Effects, Discontinuation, and Withdrawal


paxil withdrawalParoxetine, otherwise known by its trade name Paxil, is an SSRI antidepressant which began being marketed in 1992. Paxil is prescribed for depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessive- compulsive disorder. Paxil has been extremely successful both commercially and therapeutically having been used by over 100 million people worldwide and generating over $40 billion in revenue for its maker, GlaxoSmithKline. Many claim to have been helped by Paxil in a way that nothing else has. Many report that Paxil has made all the difference in their emotions, helping to restore them to a happy, healthy and balanced life. As with so many drugs however, there has also been some controversy. There are a number of lawsuits (about 5,000)  being filed against GlaxoSmithKline over the issue of of birth defects in infants born to women who were taking Paxil while pregnant. There are also concerns over suicides of adolescent users of Paxil. Furthermore many users report extreme difficulty with Paxil withdrawal symptoms whenever trying to discontinue the use of the drug. 

How Paxil Works and Its Most Common Effects

Paxil, like other SSRIs, is not a drug you take whenever you feel like it and suddenly start jumping up and down for joy. Paxil must be taken on a steady schedule as directed by prescription, once a day. Dosages vary between 10mg and 40mg. Whenever one begins using Paxil it takes several days, sometimes even up to a week to begin to feel its effects, and longer to fully realize its effects. The positive effects are usually not extreme but are profound. Reports vary to some degree but mostly people state that it helps to lessen feelings of fear and worry and bring about an increased sense of calm and wellness. For many, who had been rendered practically dysfunctional through anxiety and depression, Paxil has reportedly helped them become grounded again and able to live with a more balanced emotional state. As for negative side effects, most all drugs will show a lengthy list of claimed and possible side effects from clinical studies. Most of these however  are not at all common to the drug and will never be experienced by the vast majority of users. The more common side effects reported with Paxil use that are normally experienced by a significant number of users involve a lessened sexual drive and sleep disturbances (usually mild and temporary).

Discontinuing Paxil

paxil effects and discontinuation

As helpful as Paxil may be for so many people the idea is rarely to just keep taking it for life. However, Paxil withdrawal symptoms associate with discontinuing usage can be difficult. One does not “get on” Paxil overnight nor does one “get off” Paxil overnight. A Paxil user who stops taking the drug all at once will likely suffer withdrawal symptoms severe enough to keep them home and away from work or any other activities for at least several days, if not a week or more. Instead of quitting Paxil cold turkey a plan for a gradual decrease in the drug needs to be followed. Even then the withdrawal symptoms can be quite difficult to deal with. These symptoms may include a magnified return of the feelings that prompted the use of the drug to begin with along with unpleasant physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, and the feeling of having a flu. Some also report experiencing something they call the zaps, which is described as a kind of small buzz or electrical charge sensation in the body. For no small number of Paxil users the withdrawal problems are a serious roadblock to discontinuing the use of the drug. Meanwhile there is often a frustration expressed  over medical professionals who don’t seem to understand or even acknowledge what someone may be experiencing whenever they try to cease taking the medication. Many doctors and pharmacists will firmly state that there are no withdrawal problems associated with the discontinuation of Paxil use and it’s all in the person’s head. Consequently, many Paxil users who want to discontinue the use of the drug turn to each other for support through forums and message boards.

Suggestions For Managing Withdrawal Symptoms When Discontinuing Paxil Use

1. Taper Off.

What medical professionals and Paroxetine users alike will recommend, if not outright insist on whenever discontinuing the drug is to scale down the amount taken over a period of time. Gradually reducing the dosage is the key, and the reduction needs to take place in terms of milligrams taken each day, not in terms frequency. In other words, skipping days and doses is not helpful. If for example, you have been on a 20mg a day regimen, you might start by going down to 15mg a day for a week, followed by 10mg for a week, then 5mg, and then nothing. Of course each person has to monitor their progress and make adjustments as needed. Some may find a 5mg/day reduction too large and try to decrease the reduction amount by smaller increments, such as 2.5mg.  Others may feel they need more than a week at each stage of reduced dosage and instead spend two weeks at each level, or even longer.  As for how to go about reducing the dosage, changing the prescription itself is not usually very practical as this would require your doctor’s approval and a new prescription for each step. Instead the dosage reduction is normally managed by using a pill slicer, available at any drug store, to cut up the pills into smaller sizes. Using the pill cutter can be a bit tedious at times but is absolutely necessary for reducing the dosage of each tablet.  

2. Inform Family

If beginning a plan to discontinue Paxil it can be important to talk to your family and those closest to you. Support is important, and also patience as others may find you behaving in less than agreeable ways at times as you step down from using the drug. You will no doubt have days where you feel some strong emotions such as sadness and anxiety, as well as find yourself extremely short-tempered and easily agitated. Family understanding can be critical during these times. You may also need a lot of sofa time and extra bedtime which may require some extra help around the house. 

3. Ginger

For dealing with the nausea many have reported the benefits of ginger, especially in the form of crystallized ginger (found in the spice section of the grocery store). The nausea that comes from Paxil withdrawal has been described as a feeling of strong motion-sickness, where you turn your head and feel like something inside is still trying to catch up with your head movements. Some have even taken motion-sickness medications such as Dramamine with some success. 

4. Watch out for Weight Gain

Some report substantial weight gain when discontinuing Paxil which is probably due to trying to comfort emotional issues with food, as so many of us are prone to do.  Some comfort food likely will be in order but just be careful of getting carried away.  

5. If at First you Don't Succeed...

Many who have successfully discontinued their Paxil use will tell you that they didn't succeed the first time they tried to quit. It can also be amazing how life situations may seem to conspire against you, throwing an especially stressful challenge at you right as you're trying to stop using the drug that has been helping you cope with stress. 

6. Patience is Key

Patience will also be necessary in order to become free from Paxil. Don’t get eager and make a sudden leap in reducing your dosage nor give up and return to your previous dosage whenever you have a really rough day with the Paxil withdrawal symptoms. This will take time but it is possible. Stick with it, give it time, and in time the withdrawal effects will fade away and you’ll be Paxil free.