Is desvenlafaxine bad for your health? (6+ ADRs)

In this article, we will discuss whether desvenlafaxine is bad for your health or not. Furthermore, we will discuss what research suggests on this, the impact of desvenlafaxine on physical health, the potential side effects and risks associated with this medication, safety considerations and precautions for desvenlafaxine. 

Is desvenlafaxine bad for your health?

Desvenlafaxine, may or may not be bad for your health. It is classified as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). It is usually considered safe and effective worldwide, for the treatment of depression and anxiety. (1)

However, like any other medication, desvenlafaxine can have its side effects, both common which may go away with time as the body adjusts to the medication and also life-threatening which doesn’t go away on its own unless treated appropriately. (2)

Every individual is unique in terms of brain chemistry and how their body reacts to certain medications, especially antidepressants. For some people, desvenlafaxine may not be a suitable choice of treatment, if they are more sensitive to it. While others might have a better tolerability towards this medication and show therapeutic outcomes. (1,2)

It’s important to remember that the decision to use desvenlafaxine should be made in consultation with your healthcare provider so they can weigh out the potential risks and benefits according to your specific situation. 

What does research suggest?

According to a research study, a clinical trial was conducted by a team of researchers to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of desvenlafaxine for the treatment of major depressive disorder compared to other antidepressants. (3)

The researchers indicated that, at a recommended dose of 50mg/day, desvenlafaxine works similarly to other antidepressants of this class, such as SNRIs. The side effects profile was also similar to other antidepressants and patients experienced no withdrawal symptoms at this dose when they stopped taking the pill. 

They further evaluated that there was no increase or improvement in efficacy and therapeutic profile at higher doses. However, the side effects were elevated and the people had to slowly taper off the medication before completely stopping it. The common side effects which were reported by people were insomnia, dizziness and nausea. Some experienced high blood pressure as well. 

This research indicated that desvenlafaxine at 50mg per day is the right dose of treatment with only >5% incidence of ADRs and exceeding above this dose can be fatal. However, close monitoring is required to ensure the safety of the patient. (3)

What are the potential side effects of desvenlafaxine?

The side effects of desvenlafaxine and their severity may vary from person to person and not everyone might experience them. (1)

 Common side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Somnolence (sleepiness)
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sexual side effects (decreased libido or difficulty achieving erection)

Serious side effects:

It’s essential to contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following side effects: (1)

  • Allergic reactions: This may include rashes, swelling and itching on the skin, severe dizziness and difficulty breathing. 


  • Suicidal thoughts: Antidepressants like desvenlafaxine, especially during the initial course of treatment or at higher doses can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in a person.


  • Serotonin syndrome: This is a rare but serious condition that occurs when there is too much serotonin in the body. If not treated on time, it could lead to life-threatening situations or even death. The symptoms include hallucinations, confusion and restlessness, fever, seizures, coordination issues etc. 


  • Withdrawal symptoms: Stopping desvenlafaxine suddenly without gradually tapering it off can lead to withdrawal symptoms including, dizziness, irritability, headaches, nausea etc. 

What are the cardiovascular effects associated with higher doses of desvenlafaxine?

It’s important to recognize that taking higher doses of desvenlafaxine has the possibility of fatality in some cases and the person must seek immediate medical attention. The cardiovascular effects of desvenlafaxine may include: (4)

Tachycardia: Desvenlafaxine as an SNRI, could elevate the heart rate by affecting the autonomic nervous system of your body.

Irregular heartbeat (Arrhythmias): In some cases, an overdose of desvenlafaxine may result in irregular heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias which could be life-threatening. 

Hypertension (high blood pressure): The overconsumption of desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) may lead to a significant increase in blood pressure (hypertension), which could be very dangerous and affect other organs of the body like the liver, kidney and heart. 

Hypotension (low blood pressure): While high blood pressure is the potential side effect of desvenlafaxine, in some cases, overdose may lead to low

Cardiac arrest: In severe cases, if a person has overdosed on desvenlafaxine and has not reported to the hospital on time, it can lead to a heart attack. 

Who is more at risk from desvenlafaxine-induced side effects?

Some people may be at higher risk of experiencing adverse effects or complications while taking Desvenlafaxine, it’s important to be aware of if you fall into any of these categories: (1,4)

Older adults: Older people might be more prone to the side effects caused by desvenlafaxine, especially if they’re taking multiple medications at a time, which increases the chances of harmful interactions. 

Cardiovascular conditions: People who already have some pre-existing heart conditions like high blood pressure or a history of stroke or cardiac arrest, might be at increased risk.

Liver or kidney impairment: If your liver or kidneys don’t function properly, tell your doctor as you might need a different dose or close monitoring. Desvenlafaxine is metabolized by your liver and eliminated through your kidneys, so their proper functioning is essential. 

History of seizures: Desvenlafaxine has been found to reduce the seizure threshold of a person, so individuals who are epileptic or have a history of this condition are more susceptible to experiencing serious side effects related to this medication. 

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It’s not yet clear how much safer is desvenlafaxine when it comes to pregnancy or breastfeeding, so it’s crucial to discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Always talk openly to your doctor about these factors or any other concerns like your allergies etc, to have a sound treatment output. 

What are the safety considerations while taking desvenlafaxine?

While taking desvenlafaxine several safety and management considerations should be kept in mind to ensure its safety and efficacy. The foremost step is to keep in touch with your doctor and inform them about your symptoms precisely so they can evaluate your treatment plan as necessary. (2)

You must tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking or have been taken in the past including supplements and herbal products like St Johns’s wort, as desvenlafaxine might have serious interactions with them. Also inform if there’s any history of serious allergies or severe medical conditions like heart problems, seizures or past surgery. 

If you’re planning to conceive or you’re pregnant, discuss carefully with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits. Contact your doctor if you experience new or worsening suicidal thoughts. Try taking professional counselling or therapy. 

Avoid the consumption of alcohol and other illicit substances like cocaine, heroin etc as the risk of adverse events becomes higher. Try to incorporate some healthy lifestyle habits in your daily routine like exercising and meditation. Eat a diet enriched in nutrients to complement your overall physical and mental health. (2)

Keep yourself hydrated, especially if you experience nausea as a side effect. If you sense your condition is worsening after taking the medication even though you’re following all the provided instructions, ask your doctor to prescribe you another antidepressant more safer with fewer side effects.

As a pharmacist, I would suggest you stick to the recommended dosage regimen as prescribed by your doctor and do not start or discontinue any medication on your own. Antidepressants have their therapeutic window, ADR profile and contraindications as well, so it’s essential to be aware of every information related to the drug you are about to take. 

Your physical and mental health must be your top-notch priority, so adopt a healthy lifestyle and practice techniques to reduce stress. In case you experience any serious side effects, promptly inform your doctor for further guidance. 

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National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus Drug Information. Desvenlafaxine. [Internet]. Available from:

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