression, but when you quit, not only can you expect your original depression to return, you may actually experience a more severe version. Pre-drug depression and discontinuation depression are typically two different experiences. When you discontinue Brintellix, your brain will be chemically imbalanced as a result of the drug – thus leading to a different, potentially more severe depression.
  • Depersonalization: Do you now feel like you are “not yourself?” If you feel depersonalized, it is likely due to your brain attempting to sort out the chemical changes that were created by the drug. If you are highly stressed, this may further enhance the feelings of depersonalization. Just know that you will eventually feel like yourself again; it may take some time.
  • Dizziness: A very common withdrawal symptom associated with every antidepressant is that of dizziness. Your brain had become accustomed to receiving the drug for its functioning, and when you discontinue, certain neurological functions become altered – leading to dizziness.
  • Fatigue: Regardless of whether this drug had a pro-energy effect or made you tired, fatigue often ensues upon discontinuation. This is a medication that affected both serotonin and norepinephrine. Your nervous system had relied on the drug to provide it with some sort of energy, and when you quit taking it, your nervous system was still expecting it – thus leaving you tired.
  • Flu-like symptoms: Some individuals may feel achy, have a headache, feel nauseous, and may vomit upon discontinuation. The combination of all withdrawal symptoms may feel somewhat similar to the flu. Although it’s likely not nearly as severe as the flu, it certainly can make you feel sick.
  • Headaches: Most people experience some sort of headache when they quit this medication. The headache may be difficult to deal with, but is something that most people have to put up with. If it becomes unbearable, make sure you are drinking enough water, getting plenty of sleep, and eating right. Consider some over-the-counter headache relief if the headache is intense.
  • Insomnia: Many individuals find that when they quit this drug, they are unable to sleep at night. In some cases the insomnia can be mitigated with natural supplements like melatonin and/or simply engaging in relaxation prior to bed. Over time, your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm will reset itself.
  • Irritability: It is common to feel irritable when you discontinue this antidepressant. Every little “thing” may trigger anger or an irritable reaction, especially during the early stages of withdrawal. Do your best to realize that your feelings of anger and heightened stress will eventually subside. Although you may not be able to control the feeling of irritability, you can control how you express it.
  • Mood swings: Another reportedly common symptom of withdrawal is that of mood swings. Certain days you may feel alright, and others you may feel like total crap. One minute you’re angry, the next you are agitated and depressed. Understand that mood swings will continue to occur until your neurochemistry recalibrates itself.
  • Muscle tension: Another extremely common symptom to experience during withdrawal is muscle tension. Additionally, your muscles may also feel sore, achy, and weak. The tension may make it difficult to relax or stay calm. Engaging in relaxation exercises and/or practicing progressive muscular relaxation can be helpful.
  • Nausea: You may feel more nauseous than usual after you’ve quit Brintellix. In most cases, the nausea doesn’t last more than a couple weeks. Most people that experience nausea notice that it substantially decreases by the second or third week of their withdrawal.
  • Runny nose: Most antidepressants do not result in a “runny nose” upon discontinuation, but this one does. You may need to stock up on some tissue if this is a problem and over time, it will subside. This is a relatively odd withdrawal symptom, but apparently one of the more common ones associated with Brintellix discontinuation.
  • Suicidal thoughts: It is common to experience an increase in suicidal thoughts during withdrawal from Brintellix. It should be stated that you should seek immediate medical attention if you are unable to cope with these thoughts. If you had these thoughts prior to taking this drug, you likely won’t be able to distinguish between those resulting from withdrawal and those resulting from your original depression. However those that hadn’t experienced these thoughts pre-drug and now do after quitting will understand.
  • Sweating: If you sweat profusely during withdrawal, realize that this is your body’s way of detoxifying itself. Your nervous system may be slightly shocked now that it is attempting to function without the Brintellix. Concurrently your hormone levels may be altered as well (e.g. cortisol) which may contribute to the sweating.
  • Vomiting: In some cases, people can actually feel so nauseous that they vomit upon discontinuation. The vomiting doesn’t generally continue for more than a few days. This is a very uncomfortable symptom that is fortunately less common than others.

Note: It is known that Brintellix stays in your system for between 13 and 16 days after you’ve discontinued.  For this reason, many people notice that discontinuation symptoms often become more severe during the second or third week of withdrawal.

How long do Brintellix withdrawal symptoms last?

Everyone wants an exact timeframe for how long the withdrawal process should take when discontinuing Brintellix. Unfortunately, data is lacking to establish a composite or average withdrawal period from this medication or any other. As a general rule, I would recommend waiting at least 90 days before reevaluating your withdrawal symptoms.

Some people are likely going to feel better before the 90 day marker, while others will take even longer to experience healing. For many individuals, getting quality sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and finding ways to stay socially connected can help speed up withdrawal. Various supplements also can be utilized to help mitigate the severity of some withdrawal symptoms.

In all cases, it is a good idea to focus on taking things one day at a time, realizing that you will eventually heal and return to homeostatic functioning. During withdrawal, it is highly recommended to seek out the help of a quality therapist so that you can cope with whatever symptoms you are experiencing. If you have withdrawn from Brintellix or are currently in the process of withdrawing, feel free to share in the comments section below.

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{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Liz December 12, 2015, 4:54 pm

    I’ve been taking brintellix 10mg for the past three months. I can say I feel the best I have in a very long time but I have the WORST acne. I can’t for the life of me figure out if there’s a correlation here or not. It’s not listed as a side effect but years ago when I was taking seroquel the same thing happened despite not being able to find it listed as a side effect. It may be BC this drug is so new that not enough people have experienced wider ranged side effects. I’m torn on what to do but awakening each morning with new eruptions is becoming disheartening (and yes I’ve switched face washes, changed routines, stopped using moisturizer, etc.).

    • Code April 17, 2016, 4:22 pm

      Hi Liz! I’m not sure if you’ll ever see this comment but I started the medication a week ago and started having the same side effect. I haven’t had this much acne since I was a teenager. In my case, it’s as if the oil production from pores has increased three-fold.

  • Pat February 2, 2016, 2:05 pm

    Male, 22. I have been taking brintellix for a few months now (10mg), and I can say that it is one of the better antidepressants I’ve taken as far as treating depression. It does have a lot of the common side effects of antidepressants, especially sexual dysfunction… I found out that the side effects are amplified since I’m taking adderall as well, and is even dangerous.

    I quit cold turkey a few days ago, and I’ve had a lot of these side effects above. I’ve had very bad insomnia, runny nose, nausea, fatigue, and the mildest activity causes me to be drenched in sweat. I’m not sure which symptoms are worse, taking it or withdrawing.

  • Ann March 2, 2016, 2:03 pm

    How else do you stop taking Brintellix other than cold turkey? How do you stop gradually, one day on and one day off?

    • lindsay April 14, 2016, 5:17 pm

      I am currently working with my therapist to wean myself off of this med. I’ve been taking 20mg over a year. 2 weeks 15mg, 2 weeks 10mg, 2 weeks 5mg, then done. Waaaay safer than cold turkey, as I’ve done that before.

  • amy corbin March 8, 2016, 2:51 am

    I have taken 10mg Brintellix for several years. Quit cold turkey. After 60 days restarted taking. I lasted 1 week and was horribly sick. Unfortunately, took Brintellix again. Only lasted 3 days. OMG, this is horrible. When will this end? I have had so many of the symptoms above. I understand now, I am also experiencing Brain fog from the above list. Thanks for the information.

  • Oscar March 17, 2016, 4:36 pm

    Hello! I took Brintellix for major depression and I used it for about 8 months. I think it helped a lot but it didn’t cure me. Now I have been off the drug for two to three weeks. I have experienced many of the above symptoms and it varies by day what problems I have. Concentration has been bad and the last two days I have experienced significant increase in anxiety. I’m struggling and hoping that I win this fight. And I will win this fight even though it is difficult and scary.

    • lindsay April 14, 2016, 5:19 pm

      Exercise, exercise, exercise! I’m not an athlete, but walking everyday for 30 min or so has greatly helped my anxiety and irritability. Work with your therapist. No anti-depressant should be quit without support.

  • Donna Bradshaw March 29, 2016, 3:12 am

    I have only been on Brintellix 10mg for 3 & 1/2 weeks. I ran out of tablets over Easter and can’t get another prescription until Thursday. I feel irritable, nauseated, headache, insomnia, lack of concentration and having thoughts of suicide. I don’t believe the medication has had time to work yet. I don’t know what I should do now, because I can’t see a Doctor yet and my own Dr is away.

    • Mary April 10, 2016, 5:37 am

      I have w/d after only 2 & 1/2 weeks. This medication overstimulated me. Anxiety got worse. This is a serious medication! I was on MAOI’s for 20 plus years with great success but had a very scary hypertensive episode so no more. Terrible w/d and then no luck with brintellix. Fancy new drug that is off the wall expensive and not as good as the other ones out there. Started Lexapro so hoping to feel good again.

  • Pat April 9, 2016, 6:48 pm

    I was taking Brintellix 10 mg for about six months. When I went off of the Brintellix I experienced extreme fatigue and achy muscles. I drank green tea with ginseng during the day and it took care of achy muscles right away. The fatigue took a little longer, but I do believe that the green tea with ginseng helped also.

  • Mary April 10, 2016, 5:31 am

    I stopped brintellix 10 mgs cold turkey with my doctors blessing as I became very “hyped” up and only was sleeping 6 hours. Was told I would have no w/d. WRONG! Started Lexapro today so have high hopes.

  • Lisa May 4, 2016, 5:38 am

    I’ve been taking brintellix for 3 months… stiff bones, not muscle. I am experiencing no relief from depression. Because of the price of this Med
    I’ve decided to stop! I feel better now than I have in months! I’m also on Lamictal, Deplin and dexedrine. I think I’m going to be fine! Exercise, eating well, and sunlight. Wish me luck!

    • yaniv moshe May 8, 2016, 3:02 pm

      Hey, How did you stop taking it at once?

  • S May 4, 2016, 5:59 pm

    Been taking brintellix for a year and a half. Stopped about a week ago. I’m really struggling. I’m so angry at everything. And everything negative in my life is amplified. I don’t know if this is worth it. If there is actually a light at the end of this tunnel. Or if I’m better off going back on it.

  • Sebastian June 6, 2016, 8:15 pm

    I have been taking 10mg for a little over a month after switching from Viibryd. I tapered for 3 days by breaking my pills in half. It’s been only a couple of days since I quit taking the med entirely and so far I don’t have any major side effects.

    A little runny nose, but I only realized it was related to the med when I read that it was a symptom of w/d. I’m hoping to it will continue this way. Viibryd gave me the mind zaps by dinner time if I missed a single dose which I feel was caused by Viibryd’s short half life. We will see if my lack of w/d continues.

  • Ash September 13, 2016, 10:55 am

    Hi, Just found out I am pregnant (I conceived two weeks ago), and with much research I’ve seen I need to get off. I’m not depressed anymore – and my baby’s health is more important to me now! I just want to confirm that only being pregnant for 2 weeks (4 weeks medically speaking), I haven’t harmed the baby yet with taking this drug?

    As much as I want to go cold turkey on it – I’m scared I will feel awful, so will take half today, and a 1/4 tomorrow and then stop. I hope my baby is fine, I didn’t know you couldn’t be on it when pregnant!? Anyway else taken it while pregnant and baby is okay? Thanks.

  • Marcia September 22, 2016, 5:35 pm

    Hi, I was on this medication for more than 4 months. First week made me so sick to my stomach. Then started having heart palpitations. Doctor took me off of it been off for a month. I have the worst brain fog now. I also have most of those withdrawal symptoms listed. Will this ever stop? I will never take this drug again.

  • Cindy September 24, 2016, 3:30 am

    I have taken this med for two months. I was so tired the doctor said it wasn’t from the med so I increased it to 20mg. I only stayed in bed I was so tired. I forgot to take it one night and I felt so good the next day, so I stopped taking it. I started off with a massive headache.

    Day #3 off med and still continue to have a headache although only half as bad. I’m praying it will end soon. Tylenol and Motrin doesn’t touch it. I’m very disappointed with med. the side effects taking it and the withdrawals!

  • Ann October 3, 2016, 1:11 am

    I’ve had horrible side effects going off of this after 3 months, cold turkey. I was fine until about day 6, then I was getting achy and started getting headaches. I didn’t associate this with the drug until later. I also was becoming forgetful. Day 12 was the worst and when I connected everything. I became achy, dizzy, feverish, tired, miserable.

    I’m back on after only 2 and a half weeks off… trying to end these awful side effects! I’ve taken 4 doses. Yesterday I felt totally normal again. I thought I was in the clear. Now I’m miserable again. Why? Isn’t it back in my system? Anyone else experience this?

    I’m NOT wanting to stay on this in the long run anyway, because it’s also made me gain 30 pounds in the 3 months I’ve taken it! I’ve spent the last 2 years losing 50 pounds… only to have that wiped out in 3 months. Talk about depressing! I strongly dislike this drug. It’s a doozy, that’s for sure.

  • Linda Feller October 7, 2016, 2:38 pm

    I was on it for 2 months at 20mg, didn’t do much for me so doctor increased to 30mg. Another 2 months of the worst constipation ever and 2 occasions of nausea and vomiting. Still did not feel it was working so tapered off as doctor prescribed. 4 weeks off and still in withdrawal, mostly fatigue, nausea and vomiting. My doctor gave me meds for the nausea but I’m taking them as needed and maybe need to take them every day.

    I’ve been on almost every antidepressant there is over many years. I would say that this drug is in the top 5 of my least favorite. After some research during the days that I’ve missed work due to the withdrawal symptoms I’ve decided that I no longer believe in the theory of a chemical imbalance causing depression and am seeking a more holistic approach. I urge all of you to do the same.

  • Katie October 8, 2016, 12:41 am

    I’ve been on Brintellix for 2 years. Came off cold turkey for a week and a half. The last 4 days I’ve had flu symptoms with severe nausea and diarrhea. Trying to figure out if it’s from the withdrawal. I’m miserable. I’ve been back on for 3 days.

    • linda October 10, 2016, 3:41 pm

      I would guess that yes, you are in withdrawal. Tapering seems to work better than going off cold turkey and most will agree.

  • Louise October 19, 2016, 1:30 am

    I have been on 20 mgs Trintellix for about 7 months, missed a few days and haven’t taken any for 10 days now, so cold turkey. Some flu like symptoms the first few days but fine since so far. My Dr wants me back on, if I want to, but now I need to go back to 10 mgs for a week then back to 20. I’m wondering if I don’t go back on, if that was it for side effects or if more are yet to come after the 2 week mark. Has anyone felt ok coming off cold turkey?

    • IAN October 30, 2016, 4:15 am

      Don’t go cold turkey always taper it’s way less scary.

      • Kristy November 28, 2016, 5:27 pm

        Never ever come off of a drug of this type cold turkey. It can cause soooo many side effects, worse than tapering off of the drug. Several doctors have told me that it can cause seizures. That alone scared me enough to decide to taper off of Trintellix.

  • Cassie November 18, 2016, 5:54 pm

    I took Brintellix (now Trintellix) for over 2 years. My psychiatrist recommended I see how I do off meds since I have progressed so well. Slowly weaned off over a period of a few months, been completely off for about 3 weeks (under the care of a psychiatrist). Physical side effects have been few, occasional zaps but mostly fine. As for my mental state wow the last week has been interesting.

    Emotional, weepy, irritable, anxious. Luckily I worked really hard to develop coping skills for this during my time on Brintellix and am hanging in there but it is NOT fun. Reading this makes me feel better though – going to indulge in a lot of self-care and meditation and see how I am in a couple of months. I’d love to be med free.

  • Kristy November 28, 2016, 5:23 pm

    I have been on some sort of depression med for the last 15 years or so, the last one I was switched to was Trintellix, I felt worse on this med than any other med out there. I had every side effect listed. I was on Cymbalta 90mg before switching to this one. I was on Trintellix for about 3 months, taking 20mg per day.

    Now I am starting to tapering off this drug with the help of my Primary Care Dr and my Heart and Vascular Dr at Vanderbilt Hospital. I am experiencing horrible side effects from tapering off of this drug. Today 11-28-2016, I am having a bad day, wanting to cry and just go home and sleep. I hope these side effects end soon. I am a roller coaster of emotions. I go from sad, to happy, to anger in a flip of a switch.

    I have an awesome support system to help me while getting off of this drug. I mainly deal with anxiety and panic attacks so now I take 1/2mg of Xanax when I feel them coming on to stop it before it takes control of my body. One thing I will say I have never ever felt so many side effects coming off of one drug than this one. The side effects are the worst ever.

    Since I am tapering off Trintellix my brain fog is not as bad. In about 2 to 2 1/2 more weeks I will be completely off of Trintellix. I am glad to know I am not the only on out there who has had to deal with what I experienced. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. No one should ever have to go through what we did.

  • Kai December 5, 2016, 1:33 pm

    I’m hoping to share my experience here in the hopes that someone finds it helpful. I’ve been on 10mg of this medication daily for around 8 months and tapered for two weeks to 10mg every other day after my causes of depression eased thankfully in the hopes at making an attempt at being neurotypical. After that period I stopped altogether.

    Leading up to this for a month I have been exercising every day for around one hour and ensuring that I drink at least 2 litres of water daily and consuming 1600 healthy high protein calories per day, this is a caloric deficit for my body type but not drastic. I drink two mild cups of coffee daily and I am also abstaining from alcohol and wearing a 21mg daily nicotine patch. I have also been taking 4x250mg of Silymarin (Milk Thistle) daily.

    Day 1 – No noticeable symptoms.
    Day 2 – No noticeable symptoms.
    Day 3 – Mild brain fog, fatigue, runny nose.
    Day 4 – Anxiety, Mild brain fog, fatigue, runny nose peaked, elevated heart rate while exercising.
    Day 5 – Anxiety worsening, brain fog worsening almost like a vibrating feeling in my ears, fatigue, runny nose, slight cough.
    Day 6 – Anxiety plateau, having to take multiple deep breaths, deeps sighs, worry, brain fog plateau, vibrating in my ears, some dizziness and mild headache. Runny nose has ceased, slight cough remains. Irritability is heightened and difficulty concentrating.
    Day 7 – Switched to 2600 Calorie Diet. Anxiety decreasing, having to take multiple deep breaths, deeps sighs, worry, brain fog remaining steady, vibrating in my ears, some dizziness and mild headache, slight cough remains. Irritability is heightened and difficulty concentrating. Caloric surplus has however improved my overall mood.
    Day 8 – Same as day 7 but slightly amplified. Dizziness is marked and disturbing. Loss of appetite.
    Day 9 – Dizziness almost leading to vomiting. No appetite. Can’t tell if I’m having other symptoms since the dizziness is overshadowing everything else.
    Day 10 – Same with Slight improvement, appetite returned somewhat.
    Day 11 – Same with slight improvement.
    Day 12 – Appetite spontaneously resolved, back up to 2600 calories, dizziness is lessened. Mild headache and brain fog.
    Day 13 – Very slight dizziness and brain fog. Emotions are sharper and more pronounced, this includes positive emotions. Since my life has genuinely improved since I started this drug I am finding renewed actual happiness. Mood is somewhat unstable but good.
    Day 14 – Same as previous. Dizziness resolving.
    Day 15 – Same, dizziness resolving.
    Day 16 – Same, dizziness resolving.
    Day 17 – Resolved.

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