What is Venlafaxine? - Uses & Side Effects

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Venlafaxine is an antidepressant drug. Learn more about the uses and side effects of Venlafaxine from this lesson. Then test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is Venlafaxine?

Molly is a fifty-year-old woman who lives at home alone with her cat. She has been feeling increasingly irritable over the past eight months, has had trouble falling asleep and is always tired. She also has trouble concentrating and is always worried about something, whether it be her health, money, or job.

Molly's worrying and trouble concentrating has begun to affect her job performance, so she decides it is time to get help and goes to see a psychiatrist who diagnoses her with generalized anxiety disorder, which is an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive worrying that interferes with daily functioning.

Molly's psychiatrist also gives her a prescription for venlafaxine. Molly decides to research the drug before she uses it. Let's see what she has learned.

Molly looks up the definition, classification, and uses of the drug. She finds out venlafaxine is an antidepressant drug that is used to treat anxiety disorder, major depression, and panic disorder. It is also used to treat social anxiety disorder and in Molly's case, generalized anxiety disorder. It is more widely known by its brand names, Effexor and Effexor XR.

Venlafaxine is classified as a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), and it influences the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Like all SNRIs, venlafaxine works by blocking the nerve cells' ability to reabsorb serotonin and norepinephrine once the brain has released them. This causes the serotonin and norepinephrine amounts in the brain to increase, resulting in improved mood and a decrease in symptoms. Other drugs that are classified as SNRIs include Cymbalta, Pristiq, and Savella.

Side Effects

Molly is also concerned about the potential side effects of venlafaxine. Common side effects include headaches, stomach problems (such as nausea and diarrhea), dry mouth, restlessness, lack of energy, decreased strength, excessive sweating, elevated blood pressure, sleeping problems (such as insomnia), and sexual problems (such as difficulty reaching an orgasm or delayed ejaculation). With the exception of sexual problems and blood pressure, all of the symptoms are expected to improve within the first two weeks of continued use of the medication.

Some of the less common side effects include elevated heart rate, ringing sound in ears, blurry vision, hypotension, excessive salivation, abnormal menstrual cycle in women, thoughts of suicide, abnormal heartbeat, bleeding more easily, decreased sodium levels, teeth grinding, and urination problems, such as urinating more often or difficulty urinating.

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