By Naomi Carr

Last updated: 27 April 2024 & medically reviewed by Morgan Blair

Cymbalta is a brand name for the antidepressant medication duloxetine, which is prescribed to treat several mental and physical health conditions. When discontinuing Cymbalta (duloxetine), it is common for withdrawal symptoms to occur, so it is advised to gradually taper off this medication over a period of several weeks or months. 

Cymbalta Withdrawal Symptoms

Does Cymbalta cause withdrawal symptoms?

It is common for individuals to experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping an antidepressant medication, such as Cymbalta (duloxetine). The risk of withdrawal symptoms occurring is increased if the medication is stopped abruptly, so gradual dose reduction is recommended.[1]

The risk and severity of withdrawal symptoms are often related to the half-life of the medication. The half-life refers to how long it takes for the medication to be excreted from the body. Medications with a shorter half-life tend to be more likely to cause withdrawal symptoms, as the effects of the medication stop in a shorter time.[2]

Cymbalta (duloxetine) has a short half-life of 12 hours, meaning that half of the medication is excreted in 12 hours and almost all of the medication has left the body in 2-3 days. Because of this, it is likely to cause withdrawal symptoms, particularly with abrupt stoppage or rapid dosage reduction.[3]

Cymbalta (duloxetine) works by impacting the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are responsible for several functions within the brain and body. With prolonged use, the function of these neurotransmitters is altered significantly. As such, when the medication is stopped, the body must adjust to the lack of the medication, which can cause several physical and emotional side effects.[1][2]

Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms

When stopping antidepressant medication, it is common to experience some withdrawal symptoms, especially if the medication is stopped suddenly. Typically, these symptoms will be mild and will resolve within two to three weeks.

Common Cymbalta (duloxetine) withdrawal symptoms include: [1][4][5][6]

  • Stomach pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea 

  • Headaches

  • Changes in appetite

  • Dizziness

  • Flu-like symptoms

  • Electric shock sensations in the brain and body

  • Sweating

  • Shaking 

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Heart palpitations

  • Irritability

  • Anxiety

  • Low mood

  • Tearfulness 

  • Restlessness

  • Insomnia

  • Vivid dreams or nightmares

In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can be more severe or long-lasting. When stopping Cymbalta (duloxetine), if withdrawal symptoms occur that severely impact daily functioning or last longer than a month, contact the prescribing doctor for advice.

Rare or severe Cymbalta (duloxetine) withdrawal symptoms can include: [7][8][9]

  • Severe anxiety

  • Severely depressed mood

  • Extreme mood changes

  • New or worsening suicidal ideation

  • Aggression

  • Mania 

  • Persistent or severe pain or headaches

  • Dizziness that leads to falls or fainting

  • Seizures

  • Persistent vomiting or diarrhea

Cymbalta withdrawal timeline

When stopping Cymbalta (duloxetine), it is common for withdrawal symptoms to begin within 1-4 days. If the medication is reduced gradually, it may take longer for withdrawal symptoms to emerge, if at all.[5]

Withdrawal symptoms, such as flu-like symptoms, shaking, nausea, and dizziness, are likely to be at their most severe within the first two weeks. After this, these symptoms are likely to be alleviated, leaving no residual withdrawal symptoms.[4]

However, for some people, withdrawal symptoms do not improve after two to three weeks and may continue for several months or even years. It is not known why some people experience very severe and persistent withdrawal symptoms, although it may be linked to the treatment duration and dosage.[8][10]

Cymbalta cessation timeline

A safe reduction in the dosage of Cymbalta (duloxetine) will likely vary from person to person. Some people may experience severe withdrawal symptoms and require a very slow and minimal dosage reduction, while others could experience little or no withdrawal symptoms and manage larger and faster dose reductions.[10]

It is advised to taper off Cymbalta (duloxetine) gradually over several weeks at a minimum. Some people may need to continue this process over several months. Cessation timelines could involve a dosage reduction of between 5-50% every two to four weeks.[7]

Typically, a daily dose of Cymbalta (duloxetine) is around 60mg.[1] A cessation timeline for this dosage could include:

  • Week 1 and 2: 50% reduction of the original dose at 30mg per day

  • Week 3 and 4: 50% reduction of the previous dose at 15mg per day

  • Week 5 and 6: 50% reduction of the previous dose at 7.5mg per day

  • Week 7 and 8: Complete cessation if appropriate or a further 50% reduction in dosage 

If a 50% reduction of the initial dose causes severe withdrawal symptoms, making smaller and more gradual reductions may be necessary. For example, this could involve a 5mg reduction every four weeks, allowing time for withdrawal symptoms to reduce before the next dosage change.

The prescribing doctor will closely monitor for any physical or mental health changes throughout this process. It is important to report withdrawal symptoms to the prescribing doctor to ensure safe cessation with minimal risks.

Cymbalta detox treatment

When stopping Cymbalta (duloxetine), your doctor will ask about your physical and mental well-being to monitor for any withdrawal symptoms. If you experience severe withdrawal symptoms, they may choose to:[3][7]

  • Increase the dose of your medication 

  • Pause cessation or wait longer before further reducing your dose

  • Introduce a different medication with a longer half-life, such as fluoxetine

  • Continue with cessation and advise you with managing your symptoms

During this time, you may find it helpful to utilize various self-care techniques, which can help to reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms. This could include:[11]

  • Planning: It can be helpful to learn more about the medication and potential withdrawal symptoms that you may experience. This can make it easier to plan for the cessation process, reduce concerns about symptoms that may occur, and provide information to loved ones so that they can provide appropriate support. 

  • Healthy lifestyle choices: Adopting healthy habits can help to improve mental and physical well-being and reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms. This can include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and getting plenty of sleep.

  • Talking to others: Utilizing a support system can help to manage emotional distress that may occur as a result of withdrawal symptoms or underlying mental health conditions. This could include speaking with friends and family, seeking professional help, or attending a support group.

  • Calming activities: Utilizing calming and relaxation activities can help to reduce the physical and emotional impact of withdrawal symptoms. This could include breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, reading, walking, and listening to music.