As more people file lawsuits and as increasing amounts of information continues to become public, general awareness of the side effects of the SNRI known as Effexor is on the rise. As a case in point, recently there was an excellent article on Livestrong detailing the potential dangers that have been associated with this drug. As always, there is no dispute that Effexor and other antidepressants are necessary medications that can do a great service to people seeking to control a debilitating condition. However, in order to make sure that the treatment is properly applied, public awareness about all aspects of the drug must be increased.
Side effects discussed begin with a fairly serious one: blood pressure disorder. Effexor has been known to elevate a patient’s blood pressure, which in the short term can lead to headaches, but in the long term can cause severe strain on the heart and lungs.
Other side effects raised include one that we’ve come to understand already — an ironic worsening of symptoms. This is an underlying problem with mind-affecting medications. While SNRIs do allow the brain to retain and benefit from mood-lifting chemicals, this is not a magic spell that will result in an elevated mood. It can, in some cases, cause a backlash, making the symptoms worse. In certain patients, it has been clearly demonstrated to increase suicidal ideation and attempts.
One side effect that hasn’t been discussed as often is the very rare but incredibly serious Serotonin Syndrome. Resulting from a bad bodily reaction to the elevated Serotonin levels, the syndrome causes side effects such as chills, shakes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other severe symptoms. Any combination of such symptoms is potentially life-threatening, and patients should seek emergency attention immediately.
The article goes into other symptoms as well, but these seem to illustrate the case being made. Yes, the core focus of the lawsuits to date on Effexor and its distant cousin Paxil has been on the potential for birth defects. However, the problems go far beyond the simple rationales, and the whole picture must be considered.