Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/14/2021
Venlafaxine, commonly sold under the brand names Effexor® and Effexor XR®, is an antidepressant that’s used to treat depression and several anxiety disorders.
Effexor and Effexor XR belong to a class of medications called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs. Like other antidepressants, it works by increasing the levels of certain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, in your brain.
Effexor and Effexor XR come in tablet and capsule form and are prescribed in several different dosages, ranging from 37.5mg to 225mg per day.
If you’re prescribed Effexor or its extended release version, Effexor Xr, it’s important to follow any instructions provided by your healthcare provider and use your medication as directed.
Below, we’ve explained what Effexor is and how it works within your body.
We’ve also listed the typical dosages of Effexor, Effexor XR and generic venlafaxine for depression, generalized anxiety disorder and other conditions.
Finally, we’ve listed the most common side effects you should be aware of before using Effexor, Effexor XR or generic venlafaxine.
Effexor is a common brand name for the medication venlafaxine, an antidepressant that’s part of a class of medications called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs.
The FDA has approved Effexor and Effexor XR as medications for major depressive disorder (MDD, or simply depression), generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder.
Some healthcare providers may also prescribe Effexor or Effexor XR to treat hot flashes, migraines, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and several forms of pain.
As an SNRI, both Effexor and Effexor XR work by increasing the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain.
These chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, are responsible for regulating certain aspects of your mood, thoughts and behavior.
For example, serotonin is involved in regulating feelings of happiness and anxiety. It also helps to control your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Norepinephrine plays a role in your sleep-wake cycle. It’s also responsible for helping you to respond to stress, managing your mood and allowing you to concentrate on specific tasks.
Low levels of these neurotransmitters, specifically serotonin, are associated with a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Effexor is prescribed to treat several mental health conditions. It’s available as an oral capsule and as an oral tablet. In tablet form, it’s available in immediate-release and extended-release (Effexor XR) forms.
As a treatment for depression, Effexor is typically prescribed at a starting daily dose of 37.5mg to 75mg per day. Your healthcare provider may increase this to 75mg per day, or to a maximum dose of 225mg per day.
Some clinical trials show that people with severe depression may respond to higher doses of the immediate-release version of Effexor.
The extended-release capsules of Effexor, Effexor XR, should be taken one time per day. If you’re prescribed the immediate-release version of Effexor, you may need to take your medication in two or three divided doses.
Make sure to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider and use Effexor and/or Effexor XR only as directed.
As a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, Effexor XR and extended-release venlafaxine are typically prescribed at a starting daily dose of 75mg per day, taken in a single dose.
In certain cases, your healthcare provider may recommend starting treatment at 37.5 per day, then increasing your dosage after four to seven days.
For generalized anxiety disorder, the maximum dosage of Effexor XR and generic venlafaxine is 225mg per day.
As a treatment for social anxiety disorder, Effexor XR and generic extended-release venlafaxine are prescribed at a dose of 75mg per day, taken in a single dose.
As a treatment for panic disorder, Effexor XR and extended-release venlafaxine are prescribed at a starting dose of 37.5mg per day. Dose increases to 75mg per day following seven days of treatment are also possible
Dose increases may also be necessary if Effexor XR or generic venlafaxine isn’t effective at controlling the symptoms of panic disorder. Currently, the maximum dosage of Effexor XR used for panic disorder is 225mg.
Effexor and Effexor XR are widely-used medications that are safe and effective for most people. However, as with other antidepressants, they can cause adverse effects.
Common side effects of Effexor, Effexor XR and generic venlafaxine include:
Ejaculation problems (slow ejaculation and/or difficulty ejaculating)
Reduced level of interest in sex
You may experience these side effects shortly after starting treatment with Effexor. Sometimes it might also come with sexual side effects. Make sure to inform your healthcare provider if you have side effects that are severe or persistent.
You may also experience allergic reactions while using Effexor or Effexor XR. Allergic reactions to this medication include hives and rashes, shortness of breath or any other typical reaction symptoms. If you experience an allergic reaction while using Effexor or Effexor XR, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
Although uncommon, Effexor may cause other side effects and health issues, including elevated blood pressure, angle closure glaucoma, activation of mania/hypomania,
and an elevated risk of abnormal bleeding, which means you should speak to your healthcare provider if you have an underlying medical condition that may be worsened by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, etc.
Like other antidepressant drugs, Effexor and generic venlafaxine may interact with other medications, including other antidepressants.
When used with other serotonin drugs, venlafaxine can cause a dangerous, potentially life-threatening reaction called serotonin syndrome.
Because of the potential risk of serotonin syndrome while using Effexor or Effexor XR, it’s extremely important to be open and transparent with your healthcare provider about what kinds of medications you currently use or have recently used.
Our guide to antidepressant side effects goes into more detail about potential side effects and interactions that can occur with Effexor and similar medications used in treating depressed patients.
Effexor is an easy, convenient medication to use. To get the best results from Effexor or generic venlafaxine, make sure to:
Use your medication as directed. Your healthcare provider will inform you about how much Effexor or generic venlafaxine to take daily. Make sure to follow their instructions and use your medication at the prescribed dosage.
Take Effexor two or three times per day, with food. The immediate-release version of Effexor should be taken two or three times each day. Take your medication with food at the times suggested by your healthcare provider.
Take Effexor XR one time per day. The extended-release capsules (XR) of Effexor only need to be taken one time per day. This form of Effexor can be taken in the morning or evening with food.
Store Effexor properly. Effexor should be stored in a room temperature space, out of reach of children. Do not store this medication in a bathroom or other overly damp or warm environment.
Wait six to eight weeks of treatment before assessing your results. It may take six to eight weeks before you experience any changes after you start treatment with Effexor. It’s important to continue using your medication, even if the effects aren’t immediately noticeable. You can find more information in our guide to how long it takes Effexor to work.
If you experience side effects, inform your healthcare provider. If you get severe or persistent side effects from Effexor, your healthcare provider may make dosage adjustments or prescribe a different medication.
Do not adjust your dosage or suddenly stop taking Effexor. Like many other antidepressants, Effexor can cause withdrawal symptoms if it’s stopped abruptly. Do not make dosage adjustments or stop taking Effexor without first talking to your healthcare provider.
Effexor is one of a few common prescription drugs that are used to treat depression, generalized anxiety disorder(GAD) and several other mental health conditions.
Effexor and generic venlafaxine are generally prescribed at a dosage of 37.5 to 225mg per day, although this can vary depending on the specific condition for which this medication is used.
If you’re prescribed Effexor or generic venlafaxine, make sure to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider and use your medication as directed.
You can learn more about Effexor and other medications used in mental health treatment in our full list of antidepressants.