Paxil Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, and Treatment

Paxil is the brand name for the medication paroxetine, a commonly used antidepressant that is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).[1] It is non-narcotic and considered non-addictive, however, people who take the drug for depression often experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication. Instead of referring to these symptoms as withdrawal syndrome, the medical community refers to them as “discontinuation syndrome.”

While stopping Paxil after long use can cause symptoms of withdrawal, doctors often prescribe SSRIs like Paxil to people who are detoxing from drugs and alcohol if they have a major depressive disorder. After all, depression and other mental health conditions are extremely common among people struggling with substance use disorder.

Unfortunately, enduring the Paxil (paroxetine) withdrawal timeline can be difficult, especially without medical help. In fact, Paxil is known to be one of the most difficult antidepressants to detox from. Knowing what to expect can help individuals taking the medication make an informed decision about their care.

Symptoms of Paxil (Paroxetine) Withdrawal

Paxil works by inhibiting the absorption of serotonin in the brain which increases the ability of serotonin to reduce symptoms of depression and increase mood. The medication is very effective, but over time, it may stop working. Although stopping Paxil is much easier than getting clean from narcotics or alcohol, it can still be challenging.

Common symptoms of paroxetine withdrawal include:[1]

  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Prickling sensations
  • Confusion
  • Vivid dreams
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Flu-like symptoms

Another well-known symptom of withdrawal from SSRIs is an electric shock-like sensation in the brain. This sensation is known as “brain zaps.” Brain zaps can be scary, uncomfortable, and shocking, but they are not life-threatening.

How Long Does Paxil Withdrawal Last?

The Paxil withdrawal timeline can vary from one person to the next because of a variety of influential factors, including:

  • Length of SSRI use
  • Dose of the medication taken
  • Age, weight, and gender
  • Co-ocurring mental health conditions

Sometimes, SSRI discontinuation syndrome can last for up to 4-6 weeks.[2] For most people, symptoms begin in the first 24-48 hours, peak after four days, and subside completely after 2-3 weeks.

Paxil Withdrawal Timeline

While the exact duration of withdrawal varies, a general timeline of symptoms is:

24 to 48 hours after the last dose

Symptoms of withdrawal usually begin one to two days after taking the last dose. Early symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, chills, nausea, and lethargy.

4 to 6 days after the last dose

Between days four and six symptoms will peak. Individuals can expect vomiting, headaches, vertigo, brain zaps, and confusion. Some people may experience suicidal ideation. These symptoms can be extremely severe and uncomfortable.

1 to 3 weeks after the last dose

After seven days, symptoms will gradually begin to fade. After 2-3 weeks, they subside completely in most people. However, it can take up to 1-3 months for the brain to adjust completely to functioning without Paxil.

How to Stop Taking Paxil (Paroxetine) Safely

The safest and easiest way to detox from Paxil is to work with the doctor who prescribes the medication. In most cases, SSRIs need to be slowly decreased–not stopped all at once.[2] Most doctors lower their patients’ doses by small increments each week. This is a method called tapering that involves gradually reducing the dose to eliminate the risk of severe withdrawal symptoms.

If someone has been taking a high dose of Paxil, it can take up to six months to taper off completely. However, lower doses can be tapered down in just 2-3 weeks. Regardless, it’s important to follow the dosing instructions provided by the prescribing physician.

Managing Symptoms of SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome at Home

Self-care tips can also help people cope with the symptoms of Paxil withdrawal.

  • Have a support group and tell them about discontinuing antidepressants
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet
  • Get plenty of sleep and stick to a regular sleep schedule
  • Get adequate exercise
  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated

If suicidal ideations occur, individuals should seek professional help or tell their doctor right away. Suicidal ideations are most common in people under the age of 25.

Find Help For Yoursel for a Loved One

Quitting habit-forming substances of any kind can lead to symptoms of withdrawal. If you or a loved one are concerned about having withdrawal symptoms when quitting a prescription medication, be sure to speak with your prescribing doctor about your options.

If you are struggling with substance use disorder, your doctor may suggest you find an outpatient drug and alcohol rehab center near you–and that’s where we come in. At Addiction Intervention, our team of highly qualified addiction specialists are available to listen to your concerns, educate you about the treatment process, verify your insurance, and help you choose the right recovery center for you.

Call now to speak with a dedicated admissions coordinator.



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