Article at a Glance:  

  • Lexapro is a SSRI medication used to treat depression and anxiety.  
  • There is an increased risk of suicide with Lexapro, especially for people under 24 years old.  
  • Side effects of Lexapro include nausea, constipation, drowsiness, stomach pain, and dry mouth. 
  • Lexapro is not considered addictive, but there can be withdrawal symptoms when stopping the medication. 
  • Patients should keep taking Lexapro even when they feel better to prevent symptoms from returning or worsening. 

What Is Escitalopram (Lexapro)?

Escitalopram, also known by the brand name Lexapro, is generally used to treat depression and anxiety. The medication falls under the class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which works by increasing levels of the natural substance serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps maintain mental balance.

When treating depression, Lexapro (escitalopram) can improve energy levels, help maintain focus, and improve the feeling of lack of concentration, guilt, or worthlessness. Lexapro can also be used to treat general anxiety disorder by easing symptoms of restlessness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Lexapro was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2002 and is produced by Forest Laboratories. In 2012, the FDA approved Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and IVAX Pharmaceuticals to make the generic version: escitalopram. Adolescents aged 12-17 and adults over 18 are approved to use the medication.

While dosage varies depending on medical condition, response to treatment, age, and other medications, it is important to take the correct amount as directed by a medical professional. Increasing your dosage may increase the likelihood of side effects and will not improve your condition faster. To benefit from Lexapro or escitalopram, it is advised to take the medication regularly and at the same time each day.

Many patients have found symptoms to be relieved within two to four weeks.

Signs, Symptoms, And Side Effects Of Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Similar to many other antidepressant medications, Lexapro warns of an increased risk of suicide, with a higher risk for adults and teenagers who are younger than 24 years old. Suicidal thoughts may increase when first taking the medication or when there is a change in dosage.

There has also been research that links prenatal exposure to SSRIs with autism or developmental delays, with higher risks among newborns whose mothers were on SSRI medication early in their pregnancy.

Escitalopram has also been associated with weight gain due to large fluid retention and an increased appetite. It is recommended to maintain physical activity to manage weight gain while using Lexapro.

Certain side effects may occur, including:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Changes in sex drive or function
  • Drowsiness
  • Unusual sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach pain
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Greater appetite
  • Flu-like symptoms, including sneezing and runny nose

Serious side effects can also occur, such as decreased interest in sex, easy bruising or bleeding, fever, confusion, fast or irregular heartbeat, severe muscle stiffness, extreme restlessness, panic attacks, aggressive behavior, impulsiveness, mania or extreme increase in talking, or worsening depression and anxiety. If you have any of these side effects, seek medical attention immediately.

Due to the increased level of serotonin in the brain, escitalopram and Lexapro can sometimes, although rarely, cause serotonin syndrome/toxicity. This risk increases when taking other medications that also increase serotonin. If symptoms such as hallucinations, loss of coordination, severe dizziness, nausea or diarrhea, twitching muscles, and unusual restlessness occur, seek medical help right away.

It is important to monitor progress while taking escitalopram or Lexapro. At the first sign of adverse side effects, schedule a doctor’s visit to reassess the dosage or to determine if the medication should be stopped altogether.

Escitalopram (Lexapro) Addiction

Many patients with depression and anxiety can suffer from debilitating feelings, preventing them from functioning fully. Lexapro and escitalopram have been researched and tested and are not considered controlled substances or to cause dependency issues.

Although it isn’t believed to be an addictive medication, there can be signs of withdrawal when ending treatment that can manifest in certain physical symptoms. These signs may include insomnia, irritability, dizziness, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, agitation, sexual dysfunction, and an unstable mood. Withdrawal effects can also cause psychological and social side effects such as damaged relationships with friends and family, loss of financial stability, reclusive behaviors, and a decrease in personal activities.

Escitalopram (Lexapro) Long-Term Effects

Patients are advised to continue medication, even if they start feeling better. Quickly discontinuing escitalopram could result in symptoms returning or worsening. It is also suggested that this medication be used in conjunction with psychotherapy or counseling.

Many patients may require medication long-term, while others may only need it for a shorter period. If using it for a shorter period, make sure to follow the direction of a doctor to minimize withdrawal symptoms. While many people see results, others see no improvement in their feelings from the use of escitalopram. If this is the case, it is important to discuss changing medication with a doctor.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with 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 providers.