What is Venlafaxine HCl?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Venlafaxine HCl, often called simply venlafaxine hydrochloride or venlafaxine, is a medication prescribed to alleviate symptoms of panic disorder, anxiety, and clinical depression. Doctors tend to prescribe it to patients who struggle with these mental disorders on a long-term basis, rather than to those who have occasional anxiety. Sometimes, it may also be used for menopausal women suffering from hot flashes. This medication, a selective serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSNRI), acts in the brain to elevate levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. Increasing levels of these natural chemicals can help to restore mental balance and manage mental disorders.

Venlafaxine HCl is a selective serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.
Venlafaxine HCl is a selective serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.

Adults will typically take about 75 milligrams (mg) of venlafaxine HCl daily in the form of either a tablet or an extended-release tablet. The extended-release tablet is taken only once daily, while the regular tablet may be taken two to three times per day in smaller doses, for a daily total of 75 mg. Usually, a total daily dosage will not exceed 225 mg. Venlafaxine HCl should be taken with a meal and a full glass of water. When taking the extended-release tablet, patients should never break or crush it, as too much of the medicine will be released at once.

Venlafaxine HCl may cause some side effects, which should be reported to the doctor if they become severe. These can include weight loss, loss of appetite, and changes in the taste of food, as well as gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain. Nausea, vomiting, and dizziness have also been reported. Some patients may experience nightmares, muscle twitches or shaking, and enlarged pupils. Chills, sore throat, and a fever may indicate a possible infection.

Potentially serious side effects from the use of venlafaxine HCl warrant a doctor's immediate care. Patients should go to the emergency room if they experience an irregular or pounding heartbeat, skin rash, and problems breathing or swallowing. Small purple spots on the skin, chest pain, and seizures have also been reported. Some patients have experienced problems with coordination, as well as hallucinations, loss of consciousness, and vision changes. Suddenly discontinuing the drug may cause some of these symptoms, as well as frenzied excitement, irritability, and the sensation of electric shocks throughout the body.

Before taking venlafaxine HCl to treat a mental disorder, patients should be aware that some people aged 24 years or younger have experienced suicidal thoughts or actions from the use of an antidepressant. Patients should inform family members or caregivers that they are taking this medication, so that others may watch out for possible suicidal tendencies. Changes in mood and behavior are possible, such as aggression, severe restlessness, and acting impulsively.

Patients should also discuss their other medications, supplements, and medical conditions with the prescribing physician. Venlafaxine HCl should never be used by a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding. It may also not be safe for those who consume alcohol, or those who have high cholesterol, hypertension, or a liver disease. Venlafaxine HCl may interact with blood thinners, sedatives, and sleeping pills.

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