Luvox (Fluvoxamine) is a medication that is used predominantly to treat OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) as well as major depression. It is also prescribed to help treat various types of anxiety disorders such as social phobia and PTSD. It is classified as an SSRI antidepressant, meaning that it functions primarily by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It differs from other SSRIs in that it also acts as an Sigma-1 receptor agonist.
It is the Sigma-1 agonism that is believed to make this drug helpful for managing some negative symptoms and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia as an adjunct treatment option. Many consider Luvox to be a top-notch treatment, specifically for OCD. Research shows that Luvox can be therapeutic over a long-term and maintain efficacy for over a year.
Although Luvox may be an ideal medication for certain individuals, not everyone will react well to its effects. Some people will be unable to tolerate the side effects and others may not get therapeutic relief for their particular condition. In other cases, people who have been on it for awhile may find that its effectiveness wears off.
In these scenarios, a person may end up deciding that it would be best to discontinue treatment. During the discontinuation process, a variety of withdrawal symptoms are likely to occur.
Factors that influence Luvox withdrawal
There are several key factors that are thought to influence a person’s withdrawal from Luvox. Factors that can influence severity and duration of withdrawal include: the time span over which the drug was taken, the dosage, whether the person quit cold turkey vs. tapered, and other individual factors (e.g. physiology, genetics, other drugs, etc.).
1. Time Span
How long did you take Luvox? In general, the longer you took the medication, the more difficult withdrawal is going to be. Those who were on the drug for years are likely going to have a tougher time coming off of it than someone who was on it for a couple months. The longer you are on it, the more your brain and physiology will have become dependent on the drug for its effects.
Discontinuing the drug as a long-term user is likely to result in severe and difficult withdrawal symptoms, especially if you do not conduct a gradual taper. People who only took the drug for a few weeks shouldn’t have as difficult time quitting. Shorter term users aren’t typically as physiologically reliant on the drug.
The greater the dosage of Luvox that you take, the more difficult withdrawal is thought to be. Higher dosages result in more change to your physiology and neurotransmission compared to lower ones. The more of the drug that you ingest, the more your brain becomes accustomed to receiving that particular dosage or strength of the drug. Those who are taking low doses such as 50 mg or in some cases, less than 50 mg (e.g. 25 mg), withdrawal will likely be less difficult.
Luvox comes in multiple formulations including an “immediate release” type and a “controlled-release” type. The immediate release is the classic Luvox that is taken once daily and is released into the body all at once. The “controlled-release” pills are pills that breakdown differently than the “immediate release,” allowing for a more balanced absorption of the drug throughout the day. If a person quits cold turkey from the “CR” version, it may be slightly more difficult than quitting from the standard formulation of Luvox.
3. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering
How did you quit taking Luvox? Did you conduct a gradual taper over the course of weeks or did you decide to quit cold turkey? In general, it is never recommended to discontinue any psychotropic medication on a “cold turkey” basis – especially an SSRI. Cold turkey withdrawals tend to be significantly more severe and tend to yield more protracted discontinuation symptoms.
If you are unsure about how to taper off of Luvox, talk to your doctor. If you were on the medication for a long period of time and/or at a higher dose, your tapering period should be longer than someone who was on a lower dose for a shorter period of time. It is recommended to taper off of Luvox by reducing your dosage at a rate of 10% per month.
Since this drug has an extremely short half-life, reductions in dose should be very gradual. If you feel 10% is too slow or quick of a taper (based on your circumstances), you can adjust the percentage accordingly. Individuals taking the “CR” version will want to taper down to the lowest “CR” dose, and then either switch over to a lower form of the standard, immediate-release Luvox OR carefully reduce the number of beads that are taken in the “CR” capsules.
4. Individual Factors
Understand that many individual factors will influence what you experience during your withdrawal. It is important to realize that two people may take Luvox for the same duration and at equal dosages, and one may experience completely different withdrawal symptoms for a longer duration than the other person – everyone is different. Each person has different genetics, physiologies, and habits that may (or may not) promote healing.
It should also be mentioned that a person who is on other medications may be less likely to notice withdrawal from Luvox compared to someone who was only taking this drug. Other medications can sometimes act as a buffer to lessen the severity and duration of withdrawals. Additionally someone who eats healthy, keeps busy, and exercises may recover at a quicker rate than someone who doesn’t.
Luvox Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities
The withdrawal symptoms associated with Luvox will largely be based on the individual. One person may experience nearly everything listed below, while another may only experience a couple symptoms. Realize that the list below is a compilation of symptoms that have been reported during discontinuation.
- Agitation: During withdrawal you may begin to feel more agitated or feel as if you are increasingly nervous than usual. The feeling of internal nervousness may be present for weeks after discontinuing your medication. Realize that this is a common symptom and will improve over time.
- Anxiety: Individuals that were taking this medication for anxiety may notice a significant degree of rebound anxiety upon discontinuation. Even those that were taking it for other conditions such as depression or OCD may feel highly anxious during withdrawal. The increased anxiety is largely due to the fact that the brain no longer has the drug to prevent reuptake of serotonin. Additionally serotonin levels are thought to be abnormally low upon discontinuation.
- Burning sensations: An odd, yet fairly common symptom some people experience during discontinuation is that of burning sensations. You may feel as if your head or various parts of your body are burning, and this results in extreme discomfort. As time continues to pass, the intensity of the burning should diminish.
- Brain zaps: When discontinued, nearly all of the SSRI medications can result in “brain zaps” or electric shock sensations throughout the head. Do not be surprised if you experience a sudden jolt or as if you have been shocked when you quit Luvox. These zaps are highly uncomfortable, but like all other symptoms will lessen with time.
- Confusion: A person may feel confused during withdrawal as a result of many symptoms, experiencing brain fog, an inability to concentrate, and changes in memory functioning. The confusion will clear up as a person’s brain adapts to functioning without Luvox.
- Cold flashes: People may feel changes in body temperature during discontinuation. Although hot flashes are common, some individuals also exhibit “cold flashes” or sensations of cold temperature in certain parts of the body such as the face.
- Depersonalization: Some people will feel unlike their normal self during withdrawal – this is completely normal. Depersonalization is caused by alterations to brain functioning and levels of various neurotransmitters. It is a result of being chemically imbalanced and can be exacerbated by severe anxiety. Do your best to realize that you will not feel this way forever, and that you will eventually feel normal again.
- Depression: When quitting any antidepressant, there is a good chance you will feel depressed. During discontinuation, your serotonin levels are thought to be low and functioning will be altered. This leads a person to feel very depressed during withdrawal, even if they weren’t being treated for depression. Those who were being treated for depression may feel more severely depressed than prior to taking the medication.
- Diarrhea: Certain people may notice changes in the frequency of bowel movements and/or diarrhea during discontinuation. Those who became constipated while taking Luvox are more likely to notice the opposite when they come off of it. This is a normal reaction that will diminish as your body reverts to homeostasis.
- Dizziness: A very common symptom to experience is that of dizziness or vertigo. You may feel as if the room is spinning and/or you are going to lose your balance because you are so dizzy. The dizziness can be long lasting, but will gradually diminish over time.
- Fatigue: During withdrawal from Luvox, you may become increasingly tired throughout the day. It may be difficult to get out of bed in the morning, go to work, and function. You may not be able to muster up the energy to cook a meal, go to the gym, or do housework. Realize that this can last for weeks or months (depending on how long you were on Luvox). Do your best to push through it, understanding that your energy levels will slowly increase.
- Headaches: Some people experience headaches when they stop this drug. Headaches can often be remedied by drinking more fluids, practicing stress reduction, and getting adequate nutrition. If you have a headache during withdrawal, know that it is completely normal and will be exacerbated by anxiety.
- Hot flashes: These are sensations of an increase in temperature throughout the face or in other regions of the body. Hot flashes are generally brief and are more likely to occur during the first few weeks of withdrawal.
- Insomnia: Many individuals notice a change in their sleep cycle when discontinuing an SSRI like Luvox. When you quit this drug, you may end up being unable to sleep at night with insomnia. The insomnia may be difficult to deal with, but it should improve over time as your neurotransmission changes and sleep cycle resets itself.
Irritability: You may notice that you become easily irritated – significantly more than usual. Understand that the irritability is a product of the medication withdrawal and that it will eventually diminish in the future. During the first few weeks of withdrawal everything may get on your nerves.
- Mood swings: It is common to experience crazy mood swings during withdrawal. One minute you may feel as if you are becoming your normal self again, the next minute you may feel stuck in a deep state of depression. Realize that it is common for mood swings to occur until your neurotransmitter levels normalize.
- Muscle aches: During the first few weeks of withdrawal, people have reported experiencing muscle aches and cramps throughout the body. These are generally mild to moderate intensity and are usually not severe. As you continue to exercise your body and your physiology readjusts, you will not feel as achy.
- Nausea: Some people may feel nauseated when they quit Luvox. This is more common among those who quit “cold turkey,” and typically will last a few days after withdrawal. Most people note that nausea will fully subside within a couple weeks of their last dose.
- Poor concentration: Even though this drug isn’t thought to affect concentration, many people may experience “brain fog” when they quit. This fog will clear over time, but may make completing work-related tasks or school projects increasingly difficult. As brain activity and neurotransmitters readjust without the drug, concentration should improve. Keep in mind that the array of other withdrawal symptoms may be mentally draining and distracting, contributing to concentration problems.
- Suicidal thoughts: When quitting any SSRI, it is important to recognize that suicidal thoughts are relatively common. Depression can become more severe during withdrawal, leading a person to feel suicidal. Quitting an SSRI leaves the brain in a state of chemical disarray and it needs time to recover back to its homeostatic functioning. Some believe that antidepressants can cause a chemical imbalance, leading to abnormally low levels of serotonin upon discontinuation. If at any point you feel suicidal, be sure to seek immediate medical attention and closely monitor your thinking.
- Sweating: A natural reaction by the body when withdrawing from any medication is to sweat. This is helps detoxify your body and also is a physiological signal that your body had become reliant on the drug for functioning. You may experience night sweats and/or profuse sweating throughout the day.
- “Swoosh” effect: Individuals have reported feeling and/or hearing a “swoosh”-like sensation in their head/ears during discontinuation. This is a relatively vague description, but one that people going through the withdrawal may be able to understand. It was described by one individual as distortion of sound combined with feeling as if they are falling.
- Tingling sensations: In addition to burning sensations, many people report “tingling” throughout various parts of the body such as the face and across the skin. This tingling may be unexpected, but is known to occur when discontinuing Luvox. Like any other symptom, it will take time to diminish and eventually subside.
- Vomiting: Some people will get sick when they quit taking Luvox, resulting in flu-like symptoms. Those who experience intense nausea upon discontinuation may end up vomiting. It is relatively rare to vomit, but should be noted. This symptom is more likely to be experienced by those who quit cold turkey from a high dose.
- Weight changes: Some people will lose weight or gain weight while taking Luvox. There are several case reports that suggest weight loss is more likely than gain. During withdrawal, you can expect your body to regain the weight that it lost during treatment; vice versa also applies.
How long does Luvox withdrawal last?
There’s no specific duration that withdrawal symptoms from Luvox are thought to last. For one person, withdrawal may only take a few weeks, while for another, symptoms may persist for months. A good rule of thumb for long term users to follow is a 90 day rule – reevaluate your symptoms after you’ve been off of the drug for a full 3 months. Most people panic in the first few weeks and believe that they will never feel “normal” again.
Typically as time passes, the body and brain are given enough time to restore normative homeostatic functioning and return to a baseline. Most people will notice significant improvement within 90 days, but others may need more time to recover. Keep in mind that it is important to distinguish withdrawal symptoms with reemergence of the initial depression or anxiety that lead a person to use this drug.
For many people, differentiating the depression as a result of withdrawal and their initial depression prior to taking the drug is extremely difficult. The half-life of Luvox is considered the shortest of any SSRI at 12-13 hours – even shorter than Paxil. Therefore, the drug will be completely out of your system within 1 day. However, drugs with shorter half lives tend to yield more extreme withdrawal symptoms.
In order to reduce the length of time it takes to withdraw from Luvox, it is recommended to conduct a very gradual taper. By tapering, you will give your body more time to slowly adapt to functioning with less of the drug. If you quit abruptly, it may shock your nervous system which may have become reliant on the Luvox for functioning.
Withdrawal from any SSRI medication can be extremely difficult. If you have taken Luvox and been through the withdrawal process, feel free to share your experience in the comments section below. By sharing your experience, you may help provide someone who is going through something similar with a bit of hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.