Lexapro (Escitalopram) Withdrawal & Detox

Lexapro, the brand name for escitalopram, is an oral medication used for depression and anxiety. Some patients who take Lexapro and feel better may assume that they no longer need the medicine, so they stop taking it. Stopping Lexapro suddenly is unwise because the medication has an important relationship with serotonin, the neurotransmitter found in blood platelets and the central nervous system linked to depression. As a result, when medications like Lexapro that affect serotonin levels in the brain are suddenly stopped, you can experience very serious emotional and physical symptoms.

Symptoms of escitalopram withdrawal are likely to be noticed if the dosage is reduced too quickly or if the medication is withdrawn too suddenly. A 2012 study published by researchers at the Department of Psychology at the University of Bologna, the Adult Psychiatry Residency Training Program at Harvard Medical School, and the Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine at McGill University found that there are two distinct phases when withdrawing from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like escitalopram. SSRIs are a type of medication used to treat depression and anxiety. These two phases include an immediate withdrawal phase and a second period.

The immediate withdrawal period from escitalopram can contain a combination of both new symptoms and the intensification of symptoms that a person noticed prior to taking the drug. Some of the symptoms that are most commonly noticed during this period include:

  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • “Zaps” or the sensation of electrical jolts that course through a person’s body

The second phase of escitalopram withdrawal occurs weeks after using the drug. Unfortunately, many conditions that are noticed during this time fail to disappear on their own. Symptoms that arise during this time can be so difficult that many people feel the temptation to stay on the medication for the rest of their life rather than continue the withdrawal period. Some of the symptoms that arise during the second phase include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar illness
  • Depression
  • Disturbed mood
  • Impaired concentration
  • Impaired memory
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Poor stress tolerance

The length of symptoms associated with Lexapro withdrawal depends on several factors, including how a long a person has taken the medication as well as the dosage that they are taking. Symptoms also tend to last longer if a person quits cold turkey rather than gradually tapering off of the medication. Given these many considerations, there is not an exact timeline to determine how long a person will experience withdrawal symptoms associated with Lexapro. A large number of people, however, notice that the most severe discontinuation symptoms tend to increase after 90 days or three months. There are people, however, who report taking months or even over a year to fully recover.

The symptoms associated with withdrawal from escitalopram are fortunately rarely life-threatening.

One of the deadliest side-effects associated with stopping the medication is the potential for self-harm, which is why patients should make sure to discontinue the use of the medication under the supervision of a physician.

In cases where withdrawal from escitalopram results in dizziness, headaches, nausea, or other flu-like symptoms, a physician might prescribe antiemetics or other medications that can treat these ailments.

If a person experiences insomnia or restlessness due to withdrawal, a physician might prescribe a sedative.

There are not any medications specifically designed to address withdrawal from SSRIs, however, which is why the help of a physician during this time is crucial.

There are some tactics that physicians have developed to manage withdrawal from escitalopram. Because sudden withdrawal from the medication also results in more serious conditions, physicians often slowly taper patients off of the medication. In cases where even tapering off of the medication results in symptoms, some physicians help patients switch to another antidepressant with a shorter half-life, which is then slowly discontinued.

There are several reasons why people decide to stop taking SSRIs like Lexapro, including people for whom the medication does not work, people who experience unwanted side effects, and people who become immune to the medication.

For these people, as well as patients who misuse the medication, a reputable antidepressant rehabilitation center can aid in recovery from the serious side effects associated with Lexapro withdrawal.

Selecting the appropriate withdrawal center, however, can prove challenging. One of the most important parts in deciding which program to use is making sure that the program’s duration matches the severity of the patient’s symptoms. While some people might decide that an outpatient or 30-day program is best, other people might need the service of an extended care program. With the help of the appropriate center, many patients discover that not only is recovery possible, but that they end up feeling better than ever.

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.