Lexapro (Escitalopram) | Uses, Abuse Potential, Side Effects, & Warnings
- What Is Lexapro Used For?
- Abuse Potential Of Lexapro
- Lexapro Side Effects
- Lexapro Warnings
- Lexapro FAQs
Lexapro is the brand name for escitalopram oxalate, an antidepressant medication. It’s in the drug class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
SSRIs allow there to be more serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a hormone that contributes to a balanced mood and a sense of well-being.
What Is Lexapro (Escitalopram) Used For?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves Lexapro for treating major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Some healthcare providers may prescribe Lexapro “off-label” for other mental health conditions, such as:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- bipolar disorder
- panic disorder (panic attacks)
- eating disorders
- post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD)
- premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD)
If your doctor prescribes Lexapro (or generic escitalopram) for a condition not approved by the FDA, they should have a good reason. Be aware that there is limited research on the effectiveness of Lexapro for mental health issues other than depression and anxiety.
Abuse Potential Of Lexapro (Escitalopram)
Lexapro (escitalopram) isn’t widely abused. But you can misuse any drug by taking it against medical advice—by using it more often, in higher doses, or for longer than prescribed.
More Lexapro in your system means more serotonin in your brain, so increasing your dosage may feel better at first.
However, taking a higher dose also increases the risk of side effects like depression and irritability. And too much serotonin can cause a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome.
The safest choice is to work with your healthcare provider if you feel your dose of Lexapro needs to be adjusted.
Is Lexapro (Escitalopram) Addictive?
Lexapro (escitalopram) isn’t considered to be addictive. All addictive drugs increase dopamine, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Most SSRIs—including Lexapro—don’t.
Like serotonin, dopamine is a hormone that makes you feel good. But what’s different about it is that it’s released as an incentive for repeated behavior.
When you take a drug that affects dopamine, you get a pleasurable feeling that makes you want to take it again. Eventually, you may crave it and be unable to resist. That’s addiction.
Fortunately, antidepressants don’t work that way, but they may still help you feel better.
Lexapro (Escitalopram) Side Effects
Lexapro can cause side effects, even when used as prescribed. They may be more pronounced during your first few weeks of taking the medication. Your body needs time to adjust.
Common side effects of Lexapro include:
- insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- dry mouth
If the adverse effects don’t go away after a few weeks, your doctor may recommend a different dose or another antidepressant.
Sexual Side Effects
Lexapro can also cause sexual side effects, such as delayed ejaculation or difficulty coming to orgasm. Sexual issues often don’t resolve as long as you’re taking the drug.
Over time, Lexapro can contribute to weight gain. This is because depression often causes decreased appetite, and taking an antidepressant can help you eat more. Some research shows the drug can lead to weight loss in some people, too.
Serious Side Effects
More serious side effects of Lexapro may be:
- Low blood sodium: may be indicated by weakness, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating
- Angle-closure glaucoma: an eye issue that can cause eye pain, vision changes, and swelling or redness
- Serotonin syndrome: high levels of serotonin that cause confusion, fever, muscle stiffness, and possibly death
- Bleeding events: SSRIs raise the risk of bleeding by decreasing the ability of the body to form blood clots
If you’re concerned about the side effects you’re experiencing, talk to your healthcare provider.
Lexapro (Escitalopram) Warnings
There are some warnings associated with Lexapro that you should know if you’re taking it. For some people, the benefits of decreased depression or anxiety outweigh the risks. But that’s up to you and your doctor to decide.
Drug Interactions With Lexapro
It can be dangerous to mix Lexapro with other medications and supplements. Drug interactions can occur with:
- Other antidepressants: SSRIs like Celexa (citalopram), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline) increase the risk of serotonin syndrome if you take them with Lexapro. So do monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) like Zyvox (linezolid).
- Pimozide: Combining Lexapro with the antipsychotic drug pimozide (Orap) can cause severe heart problems.
- Blood thinners: Prescription drugs that decrease blood clotting, like Coumadin (warfarin), raise the risk of bleeding when combined with Lexapro.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) also increase bleeding risk by decreasing blood clotting.
- Some supplements: Check with a healthcare professional for specifics, but St. John’s Wort is one supplement that raises the chance of side effects and can cause serotonin syndrome.
Taking Lexapro While Pregnant Or Breastfeeding
Depression can be dangerous for an unborn baby and its mother. But taking an antidepressant past week 13 of pregnancy carries risks as well.
Lexapro may cause premature birth (birth before 37 weeks) and a rare condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension in the baby. This condition can cause difficulty breathing and low blood pressure, and it may be fatal.
If you’re breastfeeding, you could pass some of the Lexapro to your baby through breast milk. Lexapro has been found in slightly higher concentrations in breast milk than fellow SSRIs Paxil (paroxetine) and Zoloft (sertraline). This may lead to fussiness or sedation in your baby.
Lexapro & Suicide Risk
Studies show that Lexapro can cause worsening symptoms of depression, as well as suicidal thoughts and actions, in children, adolescents, and young adults up to age 24.
If you’re considering an antidepressant for someone under 24, be sure to discuss this issue with your doctor and explore your options.
To learn more about the abuse potential of Lexapro and associated risks, contact a specialist today at Ark Behavioral Health.
How Much Does Lexapro Cost?
The cost of Lexapro depends on numerous factors, including:
- whether you use brand-name or generic Lexapro
- whether you have insurance
Without insurance, brand-name Lexapro usually costs between $400 and $600, while generic Lexapro usually costs between $10 and $200.
In addition, the drug will typically cost more if you buy it from the illegal drug market.
Learn more about Lexapro Prices
Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol While Taking Lexapro?
Alcohol may worsen the side effects of Lexapro, which include drowsiness, dizziness, and dry mouth. It can also prevent Lexapro from properly treating your depression.
In addition, mixing alcohol and Lexapro can increase your risk of serotonin syndrome, overdose, and alcohol addiction. That’s why the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against mixing these substances.
However, some health care providers allow patients who use Lexapro to drink in moderation. Talk to your doctor to determine whether you should continue drinking alcohol while taking Lexapro.
Learn more about Mixing Lexapro With Alcohol
What’s The Recommended Dose Of Lexapro?
The recommended dose of Lexapro is 10 mg per day for adolescents and adults. The max dose of Lexapro is 20 mg per day.
Learn more about Lexapro Dosage
Does Lexapro Cause Withdrawal When You Stop Use?
Lexapro can lead to withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it, especially if you stop taking it all of a sudden (cold turkey) without any help from a medical professional.
Learn more about Lexapro Withdrawal
Is Lexapro Approved To Treat Anxiety?
Lexapro is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat generalized anxiety disorder. It also can be used off-label for other anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder.
Learn more about Lexapro For Anxiety
How Long Does Lexapro Stay In Your System?
Lexapro stays in your system for about one week after the last dose. Lexapro may not have major metabolites, or unique components broken down by the body. Factors such as age, frequency of use, and other health conditions can affect how long Lexapro stays in your system.
Learn more about How Long Lexapro Stays In Your System
Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
This page does not provide medical advice.
Mayo Clinic - Escitalopram (Oral Route)
National Alliance on Mental Illness - Escitalopram (Lexapro)
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Dr. Nora Volkow on Addiction: A Disease of Free Will
National Library of Medicine: PubMed - Fluoxetine, but not other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, increases norepinephrine and dopamine extracellular levels in prefrontal cortex
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