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Steven Olsen
Steven Olsen, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  More than twenty years of expertise in counseling, psychological diagnosis and education
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My Daughter is really suffering with "brain zaps," a side effect

Resolved Question:

My Daughter is really suffering with "brain zaps," a side effect of trying to wean herself off of Effexor.

She is absolutely miserable. I've done a little research -- apparently the symptoms are very disturbing and make it difficult for people to lead a normal life. She has started to take magnesium malate, which some people claim helps minimize the symptoms. So far, no improvement.

If this is the right treatment, or what she should do? What can she do to ameliorate her symptoms? How much magnesium malate should she take (she just started yesterday, but is trying to take one with each meal). Anything else she can do?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Steven Olsen replied 4 years ago.

Very good question: These symptoms are unfortunately very common, even though a great deal of pharmaceutical research minimizes or outright denies the existence of these very bothersome and distressing feelings.


Most research indicates that several things need to occur to minimize these symptoms. One is that individuals who get these "zaps" need to be tapered extremely gradually off his/her antidepressant. In a number of cases, the taper was 6 weeks or more, and very gradual.


Secondly, magnesium glycinate (not malate) is recommended for nutritional treatment of the "zaps". 100mg daily is the typical dose but you must check with her doctor first. Malate works with motor functions and glycinate seems to increase magnesium levels faster than malate and is easier on your body. (Many forms of magnesium have nasty gastrointestinal side effects, and magnesium glycinate is the least harsh in this area.) www.kirkmanlabs is a good source of this supplement.


Tryptophan is also used and is one of a number (20) of standard amino acids in the body. Tryptophan cannot be created by the body and must be included in our diets:egg whites, especially dried are a very good source.


Lastly Omega 3 fatty acid, about 1000mg per day is believed to mitigate these withdrawal symptoms. Again, as this supplement has blood thinning properties a doctor who knows your daughter personally should give approval first.


Take heart. These symptoms, though distressing, usually respond to this pattern and as long as the tapper is very slow and steady, the symptoms can be avoided or minimized. Steven

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