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Lexapro Addiction

This entry was posted in Addiction on by .
Medically Reviewed Fact Checked

Last Updated on February 5, 2024 by Diane Ridaeus

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Lexapro addiction has seen considerable debate in medical literature, with some researchers declaring there is no such thing, while other research shows a different perspective. What has been well-established, is that once a person has become physically dependent upon Lexapro© (escitalopram) they may develop Lexapro addiction or dependence symptoms and whether you call it addiction or dependence, stopping the drug will generate withdrawal side effects.7,13,14,17

Alternative to Meds Center’s addiction treatment program employs techniques that reduce or eliminate withdrawal effects, and simplify the process of overcoming Lexapro dependence or addiction. We know other answers exist for improved mental health without drugs — and our clients have seen them work. There are many superior solutions to undesirable symptoms, that don’t involve being medicated with antidepressant substances for a lifetime.

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successful lexapro addiction
Alternative to Meds Center has provided expert help with antidepressant withdrawal for nearly 2 decades. We have published evidence documenting our clients’ success. By utilizing holistic approaches such as orthomolecular nutrition, neurochemistry stabilization, and a host of additional modalities, we find that patients achieve greater and long-term success.
Watch this impressive video of a woman who came to us in a debilitated state. She was barely able to walk or live an active life. Not only did she regain her health and her lost professional career, but she also was able to stop taking benzodiazepines and antidepressants while in our care. Her video should give you hope for your situation.
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What is Lexapro Addiction or Dependence?

Lexapro© is an antidepressant most commonly used to treat major depression (MDD) for persons aged 12 and older, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) only in adults. Dependence can form quickly, as well as withdrawal reactions when the drug is discontinued. While there have been rare reports of recreational abuse of Lexapro, in the main, one does not use Lexapro with the intention of becoming addicted.16 However, some people become critically aware of the dependence that has developed within a few months of treatment if the drug is stopped, or a dose has been delayed.

Have you ever forgotten to take a dose, taken it late, or when you ran out of your prescription early or reduced the dosage, you felt sick or dizzy? That is likely a mild set of Lexapro withdrawal symptoms. Most people don’t think about addiction to Lexapro as they would heroin or cocaine addiction. But technically, it’s really not all that different, and once a person has experienced Lexapro withdrawal symptoms; what you call it is not as important as recognizing that the body has adapted to the drug, and is reacting to its absence.14,17 Once a person has been on this medication for an extended amount of time; the body needs it to function, due to the mechanics of neuro-adaptation.18,19 Since it is prescribed by a doctor and if it makes the person feel better; they continue to take it while a gradual dependency is building.

Physical and Mental Signs of Lexapro Addiction/dependence

Many people report first noticing their physical and/or mental dependency upon missing their morning dosage or picking up their prescription a day or two late. Just like any other addiction, they have to have it. If they run out, they will not feel normal or happy, they will need it and they will want it. Some individuals have reported feeling a Lexapro high, though this is rare. It is more common that after a period of taking Lexapro, increasing fear of discontinuing the use of this drug occurs because of the withdrawal reactions that can occur. Also, some may start increasing their daily dosage after developing a tolerance. In surprisingly short order, one may have developed a need for Lexapro addiction help.

What can further compound the situation is the emergence of paradoxical (opposite) effects of antidepressants, especially notable after long-term use. Long-term use of antidepressants can worsen depression or other symptoms, creating a perfect storm for unresolved mental health issues.13

Lexapro for Depression … Does it Cure Depression?

For people with depression, an antidepressant may provide great hope, and even be viewed as a miracle drug, except, unfortunately, it is not. The old adage remains true: if it seems too good to be true, the chances are it is probably not. An antidepressant may relieve depression or some other symptoms for a short time, but it is not actually resolving anything. It may indeed be causing further damage. People who have depression would be advised to try gradually taking steps towards dealing with some of the underlying issues. Get help if needed to authentically overcome these step by step. Depression is associated with a wide range of possible environmental, psycho-social, lifestyle, genetic, and dietary factors. These cannot possibly be assessed in a 15-minute visit to the doctor, or by popping a pill.1

Lexapro is marketed to consumers as more or less an easy way out of troubled waters. Ironically, it may allow you to not have to squarely deal with the contributors to a depressed or sad state, or deal with other unwanted emotions. It may numb your pain and help you to cope and there are times when that is needed. But not as a way of life. People with depression are even more vulnerable to becoming dependent on taking a pill that takes their depression away, and again, just like any other addiction, potentially creates a vicious cycle.

Lexapro Prescriptions – Concerning Trends?

Equally concerning is the very young age at which antidepressants such as Lexapro are prescribed. Can a 12-year-old articulate specifics about their emotional condition and express with clarity the answers to a pre-prescription interview? Are children or even adults schooled in the role of diet and nutrition, exercise, sunshine, exposure to toxins in their school, home, or work settings, allergies, and so many other factors that are known to impact mental well-being? 8-11

Most people on Lexapro were given the medication before any efforts were put forth to investigate any potential causes of the person’s depression, anxiety, or other symptoms. We can help.

Adverse Effects of Lexapro

A black box warning for increased risk of suicide is noted on the package label, specifically referencing children and young adults being in the highest risk category for such side effects.6 Common adverse effects of Lexapro include sexual dysfunction, in both females and males, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, somnolence, and sweating. These occurred in drug trials at twice the rate of placebo according to the FDA. There are other less frequent but harsh side effects that surely would not increase one’s sense of well-being. These can include suicidality, serotonin syndrome, seizures, mania, glaucoma, abnormal bleeding, potentially life-threatening heart arrhythmias, hormonal disruptions, and many others.6,7

It is no wonder that when these withdrawals occur, one feels an urgency to resume taking the drug. Drug dependence is a side effect of Lexapro and all similar drugs.

Signs of Lexapro addiction or dependence include:
  • Withdrawal symptoms appear when a dose is delayed or missed.
  • Rebound symptoms, often intensified, occur when the drug is stopped.
  • Paradoxical effects have occurred, such as worsened depression, elevated anxiety, etc.
  • Needing a higher or more frequent dose for satisfactory symptom relief.
  • Lexapro has stopped working, and your prescriber is suggesting switching to a different drug.
  • The prescribing physician never did testing, diet modification, or other investigative work with you before prescribing.

How to Resolve Lexapro Addiction and Dependence

The important part is being able to recognize that this is a real addiction, just like an alcohol or opiate addiction; you need the drug to feel good. If you don’t have it you won’t feel good so you don’t want to stop taking it. Talking to a doctor about antidepressant addiction is a good place to begin to understand and recognize your dependency on this medication. Choose a physician who is familiar with prescription drug addiction and dependency, and familiar with alternatives for depression that don’t lay in a potential addiction or dependency.

Best Way to Reduce Lexapro Withdrawals

Getting off of this drug does not have to be difficult, and can be surprisingly easy if you can find effective Lexapro withdrawal addiction treatment. If you have recognized that you are dependent on this drug, then you have conquered the hardest step and the choice is yours to make the next step towards ending Lexapro addiction symptoms.

For many, they are put on this medication during an emotionally stressful or traumatic time in their life. Then years later they are suffering from addiction and withdrawal when trying to get off of the drug. And, like a raw wound, the emotional stress remains unresolved. These and other issues should be resolved as part of a thorough and authentic recovery program. To omit these steps could be considered almost inhumane, and would likely set a person up for relapse.

Antidepressants have been successfully marketed as a way to “boost serotonin” levels, though this theory has lost significant credibility over the last 2 decades.2-4 Much has been written about the placebo effect of antidepressant medication. Ireland’s drug regulators have stated, “There is no scientific investigation to measure what are normal serotonin levels in the human brain receptors. As such, claiming that a particular medicinal product works by bringing serotonin levels back to normal is not accurate.” 5

And, even though a person may not have a serotonin deficit initially, consumption of the drug certainly can create a real serotonin deficiency, as well as a number of other undesirable changes within the CNS (central nervous system) and the hormones and neurotransmitters that operate it.

The Alternative to Meds Center Lexapro Cessation Program

lexapro addiction withdrawal sedona arizonaThe Alternative to Meds Center programs use targeted nutrient therapies designed for restoring the neurotransmitters involved in overall health and to improve mental health naturally, without drugs.

Orthomolecular principles are also extremely beneficial when combatting the symptoms of withdrawal. Lab testing and assessing biological causes of symptoms can accurately inform a medication-free treatment success that is long-lasting. Counseling formats such as cognitive-behavioral counseling and other genres of talk therapy have been shown highly effective in treating depression and anxiety, as well as or better than medication, and with more long-lasting results and less frequent relapses.12

At our addiction treatment facility, we have a robust counseling program. We also aim to discover any medical causes of why a person feels depressed and our program additionally uses lab testing, natural substances that stabilize neurochemistry, removal of accumulated neurotoxins, exacting withdrawal taper techniques, therapeutic massage, personal exercise training, yoga, acupuncture, IV treatments, nebulized glutathione, art therapy, equine therapy, correction of diet, and many other therapies that can be blended together to combat depression and help you to re-design your life– the life you have always wanted. You can have that life. You are encouraged to call us and talk, so you can get a fuller understanding of the amazing Lexapro addiction and dependence help which is available at Alternative to Meds Center.

1. Chand SP, Arif H. Depression. [Updated 2022 May 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:  [cited 2022 June 21]

2. Kirsch I. Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect. Z Psychol. 2014;222(3):128-134. doi: 10.1027/2151-2604/a000176. PMID: 25279271; PMCID: PMC4172306. [cited 2022 June 21]

3. Lacasse JR, Leo J. Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature. PLoS Med. 2005;2(12):e392. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020392 [cited 2022 June 21]

4. Meek C, SSRI Ads Questioned CMAJ Mar 2006, 174 (6) 754-754-a; DOI: 10.1403/cmaj.051634 [cited 2022 June 21]

5. Khamsi, R. Drug ads slammed for being sadly misleading. Nature (2005). [cited 2022 June 21]

6. FDA label Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate) oral and tablets Approval 2003 [cited 2022 June 21]

7. Landy K, Rosani A, Estevez R. Escitalopram. [Updated 2021 Sep 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2022 June 21]

8. Craft L, Perna FM, The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 6, no.3 (2004): 104-11 [cited 2022 June 21]

9. Kondo M, Jacoby S, South E, Does Spending Time Outdoors Reduce Stress? A Review of Ral-Time Stress Response to Outdoor Environments. Health & Place 51 (May 1, 2018): 136-150 [cited 2022 June 21]

10. Capaldi C, Colin A, Dopko R, Zelenski J The Relationship between Nature Connectedness and Happiness: A Meta-Analysis Frontiers in Psychology 5 (2014) [cited 2022 June 21]

11. Aberle D, Wu SE, Oklu R, Erinjeri J, Deipolyi AR. Association Between Allergies and Psychiatric Disorders in Patients Undergoing Invasive Procedures. Psychosomatics. 2017 Sep-Oct;58(5):490-495. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2017.03.015. Epub 2017 Mar 28. PMID: 28527521. [cited 2022 June 21]

12. DeRubeis RJ, Siegle GJ, Hollon SD. Cognitive therapy versus medication for depression: treatment outcomes and neural mechanismsNat Rev Neurosci. 2008;9(10):788-796. doi:10.1038/nrn2345 [cited 2022 June 21]

13. Fava GA, Offidani E. The mechanisms of tolerance in antidepressant action. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Aug 15;35(7):1593-602. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2010.07.026. Epub 2010 Aug 20. PMID: 20728491. [cited 2022 June 21]

14. O’Brian C,  Addiction and Dependence in DSM-V, Society for the Study of Addiction, October 6, 2010 [cited 2022 June 21]

15. Framer A. What I have learnt from helping thousands of people taper off antidepressants and other psychotropic medicationsTher Adv Psychopharmacol. 2021;11:2045125321991274. Published 2021 Mar 16. doi:10.1177/2045125321991274 [cited 2022 June 21]

16. Evans EA, Sullivan MA. Abuse and misuse of antidepressants. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2014;5:107-120. Published 2014 Aug 14. doi:10.2147/SAR.S37917 [cited 2022 June 21]

17.  Jauhar S, Hayes J, Goodwin GM, Baldwin DS, Cowen PJ, Nutt DJ. Antidepressants, withdrawal, and addiction; where are we now? J Psychopharmacol. 2019 Jun;33(6):655-659. doi: 10.1177/0269881119845799. Epub 2019 May 21. PMID: 31111764; PMCID: PMC7613097. [cited 2024 Feb 5]

18.  Schaffer DV, Gage FH. Neurogenesis and neuroadaptation. Neuromolecular Med. 2004;5(1):1-9. doi: 10.1385/NMM:5:1:001. PMID: 15001808. [cited 2024 Feb 5]

19.  Koob GF. Drug Addiction: Hyperkatifeia/Negative Reinforcement as a Framework for Medications Development. Pharmacol Rev. 2021 Jan;73(1):163-201. doi: 10.1124/pharmrev.120.000083. PMID: 33318153; PMCID: PMC7770492. [cited 2024 Feb 5]

Originally Published by Diane Ridaeus Published Nov 4, 2019

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Lexapro Addiction
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