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Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms, Side Effects, Treatment Help

Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms, Side Effects, Treatment Help

This entry was posted in Antidepressant on by .

Last Updated on March 2, 2021 by Carol Gillette

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Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Written by Diane Ridaeus Published Sep 13, 2018
Medically Reviewed by Dr John Motl MD

Tragically, medical professionals frequently under-appreciate and possibly misunderstand the challenges of Lexapro withdrawal.

Antidepressants like Lexapro, even IF pragmatic during a time of need, become questionable when put into the perspective of a lifetime of being medicated.

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About Lexapro Withdrawal

Holistic Treatment Success for Mal de Debarquement SyndromeSSRI drugs block the reuptake of serotonin, thought to ease depression by artificially raising the amount of serotonin that can attach to the receptors in the brain. Unfortunately, no drug can produce or create more serotonin. This is a biological process that only the body is equipped to do. Therefore, once the available serotonin has been metabolized or used up, the outcome will be a serotonin deficit. Many problems can occur as a result, such as brain zaps that are believed related to the body attempting to normalize neurochemistry after SSRI use.1

A person may take an SSRI, such as Lexapro, for years, for instance after a traumatic life event, and yet still be suffering. Undesirable Lexapro side effects can linger on for months and years, because of the way the drug has altered the natural chemistry of the brain and central nervous system.

This complex problem may lead to a desire to stop taking Lexapro. However, the problem can significantly compound if harsh discontinuation symptoms appear during Lexapro withdrawal, making stopping Lexapro unsustainable without well-planned Lexapro withdrawal help. It is the harshness of withdrawals that can result in dependence, or Lexapro addiction manifesting.

Medical assistance is essential in Lexapro withdrawal treatment, and becoming acquainted with effective protocols addressing how to get off Lexapro is highly recommended whenever considering Lexapro withdrawal. More information is available below on side effects, withdrawal effects, and health risks to be aware of.

WARNING:  Never abruptly stop taking Lexapro or any prescription drug. Always seek medical guidance before beginning a Lexapro taper to avoid risks to your health and safety.

What is Lexapro?

EscitalopramLexapro (escitalopram) is often prescribed in the treatment of depression and anxiety and is one reason why Lexapro withdrawal needs to be carefully and gradually done so as not to introduce further stress and trauma to the individual.

Lexapro belongs to the SSRI class of drugs, designed to selectively inhibit the reuptake of serotonin. Prior to starting or stopping Lexapro, research is recommended to obtain a better understanding of drug safety, drug interactions, health risks, and more.

Treating Emotional Depression With Drugs

drug treatment for depression Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed to temporarily ease emotional overwhelm or trauma as in the loss of a loved one. These medications are also commonly prescribed for Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and other mood disorders or conditions. Research suggests that overprescribing drugs instead of psychosocial treatments has had detrimental effects on a great number of people, including, tragically, the very young, and the very old.2

One of these detrimental effects is that over a surprisingly short time frame, dependence or other issues can develop which may lead to the decision to stop taking Lexapro. However, before attempting a Lexapro taper, it is recommended that one learn as much as possible about methods that can make stopping Lexapro much more gentle and less problematic, as is discussed further below.

Testimonial
Lexapro Withdrawal
Success

At ATMC I was always supported. The staff was great at providing opportunities for me to work towards stability. What helped me here was always keeping a positive outlook and the constant encouragement and reminders to keep faith in myself.

-Jackie

 

What is Lexapro (escitalopram) Used For?

Lexapro (escitalopram) has been approved by the US FDA3 for the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders. It is also prescribed “off-label” for certain other conditions, including:

  • Panic disorder
  • Hot flashes that can accompany menopause
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Other types of conditions that may involve emotional distress

Types of antidepressants include Celexa, Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil which all act in a similar way on the CNS (central nervous system). SSRI drugs, such as Lexapro, should not be taken by a woman who is pregnant or nursing, as doing so can harm the baby. Lexapro may be significantly more potent in its serotonergic action than other SSRI drugs, and should not be taken by anyone under the age of 25. This comes from the FDA black box warning concerning Lexapro use and the risk of suicidality.

The prescribing physician determines the dosage based on age, medical condition, other prescription drugs being taken, and additional factors of importance such as sodium levels, cardiovascular health, and other issues.

Lexapro (escitalopram) Alternative Names and Slang

The generic name for this drug is escitalopram, pronounced ES-sye-TA-loh-pram, or escitalopram oxalate. Oxalate refers to a chemical process that is used in manufacturing the drug. Lexapro has not become a common drug of abuse on the street. When it is found on the street, the pills have been diverted or produced in an illegal lab or “pill mill”.

Escitalopram is sold under several trade or brand names, including Lexapro and Cipralex. Although escitalopram (Lexapro) sounds similar and has a similar molecular structure to citalopram (Celexa), the two SSRI drugs are NOT identical.

Comparing dosages, a dose of Lexapro (escitalopram) should be limited to half that of Celexa (citalopram) because Lexapro has twice the effect of Celexa on the neurotransmitters and receptors that both drugs target. For example, 10 mg. of Lexapro would be approximately equivalent to 20 mg. of Celexa.

Lexapro Side Effects

There are multiple side effects of Lexapro (escitalopram) that can occur, and some are extremely important to monitor due to their extreme health risks, though their occurrence is more rarely seen. Here are some of the more troubling potential Lexapro side effects to be aware of:

Hyponatremia:  should be monitored especially closely in older aged females, and also in any person who is underweight, and anyone with a history of liver disease or renal retention. Symptoms of this serious condition can include seizures, fatigue, dizziness, lethargy, cramps, cognitive impairment, and confusion, requiring immediate medical treatment should it arise.

Suicidality:  Like all types of antidepressants, Lexapro is associated with increased suicidality most pronounced in children and the young adult population. For this reason, the FDA placed a black box warning on Lexapro with age restrictions.

Bleeding:  Lexapro can increase the risk of bruising, vaginal bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, or other internal sites of potential hemorrhage.

Sexual Dysfunction:  Sexual dysfunction can affect both males and females taking Lexapro. Commonly reported side effects are the inability to climax, impotence, and decreased libido. Lexapro can also affect the quality/quantity of sperm and therefore may interfere with the ability to conceive.

Hypomania/Mania:  Lexapro can cause a condition of abnormally heightened euphoria, excitability, lack of the need for sleep, delusional thoughts, behaviors that are erratic or demonstrate impulsivity or poor judgment.

Common Lexapro Side Effects Include:

  • Suicidality*
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Worsening depression
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sweating
  • Somnolence (sleeping for excessively long periods of time)

*Suicidality is clearly listed on the FDA drug label’s black box warning.

At Alternative to Meds Center, many therapies and mental health protocols are available that could be considered Lexapro alternatives. The goal at the center is to provide opportunities to achieve natural mental health without the need for prescription drugs.

Lexapro Withdrawal and Physical Symptoms

A gradual reduction in doses is recommended to be done at regular intervals of, for instance, two to four weeks. This is to allow the adverse effects (physical, emotional, etc.) of Lexapro withdrawal to settle out before further reduction in dose is attempted. Each person is a unique case, requiring unique scheduling. Getting off Lexapro can be made much more comfortable and gentle using a treatment plan that is so structured, along with enough education and guidance regarding how to get off Lexapro safely and gently.

Never abruptly stop taking an SSRI drug as it can greatly lengthen as well as intensify Lexapro withdrawal symptoms and associated health risks.4

Lexapro withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Brain zaps*
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety, restlessness, agitation
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Visual disturbances, blurred vision
  • Gastrointestinal upset (indigestion, diarrhea, cramps)
  • Increased appetite or decreased appetite, weight gain or weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Changes in perception, i.e. taste, smell, sound, etc.
  • Fever, chills, flu-like symptoms
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination

*According to Dr. Jane Pollack, PhD brain zaps are common during SSRI withdrawal and are often accompanied by lightheadedness, vertigo and tinnitus.

Discontinuing/Quitting Lexapro (escitalopram)

For some, side effects may ultimately outweigh the benefits of continuing to take an antidepressant, and this may lead to a decision to discontinue taking the drug and to look for Lexapro withdrawal help.

However, getting off Lexapro without help can be extremely uncomfortable. For some, the severity of Lexapro withdrawal symptoms is described as near to impossible to endure. This is the primary driver in developing Lexapro addiction or dependence. In such cases, inpatient care may be the best way forward for comfort, safety, and the greatest chance of success in meeting the challenges of withdrawal and the benefits of health and natural mental health regained in recovery.

In tapering from an SSRI drug, including Lexapro (escitalopram), gradually cutting the dose rather than abruptly stopping use is the medically recommended route to take. Note — of equal importance, support the process of normalizing neurochemistry with nutrition and other strategies in the wake of the disruption from SSRIs.

Dangers of Quitting Lexapro Too Rapidly

The primary danger of quitting any SSRI drug is decreasing the dose too rapidly over too short a time. A slow reduction method may seem counter-productive, especially when side effects have developed to an intolerable level. But it is the best way to avoid the intense shock that can occur if withdrawal is too fast or too sudden.

There is one exception:  “serotonin syndrome”

serotonin syndromeSerotonin syndrome can occur when too much serotonin is activated in the body and can be life-threatening. Serotonin syndrome requires immediate medical intervention, by ambulance if possible, to the nearest emergency facility or ICU.

Although part of the remedy is to discontinue the SSRI (serotonergic) medication, this must be done in a medical setting where life-saving medical protocols are immediately accessible.

Signs of serotonin syndrome signal a potentially life-threatening event, and include:

  • Sudden rise in body temperature, fever
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Losing consciousness
  • Shivering
  • Goosebumps
  • Headache
  • Twitching muscles
  • Rigid muscles, stiffness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Confusion, disoriented
  • Heavy sweating
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Diarrhea
  • Inability to speak clearly

Lexapro (escitalopram) FAQs

Here are some of the most common questions about Lexapro (escitalopram):

Is Lexapro the same as Xanax (benzodiazepines)?

No. Xanax is classified as a benzodiazepine drug, which acts on different parts of the central nervous system and brain than SSRI drugs. Xanax is a sedative, acting primarily on GABA receptors, unlike Lexapro which is serotonergic in action and effect.

Is it OK to drink while on Lexapro?

Alcohol is a depressant and can have serious negative interactions in the presence of an SSRI drug such as Lexapro.5

If alcohol and Lexapro are consumed together, their effects are augmented and extremely dangerous to the heart, respiratory system, and other vital organ functions. If you feel unable to eliminate the use of alcohol, discuss the situation with your primary physician or caregiver, who can help you find the best solution.

Treatment for Lexapro Addiction, Lexapro Abuse, Lexapro Dependence?

Treatment for Lexapro addiction is the wisest recommendation when dependence on the medication has developed. Dependence can occur over a short period of time. It is possible to use effective yet gentle methods to help a person reduce their dosage and regain their health. At ATMC, we specialize in holistic neurotransmitter replacement therapy for natural mental health.

Benefits of The Alternative to Meds Center Treatment for Lexapro Medication Tapering:

Lexapro tapering and withdrawals can be extremely difficult to endure without medical guidance and proper support. However, with the right nutrition and other therapeutic support offered at ATMC, the process can be surprisingly mild and tolerable.

Health Goals During Lexapro Withdrawal Include:

  • Better quality sleep
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved and stabilized emotional mood
  • Better appetite
  • Reduced depression
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved overall health through nutritional support

For More Information on Alternative to Meds Lexapro Withdrawal

The Alternative to Meds Center drug tapering treatment programs includes the use of lab testing and monitoring throughout withdrawal which can significantly ease the process. Moreover, the information gathered is then used to navigate healing in a precise, safe, and comfortable way. Through the inpatient residential setting, constant monitoring and care can occur which includes many adjunctive therapies for physical comfort, de-stressing, and relaxation, all of which are tremendously beneficial throughout withdrawal and recovery.

Please ask us for more information on the process of safe medication tapering and find out if it might help in your unique health situation and recovery goals. Our inpatient residential program at Alternative to meds Center provides ideal resources in a serene setting, for positively life-changing results. We look forward to your inquiry about our inpatient Lexapro withdrawal treatment program.


1. Pollack J, “Fireworks or Brain Zaps?” Psychology Today [online] 2011 July 3 [cited 2020 Nov 25]

2. Smith B,Inappropriate prescribing.” American Psychological Association [online] 2012 June, Print version: p36 [cited 2020 Nov 25]

3. FDA drug label Lexapro 2002 [cited 2020 Nov 25]

4. NAMI Info letter, “Escitalopram (Lexapro).” 2018 Dec [cited 2020 Nov 25]

5. NAMI authors, “Harmful Interactions – Mixing Alcohol With Medicines.” 2003 revised 2014 NIH Publication No 13-5329 [cited 2020 Dec 8]



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

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona.  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine.  Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.

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