"Side Effects": My Life With Cymbalta

According to the official site for Cymbalta, the most common side effects experienced when taking it are:

nausea, dry mouth, sleepiness, fatigue, constipation, dizziness, decreased appetite, and increased sweating

It doesn't sound any worse than any of the other stuff in my medicine cabinet. Reality was another adverse event list. In fact, I bestow upon Cymbalta the rank of Number 3 in the list of Worst Ever Drugs I Have Taken, behind No. 2 Topamax and No. 1 All-Time Winner Depakote.

The full package insert mentions that minor weight loss was seen in clinical trials. In two trials, minor weight gain, no more than a mean of 1.4 kg, was seen. I gained 13.6 kg in a matter of months. I might have been willing to live with the new-found weight if I hadn't also had to say goodbye to orgasms (but not, frustratingly, desire) at the same time. Ultimately, this was the "side" effect that pushed me to tell my doctor I wanted off Cymbalta.

I had a two-week ramp down period. By the time that was done, so many other things that I had not realized were also Cymbalta side effects had vanished or begun to dissipate. For example, excessive flatulence, which I had blamed on menopause. Mea culpa, menopause! I still hate your hot flashes but you're off the hook for this one! And while I did get Cymbalta's promised sleepiness and fatigue, I got something else no one had mentioned: insomnia. The insomnia worsened over the course of the year I took Cymbalta and it was blamed on all manner of other things: stress and grief, migraines messing up my sleep cycle, kittehs in the bed, Mr. Z's tendency to bodily transform into a windmill at night. A week after the last ramp-down dose, I was sleeping through the night like a baby. A baby without colic, one of those good ones that doesn't wake up or cry and makes you think having another wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Falling asleep was a breeze! I no longer had to get out of bed two, three, five times for a robust bout of micturition before finally falling into an exhausted semi-sleep at two, four, maybe six a.m. I had thought the excessive nighttime voiding was just another symptom of encroaching old age but no. It was my pal Cymbalta, partying with my bladder.

I'm used to meds that fog my brain - see Nos. 1 & 2 on the list of Worst Ever Drugs I Have Taken. When Depakote made my hair fall out in what should have been alarming amounts, I didn't mind, because I was taking Depakote! I didn't mind about anything! Topamax is nicknamed Dopamax for a good reason. I love Zonegran as its replacement because it has much less impact on word recall, spelling, and general short term memory and because, vainly, it made me lose weight. Until Cymbalta, the asshat of drugs, came along. Every pound Zonegran spirited away, Cymbalta ferried back, plus more. I have a dear friend whose sure to be a bestseller autobiography would be titled, she says, "I Hate You: An Explanation". A not entirely inappropriate title for use in discussing Cymbalta! The drug that makes you fat and stupid! A week off the drug and it was truly like a fog was cleared from my brain. I could think more clearly, focus a little better. I didn't feel quite so tired. (Well, maybe that had something to do with being able to fall asleep and stay asleep.)

What else? Constipation, of course. That was the least of my problems. Here's a good one. Although it is discussed on the package insert in some detail, neither my prescribing doctor nor my neurologist mentioned to me that Cymbalta in combination with blood thinners can lead to bleeding problems, in some cases potentially life-threatening. My PCP made this connection after I showed up in her office with softball-sized dark purple bruises on both hips. By the time I saw her, the swelling had at least gone down; they were still extremely painful. How did I get them? I was on an Amtrak train, and sat at a table in the cafe car for a few hours reading a magazine. The benchlike seats in the cafe cars are not padded. The gentle rocking of the train back and forth was enough to generate massive bruises where my hips bounced against the hard edge of the seat with each sway. Needless to say, this should not happen. This was a week before mine and Mr. Z's annual vacation to a warm beachy place and we both know my purple thighs attracted a few looks. We half-seriously joked that we should make a sign for my back: No, I'm not a battered woman, it's just the medications. Because my thighs looked like I was.

The very worst is something I can't absolutely prove, but of which I feel fairly certain. After ten years of taking this and that and the other medication and observing the intended and "side" effects on my body, I think I know when there is a connection between a med and a mess. In this case it is a bit more tricky as you will see, but I still feel strongly about it.

I started taking Cymbalta in November of 2011, and was told that as an added benefit I might expect it to help with my migraines, as it has a known effect on pain. In January of 2012 my migraines began to worsen, becoming more severe and more frequent. We blamed the odd weather patterns, we blamed my insomnia and resulting screwed up sleep cycles, we blamed a possible failed botox treatment and/or developing insensitivity to botox. Things went from bad to worse and eventually I was hospitalized for a week in May. I came out of the hospital headache-free and with a new preventative medication. Unfortunately, shortly after that began a series of family loss and illness that went on for months. The health I'd gained rapidly unraveled. The botox treatment I had in the middle of all this didn't do much good.

The last botox treatment was just a few weeks before I stopped Cymbalta. And then the migraines improved - less severe, a little less frequent. The family stress is only moderately better. So either the last botox rocked my brain's world, or taking Cymbalta for migraine pain is just like bashing your head against a brick wall - because it feels so good when you stop.

Despite all the bad experiences - and there have been many - I have had with medications over the years in the effort to control and prevent my migraines and prevent another stroke, I have remained a strong believer in medication to treat what ails you. To a point. I saw my mother's med list climb to nearly 25 different meds, until her PCP and a rehab doctor pared it down to 13 in a radical revision during a rehab stint. Afterwards she was more alert and lively, more engaged and cheerful, more full of affect in general. And she was less like a shambling zombie in her movements. I've read that one risk factor for falls in the elderly is taking more than 5 different medications. My own med list has been climbing in fits and starts over the past 10 years and it frightens me. I don't want to become an affect-less shambling zombie pill swallower, and I'm afraid I may already be one.  How many meds in my pillbox could I do without, are there others that are hurting more than helping me? It's a question I think about a lot more since my life with Cymbalta.





67 responses so far

  • becca says:

    This post hits very close to home right now. My father is on a zillion drugs- everything from synthoid (for hypothyroidism) to tribenzor (the blood pressure combo drug prescribed after the beta blockers fizzled out for him). From his experiences with the former, there is no doubt that better living through chemistry IS possible. But from the later, it's abundantly obvious why they call it "practicing" medicine- at some point, if your conditions are weird enough, you can easily end up with a combination of symptoms, drugs, and side effects that there is simply no drug-study literature data to draw upon to interpret. You just have to go on and off different combos until you get it right.
    Given what I know about drug metabolism, I'd be much more surprised if all these things *didn't* interact in unpredictable ways, but seeing it up close... it's tough.

    • Zuska says:

      Yes, at some point you can't really tell if what you are experiencing is a symptom of a new illness or problem manifesting itself or worsening, or a side effect of a drug or drug interactions. And in either case, is the solution to withdraw drug A and try drug B, or keep drug A and add drug C to counteract symptom X? The whole thing is discouraging. And frightening. When I'm old and frail and losing my ability to keep track of all this stuff, who's going to be around to manage it all for me? The kittehs show no talent or interest in developing skill, no matter how many times I encourage them to listen in while I'm on the phone with insurance companies, or to watch while I fill out paperwork.

  • JustaTech says:

    My father-in-law has a number of sleep problems (apnea, snoring, trouble falling asleep) not the least of which was endless thrashing. Went in for a sleep study, was fitted with a C-PAP machine (which he won't wear), thinking he had some kind of terrible restless leg syndrome.

    Then one night he got up and toasted himself a sandwich in his sleep. The next day (when confronted with the remains of the sandwich) he quit his Ambien. Immediately the thrashing stopped, his brain-fog went away, and he wasn't nearly as tired (though he doesn't fall asleep instantly). But he would never have realized any of that was connected with the Ambien if he hadn't had such and obvious episode of sleepwalking.

    (And honestly, we wouldn't have caught it either if he hadn't asked about where the sandwich went, because he's always had the habit of getting up after about 3 hours of sleep and getting a snack. We're lucky he didn't decide to go for a drive.)

  • Ria says:

    I couldn't agree more. About the Depakote and Topamax, and also about the value of medication in helping us to deal with medical problems...so long as those medications are prescribed appropriately, and with all of the various doctors (and the patient!) in consultation to keep the meds to a necessary minimum to avoid cross-reactivity and side effects. The worst meds I've ever been prescribed are corticosteroids. Sure, they can save your life, and they have definitely saved mine. But...and this is a big but....they cause massive side effects that can affect you for the rest of your life. Even small doses of inhaled corticosteroids can do this over time. Thank God for Xolair! Saving severe allergic asthmatics all over the globe from steroid poisoning, Cushings disease, and early death through medical advancement. As strange as it may be to say...when I read the side effects profile and noticed that there was a possibility of developing cancer from the Xolair, I shrugged and decided that while cancer is horrible, it would be better than existing as I was. Of course, we'll see if I still believe that should I actually develop cancer, although the chance is vanishingly small.

    • A. Marina Fournier says:

      Let's see: breathing well on a regular basis, not having other allergies' issues, vs a small possible eventuality of cancer.

      I'd take the breathing part, too. No question.

  • Kati says:

    I would love to know more about Botox for migraines. I take Imitrex for mine, but it doesn't work as well as it used to. I'm desperate enough for pain relief that I'll try anything.

    • Geraldine says:

      I have had Botox. The neurologist told me if it doesn't work after 2, it's probably not going to work. I had 3 shots (4 months apart) and had to finally admit it wasn't working. I'd say it's worth trying. I'll try anything at this point - the migraines are pretty much chronic. I keep trying to deny this, but 2 neurologists have separately come to that conclusion and really, nothing helps except codeine and Imitrex.
      I have been on Elavil for years, until the docs started saying it's time to change (it's an old drug and considered "dirty" though nobody ever has said it's doing me actual damage).
      Topamax was the absolute worst. It took me a year to realize it wasn't making any difference - I could barely begin to think; I had to stop writing a column for a newsletter because I couldn't write a thought, let alone a sentence. However it worked well for my sister-in-law, who had an entirely different kind of pain.
      So now I'm starting Cymbalta and not sleeping well at all. We'll see what happens next, I guess.

      • Geraldine says:

        Further to your question.
        Botox paralyzes muscles. (This does not mean you feel no pain - this is one of the things we able-bodied don't get. Paraplegics still feel pain in the areas they can't move.) My neurologist said they have no idea why it helps migraines. It's another one of the treatments that's intended for something else and just incidentally is helpful for migraines. Most of the drugs we take were not developed for migraine at all, but for heart and bloodpressure, other types of pain, depression, epilepsy, etc.

        The treatment consists of about 8+ shots in the hairline around the forehead and temples. These are just short little jabs to push the botox under the skin. Then the same around the hairline at the nape, and a couple in the muscles that lead to the shoulder. Right away, the permanent knot I had in my upper back near my right shoulder seemed to disappear. The relief was wonderful, and the knot has stayed pretty much gone. I expect it helped that my job ended around the time of my second shot, and I was no longer sitting at a computer all day, stressed out.

        Unfortunately, wishful thinking didn't make Botox work for me, but others have found relief. If you can afford it, give it a try. It's very expensive and without coverage and desperation I don't know if I would have tried it.

  • A. Marina Fournier says:

    Zuska, you have my unending admiration and awe for what you have accomplished and how you have lived, despite the migraines, other medical issues, and medication side effects. Weaker-willed persons might have given up long before, and heaven only knows what you'd be doing without the blasted migraines--just how many horses *would* you be scaring?

    I'm with you on Dopamax. While I lost a good amount of weight on it, which returned immediately once off it, and broke my addiction to cola (and in general, soda), the brain fog--I could tell it was artificial, and when it stopped working and I tried something else, I found I was absolutely right about it being the cause of said fog. The pseudo-partial-aphasia it brought on is a lesser version of what my sister has had since her stroke. I would like to see a study on the parallels of those two conditions, in hopes some amelioration of either or both might be found. The only unexpected good I got from Topomax was having restful sleep for the first time in decades. These days, I'm more likely to have problems waking thoroughly than falling asleep. I don't dwell on what insomnia I do have, but not being able to wake thoroughly (rested or not) bothers me. Might be a blood glucose issue, alas.

    As to orgasms and desire: about 4 years ago, I stopped being able to get aroused, by myself or not. I couldn't even dream of orgasms. I felt desire to *have* some desire which could go somewhere: I missed desire and arousal. It gradually returned, to a lesser expression, but now when I have an orgasm, it jolts me awake, rather than lulling me to sleep as they used to do. AAARRRGGHH! Whether that is hormonal or medicinal, I'm not sure--and if medicinal, might not even be my psych meds.

    What, if anything, has replaced Cymbalta for you?

    I'm glad your mom is doing better with fewer meds & their interactions. My belle-mere looked at some of her meds and decided to pare them. Well, one she still needed but the others she thought weren't needed, actually weren't. Now if we could only get her back on an anti-depressant...

    Once my sister moved up near me, I was overseeing her medical care. I looked at hydrocodone on her chart--for sleep, at bedtime only, and the fact that it's a) addictive and b) not helping her sleep, and asked the new doctor if he felt that was something she needed. Nope. I do need to have her seen by a dr. with insomnia background, as well as an undertanding of stroke survivor's sleep issues.

    • Zuska says:

      No replacement for Cymbalta for me so far. Just got rid of the side effects, and am feeling better so I don't feel like I need something additional for mood.

      • Violetta says:

        Just thought I'd like to add my own experience with Cymbalta which I was prescribed for depression and fibromyalgia by my GP. I've tried all the popular antidepressants , most recently, Lexapro but have had little reprieve from my depressive symptoms despite also having weekly sessions with a psychologist. I'm 62 and still experiencing menopausal symptoms so am on HRT. Did try to go off antidepressants altogether but had such a severe reaction (totally broke down in doctor's waiting room) that I reluctantly agreed to try Cymbalta. The added benefits of helping with fibromyalgia made this med seem promising so I was willing to give it a go.
        The first obvious side effect was acute constipation which I have never suffered before. My diet is excellent with lots of fruit, veg, grains, etc. but the constipation continued for the entire 3 months I was on Cymbalta. The benefits however, ease of pain and greater stamina convinced me to continue.
        Side effects from meds are insidious- they come on slowly so it isn't always easy to connect them to the drug , and so it was with Cymbalta. The migraines that began on waking, the weight gain around my waist, the dry skin and pain in my eyes and, finally and most disturbingly, the strange, strong, cloying perfume smell in my nose as well as flu- like symptoms and a feeling that I had become someone else!!
        I am now in the process of coming off the Cymbalta- from 30mgs to 15mgs by emptying the caps by half. Then after two weeks, 15mgs every 2nd day for another 2 weeks and then stopping altogether. So far, I haven't experienced the brain zaps described by others so am keeping fingers crossed.
        I do agree that for some, antidepressants are essential but at the moment they seem to be so hit and miss that their effects can be very dangerous. I would love to be antidepressant-free after being in their grip for about 25 years now but the withdrawals are so severe that it seems to be virtually impossible to live now without them. One day, I am sure that these drugs will be tailor- made to suit our unique biochemical make-up, but until then it is a tedious and dangerous trial and error.
        I am only thankful that living in Australia means that these drugs are subsidised by our fabulous health care system as are visits to mental health care practitioners. It must be an expensive exercise indeed to get help with meds and advice in the US and I have no idea how the poorer members of the community manage at all. I guess homelessness must in some part be the result of this sad national disgrace.

        • Geraldine says:

          Re HRT: I have been on it for 7 years or so, and couldn't live without it. My mother only just stopped having hot flashes - she turned 90 this year. My sister suffers, too.
          Going off Elavil, I found my night sweats worse, and I'm not sure if the Cymbalta is going to help with that. So far it has not affected my thinking. Another couple of weeks will tell the tale.
          How lucky to have subsidized drug coverage. In Canada we have free health care, but the cost of drugs is high unless you have some form of extra insurance, like workplace coverage.
          I look forward to individualized treatment - the sooner the better.

  • Otha says:

    I've been worried about taking medication at times. The two that most worried me were Wellbutrin and Cymbalta. Wellbutrin has had almost no side effects, which I found very surprising. Cymbalta has caused insomnia, lack of sexual interest, minor weight loss, and loss of ability to remember nouns on a consistent basis. I kid you not, my psychiatrist has seen it before. I am a very verbal person who absolutely detests being at a loss for a word I find just out of memory's reach. On the other hand, sex was never a pillar of my life so I'm fine with not having much interest (can you guess I'm single).

    • Otha says:

      Oops! I must expand: I suffer from major depression. Nothing had made a useful dent until I took first Wellbutrin, then Cymbalta. Though full effect from Wellbutrin took almost 24 months, I gradual began feeling better within the first month. Cymbalta put down the last of my major symptoms from depresssion.

      Also I have all kinds of fun neurological problems including fibromyalgia pain, but that's another kettle of fish. I know not everyone can find help with medication, and some meds work but have too much of a downside. I'm just hoping people can get help when possible.

  • Rebecca says:

    Exactly right! My better half was on your top two meds and experienced similar side effects. In his case he also got the shakes, which he then went to the neurologist for, who gave him a drug that put him to sleep as a side effect, so he then had to take something for that...

    And my former boss, who had diabetes and heart and kidney problems, had a mid-morning meal of pills, I mean really, some people have a handful of nuts at about 10:30 am, he had a handful of pills. And there was a specific order in which he had to take them... I cannot imagine.

    Anyhow, glad to hear from you and looking forward to more Zuska!

  • Frederick says:

    I am suffering from many problems that are sort of in the same vein... and the one main thing on my mind, and I'm sorry if there are some people that don't like this idea but it is true:

    We have to focus on the aging process itself. Even the best drugs, which address the best understood systems and have been developed for decades, are really just paltry bandaids, often of no net, overall all things considered benefit.

    And focussing on aging itself does not exclude those who are already e.g. 60+, not at all. Any Anti aging treatment would probably work across a broad range of ages, to at least slow the decline. It would probably be excellent bang for research dollar, I bet, actually. There is currently very very little research dollars spent on anti aging, and that absolutely needs to change, because this patchwork quilt made of bandaids stuff just isn't working.

  • Frederick says:

    ^Drugs made to address highly aging-related diseases I mean.

  • Pharm Sci Grad says:

    I just had a talk with one of my specialists today who can't give me a firm diagnosis but said she could put me on Cymbalta for my pain if I liked. I had to blink to myself a few time before I could collect myself enough to explain to her that I wasn't looking for a drug, I was looking for a diagnosis. I've lived with pain for years - if I need something for this new pain, then we'll go down that road - right now what I am looking for are answers.
    The tests are negative for this and you're too young for that, so we don't know what's wrong... here's a high powered pharmaceutical you can take to alter your brain chemistry. Ya know, cuz your joints hurt sometimes. Yikes.

    • Zuska says:

      Ooh...I think the meds are what they go to when they just don't know what to tell you about what's going on with you. I have no idea what's causing your pain and I don't want to feel like I failed you, so here, take this med and maybe it will make you feel better.

      The way Cymbalta is marketed on tv you would think it is more or less like a Skittle that can also help with pain.

  • Xanax says:

    Wonderful post but I was wanting to know if you
    could write a litte more on this subject? I'd be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Appreciate it!

  • Brenda says:

    Thanks for your post. I'd also like to warn others of the drugs levaquin and avelox. These are antibiotics - and in my case was prescribed for repeated sinus infections. The side effects are beyond horrible and for me continued for several years after I stopped taking the antibiotic (which I only took twice, once full term, and the second time only 1 pill). Caused severe tendonitis, insomnia, weight gain, and a lot of pain. Sadly the box says "do not take this with steroids" and yet that is exactly what my doctor prescribed.

    Don't underestimate the insomnia - I personally think that not being able to sleep leads to many many other health problems. I'm one of the lucky ones and I think (?) I"ve mostly recovered now, although it took several years and no one could help. I've heard that some people never recover.

    Now, I research to the best I can every drug any doctor ever prescribes to me or my family members. I don't trust doctors anymore. At least I have a PHD and can mostly understand what I read, I feel for the average person who just gets these drugs and takes them like the doctor tells them.

  • Heather says:

    I have had bouts of major depression for the past 12 years and have had to go on disability because of it. My doctor put me on Cymbalta about three months ago and since one dose was not helpin, he increased my dose to two a day, At betime I take 400mg of Seroquel XR which makes me sleep so well, but after taking the two cymbaltas I was having to take 600 mg of Seroqel XR because I could not fall asleep or if I fell asleep, I would wake up another hour later desperately trying to sleep. since I took too many seroquell, I ran out of it last week-that is when I would try to go to sleep and I literally did not sleep the entire night and I did not feel sleepy the next day until about 3 am where I slepy about 2 hours that night, so I stopped the Cymbalta and in a few days I felt so much more relaxed at bedtime-with the cymbalta previolyu, I would lay in bed and my back muscles were as stiff as a board along with other muclesin my body-I literally could not relax-I have never felt like that before in my life-It was like my body had a permanebtly on button that would not shut off,I will never take cymbalta again.

    • diana meno says:

      Don't take cymbalta! It will rewire your brain. U will be numb the rest of your life.

  • Pat Mcfail says:

    Hi guys,
    I was laying on the couch ,when the left side of my chest ached and felt tight, so I thought I'd check the side effects of Cymbalta. I came across your web site.It was very interesting and kind of scary. I found my symptom on the list , for a moment I thought I was having heart attack, then I remembered anxiousness and took an Ativan and it soon went away. I'm 73 years old and have arthritis and bone on bone knees . also had depression off and on since having my first of 4 children in 1963.It's too much to go into but my doc increased the Cymbalta today ,a heart attack was my first fear. Plus I don't type well. I take Seroquel and have for 8 years. Can't think half the time, can't remember my best friends name spontaneously ,forget to take the dog out and I could go on forever . At least my knees and legs don't ache and I can sleep. Nice talking to you and I talk too much

  • Jan says:

    Great help on this website. I am starting a new job soon and was concerned about restarting Cymbalta , even tho I was not happy with the few weeks I had used it previously. I do believe I will hold on to faith in God and doing what is with my abilities to do without drugs. Thanks again for good feedback 🙂

  • Lelia says:

    Could you please tell me, after you stoped taking cymbalta did you lose the weight you gained douring the treatment? And how did you stop, by reducing the mg?

    • Zuska says:

      So far I have lost about 2/3 of the weight I gained on Cymbalta, gradually over the course of a year. This was with basically no change to diet or exercise level although I suspect my craving for sweets may have slightly decreased. The last 1/3 is, I think, going to take a combination of reduced intake and increased exercise level. The latter won't be difficult, in theory, since going from "nearly nothing" to "something" is attainable. In theory. If I get my ass off the couch.

      Going off Cymbalta (or any med) is something you should do under the direction of your doctor. No medication should be discontinued abruptly without your doctor's direction. Especially medications that you had to gradually increase the dose, quitting abruptly can be dangerous. I am not a doctor. Consult your doctor about all medication changes.

  • Robin says:

    I am a 43 year old DISABLED woman. I was in a horrific car accident in 2008 which lead to a double discectomy and fusion in my neck at c5-6 & c6-7. Unfortunately this surgery failed and I suffer from chronic wide spread pain with several other issues due to permanent nerve damage and fibro on top of all that. At this point, doctors have told me it wont get any better so all we can do is maintain the pain and try to stop it from getting worse, too fast.

    I am in the process of trying an all new approach with NATURAL products. I have been doing a lot of research on wholistic and naturpathic medicine. Sounds promising and really, at this point, what do I have to lose.....ummm, nasty side effects and possible other health complications from the prescription meds. Yeah, I can afford to lose all of that. lol

    I will be sure to update ya'll on what I find to help, or not help. I am a firm believer that all the scripts do is mask the pain. They don't give my body what it needs to HEAL itself. In fact, look at the inserts that come with the prescriptions. MY LORD>.....the they may cause this and that list is longer than my current ailment list. Crazy. So not only are they NOT CURING the initial complaint, but these pills are causing ADDITIONAL HEALTH PROBLEMS. I don't know about you all, but my body does NOT NEED ADDITIONAL PROBLEMS.

    I know a lot of people leaning towards the NATURAL healing process with great results. So, I am gonna give it a go.

    Please stand by for updates.

    Hysterectomy with ovaries 2001
    Double ACDF 2009(failed)
    Spinal Stenosis
    SI Joint Dis function Bilateral

    • Zuska says:

      I am sorry for your difficulties and pain. I know that things like massage and acupuncture bring relief to many people with chronic pain. I cannot say the same for homeopathic medicines, which are nothing more than water. You may as well drink a glass of tap water and hope to find pain relief from that. If your pain is due in part to dehydration, the homeopathic medicine may then be of some help. Otherwise you are wasting your money.

      Medicines approved by the FDA have been tested for safety and efficacy. They often do have intolerable side effects, and sometimes they have dangerous effects that aren't known until larger populations of people take them, or they are taken over longer periods of time. But many pharmaceuticals bring worlds of relief and healing to people.

      Some people say that they prefer to take "natural" compounds. The "natural" medicines they are taking are neither tested nor regulated. No one has any idea what is actually in them, or how much of the supposed natural medicine is in each pill. There are no regulations or requirements to make the dose same from bottle to bottle or pill to pill.

      My neurologist did once tell me to try a "natural" medicine for migraine preventative called Petadolex (common name butterbur) - but he told me to make sure to get the one brand that has been submitted for testing, is known to have a consistent dose in each pill/bottle, and has been shown through testing to have some safe and positive effect for migraine prevention. It's not that "natural" medicines can never be helpful. It's that 99.9999% of them have never been tested, we don't know if or how they work, and we don't know what dose is in pill to pill, bottle to bottle, supplier to supplier.

      And "natural" is itself misleading. Butterbur is a plant. Some of the chemicals in its leaves or root can cause liver damage. One can help prevent migraine. All of these chemicals have names; all can be extracted from the plant material and processed into pills. Given sufficient lab resources, one could in theory synthesize the same chemical from the plant that prevents migraine. It would be no different and no different in effect than if extracted from the plant. If you take "butterbur" you are not being healed naturally by Nature's loving plants. You are taking a chemical produced by a plant. And if you take it from a lab that doesn't care about how they extract and process that chemical, you may also be taking Nature's loving liver-damaging chemicals along with it. The liver-damaging chemicals are natural, too!

      A chemical made in a regulated pharmaceutical manufacturing company and put into a pill is no more or less "natural" than a chemical made by a plant, then extracted from that plant in a commercial laboratory and processed and put into a pill in an unregulated "natural remedy" pill manufacturing company. It's just that in the first case, you know everything that's in the pharmaceutical pill, because the FDA requires it. In the second, you have no way of knowing what you are getting along with your "natural remedy" in the pill. Because the producers of it aren't required to tell you or even pay attention to what they are putting in it.

      • Ruby redress says:

        I,too, had spinal damage from a serious car accident in1993. I find often that my pain becomes intolerable without narcotics. My pain specialist feels it is important to stay ahead of the suffering by using the drugs that help. He has told me that studies have shown that effective pain treatment makes driving safer.

        For years I often suffered needlessly by trying "mind over matter" and attempting to just power through the pain. Now I get injections in the outer portion of my vertebrae occasionally and toradol shots are miraculous. I have been shamed in the past by idiots who generally have addiction issues (I don't) about my "drug use". Since arthritis has set in at my injured joints, I try to keep my expectations realistic. If I can turn down the "noise" of the pain I can get out and enjoy my life.

        Thanks to everyone who has posted the very helpful comments about cymbals. Brain fog and lack of libido are just too much to live with.


  • Kimberly says:

    Thank you for all the great information. I am new to Cymbalta been taking it for almost a month and now beginning to wonder if I shouldn't get off of it. I've been on antidepressants for about 10 years maybe 12 and have change to the variation often.
    I just recently changed from effexor and had previous to that an abnormal reaction from I short stint on topamax for my headaches ( couldn't stop crying). Then there was another medication after the topamax and I had severe mood swings with that one. Had to leave work for a medical leave to try to get in balance again. Then I developed a bladder infection so I went on an antibiotic and the pain in my gut is tremendous but now I'm wondering if it's also caused by the Cymbalta.
    I have a myriad of physical pain, a.d.d depression / anxiety. But now I'm wondering if I shouldn't try my best just to get off of all of medications find myself again my fight now mostly about side effects or the actual imbalance in my bio chemistry? my mother has Alzheimer's so the stories about cognition impairment with this medication is very scary.. I'm 54 years old and feel like I'm 80 something's gotta change I want to go back to work stronger and a good employee I need to function in my life. I'll talk to my doctor before I try getting off the Cymbalta but I think it might be trying time to try getting off of everything. Thank you again for this forum.

  • Kimberly says:

    ....oh....I'm also pre diabetic and about 50 pounds overweight.

  • Tootie says:

    I have been on Cymbalta for several years and have had many of the side effects mentioned with the worst being the brain Zaps and white noise in ears. I have been trying to get off of it for about 6 months now and only just now am able to take 20mg every other day with out going nuts with the Zaps and white noise. It is so bad and the weight gain and fatigue. I had to tell the dr. to help me get off she had no idea of the side effects it had, and if I had not been looking for what was going on in my head I would not have know it was the Cymbalta.
    Just for a side note if you are taking meds for high cholesterol, please do research on what you are taking especially if you are on a statin and what combinations of cholesterol lowering drugs should not never ever be taken together.

  • Frankie says:

    What a god send you people are . Been on Cymbalta for 5 years and recently asked my primary care doctor to help me ween off. He advised taking one 30mg every other day, "for a few days" and than nothing. He said most patients don't notice any withdrawal symptoms so, needless to say, the brain zaps were a complete surprise. I have been taking his prescribed dosage for three every other nights and the brain is screaming. Am now going to do Violetta's method of 1/2 of the 30mgs for "a few more days" in an effort to quiet the head.
    Those of us with first hand experience need to pass on our information as you kind folks have done for me. Our well meaning physicians go by their book learning-----

  • Sharon B says:

    Thank you so much. Great article. I've been on Cymbalta for about 5 months now. Not sure I hate it yet, but almost! Has anyone ever experienced their pain level being higher while taking Cymbalta versus not taking it? The first time I took it I noticed it but was like ok I'll give it a few weeks to go away, well after a few weeks it got a little better but not much. I stopped it and started it again and it has done the samething again!! It actually makes my pain worse...I know I'm weird lol

  • sherill says:

    I have been prescribed Cymbalta, and will begin it tomorrow. My neurologist told me to EXPECT the pain to become worse a while after I've been taking it, as that means the nerves are getting better! Has anyone else been told this? Thanks for any replies.

    • Mesa says:

      Sherrill, Cymbalta initially made my pain almost disappear - what a wonderful feeling! But 3 months later, the pain begins to return along with many strange side effects kicking in. No one, professional or otherwise, has suggested that the return of pain means my nerves are getting better. My experience with anti-Ds is that they often seem to stop working for what I am taking them for and I am left with unpleasant side effects. I will say that my pain is nowhere near the level it was before I took Cymbalta despite some return. It is a choice I am not fond of - pain or less pain and side effects. Plus everyone responds differently to these drugs - you may not experience the same side effects as others or to the same degree. Wishing you all the best.

  • Jean says:

    I have been taking Cymbalta for depression about 7 years and the only side affect I was made aware of was liver damage and I get blood work at least once yearly as advised by the prescribing doctor. I have been taking Desyrl (Trazadone) since 1982, and it definitely is a life saver, even though I still suffer from depression, just not suicidal thus the addition of Cymbalta. Not sure if Cymbalta really helps it...just been too afraid to stop taking it. About 4 years ago I had unsuccessful nerve surgery in my elbow and the pain was severe. It left me with acute fibromaliga in every inch of my body. Within a few months I started having disabling pain in my neck, arms and lower back. and The only med that lessens the pain is Lortab as it eases those new pains and also makes fibro easier to deal with.
    I am 72 years old. (Definitely Not Golden!) Within the past 9 months I have been taking 4 different meds for a new problem (stomach) not including the anti anxiety one. One month ago I felt the need to evaluate and stop any med I was unsure of. I cut down on Cymbalta from 120mg to 60mg daily. I feel no different, however I do not bruise as easily on my upper hands and lower arms. About 4 years ago I started having constant 'bloody looking' bruises and skin tares (with bandaids) covering those areas. It is so amazing!! Pretty hands and arms again. With all of the above do you think this had anything to do my taking less Cymbalta?

  • barb says:

    I am so relieved to hear others mention "brain zaps" because I thought I was going crazy . There is no way to describe them. I am a 45 year old RN and have been taking Cymbalta for 2 months for hydrosyringamyelia (spinal cord lesions) which cause a lot of pain. I can't take narcotics as i need to be sharp at work, and tylenol doesn't help. I was prescribed 30 mg a day but before I started it I was already weary of Cymbalta after researching the side effects. Also I cannot find a health care professional who is able to explain the mechanisms of how it actually works for pain. However, I am desperate so I take it. I take it every morning with breakfast and if I forget I start to have these "brain zaps" by 10:00 am. Once I take it they die down. I'm already worried about coming off it but for now i need my pain under control, and it does seem to be helping for that. I haven't had any weight gain or insomnia, thankfully.

  • Sandy says:

    I have been on Cymbalta for 15 yrs...all of a sudden having tremors...weight loss ...higher anxiety...could it have pooped out ?

  • Tracey says:

    Wow such interesting stuff....I've been on cymbalta for many years and in fact just had it increased again to 120mg a day.
    I've always wondered why I have zero energy, no desire, sex is a waste of time, up and down to the bathroom during the night, weight gan with increase of cymbalta 🙁 ( I'm female after all lol) , flatulence- gross, constipation and yet I eat exceptionally healthily ( lots of salads) , tinnitus type of hearing issue ....... AND this is Cybalta cause ???????
    OMG ..... I was always articulate and having been a teacher once upon a time I prided myself on my vocab, spelling, writing skills now I feel like a complete dummy and struggle with the simple stuff. My memory is appalling too.
    I'm ' only ' 52 single and this has been going on for years........ If anything these symptoms are causing me to be depressed !!!!

    So........ It's the Cymbalta then ??? Would love answers as I don't want to carry on like this but need something for my anxiety ( have been diagnosed with major depression 13 yrs ago but now feel it's more anxiety than anything else! )
    I need to feel like I HAVE a brain once more and able to cope better with life cos at the moment what drives me to distraction is that fact that my brain doesn't seem to work any more. Once upon a time I thought I was relatively intelligent

    • DH says:

      To Tracey, I just came across this site, have never posted on any site before, I feel like I wrote your post, my words exactly! My doc just wants to raise my Cymbalta dosage, I am trying to find something to switch to, there are so many out there.

  • Tracey says:

    Ps: bruising easily too and I only thought it was from my Great Dane !!

  • barb says:

    Hi again, i thought i would come back and update my Cymbalta saga! I was on it for 3 months for pain due to hydrosyringamyelia (see above post) but have been off it for 2 weeks now. I can honestly attest to the fact that it seemed to change my personality...all I wanted to do was sleep, I had no interest in anything and just wanted to be in bed under my covers. NOT like me at all. Also I became irritable, cross and short with people...my poor family!!! The brain zaps went away gradually but I had to titrate my dose slowly down....don't come off cold turkey! not recommended with this med. So, for all of you that it works for, that's great! but for me it did little to control my pain and made me feel strange.

  • Dee says:

    So much good information found here. I read somewhere that gatorade helps with onset of the brain zaps; anyone have any experience with this? Thanks

  • Carmela says:

    I've been on Cymbalta for less than a year but have noticed the weight gain, constipation, tiredness, less interest in sex, etc., as many others have stated. However, I am now on 90 mg (taken in the evening now to decrease the daytime tiredness) and have been pain and weakness in all my joints but especially my hips and knees. My knees feel much weaker and hurt quite a bit when using the stairs. I've never been troubled by joint pain before and am wondering if others have noticed this while on Cymbalta. Any other antidepressant recommendations for long-term depression and mild anxiety? Thanks.

  • anonymous postdoc says:

    Zuska, did you hear about the Cefaly device? I ordered one and am just waiting for the FDA import people stateside to let it out of their grubby hands. I am not long on my migraine preventative journey because triptans were working for many years, but I have already failed Topamax and nortriptyline, and my neurologist doesn't like the botox evidence (which I respect because the effect sizes are tiny), but she is excited about the Cefaly.

    Topamax is the worst, the way the cognitive side effects are brushed aside is the worst, but the weight loss is cool and the loss of motivation I (and apparently others) experienced is scientifically fascinating. It makes me want to inject it in some animal brains and figure out what the mechanism is posthaste.

  • Happy says:

    Seems like I am an anomaly to this forum. I am a 38y. old man, I have been using Cymbalta for the past 2 months and it's working very well for me. I am more compassionate, attentive to people, energetic and 10x more interested in sex than ever (Almost to a point where my wife is hiding around the house). I have been suffering from undiagnosed depression for as long as I remember. In a matter of 2 months, it's all gone and I now understand the meaning of being happy, joyful and not being so worried.

    My side effects are very minimal. Hesitation when urinating, decreased appetite, light constipation and went from no libido to being insatiable.

    The main side effect is a delayed orgasm which doesn't seem to bother my wife.

    I also started training on a rowing machine (Concept2) and I have lost 20lbs. ( From 241lbs to 221lbs in 60 days).

    Cymbalta has been a saviour for me... I just feel a bit sad that I need this to fully enjoy life.

  • shannon says:

    How long does it take to get off the cymbalta. I've been taking it for a few months and the side effects are getting worse. I want to stop taking asap. Thanks for all the information you wrote, now I feel better about the whole situation, thought I was going crazy. Thanks again.

  • maudie says:

    Hi ive taken cymbalta for nearly two yrs. I work in healthcare and in past few weeks have caught gi bugs from my patients. I was so sick that I didnt take my cymbalta which I took at night. I have been off for a week. I wonder if the headache and neasua that im having is withdrawal. After reading varios posts I see that many of the issues ive been experiencing is the cymbalta. How long before it is out of my body.

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  • hello there says:

    I dunno, fours years after stopping it I have had weird headaches that last most days and other problems which are weird and come and go. Thinking of going back on it but when I was on it there were many problems which make it even worse and I think in the end I would rather just put up with my headaches than go back to that stuff.

  • Lee says:

    I relate to your musings with topamax. I am in a love/hate relationship with it at the moment. I have bipolar II and have been on topamax for about 10 years as a mood stabiliser. While it works great for that and works within some of the requirements/restrictions I gave my psychiatrist (do not want to have weight gain I can do nothing about, that is just cruel to do to a depressed person that hates life and themself....make them fat through no fault of their own, why yes!!! That will cheer on right up!! Not put me in zombie apathetic stupor, and so on). Used with my snri it is a good combo all these years. BUT. My god. I used to think the little bits of forgetfulness, word recall inability, sometimes completely forget what I was saying mid sentence, inability to focus/concentrate, and the tired....the all consuming, always thinking about, feeling like mind and body is pushing through a cement fog of tired. I have had hypoinsomnia I fight off ever since (and now take a prescribed adhd stimulant with my such large consumption of coffee that my psych is amazed that I do not have caffeine shakes. Alas no, my body metabolises quickly and I have either high tolerance or am now almost completely immune to caffeine...still love my coffee though) all were from my disorder. With it getting worse and worse over the years to the point I seriously contemplated asking my doctor to test me for early onset dementia (yes that bad, I have to explain my situation to my professors, that I am really not stupid or dumb, my brain sometimes becomes a blank slate next day to what was taught before, much to my frustration. I am an avid, prolific reader, mostly research papers, journals and books, but I have been reduced to having to SUBTRACT ON MY FINGERS in front of my calculus prof who, has a phd in quantum mechanics and a phd in mathematics, in his office while working out a calculus problem. Because my brain refused to work. Funny NOW, not at the time). Since I am not at the age for dementia (35 years) and I am a college student trying to get my BSc degree, safe to say the side effects of topamax on cognitive and awakefulness are extremely detrimental. Since I have been on it so long, my doctor is extremely reluctant to take me off it and try something else. Truthfully, so am I. Instead, I have been through 4 prescription stimulants trying to find one that counteracts some of the side effects of topamax. Yay. Meds to treat effects of meds. Ugh. I would love to try something else that can be used as a mood stabiliser/antipsychotic (I hate that term...never been psychotic but eh...hypomanic sure) that does not kill the brain function needed for....life! Learning! Well, functioning and being awake! And yes, vanity here....no weight gain, nope, that would just rocket depression, low self esteem and body dysmorphia into a spiral no matter how much antidepressants may try to make me....s-m-i-l-e. So. Anyone have any suggestions on what can be used in place of topamax for a mood stabiliser with antidepressants?
    Oh, and I elect seroquel and zopiclone and risperodon as members of the top 5 worst meds to ever be on. Nothing like hallucinating when you are not supposed to and never ever have before, complete dissociation from your limbs (that is not my arm!! Is it? Nooo, but....I think I am moving it...I say wiggle fingers and those fingers wiggle....but, it just doesn't feel like my arm or that it belongs to me. Let me bang it on the coffee tab...ow! But still, it looks disembodied. That is not my arm!!!) when you show up at college to class and go tada!!! I am here! To your friends, , looking like a homeless person, that crawled out of a gutter after a night of being rained on under newspapers and fighting off hordes of rats for your last stale half of bagel and cigarette; when you actually showered, put on clean clothes and brushed your hair and attempted makeup for the first time in a week. And then you realise that yes, yes you did drive to class, and no, no you do not remember driving at all. Thank god those days are over. Cannot pay me enough to ever take those three meds again. I would actually choose to stay on topamax.
    And sorry about long long post. Bad bad habit that I am trying to break and doing really poorly at.

  • peter groll says:

    Good luck to all of you.