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Zyprexa (Olanzapine) Withdrawal Symptoms + How Long Do They Last?

Zyprexa (Olanzapine) is an atypical antipsychotic drug that is commonly utilized for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It works more on serotonin receptors than dopamine receptors, but targets both. Although this is a drug that can work well for treating severe mental illnesses, more than 50% of people quit taking it during clinical trials due to severe side effects. In comparison to the older “typical” antipsychotic drugs, the only advantage this medication has is slightly fewer side effects.

However, it is associated with greater weight gain than older antipsychotic medications. Of all antipsychotic drugs, this is the drug that has been found to cause the most weight gain. Zyprexa has been tested for eating disorders and anxiety disorders, but has not been found effective for treating either condition in clinical trials. The only conditions that this drug should be used to treat are schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – after other options with less side effects have been explored.

Most people that have taken Zyprexa end up coming to a point where they have to weigh the benefits they are getting with the side effects of the drug. A majority of individuals end up quitting simply because the side effects are overwhelming. These side effects can include: increased cholesterol, weight gain, metabolic changes, increased stroke risk in elderly and/or the development of diabetes.

Factors that influence Zyprexa withdrawal

Below are several factors that influence withdrawal from Zyprexa. Perhaps the most influential factors are time span over which you took the drug and your dosage. However individual factors and how quickly you taper off of the medication can also play a role.

1. Time Span

How long were you on Zyprexa? In general, the longer you take an antipsychotic medication, the more dependent you become on it for everyday functioning. If you took this drug for many years, it will likely be much more difficult to withdraw from in comparison to someone who just took it for a month or two.

2. Dosage

Most people that are on this drug for an extended period of time end up having to increase their dosage. The greater the dosage you take, the easier it is for your body to build a tolerance to that higher dose. When you withdraw from the medication from a higher dose, you will likely need to conduct a longer taper than someone who is just on a low dose. If you quit cold turkey from a high dose, the withdrawal symptoms are thought to last much longer and be more severe.

For schizophrenia, most individuals take between 10 mg and 15 mg daily. The recommended starting dose is typically 5 mg. In general, most psychiatrists will gradually titrate a patient up to a dose that provides relief from symptoms. Antipsychotics carry powerful side effects and usually the lowest effective dose is recommended to minimize those effects.

3. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering

Did you quit cold turkey or did you conduct a gradual taper? Antipsychotics like Zyprexa are very serious drugs and the withdrawal effects can be debilitating. It is always recommended to conduct a very gradual taper to allow your body to slowly adjust to functioning without the drug over a period of time. In general the tapering period should be influenced by your current dose as well as how long you took the drug.

If you were on this particular drug for an extended period of time, it is recommended to taper at a rate of 10% per month. By slowly reducing your dose, you will give your neurotransmitters some time to accommodate and adjust to changes in the amount of the drug you ingest. If you are very sensitive to even minor reductions in dose, you can request a liquid compound that will allow you to reduce your dose by fractions of milligrams.

4. Personal Factors

Individual factors play a huge role in determining the difficulty of withdrawal. Some people naturally are very sensitive to changes in dosage and may have a much more difficult time withdrawing. Additionally some people have much more social support than others which helps them cope with their experience coming off of the drug.

People taking other medications or transitioning to another antipsychotic may not even notice much of a withdrawal compared to individuals who were only taking Zyprexa. Some individuals have better dietary habits, sleeping patterns, exercise habits, less stressful jobs, etc. – all these factors can play a role in influencing withdrawal. Therefore it is recommended to not compare yourself to that of other people when withdrawing.

Zyprexa Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities

Below is a list of symtpoms that you may experience when coming off of Zyprexa. Keep in mind that not everyone will experience every single symptom listed below. You may experience a few of the symptoms or many and the severity of withdrawal will be influenced by individual factors.

  • Anxiety: Many people report very extreme anxiety when they quit Zyprexa. This is a drug that many people find calming and when taken away, a person can feel extremely anxious. Do your best to practice relaxation exercises and recognize that the anxiety is part of withdrawal.
  • Appetite changes: While on Zyprexa, many people experience significant increases in appetite. A person may feel as if they are never full and/or are transforming into Hulk as a result of the food that they eat. When coming off of Zyprexa, most people experience decreased appetite.
  • Bipolar symptoms: Some people may experience a reemergence of Bipolar symptoms (e.g. mania) when they quit taking this drug. If you have Bipolar disorder and are on this medication, proceed slowly and with caution when withdrawing.
  • Concentration problems: If you find it very difficult to concentrate on tasks such as reading, writing, and/or work, you are not alone. Many people have major difficulties with focusing when they are going through withdrawal. This symptom tends to improve over time as your brain adapts to functioning without the drug.
  • Confusion: When you experience a bunch of uncomfortable physical symptoms accompanied by foggy thinking, concentration problems, and emotional disturbances, this can result in a state of confusion. If you feel confused often, just know that this will improve over time.
  • Crying spells: The depression that people experience when quitting an antipsychotic like Zyprexa can be very tough to deal with. This may result in a person crying excessively because they feel so down in the dumps.
  • Depersonalization: Do you feel unlike your old “normal” self? This is because your neurotransmitters are out of balance and have changed since you took the medication. It will likely take your brain some time to reset its homeostatic functioning.
  • Depression: Many people report extreme depression when they stop taking this drug. The depression is thought to be a result of lowered levels of dopamine and serotonin. You should eventually experience some lift in mood after some time off of the medication.
  • Diarrhea: Some people experience diarrhea when they discontinue this medication. This isn’t an extremely common symptom, but one that has been reported. If this is the case, you may want to consider some over the counter Imodium.
  • Dizziness: Among the most common withdrawal symptoms from any psychiatric medication is that of dizziness. It is common for people to feel very dizzy, especially if the tapering was done too quickly. Dizziness will eventually lessen over time as the brain functioning readjusts.
  • Fatigue: Most people report excessive tiredness and general fatigue when they come off of Zyprexa. You may have a difficult time performing everyday tasks because your energy level is so low. Just know that your energy level will eventually return as time passes.
  • Hallucinations: There is evidence pointing to the fact that some people experience psychotic symptoms as a result of withdrawal. This is thought to be a result of changes in dopamine receptor functioning and dopamine levels.
  • Headaches: Some people experience splitting severe headaches when they come off of this medication. Having headaches accompanied by dizziness can be a very difficult one-two punch. Just know that these should subside after your body restores proper functioning.
  • Insomnia: This drug tends to calm people down and in many cases makes them sleepy. When coming off of it, the opposite can be true. Some people report such intense anxiety and an inability to fall asleep.  Insomnia may persist for quite some time after your last dose.  It should improve as you make some lifestyle changes and your neurotransmitter levels change.
  • Irritability: Do you notice yourself becoming increasingly irritable? If you feel more irritable than normal and little things set you off, it may be a result of withdrawal. Neurotransmitter levels are in fluctuation, which is thought to lead to people feeling irritable.
  • Memory problems: It is very common to experience poor memory functioning upon drug discontinuation. It isn’t well known as to why these drugs can lead to memory problems. With that said, most people do experience improvements in memory with time off of the drug.
  • Mood swings: Some people experience pretty severe mood swings upon discontinuation. One minute you may feel as though the withdrawal is over, the next you may feel swamped in a state of deep depression. For this I’m not referring to “bipolar” mood swings, rather just unexpected changes in mood.
  • Muscle cramps: Those who have taken this medication over the long term may experience muscle cramps and/or weakness during the withdrawal process.
  • Nausea: Many people report intense nausea during the time in which they discontinue their medication. The nausea can be severe to the point that a person also vomits. In general, the nausea after the last dose shouldn’t last more than a couple weeks.
  • Panic attacks: Some individuals report experiencing heightened anxiety to the point of panic attacks. In other words, a person experiences such high arousal that everyday activities lead to intense feelings of panic.
  • Psychosis: It has been documented that withdrawal from antipsychotics can cause psychosis. It is not very common to experience this upon withdrawal, but it does happen. Obviously this may signify the reemergence of schizophrenia, but in those without schizophrenia, it can be part of withdrawal.
  • Restlessness: If you feel especially restless for no apparent reason, it is likely due to the withdrawal that you are experiencing. The changes in neurotransmitters, elevated level of arousal, and anxious thinking can make a person restless.
  • Suicidal thinking: It is extremely common to feel suicidal during your withdrawal. You may experience suicidal thoughts that seem as if they will never subside. Over time, these should gradually subside. If you feel suicidal and cannot cope with these thoughts, please seek professional help.
  • Sweating: Many people sweat intensely when they withdraw from psychiatric drugs – this antipsychotic is no exception. If you notice that you are sweating profusely throughout the day and wake up sweating in the middle of the night, just know it’s part of the process.
  • Vomiting: Feel flu-like to the point that you are nauseous and keep vomiting? Some people have reported intense vomiting spells during the first week or two when they initially quit this medication. To reduce this symptom, be sure to wean off of Zyprexa as gradually as possible.
  • Weight loss: Taking this drug is known to increase appetite and slow metabolism, which leads to many people gaining weight. Zyprexa is one of the worst drugs for trying to keep weight off – most people eat way too much food on this drug in particular. When you stop taking it and stay off of it for awhile, you should also lose the weight that you gained.

Zyprexa Withdrawal Length: How long does it last?

When it comes to withdrawal from Zyprexa, there is really no exact timeline that can be followed. The withdrawal symptoms and length have a lot to do with individual factors such as: how you tapered off the drug, how long you had taken it, and whether you are on other medications. For people that have taken this drug for a long term, the withdrawal symptoms may linger for over 90 days. For others, the withdrawal may only persist for a couple of weeks – it totally depends.

If you worked closely with a professional for tapering off of Zyprexa and gradually weaned off of the drug over a period of weeks or months, you may not have many symptoms following your last dose. On the other hand, someone who has taken it for years and decides to quit “cold turkey” may find themselves really struggling with severe symptoms as their brain attempts to rewire itself for functioning without the drug.

I always recommend evaluating symptoms after 90 days. Many people overreact with intense panic and anxiety in the first few weeks thinking that their withdrawal symptoms will never improve. The reality is that with good sleep, proper diet, exercise, and structure (e.g. work), most people will notice improvement in their withdrawal after 3 months being drug-free. Even if you are not fully recovered after 90 days, you will likely feel much improved compared to the initial couple weeks of withdrawal.

If you have successfully withdrawn from Zyprexa or are currently experiencing withdrawal symptoms, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Your experience may greatly help another person who is going through the same withdrawal.

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{ 252 comments… add one }
  • Ric May 23, 2018, 11:43 pm

    I have been off it for 2 years now from a maximum dose of 10mg and had taken it for 7 years. I recommend taking magnesium supplements, as well as exercise, general multivitamins and fish oils. Have a small glass of wine to help go to sleep. Also titrate off slowly. Good luck, it can be done.

  • Tracey May 18, 2018, 2:59 pm

    I took 10mg Zyprexa for nearly 2 years for health anxiety. When I started tapering I was not too bad until the last dose, then it was hell. No sleep, nausea, morning vomiting and severe anxiety, which was much worse than the original anxiety I suffered.

    My psych said it was my anxiety coming back as I came off the pills and wanted me to either start taking them again or take benzos. I refused and persisted. After five weeks, the anxiety and sickness stopped but the insomnia continued. It has now been five years and my sleep cycle is just about back to normal.

    It took at least two years to get a reasonable amount of sleep ( more than three or four hours of broken sleep) sleeping tablets did nothing. The only respiteI had in the last couple of years was melatonin. Finally, I am able to sleep without that too.

    I was prescribed Zyprexa for health anxiety and it turned me into a zombie who still worried about my health but did nothing other than sit on the couch. I am so glad I persisted and came off this drug and would never take it again. I feel like me again.

  • Greg May 13, 2018, 2:26 pm

    Update: Today is week 10 since being off Zyprexa. The last 2 weeks I’ve felt much better. The anxiety, nausea, flu like feeling, constant headache that I couldn’t get rid off, nervousness, sweats, muscle twitching are all gone. My sleep is still hit and miss. I’ll have 2-3 days per week where I’ll get 6-7 hours sleep.

    I feel real good on those days. I take 150mg Trazodone and CBD oil for sleep. I think the CBD works better than the Trazodone. I still feel tired with little energy on days I get little sleep. However, it’s tolerable and I can deal with it. After I swim, the tiredness and low energy disappears.

    I’m probably feeling 75% better. I’m so happy and all my family says they haven’t seen me look and act like a normal person since 2003 when I was put on Zyprexa. I honestly thought the withdrawals would never end. It was about week 8 when I started getting good days and bad days.

    Now it’s almost all good days. It’s a long haul. There’s really nothing my doctor prescribed that helped relieve the withdrawals other than Trazodone for sleep (only helped a little bit). Valium did zero for anxiety or sleep, Ambien did nothing for sleep. Don’t get addicted to Benzodiazepines. It’s hell getting off those too.

    I knew to stop the Valium when it wasn’t working. I had to withdraw from Klonopin in 2003. I suggest a real hard aerobic workout everyday. You’re not gonna feel like doing anything but you have to force yourself to exercise. That is really the only thing that helped besides CBD.

    My sleep really improved when I started taking 25mg CBD each night. I didn’t believe CBD would work but there are so many people on other websites who had success with CBD I had to try it. Everybody is different. I was on 30mg Zyprexa each night for 15 years.

    I tapered for about a month and got withdraws from day 1 of the taper. After a month I said screw this and stopped completely. All I’m trying to do is provide others with my timeline and what worked for me. It takes a strong mind and willpower. Hang in there. Good luck to all.

    • Maryanne Woods May 24, 2018, 2:08 pm

      Thanks, Greg. Hearing about your experience really helps. I’m on Day 3 of withdrawal and it’s very hard. I’m going to try the CBD oil.

  • Jose May 12, 2018, 2:58 am

    I took Olanzapine for almost three months. I started on 10 mg the first month, then 20 mg on the second month and 30 mg on the third month. The drug did stop my Racing Thoughts, but it had a lot of side effects so I told my nurse that I wanted to quit the treatment.

    She lowered it from 30 mg to 20 mg again. I took 20 mg for four more days and then I stopped cold turkey on April 11 and ever since then I haven’t been able to sleep on my own, I spent 29 days from April 11 to May 10 without any sleep, not even for a couple of minutes.

    I started sleeping on May 10 because my nurse prescribe me Trazodone so it worked and slept like 8 or 10 hours yesterday. I also still have constipation, dry mouth and lack of sex drive. How long will this last?

  • Roger May 2, 2018, 5:05 am

    I initially took 5mg and then doctors increased the dose to 10mg. I took it for about a year and quit cold turkey because this was not the thing I needed, I have social anxiety and not schizophrenia or bipolar. After quitting I had terrible side effects, life was literally hell.

    I feel like I have paid of for all my sins with this experience. Chest pain, dizziness, insomnia, muscle spams, sweating, dry mouth, headache, difficulty speaking and swallowing, muscle tension, tiredness, anxiety, depression, and a daily desire to die.

    Now, after two years, I feel better, although not fully recovered. I am still dizzy all the time, I have sleeping problems and mood changes, anxiety and depression although much milder. Don’t take this drug, it won’t help you with your disease, it is basically a chemical lobotomy.

  • Goca April 26, 2018, 12:54 am

    Hell to all. This is my second post after almost 2 months. I have bipolar disorder and I had terrible olanzapine withdrawal symptoms. I just want to let you know that my condition has been improved, I would say 85%. I believe that exercise and Omega 3 helped me a lot.

    I exercise 45 minutes, 5 days a week (aerobic, zumba, weight training- every day is different), also I walk between half an hour and hour every day. I take Alaskan Salmon Whole Fish Oil – 2x1200mg softgels- one has 90 mg omega 3.

    All fatigue, restlessness and nausea are mild now. I take 4 mg Nozinan for sleep and my sleep is really good like natural. I plan to decrease Nozinan to 2 mg next month and maybe to stop in 3-4 months.

    Conclusion: All olanzapine withdrawal symptoms will pass, it just takes time. Hold on.

    • Greg April 29, 2018, 8:25 pm

      Congratulations. I’ve been off Zyprexa for 8 weeks. Last week was the first time I’ve seen any improvement. My intense anxiety disappeared for 2 days the came back yesterday, then gone again today.

      My sleep still sucks eggs. Zero sleep the past 2 days. Still have the nausea and headache. I’m looking forward to the day when I can report that my symptoms are gone. It’s been rough. I want people to hear people’s positive stories rather than just the horror stories.

      Again, way to hang in there. Please report back when you feel 100% and let people now how long it took.

  • Debra April 22, 2018, 4:45 am

    I am going off Zyprexa and it is hell. When I do sleep I have terrible dreams. Panic attacks, crying, nausea, insomnia. I’m awake but I feel like I’m not. This is the worst time ever.

  • Greg April 15, 2018, 7:43 pm

    I was on Zyprexa for 15 years. I’m bipolar with anxiety disorder. My body kept building up a tolerance and I got up as high as 30mg/day. I initially gained 50 lbs because I got really lethargic. However, I took the weight off by diet and exercise. The exercise also helped reduce my blood/sugar, high cholesterol as well as high liver panels.

    My Dr decided to take me off Zyprexa since I built up a high tolerance. Initially we dropped the dose by 10% and I got withdrawals. My Dr said to go ahead and halve the dose every two weeks. After my first reduction, the hell started within 2 days. I went all the ways down to 0.625mg/day. Once I took my last dose 6 weeks ago today, the withdrawals got really bad.

    My Dr gave me Ambien for the Insomnia and Valium for the anxiety. I quit taking the Valium because I’ve had to go through a Benzo withdrawal before which wasn’t fun either. The Valium did nothing for the anxiety or sleep. I’ve been on Ambien before and weaning off those isn’t that hard. Zyprexa withdrawals are the absolute worst thing.

    At week 4 my symptoms got worse and have stayed that way. I have really bad anxiety, only sleep 2-3 hours using Ambien, no energy or interest in things, night sweats, fast pulse, nausea, and always feel like I need to sleep. The top of my head burns and feels like there’s a lot of pressure.

    My anxiety is the worst in the morning until about noon. I go and swim a mile Mon-Fri. That’s helps tremendously. Especially with the anxiety. After I swim until I go to bed, I feel a lot better. That lasts until I wake up at midnight or 1 am. Then the cycle starts again.

    People will say to titrate slow. However, when I did my first reduction, I got the same withdrawal symptoms as when I dropped by 50%. I figured why prolong the agony. I know this is going to take awhile. As others have said, it’s mind over matter. Exercise is the key for me to get through this.

    • Liam April 22, 2018, 8:08 am

      Did you successfully get off of this and restore your sleep to normal?

      • Greg April 23, 2018, 11:58 am

        I’ve been off Zyprexa over 7 weeks now with zero improvement. If anything, things are worse. I’m stopping the Ambien because it doesn’t help. Last week my doctor put me on Trazodone to help with the sleep. I’ve had a couple of nights where I’ve slept about 5-6 hours, but the hangover from Trazodone is a nightmare in itself.

        I feel worse than not sleeping at all which adds to the frustration. I’m only taking 25mg of the Trazodone. I was on a high dose of Zyprexa for a long time. I honestly don’t see things getting better anytime soon. I’m going to hang in there. It is the worst I’ve ever felt but I won’t give in and have to do this all over again. I’m too far along.

        Drugs like Zyprexa have their place. It definitely helped me feel better for a few years. However, it’s come at a high cost. The internet can be a dangerous place. All we read are the horror stories because the people writing them are miserable going through this.

        I’m sure there’s a lot of people with success getting off Zyprexa. We just don’t get to read about it because if they’ve done it, why write about it? These people just move on. Good luck to everyone.

        • Heather May 1, 2018, 7:42 pm

          I still check in every once in a while. I was only on zyprexa for 1 month at 2.5mg. Was taken off c/t and switched to a different med for my migraines. Never knew what withdrawal was until two weeks after my last dose, and I’ve been on a lot of different types of medications to try to control my chronic migraines.

          I never want to go through anything like that again. It was horrible and I was put on a benzo to help with the outrageous anxiety (I’d NEVER had anxiety before). Now I’m working through tapering slowly off of the benzo. I did try trazodone instead of klonopin but it made me feel horrible.

          I don’t think the klonopin really has helped much but now I’m on it just so that I don’t have withdrawals. My GP also added an AD that’s been known to help migraines and what do you know, it’s the one medication that has actually helped. Still working on the right dose so I’m not touching the benzo right now.

          I did start to feel better at week seven off of zyprexa and had I not been going through the add of an AD and benzo, I think that I’d be at 99% right now. My sleep is not amazing, but I can now fall back to sleep if I wake up in the middle of the night.

          I generally go to bed around 11 and wake up about 5am. Much improved from the 1-2 hours of sleep I got when in withdrawal. Oh, I also take 1.5mg of melatonin.

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