Does Effexor shorten life span? (3 facts)
In this article, we will answer the question “Does Effexor shorten life span?”. We will also discuss what research studies suggest and when to consult your healthcare provider if you have troubling symptoms.
Does Effexor shorten life span?
Effexor may or may not impact the lifespan of the individual taking this antidepressant. Although Effexor has been associated with many side effects, there is no evidence that it reduced life expectancy.
However, keep in mind that each individual has a different physiological response to any medication. This can also leave a positive or negative impact on one’s life expectancy.
Effexor (Venlafaxine) is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) approved for the treatment of social anxiety disorder (SAD), major depressive disorder (MDD), panic disorder (PD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is a widely prescribed antidepressant due to its safety and efficacy (1).
Generally, Venlafaxine and other SNRIs are believed to increase life span because depression patients are known to have suicidal tendencies, which decrease with antidepressant use.
However, due to the difference in response of any individual to antidepressants, you should consult your healthcare provider for a better assessment of your disease process.
What does research suggest?
Research studies do not show a prominent mechanism of lower life span in patients taking Effexor, but do show an increased risk of suicidal ideation.
One research study has shown that venlafaxine and paroxetine are two medications which increase the risk of suicide when compared with other medications in the same class (2).
One clinical study also assessed the risk of suicide, attempted suicide and mortality as a result of Venlafaxine treatment. This study also stated that Venlafaxine and other SNRIs can reduce the life span by increasing the risk of suicide in patients taking therapy (3).
A research study comparing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and SNRIs on the risk of suicidal ideation and self-harm reported that both classes increase the risk of suicide in patients. Both classes of drugs show comparable effects on the risk of self-harm and attempted suicide (4).
Due to these reasons, the FDA has issued a warning that Effexor can increase suicidal thinking, especially in children and young adults and they should be monitored for emergence or worsening of suicidal thoughts or behaviours. ‘
This type of behaviour is sometimes also shown at the withdrawal of the medication, due to the emergence of the withdrawal syndrome(1).
One research study on the depressed elderly population was published which reported that elderly patients were at a reduced risk of suicide after use of SNRIs, SSRIs or tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) (5).
Another clinical study on the elderly population found Venlafaxine to be associated with increased cardiovascular events. These undesirable events can decrease life expectancy and require that Venlafaxine treatment in the elderly be always monitored (6).
However, research on this topic is continuously being conducted and newer hypotheses are being formulated.
What are the risks and side effects associated with Effexor usage?
Effexor is normally a well-tolerated antidepressant except for some common side effects like nausea, insomnia, drowsiness, vertigo, night sweats etc. which go away after your body adjusts to the medication. It can however cause a few life-threatening conditions such as:
This is most likely to occur if you are using other serotonergic drugs, such as SSRIs or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and can cause many serious symptoms.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include hallucinations, tremors, confusion, agitation, hypomania, restlessness, tachycardia and hypertension to name a few. If serotonin syndrome occurs it is advised by the FDA to discontinue Effexor therapy and initiate supportive treatment.
When abrupt dose reduction or discontinuation of Effexor occurs, there are chances that an individual may develop withdrawal syndrome. The symptoms of withdrawal syndrome include tinnitus, irritability, dizziness, lethargy, sensory disturbances and sometimes suicidal ideation.
It is best to consult your healthcare provider for your symptoms and decide on a dose reduction plan to manage them.
When to consult your healthcare provider?
If you experience the life-threatening side effects mentioned above, you should consult your doctor immediately. If you have these side effects due to Effexor therapy, your healthcare provider will most likely work out a plan to manage these symptoms or change your medication.
Regular monitoring and follow-ups with your doctor are crucial for you if you experience side effects while on Effexor.
If you are having suicidal ideations your doctor will recommend behavioural therapy and support groups to deal with these symptoms. You should always keep a check on your symptoms by self-monitoring and telling your doctor if anything out of the ordinary happens.
In this article, we discussed the impact of Effexor on life expectancy and what research studies suggest in this regard. We also discussed various life-threatening side effects and what to do if these side effects occur. In my opinion, it is very important to find a balance between Effexor usage for mental health and any problems arising from it.
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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. EFFEXOR XR (venlafaxine, extended-release) capsules. Available from: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/020699s107lbl.pdf
Pompili M, Serafini G, Innamorati M, Ambrosi E, Giordano G, Girardi P, Tatarelli R, Lester D. Antidepressants and suicide risk: a comprehensive overview. Pharmaceuticals. 2010 Aug 30;3(9):2861-83. https://www.mdpi.com/1424-8247/3/9/2861
Tiihonen J, Lönnqvist J, Wahlbeck K, Klaukka T, Tanskanen A, Haukka J. Antidepressants and the risk of suicide, attempted suicide, and overall mortality in a nationwide cohort. Archives of general psychiatry. 2006 Dec 1;63(12):1358-67. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/209948
Miller M, Pate V, Swanson SA, Azrael D, White A, Stürmer T. Antidepressant class, age, and the risk of deliberate self-harm: a propensity score matched cohort study of SSRI and SNRI users in the USA. CNS drugs. 2014 Jan;28:79-88. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40263-013-0120-8
Barak Y, Olmer A, Aizenberg D. Antidepressants reduce the risk of suicide among elderly depressed patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2006 Jan;31(1):178-81. https://www.nature.com/articles/1300863
Johnson EM, Whyte E, Mulsant BH, Pollock BG, Weber E, Begley AE, Reynolds CF. Cardiovascular changes associated with venlafaxine in the treatment of late-life depression. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry. 2006 Sep 1;14(9):796-802. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1064748112607143