Once Arthur Somers Roche said: “Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” Speaking medical language, excessive anxiety and worry is called generalized anxiety disorder or GAD; and, certainly, modern medical science offers rather a wide range of medications to treat anxiety and control that “thin stream of fear” preventing it from transforming into a wide channel.
Effexor and Effexor XR (extended-release) oral tablets belong to the so-called anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medications, indicated for use in treating generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and major depressive disorder.
It is true to say that for the time being there are many pills to choose from: the most popular and commonly prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs, such as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro and Paxil. The key fact about Effexor is that it is DIFFERENT. This medication does not belong to SSRIs class, but together with Cymbalta they form a new group of antidepressants and anxyolytic medicines, called SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors).
So, Effexor was first introduced by Wyeth Company in 1993. The working ingredient of Effexor is venlafaxine hydrochloride. Effexor is approved to be used in the treatment of the following disorders:
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder.
In order to understand the primary difference between Effexor and other popular antidepressants, like Prozac and the company, it is necessary to compare their mode of action. For easier understanding, let us use our imagination and draw the hyperbolized picture of a human brain and processes taking place there.
Let us say that there is a small place (let me call it “Braintown”), and there is a post office in that town with three postmen working there. Let me call them Serotonin, Norepinephrine and Dopamine (in real life these are the names of neurotransmitters responsible for mood changes in human brains). Similarly to the real life, the importance of our virtual postmen is difficult to overestimate – they are responsible for timely delivery of messages from one cell in the brain to another. This is how brain cells communicate with each other.
Sometimes postmen may go on strike and stop delivering all the messages properly. It is believed that the cause of mental disorders, including anxiety, is the strike of human neurotransmitters.
Usually, in real life in response to strikes the government sends out some negotiators to settle all the issues and make strikers go back to work. In our medical example, antidepressants work as negotiators, making neurotransmitters return to their normal activity with transmitting signals from one nerve cell to another.
Attention! It is here, where the key difference between Effexor and other antidepressants locates. While other medications “negotiate” only with Serotonin without affecting other “postmen”, Effexor works with Serotonin and Norepinephrine and even tries to calm Dopamine down. Unlike common antidepressants, Effexor works to return ALL of them to their normal activities.
So, this is the key benefit of Effexor – it works by inhibiting the ability of nerve endings in the brain to re-absorb serotonin, norepinephrine, and to a lesser extent, dopamine. That is why, Effexor may help those patients, who did not achieve desired results in treating their depression or anxiety with other types of antidepressants.
However, there is also a significant disadvantage of Effexor – while it is “stronger” than other antidepressants, it may also cause “stronger” side effects. Basically, it is because of potential side effects that Effexor is not used as a first line treatment for anxiety and depression. Nevertheless, Effexor remains among the six most commonly prescribed antidepressants in the USA.
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