Millions of Americans suffer from either a mental health condition or chronic pain, and some people have the bad luck of experiencing both. Fortunately, there is one medication that can treat certain types of chronic pain as well as common mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Cymbalta is a prescription medication that can offer relief to the millions of Americans who are impacted by common mental and physical health conditions like major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, and diabetic neuropathy. While many people need prescription medications to help them keep their mental health and pain in check, medications like Cymbalta are sometimes accompanied by unpleasant side effects that make the medication difficult for some people to tolerate. If you’re currently taking Cymbalta or are interested in taking the medication to treat your symptoms, you might be able to prevent side effects or diminish their effects.
What is Cymbalta?
Cymbalta is a brand name prescription medication that is also sold under its generic name, sertraline. Cymbalta belongs to a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs; this class of medications is typically used to treat common mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Cymbalta was first approved for use in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. More than 38 million prescriptions were written for Cymbalta in 2017, making it one of the most popularly prescribed medications on the market.
What is Cymbalta used to treat?
Cymbalta is approved to treat several different physical and mental health conditions, in addition to depression, Cymbalata also treats general anxiety disorder (GAD) in adults and children who are seven years old or older, nerve pain associated with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy), and fibromyalgia. Cymbalta is a unique medication because it treats both mental health conditions and conditions associated with chronic pain, such as diabetic neuropathy and fibromyalgia. However, Cymbalta is most commonly used to treat depression.
What are the symptoms of depression?
It is common for people to experience feelings of happiness and sadness during the ups and downs of life, but sometimes, feelings of sadness can become pervasive and overwhelming. When these feelings become especially intense, start to interfere with everyday activities, and are experienced for a prolonged period of time (two weeks or more), individuals may be diagnosed with depression. Although depression has many symptoms, everyone experiences depression differently, and physical and emotional symptoms vary from person to person in presentation, type, and intensity. Depression can be triggered by genetic, psychological, biological, and environmental factors, and depression can also be caused by hormonal changes, particularly in women. Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, can also increase the likelihood that a person will experience depression. Symptoms of depression commonly include:
- Persistent sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Persistent anxiety
- Decreased energy
- Reduced libido
- Change in appetite
- Suicide attempts
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Digestive problems
- A loss of interest in hobbies
What are the side effects of Cymbalta?
Possible side effects associated with Cymbalta generally fall into two categories: common and less common. Common side effects associated with Cymbalta include:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Tiredness or sleepiness
- Low blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Skin rash
- Abdominal pain or stomach pain
- Muscle weakness
- Excessive sweating
- Bruising easily
Less common side effects that may occur in long-term users of Cymbalta include:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Frequent urination
- Liver disease or damage in individuals who mix the medication with alcohol
How can the side effects of Cymbalta be minimized or avoided?
Many prescription medications have unpleasant side effects, but until recently, researchers had not made the connection between nutrient depletion and the incidence of side effects. Nutritional deficiencies in several vitamins and minerals, including omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, folate, amino acids, iron, zinc, iodine, and selenium, have been linked to higher rates of depression. For example, a study of older women with severe depression found that more than a quarter of the study participants were deficient in vitamin B-12. Low folate levels have also been tied to depression, as only seven percent of people with low folate levels respond to treatment with antidepressants like Cymbalta, while those with high folate levels report a 44 percent response. Similarly, approximately half of American adults are deficient in magnesium, which is a mineral linked to relaxation. Women with hormonal imbalances, such as those experiencing menopause, can also benefit from nutritional support that helps to support balanced hormones and reduce the side effects of hormonal imbalance, such as depression. It stands to reason that receiving support from a dietary supplement that is specially formulated to address the nutritional deficiencies associated with depression, anxiety, and certain side effects can help to minimize the experience of side effects in patients taking medications like Cymbalta. When the missing vitamins and minerals are received at therapeutic doses in addition to mitochondrial antioxidants, patients are less likely to experience common side effects of antidepressants.
Are there any risks associated with taking Cymbalta?
The most significant risk associated with Cymbalta is the increased potential for suicidal thoughts, ideation, and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults who are suffering from clinical depression. Patients with a diagnosis of clinical depression should be closely monitored while taking Cymbalta.
It is common for people who take Cymbalta for six weeks or more to experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication or reduce their dose, as Cymbalta has a higher risk of physical dependence compared to other SSRIs. Because Cymbalta withdrawal occurs so frequently, the term “Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptom” is used to refer to the collection of symptoms that people experience while stopping use of the medication. Addiction to Cymbalta is uncommon, but some people do misuse or abuse the medication by taking higher and higher doses in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms and experience the drug’s pleasurable effects. Signs of Cymbalta abuse include:
- Slurred speech
- Sudden changes in hygiene and physical appearance
- Lying about symptoms to get additional prescriptions
- Financial problems
- Bloodshot eyes
- Noticeable weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
People with certain medical histories need to use caution when taking Cymbalta. Patients should give their doctor or healthcare provider a complete medical history, especially including any personal or family history examples of:
- Alcoholism or heavy drinking
- Liver problems
- Personal or family history of bipolar disorder
- Glaucoma (angle-closure type)
- Low or HIgh Blood Pressure
- Kidney or liver problems
- Personal or family history of suicide attempts
- Taking Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
Older adults are at an increased risk of experiencing serious side effects while taking Cymbalta, particularly as they pertain to bleeding and loss of coordination. Older adults are at an increased risk of falling due to the loss of coordination they may experience while taking Cymbalta. Older adults are also considered more likely to experience low blood sodium.