Lexapro, the brand name of escitalopram, is a medication that is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. It can help increase the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which influences mood in the brain. While Lexapro can remain in the system for roughly six days after someone stops taking it, it is critical that a person not stop “cold turkey,” which can result in withdrawal. 

This article will review some of the important details that you should know about taking Lexapro to decrease the risk of side effects. The exact length of time that Lexapro remains in a person’s system depends on a variety of factors, including the dosage taken and how long the person has been taking it. Based on the half-life of escitalopram, or how long it takes someone’s body to clear half of the drug, traces of the drug would remain in a person’s system for roughly six days, or a little less than a week.

Half-Life Of Escitalopram (Lexapro)

All-drugs have a “half-life,” which is a term used to describe how long it takes for the amount of medication to decrease to half its starting dose in the body.

Lexapro’s half-life ranges from 27 to 32 hours, depending on the person. For example, if a person took a single dose of 10 mg of Lexapro, within 27 to 32 hours, the dosage would be halved to 5 mg, and 27 to 32 hours from that point, the dosage would be halved to 2.5 mg. This will continue to halve until the medication is out of a person’s bloodstream.

How Long Does Lexapro Stay In Your Urine And Blood?

Because it takes around five half-lives for a drug to be cleared from your system, and because the half-life of Lexapro is up to 32 hours, it can take up to 160 hours, or roughly six days, to clear Lexapro from your bloodstream. Lexapro is not typically measured in urine screening tests as it is not a controlled substance. 

Factors That Influence How Long Escitalopram Stays In Your System

The largest factor that influences how long escitalopram remains in a person’s system is the dose that a person takes. The usual dose of Lexapro ranges from 10 to 20 mg daily. As a result, people who discontinue escitalopram and only take 10 mg a day are likely to clear the drug from their body without any significant problems and can sometimes even quit cold turkey. It is highly recommended to consult your physician when considering quitting Lexapro cold turkey.

However, people who take higher doses of Lexapro may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop the medication suddenly. For this reason, physicians often wean patients who take larger doses of escitalopram and might even prescribe a secondary medication for the patient to temporarily take instead of escitalopram.

Other factors that influence how long Lexapro stays in a person’s system include:

  • The length of time a person takes the medication: A person who has been on Lexapro for a long time may have built up the drug in the body. They may, therefore, take longer to clear the drug from their system than someone who has taken only a single dose.
  • Age: In people aged 65 and older, Lexapro reaches greater concentrations in the bloodstream and its half-life increases by around 50%. Older adults may, therefore, take longer to clear the drug than younger adults.
  • Liver problems: The half-life of Lexapro is doubled in people with liver disease. Someone with liver problems will, therefore, take longer to clear the drug than someone with a healthy liver.
  • Kidney problems: Even in people with mild kidney problems, the half-life of Lexapro is increased by 17%. People with severe kidney problems have not been studied.

Other FAQs About Lexapro

  • Is Lexapro a controlled substance?

    Escitalopram is not a controlled substance. It has a low potential for misuse in relation to other available drugs, and there is currently an accepted medical use for the drug. However, possessing escitalopram without a lawful prescription is against Federal law.

  • What is Lexapro used for?

    Lexapro (escitalopram) is FDA-approved to treat depression and general anxiety disorder by increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. 

    The medication is also occasionally prescribed off-label for other uses including: 

    • Binge eating disorder
    • Bulimia
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • Panic disorder
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Premature ejaculation
    • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
    • Symptoms of menopause

  • How is Lexapro taken?

    Available as a tablet or liquid solution, the drug is often taken once daily with or without food. Physicians often start a person off at a low dose of escitalopram, which is then increased if needed after a few weeks.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

  • Sources

    Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, January 30, 2020. Accessed June 21, 2020.

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.” April 1, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2020.

    U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Lexapro.” January 22, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2020.