Major depressive disorder is surprisingly common in the United States, with an estimated 17.3 million American adults reporting a major depressive episode in 2017. Depression is one of the most common forms of mental health disorders, so it is extremely likely that you or someone you know has experienced depression in the past. Depression affects mental and emotional health, but it also can have a huge impact on your physical health as well. Many patients struggle to perform daily activities like showering, cooking, or working, and it is common to no longer enjoy activities that you once found pleasure in. Antidepressants are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States, and Pristiq is a relatively new type of antidepressant that can be effective for the treatment of major depressive disorder. However, Pristiq can cause unpleasant side effects that may make the medication intolerable for some people. Fortunately, it may be possible to prevent or minimize side effects that occur as a result of Pristiq.
What is Pristiq?
Pristiq is a brand name prescription medication that is sold under the generic name desvenlafaxine. The drug is an SNRI, or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, and is primarily used to treat common mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, including panic disorder. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pristiq for use in the United States in 2008. More than 2 million prescriptions were written for Pristiq in 2017, making it the 37th most commonly prescribed drug in the United States.
What is Pristiq used to treat?
Pristiq is approved by the FDA for the treatment of major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, in adults ages 18 and older. Although Pristiq is most commonly used to treat depression, it is also used off-label for the treatment of certain types of anxiety, including panic disorder, in adults.
What are the symptoms of major depressive disorder?
Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is characterized by persistent and intense feelings of sadness that last for extended periods of time (a minimum of two weeks or more). In addition to impacting your mood and behavior, major depressive disorder can also have physical characteristics as well, including changes to appetite and sleep. People who experience major depressive disorder may lose interest in doing activities that they once enjoyed or have trouble performing everyday activities, and they may have suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Approximately seven percent of American adults has an episode of clinical depression each year, making it one of the most common mental health issues. The following Symptoms are very common with major depressive disorder:
- Feeling sad, empty, or tearful
- Mood Swings
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Lost of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Difficult concentrating and low energy
- Sleeping and eating more or less than usual
- Nervous energy
- Feelings of moving or thinking in slow motion
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
What are the side effects of Pristiq?
Possible side effects associated with Pristiq generally fall into two categories: side effects not requiring medical attention and side effects requiring medical attention. Side effects that usually do not require medical attention often go away as your body gets used to the medication. These side effects include:
- Decreased appetite
- Inability to have or keep an erection
- Loss of sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance
- Trouble sleeping
- Inability to have an orgasm
- Increased sensitivity of the eyes to light
- Sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
- Change in taste
- Weight loss
- Fear or nervousness
- Loss of taste
- Continuous ringing, buzzing, or other unexplained noise in the ears
- Difficulty urinating
- Hearing loss
- Lack or loss of strength
Other side effects are serious and require immediate medical attention. Most of these side effects are rare, but if experienced, they can be dangerous. Side effects requiring immediate medical attention include:
- Fast, pounding, or irregular pulse
- Numbness or tingling in the legs, arms, hands, or feet
- Cold sweats
- Dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up quickly from a sitting or lying position
- Shakiness in the legs, arms, feet, or hands
- Trouble thinking, walking, or speaking
How can the side effects of Pristiq 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 Pristiq, 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 Pristiq. 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 Pristiq?
Pristiq has been issued a black box warning by the FDA due to an increased risk of suicidal thinking, ideation, and behavior in children, teenagers, and young adults. Although depression and mental health conditions are also associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, patients taking Pristiq should be carefully monitored when starting to use Pristiq or when their dose of Pristiq is changed. Worsening depression, suicidal thoughts and ideation, and unusual changes in behavior such as becoming agitated, hostile, impulsive, irritable, aggressive, or restless may be signs of an increasing risk of suicide and should be reported to your doctor right away.
When SNRIs like Pristiq are discontinued abruptly or the dosage is significantly changed over a short period of time, withdrawal symptoms may occur, especially in patients who have been taking the medication for six weeks or more. It is important that patients do not change their dosage or stop taking their medication without first receiving guidance from a doctor or healthcare professional in order to minimize the risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of withdrawal from Pristiq include:
- Dysphoric mood
- Sensory disturbances
- Emotional lability
Some people are more likely to experience side effects or other adverse effects while taking Pristiq based on their medical history. Patients should use caution and give a thorough medical history to their healthcare provider before taking Pristiq. Make sure to specifically note any personal or family history examples of:
- Psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder
- Suicide attempts
- Bleeding problems
- Glaucoma, specifically angle-closure type
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems, including chest pain, heart attack, or heart failure
- High cholesterol
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
- Low sodium in the blood