Gambling on the Side Effects of Antidepressants: Does Pfizer Play Dice?

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September 24, 2012 | 38 Comments


  1. These sound more like cases of doctor neglect to me. In the case of the man on Effexor for 3 years, what about follow ups with the psychologist or GP to determine progress etc?

    I believe it’s up to the prescribing physician to advise you of adverse effects and then monitor you. A leaflet inside a drug packet is not going to list all side effects in detail and I feel to expect that is naive.

    I also believe it’s up to the patient to become familiar with any drug they start taking, be it through checking with prescribing physician and/or doing own research.

    Personally I wouldn’t accept a prescription for anti-depressants from a GP or a psychologist. Psychiatrists are the ones who know meds, I thought.

    Sorry, however some of this article looks a bit like no one taking responsibility for their part. Yes drug companies could do better, but the information is out there and mostly readily accessible.

    I have found that the supposedly “rare” side effects are in fact never that rare. Consumer beware.

  2. The ‘perfect drug’ is an oxymoron. There is no such thing, never will be and never has been.
    We all wish we had never had sight of such.

  3. Here’s an interesting screwup — while on Effexor ten years ago I was given a “sleep study” to see why I was tired all the time in spite of getting adequate sleep and wonder-drug. I emerged with a diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome and a prescription for Requip (ropinirole) to control it. This is a straight-up dopamine agonist developed for people with Parkinson’s disease.

    Luckily I could not tolerate the stuff; it made my sinuses swell up so bad I had to stay up all night making sure I could breathe. Go figure. However, there must have been a lot of people prescribed both these drugs together. I recall several folks on a NAMI sponsored bulletin board shared my experience. “Jumping legs” and other motor twitches at night were common on Effexor, and were getting mis-diagnosed as the famous RLS. I shudder to think what the combined effect of these two drugs must have triggered in some people …

    I recently heard of very similar reckless behavior being caused by Cymbalta. It is supposed to have a “weak” effect on dopamine, but some of these pain doctors are playing around with plus-sized doses of it. Any comments?

  4. SSRI/SNRI therapy is remarkable for its capacity to “normalise” extreme behaviours or even threats to one’s life.
    Hillier expresses this phenomenon very well in describing his reaction to the sure and certain knowledge he was about to lose his life’s savings. He knew he should be panicking, knew that he had made a gross error of judgement…but Effexor had not only sparked the gambling, but was doing what it does so well, flattening his emotional and cognitive reactions.
    I was once confronted with a partner brandishing a knife, intent on killing me. I was trapped in a back room of a two storey building. The only way out was blocked. So I called out the window to a neighbour, who ran to the front door. His knocking distracted my partner and I slipped past him and out the back door. I did not panic, did not cry – any normal response was completely blunted.
    I became very “practical” after that incident. I knew I would need to sleep eventually, so every night for years I hid the kitchen knifes, carving forks – anything that could be used as a weapon – down the back of sofas and chairs and under the loose edges of carpets. Then I pulled a heavy chest of drawers across my bedroom door and slept like a baby.
    Later, I arrived at a metaphor for my SSRI/SNRI-induced calm in the face of danger. Imagine standing on a railway track with a locomotive bearing down on you at speed. A “normal” person would leap to safety. I would have lay down on the track and waited for it to pass over me.

  5. Who do I need to talk to if I’d like to tell my story of losing everything I had saved , then getting credit cards which was something I never wanted to do cause I knew how long it took to pay them off, maxing all of them out with gambling which was around 60,000 cause my credit was perfect. Then getting a loan to pay them off with the help of my family. But no one told me to rip up the cards so I maxed them out again. All on Internet slots. I did not care and knew I wasn’t going to ever win cause they where fixed. But still did it???? It’s ruined a lot of my life. I still make credit card payments. I have one at 20,000 that hasn’t gone done forever. But it all stopped when I stopped anti depressants. Still never put two and two together. Everybody just thought I had a real bad problem. I had never had a problem before. I even started saving for retirement when I turned 18. I was very very smart with my spending / saving before it all went to s?$!. Then another doctor a couple years later told me that I’m depressed and started me back on anti depressants and I swear to god it wasn’t a week or two and I started trying to gamble online. I didn’t just try , I did for about a week and then I knew where it all came from the anti depressants. True story!! This is the first time I thought I’d Google gambling and anti depressants and came across stories of others. And I was looking like crazy for a place to tell someone it’s happened to me. It’s not right. It’s been 5 years prob of me paying credit cards off and luckily I still have my wonderful wife and daughter. I can’t give them the life they deserve cause of this. My wife is a amazing and caring lady that deserves a lot more than I’ve been able to provide cause of 1,000 a month credit card bills. I don’t want this to happen to anybody else. I’m actually tearing up as I write this. That’s the amount of stress I’ve lived with for far too long. Just tell me what I can do so no one else has to deal with it. I use to be proud of myself. I lost contact with all my friends and it’s changed my life. It’s hard to go to work everyday knowing you have no savings and won’t make enough to buy food for your family. My wife pays for everything.

    • I believe you, David. Something similar happened to me. Ive NEVER had interest in gambling. I thought it was the stupidest thing on earth. I grew up in a casino town, even worked in them. But I started taking a new medicine and it was like a switch was flipped in my brain. I don’t want to type out my entire story but it is similar to how things happened to you. I can tell you that since I have stopped taking the medicine, I went on a lottery binge ONE TIME. AND I WAS SO DISINTERESTED THAT HALF OF THE SCRATCH-OFF TICKETS ARE STILL UNSCRATCHED IN MY GLOVEBOX! For all I know, there’s a million bucks on one of them. (Likely not) But I don’t even care. While I was in the middle of my last binge, I simply could not figure out what I found so appealing about it in the first place. I have no desire to play he lottery anymore, and its not because I kept losing money or learned my lesson. It’s because Im not feeing the same “rush” I did when I was on the meds. Im sorry you lost so much money. I didn’t lose as much as you but I didn’t HAVE as much as you. I spent every dime had though. You are not alone in this. Ive read other stories like yours.

    • You are not alone. I read my own life in your comment and teared up reading it. I am grateful for what I have left, a caring husband, but the good retirement I saved and planned for, family, friends, career, good credit rating, all gone. I wish you the best!

    • David,

      I have two suggestions:

      1) Get a lawyer and file a lawsuit.
      2) If your Md suggests a drug, ask about the side effects. Then go online and look them up yourself.
      3) Don’t EVER take another psych drug again, especially anti-depressants.

  6. While I occasionally gambled with family members, it wasn’t until I was financially forced to take venlafaxine that I became obsessively pulled toward gambling and lost a lot of money, charged up credit cards and lost the trust of family members. Although I reported the problem immediately to my Internist and to several GA counselors and to a psychiatrist, I was referred to, NO ONE believed me and for 4 and a half years I gambled away thousands of dollars. When I was taken off venlafaxine, the compulsion to gamble was dramatically reduced, almost like a switch was turned off and I no longer feel I have an obsession and compulsion to gamble. Sometimes I feel like I can never recover what I lost both emotionally and financially.

  7. Johanna, I recently went off Cymbalta after 1 year because of some crazy impulsive behavior (binge-eating, craving cigarettes and other drugs, compulsive thoughts, etc.), that I can now see clearly was from the drug. I had no idea until I found this site that that was a possible side effect. I thought it was my own personal weakness causing the thoughts and behaviors, especially when the Cymbalta is supposed to HELP anxiety, compulsive behavior. I’m thankful I have a doctor who switched me back to an SSRI when I told her anecdotally that I’d had a bad episode with Effexor years ago. I guess my dopamine does not like to be messed with.

  8. The same has happened to me. First venlafaxine, then duloxitine. I’m still depressed very impulsive, compulsive and destroying any wherewithal I worked my entire life to achieve. I don’t even know the amount of money I lost but guess it’s been 150,000 over the past 4 years. I am reluctant to go back to the same doctor who started the entire mess but can not tolerate my brain zaps when I attempt to cut down on the doses. Doc says to take more and tells me I need a sprites to my cocktail of medicine he prescribes.

  9. Ditto the stories I’ve read on this thread. Except I lost my entire life savings to the tune of a half million $$. I also lost my family (including my wife AND my 3 kids), cars, and house. I’m not sure I can prove the 1/2 million, but in 2008, I was taking Mirapex for Restless Leg Syndrome and went through the compulsive gambling thing. I filed a lawsuit pro se (without a lawyer) against the drug-makers in federal court and won the case without a trial! They paid me for everything I lost online, which was over $200K.

    Now, I just lowered my dose of duloxetine and, voila! No more gambling! I haven’t tallied up the numbers, but this time it’s close to $100K in losses (both online and at land-based casinos). I can prove it via doctors records from when he upped the dose to 120mg 6 months ago to when he lowered it back to 90mg last Friday, January 29, 2016. My compulsive gambling directly coincides with that timeframe. Since I’ve already file a similar lawsuit, this next one against Eli Lilly should be a breeze.

    You see, the drug makers have a little secret. They put aside a certain amount of money to defend themselves in court against lawsuits like mine…say $100 million. Then they try to keep that number as small as possible. However, sales for Duloxetine in 2013 were over $5 BILLION. (That’s the most recent year for which sales figures are readily available.) So, bottom line, they are willing to forego the $100 million as long as they get their $5 Billion.

    Advice to those with these similar stories: File pro se, or get a lawyer, to try to recover your monetary losses. You can also sue for Pain and Suffering. Obviously, I am NOT a lawyer and this is NOT intended to be legal advice in any way.

    I wish the best to those of us in the same boat.

    • Doug, your story is so similar to mine, I thought I wrote it! I have been taking Effexor for about 7 years. In that time, I have gambled away my husband’s 401k savings, about $200K and maxed out all our credit cards to the tune of appx $80K.Our credit scores have gone from a safe 700+ range to 400. We have been discussing bankruptcy, but at this point I don’t know what to do because we may lose our home. My husband, who has cancer (in remission) is still working at 63. Who knows how long he’ll work. I recently have also been diagnosed with cancer and I’m facing chemo and surgery. We have health insurance but it won’t cover everything. My gambling addiction has ruined our lives. I keep saying we and our because my husband has stood beside me throughout all of this. If I could file a lawsuit and win what I/we have lost, it would be a welcome miracle.

      • I was on Cymbalta for over 5 years. This medication also triggered gambling problems in me. I know you took Effexor but Cymbalta does this also. I started taking it for PSTD. The same doctor put me on Vicodin and I became addicted to that med. He was preacribig 10 a day! My life was ruined becase of this doctor and the meds! Who do I go to for help? I have been off Vicodin for five yrs. now but only off of Cymbalta for 2 yrs. Help!

    • Doug.. Thats very interesting.. I would love to collaborate and even hope you and i can talk… I have been looking for a success story on wining a lawsuit related to compulsive gambling and Effexor. I just assumed taking on big pharma was simply impossible.. I too have a story that is similar to many i read here except i lost everything including a 1.5 million dollar home and my successful business where i was making over 200k a yr…. i would estimate my loss over a 12 yr period to be over $5 million.. Yet no matter how bad it got, i still continued to gamble every dime i had….. I was prescribed Effexor back in 2004 and developed a extremely bad gambling addiction. here i am 12 yrs later with absolutely Nothing.. i weened off of Effexor 5 months ago and i swear it was like i turned a switch off… I currently have Zero desire to gamble. Now keep in mind i live in Lake Tahoe Nevada with 4 of the largest Casinos are just 4 miles from my house… it was only a few weeks ago when i was explaining to a friend of mine when she told me about a article she read about the link between Effexor and gambling.. so i began to research this and needless to say i was Shocked!! to see all these stories so similar to mine. So i ask you if you can provide details of your case? This would obviously be a huge help in filling my own with a known case of settlement. i look forward to hopefully speaking to you.. my e mail is Please message me… Tim

    • Doug… i have also lost everything to gambling due to what i believe is the link between Effexor and compulsive gambling. after 12 yrs of taking Effexor, i have lost everything in my successful life to the tune of over $5 million dollars and a loss of a successful business of a $200,000. annual income…. I would love to know more about your successful case settlement.. how can you share that with me?.. Obviously info on a know lawsuit settlement would be very helpful in filing mine… how can we collaborate with each other? sure would be a huge help… Thanks… Tim

      • I knew within 6 months of taking effexor I was not myself. I started ordering stuff off the television, infomercials, home shopping networks, etc. I would literally be ordering things in my sleep. I have always been a very responsible person. Paid my bills on time and kept my credit score in good standing. I was planning to pay off my car and was looking to buy a new house. I have never been into gambling or shopping. I actually hate shopping. This was so out of character for me to spend every penny I have. I put myself into such debt that I almost lost my car and lost out on a chance of buying a house because of my ruining my credit score. I went from a 870-480. I’m so discussed by all of this. I’ve read other people’s stories and so many lives have been impacted by this drug effexor, that’s supposed to be helping people. When I went back to see my psychiatrist. I told him I went on a huge shopping spree and spent every penny I had to my name and to top it all off had gained 35 pounds from night bingeing. Thanks! He actually beat me to the punch, when I said spent all my money gambling/shopping spree. Oops forgot to tell you that could be one of the many side effects. Does anyone know if there is a lawsuit?

    • Doug,
      My name is Freida can you please help me file a law suit against these drug companies, I have lost everything, I just need to know how to get started. If you email me I can contact you by phone.

    • Doug, can you give me any advise as to how to get started on suing damages and loss from antidepressants and gambling. I’ve lost so much and have a time frame as to when it started and need help. I just do not know where to begin. Any advise would be helpful.

      Thank you,

    • These stories are breaking my heart. I literally went through more than 10 million in a span of 10 years not knowing what kept me so addicted to gambling. My sexual impulses were also out of control. I’ve decided to empower myself and started researching in an ocd way which led me to this. I will keep researching and doing what I can to get justice and myself better while on Effexor. Knowledge is power and I will follow the pro se advice.

  10. Wow, I was on Effexor and my life has done a 180* turn since. I will never be able to get myself back!!!! I can relate to many of your feelings and problems. Prayers to All 🙂

  11. I am on Sertraline (Zoloft) and i can relate as well to addictive behaviors presenting themselves on SSRI meds. I went off of Sertraline in 2012 seeing as i felt i no longer needed the drugs to cope with my clinical depression i have had since i was 13 years old. After stopping the medication i strangely started finding smoking appealing and started smoking. I never smoked for 26 years and all of a sudden BAM i found smoking alluring and started smoking. I stayed off of the Sertraline until 2016. Throughout 2012 – 2016 i experienced bouts of aggressive mania, destroying my own property and acting very irrationally and violently as well as experiencing obsessive behavior. I never felt this way before the Sertraline. I went back on Sertraline in 2016 due to experiencing worsening bouts of aggression and manic behavior. Since i went back on Sertraline i felt an increased need for consuming alcohol and smoking. After a violent outburst whilst being intoxicated i stopped drinking all together. It took about three weeks for the craving for alcohol to subside. I have never been a heavy drinker. Recently it just popped into my head to go to the casino. I have no idea why. In January of 2017 i have probably been to the casino at least six times and i have blown through money like there is no tomorrow. It’s the strangest feeling as i have no idea why all of a sudden it has become appealing. I have never been a gambler or compulsive gambler. I would maybe visit the casino once or twice a year for fun and spend a minimal amount and it would never even cross my mind to go there more frequently. It feels as if your consciousness is telling you DON’T DO IT! But you just don’t give a damn and do it anyway. It’s as if rational thinking is destroyed and there is no sense of risk or consequence. Very worrying indeed. Thinking i need to go see my doctor again soon. Who knows how long these medications truly stay in our bodies and which permanent changes they make to our brain structure. Maybe that is exactly the goal to make people who already have depression permanently dependent on drugs that if they stop the drugs their actions become even worse than before and then they either need to go back onto the drugs or try a different drug that screws them up even more. Wish i never touched SSRI meds.

    • Shane i took zoloft for about 6 years. During that time i gambled every single day. I was always overdrawn at the bank. I pawned jewelry and eventually lost it for non paying on time to save them. I’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars over the years. Etc. My rages however came WHILE i was on zoloft.

  12. All sounds so familiar. When I started losing paycheck after paycheck, I knew I had to do something. I would get my check, head to the casino, in a terrific mood I must say, then leaving broke and feeling like I wanted to die. No matter how much I won, I would stay until it was all gone. Sometimes 8, 10, even 12 hours and that’s without eating and not going to the bathroom until it was absolutely necessary. So, I decided to get my pay check deposited into my boyfriend’s checking account. It helped for awhile but then I started sneaking and lying to fine ways to get money. I was so ashamed of myself but I kept doing it. I would justify everything I did while I was doing it. My boyfriend, with all my problems, married me. We have sat down to figure out one what next. He’s going to change pin # on our cards and I can’t cash any checks. After reading this maybe my next step should get off effexor!

  13. I am in the same boat as all of you. Never a gambler until I began taking Effexor and Cymbalta. Several hundreds of thousands flushed down the drain in 2 years, irreparable relationship damage with my wife and family, but worse of all a feeling of no hope left. I’ve tried contacting attorneys specializing in “bad drug” assistance but nobody will help because the medications I took were generic.

  14. I am going threw the same situation as most of you people.I have no regard to spending money gambling I will spend every penny i have gambling and have no problem it ..And it all started when I was prescribed effexor. I feel like I’m trapped and when I try to lower my dose or quit I get really sick .I feel like this drug has consumed my life.

  15. I can’t believe that is nothing done to help the people that where on this for years that lost everything and put financial strain on there family and loved ones I feel you should have to answer a questionnaire about your behavior changes within 60 days of starting efexor that is revued by Pfizer and the proper authorities

    • Is there anyone legally that can help people like us that have lost everything I finally blew up at my psychiatrist today 10 17 2019. I have financially ruined myself for gambling I tried telling her a year ago Effexor is making me worse she laughed app me. I am in bankruptcy Chapter 13 I’ve been paying for two years now I have one more year to go. Have been on Effexor for seven years and know it’s a problem with me she wants to keep giving me more plus other things like Seroquel she had me on along with Effexor. She even had me on effexor and Abilify at the same time. I live in Michigan I need help legal help. I want to sue these people I’m flat broke I don’t have $300 to my name I retired retired 20 years ago I have nothing left please someone refer me to a legal person who can help me please

  16. Was talking to a good friend who’s husband died by suicide due to uncontrollable gambling. He lost so much money; went thru 401, got into retirement money, loans, etc. He was taking cimbalta. His young son will never see his dad again and my friend lost a very, very kind and loving man. She is currently suing the maker. Tho, she would prefer to have her husband and sons father back. I was curious about the lawsuit so I looked up info that took me here. Well, I’ve been taking Effexor for YEARS!!! Wtheck?? Thought I was on one of the ok ones, never heard that it was related to compulsive tendencies also. But this explains a lot! Tried a few others prior to Effexor and experienced physical side effects. Thought I had found a good one with no side effects. However, unfortunately, have spent so much money gambling on the flipping lottery, (mostly) of all things! I used to enjoy going to a casino for fun. That “fun” hasn’t been fun for many years; it’s compulsive! Ya don’t leave until last penny is spent, literally. Prior to this medication, I was able to leave without spending every penny and I just enjoyed it without HAVING TO SPEND EVERY PENNY AND THEN SOME. I love Tahoe and would enjoy the scenery and relaxing rather than spending all the time I a casino. Since I rarely go to casinos bc they’re not close. I have managed to instead, spend buttloads of money on the lottery!! What a waste. Also a huge cause of stress and disgust with myself. Anyone figure out a way to recoup some of the funds that disappeared with the help of Effexor? Also, can anyone tell me how long it takes (or how tapered down) to NOT have that awful zapping going on when trying to save yourself from gambling by getting off the medication? Would great appreciate any advice. Thank you!

  17. Same story… only went to prison for five years for believe it or not my lisence plate traveling the roads to the casinos in my area more than the casino busses..
    Lost my kids home freedoms and money…

    County of San Diego prescribed me anti depressants then shortly after I was a gambling addict like non other for 3 years…

  18. Anyone who has experienced gambling while taking Effexor please contact me. I have had the same experience and have been in contact with Pfizer who took me seriously enough to obtain my medical records and hire their own attorney. They sent me a letter trying to blame it on my depression. I am not done with them yet. I work at a law firm in Syracuse NY and I am working with our litigation department to continue to fight this. Please send me your stories. This needs to be brought to a more public platform.

    • Yes Lynn I am in the same situation as you have been taking Effexor for 7 years this psychiatrist put me on this to help me get over a divorce of 47 years open marriage. Today I left her office mad and told her I was never coming back she keeps wanting to give me more and more of this stuff I am financially ruined I’ve gambled away everything I ever had and have no feelings about it at the time. I am in bankruptcy Chapter 13 I have been paying for two years and I have one more year to go lost all my credit I had over 800 score before this now I’m completely destroyed I’m looking for a law firm to handle my case against the manufacturer of Effexor and my psychiatrist laughed at me and said Effexor would never cause gambling at all she had me at one time on 3 tablets per day of 75 mg each plus Abilify and even one time help me on Seroquel also if you can help me with your Law Firm God bless you

    • i feel as though for the first time in many years I’m not just a financial loser. I was prescribed Effexor and my life took a long downward spiral. I claimed bankrupsy but that hasn’t deterred my gambling. I never made the connection between Efexor and gambling but it is crystal clear. I am now 61 with no retirement savings and a deficit in my checking account

  19. I was offered Effexor and refused after reading some scary stories and this post here and comments have proved I made the correct decision.

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