Lexapro (escitalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medication. It is commonly used to treat anxiety in adults, depression in adults and adolescents who are at least 12 years old, tension, and excessive worry. It works by primarily increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It does this by preventing its reuptake into the presynaptic cell membrane. This SSRI drug is available by a doctor or psychiatrist’s prescription only.
- How can I get the best results from treatment with this drug?
Many conditions for which Lexapro is prescribed also show positive results from treatment with psychotherapy. Medication may dull the debilitating symptoms of anxiety and depression, but medication does not teach a person healthy ways to cope when symptoms, emotions, or behaviors arise or become triggered by mental health conditions. If you are prescribed an SSRI antidepressant, consider finding a qualified therapist or counselor to learn more about what you are experiencing and help you discover healthy ways to improve the quality of your life. Additionally, many people experiencing anxiety and depression have reported positive results from exercises like yoga, meditation, and breathwork activities. Many therapists offer specialized training in these mental health treatments that may reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
- How should I take this medication?
Lexapro may be prescribed as a tablet or in liquid form. It is usually taken once per day, with or without food. For best results, take this medication at the same time each day. Your doctor may gradually increase the amount of medication you take in order to find the best dosage for you. It could take about 30 days to feel the full effects of this medication. Keep taking this medication as directed by your doctor, even if you begin to feel well. Do not let others take your medication even if they have similar symptoms. This drug is not approved for children under the age of 12.
- What should I do if I forget to take my medication?
Take the medication you missed as soon as you remember it. If you are close to the time for your next dose, then do not take the dose you missed. Simply maintain your regular medication schedule. Taking too much of this SSRI too quickly may contribute to an overdose.
- What should I do if I overdose on this medication?
Seek urgent medical attention or call a poison control center as soon as possible. Signs of overdose include sweating, drowsiness, fast heartbeat, seizures, nausea, and loss of consciousness.
- What is the best way to store this medication?
Do not store this medication in your bathroom or kitchen. Keep this medication tightly closed in its original container, at room temperature. Avoid exposing the container to excess heat or moisture. Keep this drug out of the reach of children.
- Are there any interactions with other medications I should know about?
Lexapro may interact with some medications and supplements, including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), migraine treatments, anticoagulants, antihistamines, antidepressants, antacids, anxiolytics, drugs for sleep issues, typical and atypical antipsychotics, blood pressure medications, vitamins, minerals, herbal products (particularly the herb St. John's wort), products containing tryptophan, and more. Do not take this medication with other SSRI medications, especially Celexa. Do not take Lexapro within two weeks of taking an MAOI.
Important Information to Consider Before Using Lexapro
Antidepressant medications, including Lexapro, may cause intense suicidal feelings or suicidal behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults less than 24 years of age. Ask your doctor if using this medication outweighs the risks.
This medication may cause angle-closure glaucoma—an eye condition which may lead to blindness. It is recommended that you undergo a thorough eye examination before you take this medication.
It is important to discuss your entire health history with your doctor before taking Lexapro. Inform your doctor if you have had a heart attack, liver, kidney or heart disease, thyroid problems, seizures, or diabetes. Mention any reactions you may have had to other drugs. Ask your healthcare provider about alternative treatments if you become pregnant while prescribed this medication.
Do not purchase this medication outside of the United States or on the internet. Medication purchased from these sources may not be from a licensed pharmacy. Haloperidol, a powerful antipsychotic medication with potentially dangerous side effects, has been found in some samples of Lexapro obtained via the internet.
Important Information to Consider While Using Lexapro
If you start to take this medication, here are some important points to keep in mind:
- This medication may cause withdrawal effects, lung condition, heart malformations, and other major defects in newborn babies if taken during pregnancy. According to the results of one study, women who take SSRIs during pregnancy may be more likely to have pre-term babies than women who do not take SSRIs and who do not have depression. Escitalopram, the major ingredient in Lexapro, may pass into breast milk and harm a nursing child. If you become pregnant you should not stop taking this medication unless advised to do so by your doctor.
- This drug may cause drowsiness. Do not drive, climb, or operate heavy equipment until you know what effect this medication has on you.
- Avoid using alcohol which taking this medication as it may worsen potential side effects.
- If you are scheduled for any type of surgery, tell your surgeon or anesthesiologist that you are being treated with Lexapro. This warning includes oral surgery.
Possible Side Effects of Lexapro
Contact your health care provider if you experience any of the following side effects. Serious side effects that may occur when taking Lexapro include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Flu-like symptoms including fever
- Stiff muscles
- Visual or auditory hallucinations
- Increased excitement
Less serious side effects of this medication may include:
- Dry mouth
- Stomach or digestive issues
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Excessive sweating
- Noticeable changes in sex drive and/or ability
- Increase in appetite
How to Safely Withdraw from Lexapro
When it is time to reduce your dose of this medication, work with your doctor to facilitate the reduction. Never stop taking Lexapro abruptly. Slowly reducing this medication in your system may reduce the potential withdrawal symptoms. Possible symptoms of withdrawal include:
Talk with your doctor if you experience any withdrawal effects after stopping this medication.
- Citizens Commission on Human Rights International. (2012). The side effects of common psychiatric drugs. Retrieved from http://www.cchrint.org/pdfs/The_Side_Effects_of_Common_Psychiatric_Drugs.pdf
- Drugs.com. (2014). Lexapro. Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/lexapro.html
- Medline Plus. (2014). Escitalopram. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a603005.html
- RxList. (2014). Lexapro. Retrieved from http://www.rxlist.com/lexapro-drug.htm
Page content reviewed by James Pendleton, ND
Last Update: 04-10-2015