Rarely abused drugs – 3: Venlafaxine
The use of pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes has become more common than ever before, especially among college-going students. The surge in prescription drug abuse in the United States is largely driven by the easy availability of such drugs in medical stores, or at times, even at homes. Prescription drug addiction is a grave problem since most people do not hesitate from sharing these drugs openly among friends and family, as well as other near and dear ones. But, the worst part is that most people perceive such medications to be safer than other illegal drugs, primarily driven by the fact that most of them are prescribed by doctors and are also legally sold in pharmacies.
In the past, prescription drugs were the most sought after by the U.S. veterans, who abused them to get relief from their chronic aches and pains However, due to the potential of these drugs to cause a euphoric numbness, they have gained a huge popularity even among teenagers and women. Studies have shown that a majority of people are inclined toward using certain kinds of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, which can be categorized as opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants and stimulants. However, in some cases, the user might develop an addiction to less commonly abused prescription drugs, such as dicyclomine, clonidine or venlafaxine.
Cases of venlafaxine abuse
Venlafaxine is an anti-depressant prescribed to people suffering from imbalances in the brain chemicals, caused due to depression or other mental health conditions. Known as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), the drug helps in restoring the balance of certain natural substances (serotonin and norepinephrine) in the brain.
Notably, antidepressants are categorized as rarely abused drugs as they lack the potential to cause an addiction. However, a study, published in the journal Psychiatry Investigation in 2011 reported a rare case of venlafaxine abuse, wherein a man, in his mid-40s and diagnosed with major depressive disorder, used the drug to mitigate the symptoms of insomnia, chest heaviness and anxiety. He started self-medicating himself with 150 mg of extended-release venlafaxine, which was later increased to 300mg.
However, the patient soon experienced a more serious depressive episode, for which he was prescribed paroxetine and bupropion. He continued to take the newly prescribed medicines, along with venlafaxine, but still experienced no relief from his depressive symptoms. On the contrary, when he tried to discontinue the drug, he experienced a new problem known as “discontinuation syndrome,” with symptoms such as depressed mood, severe anxiety, irritability and impulsiveness. Moreover, he also experienced a psychological dependence on venlafaxine. “He reported feeling intense fear without venlafaxine, and he kept a large amount of it in his own home, because he had experienced seriously depressed mood and discontinuation syndrome without it,” observed the study. The main crisis occurred when he also attempted suicide using the drugs. Eventually, the patient was advised to keep away from the drug and undergo treatment with other medications.
Leading a drug-free life is possible
According to the National Institute of Mental Health’s Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD), antidepressants are largely associated with a potential risk for treatment-emergent mania, hypomania, or a mixture of both. Such patients also exhibit discontinuation syndrome, more common in case of venlafaxine and paroxetine. Additionally, an overdose of the drug is associated with sedation, sinus tachycardia, seizures, hypertension, hypotension, diaphoresis and hyponatremia. A few studies have also shown amphetamine-like effect, particularly in case of large doses of venlafaxine.
Venlafaxine comes with serious side effects and warnings even with its therapeutic usage. Its regular doses can also cause seizures, severe nervous system reaction, confusion, etc. So, if you or your loved one is suffering from prescription drug addiction, contact the 24/7 Drug Addiction Helpline to get the best recovery interventions. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-403-5607 or chat online for further information on inpatient drug abuse treatment centers as well as outpatient drug abuse treatment centers in the U.S.
Read the other articles of the series, “Rarely abused drugs:”