Long-term effects of antidepressants for hot flashes?


Question from Teresa: I have been taking Effexor XR to help with hot flashes after taking hormones that I had to quit "cold turkey." Are there any long-term effects from taking an antidepressant if I don't need it for depression?
Answers - Charles Loprinzi Of interest, Effexor (chemical name: venlafaxine) was the first of the antidepressants reported to be effective for treating hot flashes. Relatively low doses of the drug (oftentimes much lower than needed for depression) are effective. Also, the effect of this drug on hot flashes is much faster (days to a week), than the antidepressant effects of this type of medication (weeks to a month or so). I know I haven't addressed your question yet! As far as the long term side effects, I'm not aware of there being any long term side effects of using these drugs for hot flashes. I would not expect any more side effects of these drugs when used for hot flashes than when used for depression. I will say that some women do have symptoms when they stop these drugs, especially when they stop them rather abruptly. These symptoms include agitation and feeling uneasy. Therefore, weaning off these drugs slowly is recommended.

Editor's Note: If you are taking tamoxifen, it's important to know that certain antidepressants can interfere with the body’s ability to convert tamoxifen into its active form. These include Paxil (chemical name: paroxetine), Prozac (chemical name: fluoxetine), Zoloft (chemical name: sertraline), and others. Please visit the Tamoxifen section for more information.

On Wednesday, August 20, 2008, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Managing Menopausal Symptoms. Charles Loprinzi, M.D. and Mindy Goldman, M.D. answered your questions about how you can manage menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and more.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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