Cymbalta (generic name duloxetine) is a prescription medication typically used to treat depression and some types of chronic pain. It’s also a substance people abuse for its stimulant qualities.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Cymbalta to treat the following conditions:
- Major depressive disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Diabetic nerve pain
- Chronic musculoskeletal pain
People typically take Cymbalta one or two times per day in doses ranging from 20 to 120 mg. Side effects can strike at these modest dose ranges, but people who abuse Cymbalta may take much more every day. They could face catastrophic health problems, and they could get sick if they try to quit.
Since people who abuse Cymbalta are often looking for a stimulant response, unusual bursts of energy could indicate abuse or addiction. Frequent requests for refills and claims of “lost” prescriptions could be clues too.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Cymbalta Abuse
Plenty of people take Cymbalta for real illnesses, and they never abuse their prescriptions. But some people do manipulate their doses and otherwise abuse their therapies to get high.
Experts say people with a history of drug abuse are more likely to abuse Cymbalta, and most do so for the stimulating sensation the drug delivers.
Psychotherapeutic drugs like Cymbalta are second only to marijuana in terms of past-year abuse and dependence. If someone you love is abusing this drug, you’re not alone.
Common signs of Cymbalta abuse include the following:
- Erratic behavior
- Skipped medical appointments
- Demands for refills or dose increases
- Lack of concern about side effects
- Low functioning
Someone abusing Cymbalta may seem energetic and peppy one moment, and low and sad the next. Some may hide their abuse, while others might talk readily about how and why they abuse drugs.
Why Is Cymbalta Dangerous?
While Cymbalta is FDA approved, it’s not benign. The medication alters chemical levels in the brain and body, and those adjustments could impact your loved one’s ability to think clearly and function properly.
Very high doses of Cymbalta can also lead to an overdose. As your loved one’s abuse grows, the person may take more and more Cymbalta to get the same effect. At some point, the person may take so much that they put their life at risk.
Understand Cymbalta’s Impact
Researchers have studied Cymbalta for years, and they’re aware of how the drug works and how it could harm you. People taking this drug could have physical or mental issues. Some have both.
Physical Side Effects
Cymbalta use has been connected to a variety of physical side effects, including these:
- Gastrointestinal problems: Nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, and anorexia could take hold. The person could lose a lot of weight due to these problems.
- Urological or sexual problems: Increased urination, decreased sex drive, and orgasm problems are linked to Cymbalta.
- Muscle issues: Cramping, pain, or shaking could all be caused by Cymbalta.
- Energy issues: Some people feel tired or drowsy while on Cymbalta, and others feel the opposite.
Side effects like these could take hold in anyone taking Cymbalta. But the more your loved one takes, the more significant the problems might be.
Mental Health Side Effects
Medications like Cymbalta are linked to suicidal thoughts, which worsen with dose increases. The person you love may seem:
- Unable to sleep
Without treatment, someone like this could harm themselves or someone else.
Signs of Cymbalta Addiction
Many people abuse Cymbalta medications without developing an addiction. A physical dependence on the medication, paired with curiosity, could lead someone to take too much on occasion and then quit.
A person with an addiction is different. Someone like this abuses medication compulsively.
Signs of addiction include the following:
- Taking larger doses than doctors recommend
- Trying to quit and being unable to do so
- Spending a lot of time using Cymbalta or recovering from a binge
- Craving the drug
- Using the drug instead of fulfilling obligations at work, home, or school
- Continued use despite problems
- Using the drug in dangerous situations (such as while driving)
Understand Cymbalta Withdrawal
Cymbalta is powerful, and the brain changes it causes can be persistent. Quitting the medication abruptly could be dangerous.
Common signs of Cymbalta withdrawal include the following:
- Numb or tingling hands and feet
Someone who tries to quit without help may relapse to drugs to feel better. Treatment may help. In a treatment program, doctors taper the dose slowly to allow the brain to heal.
What to Do if Someone Is Overdosing
Taking too much Cymbalta can lead to serotonin syndrome, in which the body is overwhelmed with a key neurotransmitter. The heart races, the person sweats, and seizures may develop.
Experts say these issues can be treated, and many people recover. But some need around-the-clock care and monitoring in a hospital.
If you think someone has overdosed on Cymbalta, call 911. Follow the operator’s instructions carefully, and stay with the person until help arrives.
Getting Help for Cymbalta Addiction
It’s hard to stop taking a powerful drug like Cymbalta, especially when you feel sick when you quit. Treatment can help.
Teams can help taper the Cymbalta dose, allowing the brain to heal. Once this detoxification stage is complete, counseling can help people understand why they started taking drugs and what they can do to support sobriety in the future. Treatment like this can help people to pull their lives back together.
Treatment programs often take months to complete, and many people stay connected with support groups for the rest of life. With care like this, you can stop abusing Cymbalta and get healthy again.
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Prevention, Diagnosis, and Management of Serotonin Syndrome. (2010). American Family Physician.