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Cymbalta Addiction & Abuse

Cymbalta can produce physiological changes in the brain’s neurochemistry, making it potentially addictive. The causes of Cymbalta addiction are highly variable, but they usually involve psychological symptoms like stress and anxiety combined with environmental triggers.

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Symptoms of a Cymbalta addiction primarily include persistent abuse of the medication, which can lead to a range of physical effects on the body. Treatment options generally include medical detox, inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab, and peer support groups. 

What Is Cymbalta?

Cymbalta is the brand name for the drug duloxetine. It is used to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

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This drug is a second-generation medication designed predominantly for the treatment of depression and anxiety. It differs from first-generation medications in regard to the neurochemicals in the brain that are targeted upon consumption. 

Cymbalta is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), which works by preventing the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine in the synapses of nerve cells in the brain. This results in more freely available serotonin and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are involved in the regulation of mood and affect. 

This medication is commonly used for individuals who have been taking first-generation antidepressants for an extended period of time but tolerance has significantly reduced the clinical efficacy of these medications. As a result, doctors may recommend Cymbalta as an alternative.

What Is It Used For?

Cymbalta is predominantly used to treat depression and anxiety, and it is usually prescribed to individuals who do not respond to typical selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). For example, people who take typical SSRIs for extended periods of time may eventually need to taper off those medications and switch to an SNRI due to tolerance. 

Cymbalta has also been shown to be clinically effective for the treatment of the following:

  • Nerve pain in patient with diabetes
  • Insomnia and restlessness
  • Chronic fatigue

What Are the Causes of Cymbalta Addiction?

Cymbalta can be habit-forming for some people. An addition to Cymbalta is often linked to dependence, which results from the alterations in the brain’s neurochemistry and the effort the brain makes to achieve homeostasis due to the drug’s presence. Over time, tolerance to the drug occurs, and more is needed to achieve a clinical effect. This can result in abuse and, subsequently, addiction. 

From a psychological and behavioral standpoint, Cymbalta addiction usually occurs due to symptoms of severe anxiety or depression. Users may abuse the drug in order to achieve a greater effect. An addiction forms when individuals feel compelled to use Cymbalta and can no longer function optimally without its presence. 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Cymbalta Addiction?

The signs of Cymbalta abuse differ from Cymbalta addiction. Signs of abuse refer to the physical side effects that result from an excessive consumption of the drug. They can include the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive respiration
  • Weight loss

Signs of addiction relate to the observable behaviors of an individual who has developed a Cymbalta dependence and habit. These signs can include the following:

  • Consistently consuming more Cymbalta than prescribed or taking the medication more frequently than recommended on the prescription label
  • Excessive anxiety when not taking the drug
  • Preoccupation with locating Cymbalta
  • Asking for, stealing, or purchasing another individual’s Cymbalta
  • Severe impairment in regular daily functioning resulting from Cymbalta use, such as missing time from work or experience relationship difficulties
  • Financial issues resulting from Cymbalta use
  • Using Cymbalta in combination with other substances of abuse, like alcohol or opioids

How Does Cymbalta Impact the Mind & Body?

Cymbalta works by preventing the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine into the synapses of nerve cells in the brain, which results in an increase in their activity. These neurochemicals play significant roles in the regulation of mood and affect. An increase in their activity over an extended period of time can produce a calming effect and also help to stabilize mood if you experience anxiety or depression due to a biological imbalance in these chemicals. 

These effects can cause you to experience a state of euphoria or happiness, excitement, calmness, and a general improvement in your sense of psychosocial well-being. 

Increasing the activity of these neurochemicals can also affect the body, leading to feelings of restlessness and excitement, as well as headaches and frequent muscle cramps. Abuse of the medication can lead to vomiting, nausea, and fatigue. 

Withdrawal Symptoms 

Doctors usually recommend tapering off Cymbalta. 

Withdrawal occurs when Cymbalta is absent following abuse, overdose, or a prolonged addiction to the medication. Symptoms of Cymbalta withdrawal may include the following:

  • Extreme headaches
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy perspiration
  • Fatigue
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Seizures

Based on these symptoms, doctors usually recommend tapering off Cymbalta. 

Can You Overdose on Cymbalta?

Yes, you can overdose on Cymbalta. An overdose is the consumption of an excessive amount of a medication to the point where the body cannot metabolize the active ingredients sufficiently quickly or effectively and toxification occurs. 

An overdose can be harmful, but overdose on duloxetine is not generally life-threatening if Cymbalta is taken alone. The risk of an overdose increases if you are taking other drugs or medications, such as alcohol and antipsychotics. 

Overdose Symptoms

If you believe you or someone you know has overdosed on Cymbalta, seek immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a duloxetine overdose include the following:

  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Heavy drowsiness or fatigue
  • Agitation and excitability
  • Inability to control excitement or talking
  • Difficult controlling muscle reflexes
  • Loss of ability to control the bladder
  • Muscle spasms and jerking of the limbs

Treatment Options for Cymbalta Addiction

Like all forms of addiction treatment, Cymbalta addiction treatment should be tailored to the needs of each individual. There is no one-size-fits-all in addiction treatment. 

Here are some of the possible paths in duloxetine addiction treatment:

  • Detox: The body processes out Cymbalta and other substances of abuse in a safe, supportive environment. For Cymbalta, the supervising physician may recommend a tapered approach to withdrawal in which the dosage of the medication is slowly reduced over a period of weeks. 
  • Inpatient treatment: This is generally best for severe cases of addiction. For Cymbalta addiction, it might be recommended if the client has co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety that co-occurs with substance abuse. It might also be the right choice if someone has been abusing multiple substances. 
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient care allows you to receive psychosocial and medical care in your community environment. You will likely receive individual therapy, group therapy, and support in maintaining a schedule and routine that is conducive to a life of sobriety. 
  • Ongoing support group participation: Most people will need ongoing support to maintain a life of sobriety. A range of in-person and online support groups exist to help you continue to stay sober and also support others in their paths to recovery. Peer support groups come in many forms, but the 12-step model practiced by Narcotics Anonymous is among the most popular.
Profile image for Dr. Alison Tarlow
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Alison Tarlow

Dr. Alison Tarlow is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the States of Florida and Pennsylvania, and a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP). She has been a practicing psychologist for over 15 years. Sh... Read More

Updated January 19, 2024
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