Does Effexor cause the zombie effect? (+5 effect)

In this article, we will discuss if Effexor causes the zombie effect. This is usually a side effect of a higher dose of Effexor. Effexor is an antidepressant that is prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic attacks.

Does Effexor cause the zombie effect?

Yes, Effexor can cause a zombie effect. Some patients are scared to use antidepressants because they are concerned about the adverse effects. One widespread concept is that you would feel like a zombie or emotionless. While patients may feel sleepy when they first begin taking Effexor, the benefits far exceed the side effects.

Antidepressants can help alleviate feelings of sadness, depression, hopelessness, agitation, and excessive concern. Effexor should not make you disconnected from yourself or your feelings. Notify your doctor if this occurs, as you may need to alter your prescription.

Because Effexor improves brain networks, this drug works best when paired with therapy sessions. Therapy addresses how your ideas may be contributing to your mental health issues, whilst Effexor addresses the chemical side. This allows the patient to develop new good coping methods and routines.

It can take 1-3 weeks for Effexor to start working. Most people do not notice a difference because this is when Efexor reaches its peak efficacy. If Effexor is causing a zombie effect, then it means you are taking a high dose of the drug and need to reduce it.

What are the symptoms of the Effexor-induced zombie effect?

The symptoms of the Effexor-induced zombie effect include:

  • The patient feels zoned out,
  • reduced or absence of feelings,
  • reduced sympathy and empathy,
  • low appetite,
  • feeling emotionless,
  • being unnaturally quiet,
  • trouble getting decent sleep,
  • feeling irritated most of the time.

How does Effexor cause the zombie effect?

Effexor raises serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels in the brain by inhibiting transport proteins and preventing reuptake at the presynaptic terminal. This activity increases the number of neurotransmitters available at the synapse, resulting in increased activation of postsynaptic receptors.

While neurotransmitters have various purposes, dopamine and norepinephrine are critical in boosting mental focus and attention. However, Effexor has a limited therapeutic range. It is ineffective if a patient takes too small a quantity, but it can be harmful if they take too large an amount.

When dopamine and norepinephrine levels are too high because of Effexor, they can stress the brain, resulting in the zombie effect (1).

What does the research suggest?

In one of the case studies, women reported of zombie-like effect while taking antidepressants. She had restless nights, agitation, suicidal thoughts, and emotional numbness towards her husband.

She discontinued Effexor abruptly and experienced extreme hatred towards her husband along with other negative thoughts (2). In various personal experiences, patients have reported having a zombie effect while taking Effexor. Once, the dose is adjusted, these symptoms go away within a few weeks.

What other factors cause the zombie effect?

  • Medicines: According to most experts, the zombie effect is a rare adverse effect of ADHD stimulants and other antidepressants.
  • Sleep deprivation: having less sleep can cause brain fog and the patient will feel irritated and disturbed. Effexor has also been reported to cause insomnia.
  • Diet: not getting enough calories due to loss of appetite while taking Effexor can make the patient dizzy, spacey and detached.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: during withdrawal of stimulants, and other antidepressants the patient will experience altered mood and anxiety.

How to manage zombie effects while taking Effexor?

  • Talk to the doctor: The first step is to express the concern to the doctor. He will ask questions to assess whether a change in medication is required.
  • Reducing the dose: Sometimes reducing the dose of Effexor would be sufficient to reverse the zombie effect.
  • Stimulant drugs: these are classified into two types: those derived from methylphenidate (such as Ritalin), and those derived from dextroamphetamine (such as Adderall).
  • Nonsimulat drugs: these drugs are classified into two types: one of which contains clonidine (such as Catapress), and guanfacine (such as Tenex). Atomoxetine (such as Strattera) is another stimulant drug.
  • Reduce distractions: the patient should indulge in activities that are suitable for his mood rather than attending unwanted gatherings.
  • Get enough sleep: set a sleeping pattern and strictly follow that routine.

Patience is the key; antidepressants take time

In my experience as a pharmacist, Effexor is one of the many reasons that cause the zombie effect. Personal character, mood swings, sleeping patterns, personal relations, home and working environment can have a greater impact on one’s emotions as compared to a single drug. 

Most symptoms of depression and anxiety will improve after the correct dose of Effexor is obtained. Changing the dose is a typical event that can cause considerable improvements in the symptoms to be delayed. It may require a trial-and-error approach to discover one that works.  

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Gutierrez MA, Stimmel GL, Aiso JY. Venlafaxine: a 2003 update. Clinical therapeutics. 2003 Aug 1;25(8):2138-54.


Eikelenboom-Schieveld SJ, Lucire Y, Fogleman JC. The relevance of cytochrome P450 polymorphism in forensic medicine and akathisia-related violence and suicide. Journal of forensic and legal medicine. 2016 Jul 1;41:65-71.

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