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Lexapro: Side Effects, Withdrawals, and FAQs

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

April 17, 2024

Table of Contents

Lexapro is a popular antidepressant medication that can cause side effects such as nausea, headaches, and sexual dysfunction. 

It’s important to discuss any concerns about side effects with a healthcare provider. Additionally, abruptly stopping or reducing your dose of Lexapro can lead to withdrawal. These withdrawal symptoms may include nausea, mood changes, and electric shock sensations in the body. 

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While Lexapro withdrawal symptoms are dangerous one way you can avoid them is through gradual tapering of the medication. Before we go over other withdrawal treatment options, let’s get a better understand of what this drug is.

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What Is Lexapro?

Lexapro (generically escitalopram) is an antidepressant from the group of drugs known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). People use SSRIs to treat major depression, bipolar disorder, and general anxiety disorder by balancing levels of serotonin in the brain.

Antidepressants aren’t new to the market, they have been around for decades. However, in the past 20 or so years, they have gotten much more popular in recent years. Caused by events like the advent of social media and the COVID-19 epidemic.

One of the most common antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications prescribed today is Lexapro. Over the past decade, this drug has become a household name in prescription medications

While we probably know the name and know why it’s prescribed, what do we know about the drug itself?

What is an SSRI inhibitor? 

SSRI is short for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Essentially, an SSRI inhibitor blocks the reuptake of serotonin.

An SSRI works by not allowing the serotonin that’s been released to be reabsorbed. Instead, the serotonin passes in circulation between cells. This causes an extra amount of serotonin in the body. Leading to increased mood and “feel-good hormones.”

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What are Lexapro’s Side Effects?

While this drug has helped many, it is important to be aware of the side effects.  While the side effects of Lexapro aren’t particularly dangerous, there are still some risks.

Common side effects include: 

  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth 
  • Drowsiness
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Blurred vision
  • Rash
  • Increased pain during menstruation
  • Increased appetite
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Allergies
  • Hot flashes
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Heartburn
  • Pain in limbs
  • Weight gain
  • Jaw stiffness
  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sinus congestion
  • Sinus headache
  • Insomnia 

More serious side effects include:

  • Withdrawals from abruptly discontinued use
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Muscle pain 
  • Bronchitis
  • Tinnitus
  • Urinary tract infections

In general, Lexapro takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks to begin working. While the first week or so of treatment can be quite trying, some of the most impactful side effects occur during prolonged treatment. 

Needless to say, it is important to monitor your side effects while taking Lexapro. New evidence has emerged in the past few years that shows that SSRIs may not work for all patients. Instead it supports more natural methods of decreasing depression and anxiety.

It’s important that you speak to your health practitioner about any symptoms you are experiencing so that they can monitor any issues that may occur while taking the medication. 

Lexapro Withdrawal

If you’re coming off Lexapro, especially after a long time on the drug, it can cause Lexapro withdrawal. While this antidepressant can be helpful , it can also cause physical dependence with long-term use. This can lead to uncomfortable symptoms once the body no longer has it.

If you’re considering cutting use of the drug, it’s imperative that you speak to your prescribing physician first. They can help you understand what the best protocol will be for you, as you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Rather than quitting Lexapro cold turkey, a tapering strategy is typically recommended by healthcare providers.

Quitting Lexapro can lead to a number of side effects ranging from mild to moderate. Lexapro withdrawal side effects include:

  • Flu-like symptoms: Headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, etc.
  • Stomach problems: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Dizziness & lightheadedness: When standing up and/or moving quickly in particular.
  • Electric shock sensations: Usually referred to as “brain zaps” or “brain shivers”
  • Mood swings: anger, moodiness, anxiety

The Lexapro withdrawal timeline can last several weeks to several months. Contact your doctor if you’re unable to function normally or are concerned with the severity of your symptoms.

Overall, withdrawal is one of the more dangerous aspects of Lexapro use. While withdrawal will likely not be fatal or life-threatening, the presence of withdrawal alone can cause people to use the drug more and longer than they should.

woman looking out at lake representing lexapro withdrawal

Lexapro FAQs

Is Lexapro addictive?

While Lexapro does not have addictive properties because it does not produce a euphoric high when used, there is still other dangers associated with the drug

However, like with other antidepressants, sudden discontinuation of the drug may cause withdrawal symptoms. In these cases, it’s always important that you follow a healthcare provider’s instructions for stopping Lexapro, as well as seek their guidance if any issues arise.

Can you drink on Lexapro?

It’s not recommended to consume alcohol while taking Lexapro, because it has the potential to increase the risk of certain side effects like drowsiness and dizziness. 

Additionally, alcohol can actually worsen any symptoms of depression and anxiety, which can counteract the effects of the medication. In short, Lexapro and alcohol do not mix well because of the drug interactions with alcohol.

Is Lexapro an SSRI?

Yes, Lexapro is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). SSRIs are a class of medications that are used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions by increasing the availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

SSRIs work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin by certain nerve cells in the brain, allowing more of the neurotransmitter to remain in the synapses between neurons. 

Renaissance recovery logo representing lexapro withdrawal

Find Help For Lexapro Addiction At Renaissance Recovery

If you or a loved one is struggling with Lexapro addiction and need help, our team at Renaissance Recovery can help you. 

At Renaissance we specialize in outpatient care that includes individual and group therapies, support groups, dual diagnosis treatment, and more.

Call our admissions team to learn more about our addiction treatment programs and get your new life started today. We can help you find the happiness you’re looking for, call us at 866.330.9449 to learn how to overcome Lexapro abuse.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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