Quitting Zyrtec - Withdrawal

I have a new fun adventure to tackle, one that I never thought I’d ever have the joy of handling, DRUG WITHDRAWAL. The EVIL drug, (if you couldn’t read the title), Zyrtec. Yes, that wonderful anti-histamine is incredibly addictive.

My girlfriend is scheduled to see her allergist in ten days and he instructed her to stop taking Zyrtec prior to the appointment so that the results would be accurate. She has faithfully taken it for 5 years, and after stopping for two days you would have thought it was heroin. Her body was itching non-stop all over. I covered her with Aveeno Lotion several times and it wasn’t helping. She was scratching furiously, causing bleeding, bruising, etc. It was horrific to witness the woman I love tearing herself apart. She was crying and couldn’t stop scratching because it itched so bad. We tried Gold Bond Powder with some success but she couldn’t get to sleep. I threw her in a cold shower and gave her two Benadryl. After this she was very distraught but feeling better, and she finally fell asleep around 1AM. Needless to say, this was not fun.

While this was going on I did some reading about Zyrtec withdrawal, and good Lord, this stuff is crack cocaine in a bottle. I read several sites about it and realized there was a whole blog (Stop Zyrtec, get itchy – which has since been taken down) devoted to it. I was able to pull a few posts for the WayBackMachine, but a lot of it is contradictory advice.

So Dopers, what say you all, how should she quit?

[li]Should she ween off of it, reducing her dosage?[/li][li]Should she quit cold turkey?[/li][li]Have any of you successfully quit, if so how?[/li][li]Any words of wisdom of advice?[/li][/ol]

She did speak to her Dr. today who said weening wouldn’t work and cold turkey was the only way.

I also read you shouldn’t substitute/use Benadryl as it will only prolong the process.

No advice, but for intense itching she might want to try the Benadryl spray. I’ve used it over the years and it’s good stuff. That is assuming the doctor will allow that.

Is the itchiness just a side effect of going off Zyrtec, or is it related to her allergies? Like, if a person without allergies took Zyrtec regularly and then suddenly stopped, would they get those symptoms?

Did the doctor say just not to use Benadryl, or not to use any allergy meds? If the former, you could always try Claritin or one of the other OTC meds.

She should be avoiding all antihistamines, as they’ll all mess up testing. Same for steroids, leukotriene inhibitors, or other immune modulators.

Cool environment, Cool to lukewarm showers and baths, aveeno/oatmeal colloid baths, menthol lotions, skin emollients, avoidance of skin irritants like chemicals and wool, should all help somewhat.

What’s your professional opinion on near-scalding bathwater? When my legs were covered in mosquito bites, a quick shower as hot as I could stand would stop them from itching for several hours. I was told heat depletes histamine, at least temporarily.

Might help some, but IMHO it might make the problem even worse due to increased capillary blood flow to the skin. This would set off nerves not already involved in the itch reaction. Also the OP describes a problem of chronic generalized itching, so histamine release/reuptake is already proceeding apace. Localized reactions from insect bites would represent a slightly different metabolic situation.

I’d tend to discourage it, but if nothing else is working, it might not be unreasonable to try it. I’d avoid ‘near scalding temps’ as it’s easy to stray into ‘scaling temps’.

The initial reaction to the heat would probably be much worse itching.

Doc: what about the benadryl spray? Can that be used since it’s a topical thing? Or would that mess up testing?

Depends on the planned testing, but sadly I think it could skew some types of results a bit, so I’d avoid it. Of course the patient ought to ask the doc if it’s okay to use it in the interim.

And since the patient’s seeing an allergy specialist, all these sorts of questions about controlling the itch could be asked of the doc also, who should have some ready information and a lot more experience than I have with this issue. Heck, I’d even wager the doc has a nurse who’s well-versed in educating patients about treating their itches without messing up the tests.

I know when I had hives all over, the hot bath made it worse. Cool bath and calamine lotion helped some…use old sheets, sleep naked…

Thanks for the advice everyone. The Dr. said cold turkey is the best, and that the symptoms are consistent with Zyrtec withdrawals. The plan is to end the dependency and never use it again for any prolonged period of time.

I would caution everyone before using is, especially now that it is over the counter.

Yeah it was awful, for about a minute. It’s like my body got 8 hour’s worth of itching out of the way in 60 seconds. Of course it sucked, but the ability to be sans-itch for 8 hours afterward was totally worth it :slight_smile:

I’m just one data point, but I took it regularly for a year and a half, and stopped without those symptoms.

FWIW, I found out that with my insurance plan, if I get a script for it, I can get it from the pharmacy for free (along with about 5 other OTC meds).

Just another data point but I have gone on and off it several times with no ill effects at all. I realize this is just anecdotal, but all of the information I could find about “withdrawal” from Zyrtec was also just anecdotal.

Same here. My husband, friends of mine, and I have all taken it on and off for varying amounts of times for years, with no withdrawal/rebound-type symptoms.

So far, I’ve never heard of someone complaining of “withdrawal” from the use of any 2nd generation anti-histamines (Loratadine (Claratin), Cetirizine (Zyrtec), or Fexofenadine (Allegra) . These drugs aren’t “addictive” in the sense we are used too… My guess, is that she is allergic to something she sees all the time. These drugs are great at preventing an allergic reaction, so if she is allergic to something, these will prevent a reaction with regular use (not treat, but prevent. Take a while till they work 100%).

You say she has taken it for 5 years. It is totally possible she is allergic to something she sees every day, that she doesn’t know. Possibly something like her shower soap, laundry detergent, or even something else she’s changed in the past 5 years since she started Zyrtec (cetirizine). The only way to know for sure, is to take the allergist tests…

However, the other question… about using topical Benadryl spray… I would expect that to be ok as long as she doesn’t use it anywhere near where they actually plan to do the tests… However, I don’t know exactly how sensitive those tests would be, so I would still suggest double checking with the office to see if it is allowed.

Really? How much time do you spend seeking out people who’ve complained about it?

Big Link




Lots of itchy

I know there are people on the internet who will complain about anything but there seem to be an awful lot of collaborative stories here.

How many of the summaries did you read? There’s a lot like:

Compelling stuff.

I’ve never actually SEEKED out people complaining of withdrawal. Unfortunately there isn’t enough time at work for me to look through all the records of everyone who has ever filled a script for Zyrtec or Allegra from when they were RX only to when they went OTC, calling them, find out if they still took the medication, and asking if they had any sort of withdrawal symptoms. Maybe, if you were willing to pay an extra $100 on every script you had filled, they could afford to pay me to do the research you want.

However, if these “withdraw” symptoms happened in >1% of the population, I’m sure I would have heard SOMETHING by now, just based on statistics. However, I’m sure it is totally possible someone has some sort of problem after stopping the medication. However, I would want some sort of study ruling out other allergic responses which just weren’t noticed first, such as new soap, laundry detergent, moving to a new location, dating someone with a new perfume, or the many other possible causes of being exposed to a new allergen, before I’m convinced it is due to one of the 2nd generation antihistamines.

Oh, and one of the most common treatments for allergies is to be “desensitized” to it… Unfortunately, taking an antihistamine can prevent proper desensitizing of an allergen. So, it is possible for you to be exposed to a new allergen while on chronic antihistamine therapy, see it all the time, then stop the antihistamine and have your first actual reaction to an allergen… Get sensitized to it over time, and no longer have any reactions to it. And of course, people will blame it all on a “withdrawal” of an antihistamine.

Basically… Correlation doesn’t equal causation…