Brintellix (Vortioxetine) is a drug that was approved by the FDA in 2013 to treat major depression. It is regarded as an atypical antidepressant, meaning that it’s mechanisms of action are unique from other classifications. As the marketing and promotion of this newer (2013) antidepressant continues, the number of people experimenting with it for their depression will also increase.
Despite the fact that it was not found clinically effective for treating anxiety disorders, it may be used off label for this purpose. It functions as a SMS (Serotonin Modulator and Stimulator), influencing serotonin to the greatest extent, with a minor effect on norepinephrine. In particular, it tends to act on the 5-HT3A, 5-HT1A, and 5-HT7 receptors as an antagonist or partial agonist.
Compared to most other antidepressants, it is not considered any more effective or better tolerated. It is a relatively new drug and the long-term effects of Brintellix usage are not well documented. If you are taking this drug and/or are considering this drug for your depression, you may want to be aware of possible side effects.
Factors that influence Brintellix side effects
Most people aren’t aware of the factors that can influence the severity and number of side effects. Influential factors include: individual physiology, your dosage, how long you’ve taken the drug, as well as whether you take any other drugs.
1. Individual Variation
A majority of side effects are subject to individual variation. In other words, two people can take the same medication, at the exact same dose, for the exact same time period and have completely different reactions. One person may exhibit severe diarrhea and nausea, while another person may report minor dry mouth. Much of how we respond to drugs is determined by our genetics and individual physiology.
2. Dosage (5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg)
The dose of Brintellix that you are taking could influence the side effects that you experience. The amount of side effects that you experience from an antidepressant drug will usually be dose-related. The more of the drug that’s in your system, the greater the likelihood that you’ll experience some side effects.
In order to minimize side effects, it is always recommended to start at the lowest possible dosage, give it a few weeks, and gradually titrate upwards until you notice an improvement in depressive symptoms. By starting low, you may find a lower dose effective and won’t have to deal with unfavorable side effects. Those who are on higher dosages may report more significant side effects.
3. Time Span
How long have you been taking Brintellix? Those who have only been taking the drug for a short duration may have to deal with side effects during the first few weeks. Some side effects are inevitable when starting treatment because your body will need time to adapt to the introduction of a new drug. Usually the short-term side effects tend to lessen or completely subside after a few weeks.
There are other long-term side effects that can develop after taking this drug for an extended period of time. In other words, you may not notice any initial side effects, but after taking the drug for awhile, your body has become dependent on it for functioning. Over the long-term, certain drugs can influence physiology and result in side effects after an extended term.
4. Other drugs
If you are taking another drug or Brintellix is part of a psychiatric cocktail of medications, you may notice interaction effects. Your doctor should be aware of any interactions that this medication can have with others that you are on. Although most contraindications are documented, some people notice that side effects are a result of drug interactions. If you believe that Brintellix may be interacting with another medication and causing unwanted side effects, talk to your doctor about it.
Brintellix Side Effects: List of Common Possibilities
Below is a list of side effects from the antidepressant Brintellix. Understand that the intensity and number of side effects affects everyone differently. Also know that the most common side effects from clinical trial reports include: constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
- Anxiety: Although the properties of this drug suggest that it could actually be beneficial for individuals with anxiety, not everyone experiences an anxiolytic effect. Some people may report increases in their overall level of arousal and/or anxiety. If you feel increasingly anxious after taking the drug, keep in mind that it can be a side effect.
- Constipation: Perhaps the most common side effect associated with this drug is that of constipation. You may feel as if you’ll never have another bowel movement, especially during the early stages of taking this drug. Realize that the constipation does tend to decrease after the first few weeks.
- Depression: This is an antidepressant, but a lesser known fact is that many antidepressants can actually cause depression and suicidality. Those with major depression may not notice feeling increasingly depressed, but someone who has mild depression may notice that Brintellix makes them more depressed. There’s no telling how your brain will react to the chemical alterations from this drug. If you feel more depressed after giving it a shot for several weeks, it may be time to try another medication.
- Dizziness: When you first start taking an antidepressant, you may notice that you start to feel dizzy or unbalanced. The dizziness can be overwhelming initially, but as your nervous system adapts to the effects of the drug, this side effect should improve. If you consistently feel dizzy and uncoordinated as a result of the medication, you may want to switch to something else.
- Dry mouth: Reports of dry mouth are common with most antidepressants, including Brintellix. This can be an uncomfortable effect due to the fact that the dryness sensation is an annoyance. It may seem as if there is no saliva in your mouth and that drinking water doesn’t seem to be of much help. Most cases of dry mouth occur within the first few weeks of treatment and subside over the long-term.
- Fatigue: In certain cases, people may experience feelings of fatigue throughout the day. It can be difficult to cope with feeling tired and lethargic all day. If you feel fatigued, do your best to push through it and understand that it may subside. If it becomes overwhelming, talk to your doctor about possibly trying another drug.
- Flatulence: You may notice an increase in the amount of gaseous build-up throughout your stomach. If you are farting more than usual, it could be a side effect of the medication. It could be associated with the fact that the medication affects the digestive system.
- Headaches: Did you notice headaches after starting this medication? Headaches are a common side effect from any drug, so don’t be surprised if you have headaches in the first few weeks of treatment. Usually headaches are not going to be a long-term side effect.
- Hypersensitivity: Some people become hypersensitive to sights and sounds while they take this medication. In other words, a seemingly normal volume sound may sound incredibly loud or a average light may seem too bright. This is less commonly reported, but still a symptom that you may experience.
- Hypomania: Those who have Bipolar II disorder may be prone to developing hypomania, or low-grade euphoria characterized by increased energy and rapidly improved mood. It should also be noted that someone without BPII can exhibit hypomanic behaviors as a result of antidepressants. Just know that this could be a side effect, albeit one that most people will enjoy.
- Insomnia: For some individuals, Brintellix may be stimulating and lead to insomnia. If you feel less depressed, some minor insomnia may be worth tolerating as a side effect. If the insomnia becomes overwhelming and is taking a toll on your overall health, talk to your doctor about possible solutions.
- Irritability: Some people report heightened irritability while taking this particular drug. If you notice yourself becoming irritable, just know that it could be a result of the medication. Usually though if the drug is working well, irritability is not reported.
- Itching: A reported side effect of Brintellix is itching across the skin. If you start to feel itchy, just know that others have dealt with this symptom too. Some people have reported that their skin got so itchy that they needed to take Benadryl to combat this side effect. Itching may occur within just a few days of treatment without any apparent rash.
- Mania: Those who are diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder may develop mania when they initially start Brintellix. Mania is characterized by an overly euphoric mood, excessive talking, impulsive decisions, and high arousal. For this reason, it is important to understand that this drug could trigger a manic switch and this effect should be monitored.
- Mood swings: Due to adjustments in neurotransmission when the drug is started, mood swings may be reported. It may take some time for your mood to stabilize after the introduction of Brintellix. This is why most professionals encourage waiting weeks before you report as to whether the drug is “helping.”
- Nausea: Another very common side effect reported during Brintellix 6-month trials was nausea. In most cases, researchers noted that nausea was either mild or moderate, and usually dose-related. In other words, the higher the dose you take, the greater your chances of experiencing nausea.
- Poor concentration: Some antidepressants may lead to poorer ability to focus at work or school. If you find that using Brintellix has made it more difficult to focus during mentally-demanding tasks, it could be a result of your medication. Sometimes it may take awhile for your brain to adjust to the drug, but in other cases this foggy concentration persists until you withdraw from the drug.
- Sexual dysfunction: The fact is that most antidepressants that influence serotonin can lead to changes in libido or sexual dysfunction. Some research suggests that the amount of sexual dysfunction among those taking Brintellix was lower than those taking Effexor. Most common sexual side effects include loss of interest, delayed ejaculation, and inability to orgasm.
- Sleepiness: Certain people get keyed up on Brintellix, while others feel plain tired. If you notice that taking the drug makes you sleepy, this is a common reaction during the first few weeks. Your neurotransmitters are adapting to a new stimulus and the transition can make people feel sleepy.
- Suicidal thoughts: As with all antidepressants, there are warnings of increased suicidal thinking. This is a phenomenon that occurs with nearly every drug on the market. Although certain people respond very well to this drug, there are others who will end up feeling more depressed and suicidal. If you feel more suicidal and depressed, it’s usually a sign that the medication is not a good fit.
- Vomiting: Unfortunately, one of the more common side effects associated with this drug is vomiting. For most people, vomiting tends to occur during the first week and eventually stops. However, if vomiting persist for longer than a couple weeks, looking into another drug is recommended.
- Weight changes: In 6-month clinical trials, there was no more weight gain in patients taking Brintellix vs. a placebo. However, it is important to note that everyone responds to antidepressants on an individual basis. It is certainly possible that you could experience weight gain and/or loss from taking this drug. (Read more: “Trintellix & Weight Gain vs. Weight Loss“).
Note: There are additional side effects to the ones listed above. However, the ones listed above tend to be more common based on studies and self-reports associated with Brintellix. For a more comprehensive overview of possible reactions, read about general antidepressant side effects.
Brintellix: Weighing the Side Effects (Cons) vs. Benefits (Pros)
If you currently take Brintellix, it is important to assess whether the side effects override any therapeutic benefits from the drug. In other words, determine whether you are getting an adequate antidepressant effect to justify putting up with some unfavorable side effects. If you feel as though the side effects are so overwhelming that they are actually making it difficult to function and/or are interfering with important aspects of your life, you may want to try another medication.
If you have tried many antidepressants and this is the first drug that’s provided you with an improvement in depressive symptoms, then you may not even care about side effects. However, if this is the first drug you’ve given a shot for your depression and you feel better, but have significant unwanted side effects persisting for longer than a month, trying another medication is likely a smart option.
Understand that finding an antidepressant that works well for depressive symptoms with minimal side effects is everyone’s ultimate goal. It may take some experimentation to find the right medication that you can tolerate and that works for your depression. For one person Brintellix may work great for depression and not produce any major side effects. For another person, Brintellix may make their depression worse and yield significant side effects.
If you are prescribed this drug, give it a shot and see how you respond. Try not to get too caught up in what other people have reported and trust your own judgment as to whether the therapeutic benefits outweigh any side effects. Additionally if you would like to share your experience of Brintellix side effects, feel free to do so in the comments section below.