Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. All statements are merely the opinion of the writer(s). We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to prescription medication.
Cymbalta is a prescription medication that's FDA-approved to treat conditions related to depression, anxiety and chronic pain. The generic version of the drug is called duloxetine, and we will use these terms interchangeably throughout this article as they refer to the same active drug ingredient.
Is Cymbalta proven effective in research studies for all of the conditions it's prescribed to treat? Does it have any dangerous side effects? Does the drug cause weight gain? And how do real users respond to this drug?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review medical research on Cymbalta, document its side effects and share real user reviews.
Does Cymbalta Work?
Cymbalta works primarily by increasing circulating levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Increased levels of these neurotransmitters can lead to improved mental health in some patients, and can reduce the sensation of pain. The drug has been studied extensively for all of the conditions that it's approved to treat.
A research review of Cymbalta as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, which was published in the Adis Drugs journal, found that the drug was more effective for reducing anxiety than placebo. The review analyzed four different placebo-controlled studies on Cymbalta for improving mental health disorders.
A 2006 medical review analyzed data on Cymbalta and depression. The researchers found the drug to be effective for treating major depressive disorder (MDD), which is the most severe form of depression.
Another research review assessed Cymbalta’s efficacy for chronic pain management. In all three clinical trials analyzed, Cymbalta was more effective than placebo for reducing pain. It was shown to be effective for reducing symptoms of fibromyalgia as well.
We will conclude from the available research that Cymbalta is effective for treating anxiety, depression and chronic pain.
Does Cymbalta Cause Side Effects?
Cymbalta does cause side effects in some patients.
The "black box" warning above from the drug's FDA label details a risk of increased suicidal thinking and behavior for adolescents and young adults who use pharmaceutical antidepressants. It may be beneficial for patients in one of these groups to speak with their doctor about different classes of drugs that are free of this risk.
A meta-study from 2011 reported on side effects of Cymbalta in depressive patients. Around 20% more Cymbalta patients experienced sexual side effects (such as decreased arousal) than those taking placebo, 17.1% of Cymbalta patients experienced nausea, and 1% of Cymbalta patients experienced increased blood pressure (but this was not found to be statistically significant),
One of the longer-term studies on Cymbalta for anxiety found that 11 out of 213 participants taking the medication suffered extremely severe side effects. That’s over 5%.
Here were the “serious adverse events” reported: acute alcoholic intoxication, alcohol dependency, anxiety, arrhythmia, cellulitis, cerebral hemorrhage resulting in death, depression, diverticulitis, mania, nephrolithiasis, two attempted suicides, one completed suicide, stress, and syncope.
These adverse events are quite severe, even if rare, and it would certainly be beneficial to speak with a doctor about these risks prior to using this drug in our opinion.
Real, Unsponsored Cymbalta Patient Review
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Cymbalta comes from a channel called "Botanical Queens." The creator shares her experience taking Cymbalta for anxiety after one week:
Does Cymbalta Cause Weight Gain?
Patients are often curious about whether Cymbalta causes weight gain, given that many pharmaceutical drugs (especially those related to mental health) seem to be associated with weight gain.
A meta-review published in The Primary Care Companion journal analyzed data from 10 clinical trials on Cymbalta to determine if it causes weight gain.
The researchers reported that Cymbalta caused an average weight gain of 2.43 pounds after one year of use.
While this may be concerning to some patients, this is a relatively moderate amount of weight gain, especially if the drug is having a positive effect. That being said, overweight or obese patients may wish to speak with their doctor about alternative medications that are not associated with weight gain in clinical research.
Should I Use The Generic Version of Cymbalta?
We typically recommend that patients speak with their doctor about the generic version of prescription drugs when one is available. Because both the generic and branded versions of a drug have the same active chemical compound, they should be equally effective.
An extensive meta-study published in the PLOS One journal analyzed data from over 3.5 million patients and confirmed that generic drugs are just as effective as their brand-name alternatives.
According to SingleCare, at the time of updating this article the average retail price of duloxetine (the generic version of Cymbalta is $235.95, while the average retail price of Cymbalta is $338.96.
Does Cymbalta Cause Withdrawals?
Cymbalta does appear to cause withdrawals in some patients. A 2005 study reported on the most commonly-experienced withdrawal symptoms after abrupt discontinuation of Cymbalta.
12.4% of patients experienced dizziness, 5.9% of patients experienced nausea and 5.3% of patients experienced headaches. The study authors documented that 65% of withdrawal symptoms subsided within 7 days.
The risk of withdrawal symptoms from Cymbalta is why it's so important for patients who want to stop using a drug to work with a doctor to set up a tapering schedule rather than quit altogether which can make the experience more uncomfortable and less likely to work.
A YouTube creator named Nick Borsellino published a video explaining Cymbalta withdrawal symptoms he personally experienced, even including suicidal ideation:
Do I Need To Avoid Certain Foods While On Cymbalta?
Patients are often curious about whether they need to restrict their diet while taking Cymbalta, given that many prescription medications have interactions with certain foods (especially grapefruit).
Cymbalta's FDA label does not reference any food interactions, so patients should be able to eat their normal diet while using this drug.
Given the association of Cymbalta use with modest weight gain, it may be beneficial for patients using the drug to focus on eating a healthier diet and cutting out processed foods to negate any weight gain effects, but there does not appear to be any specific food interactions that are risky while taking Cymbalta.
Our Mental Wellness Platform Recommendation
We recommend a platform called Brightside to patients dealing with mental health issues. It's an online therapy and medication platform that connects patients with licensed doctors and therapists from the comfort of their home.
A medical review published in the Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy journal found that online therapy was equally effective to in-person therapy for treating depression, anxiety and PTSD. Therapy may be a good first option for patients who want to avoid the side effects of medication to consider.
Brightside also can connect patients with licensed psychiatrists that can prescribe medication. Some patients choose only therapy, some choose only medication, and some choose both. The brand reports that 86% of members feel significantly better within 12 weeks of treatment.
Patients with and without health insurance can use Brightside. For many patients with health insurance, treatment is entirely covered by insurance.
The cost for medication without health insurance is capped at $95/month and the cost for therapy without health insurance is capped at $299/month.
Interested patients can check out Brightside at this link to the brand's website.
Cymbalta User Reviews
Cymbalta has been reviewed over 1,600 times on Drugs.com at the time of updating this article. This is a website that allows users of prescription medication to publish reviews of their experience.
Cymbalta currently has a rating of 6.3 out of 10 for treating depression, 6.4/10 for treating anxiety and 5.7/10 for treating chronic pain.
The top positive review of Cymbalta for depression comes from a user named "Singer" who gave the drug a 10/10 rating and claims it improved their quality of life:
"I have taken SSRIs off and on for over twenty years. This was the first time I had taken an SNRI and I feel better--I'm calmer, I think more clearly, and things that bothered me a lot seem much more manageable now. If your provider prescribes this medication, at least give it a try."
The top negative review of Cymbalta for depression is written by a user named "jules" who claims that the drug caused serious side effects:
"I took a 30mg Cymbalta capsule at 9am at 9.30am it was like someone threw a brick at my head then I started to get brain zaps. I thought it would wear off but I started to get cramps, became very thirsty, vomiting, became uncoordinated and then called an ambulance. My sodium level dropped to 118 and I got hyponatremia. they took me straight to emergency dept and gave me a brain scan and a salty drink. I stayed in the emergency ward for 4 days and they said never to have cymbalta again or I could have a stroke or worse."