By Naomi Carr
Last updated: 12 February 2024 & medically reviewed by Morgan Blair
Lexapro is a brand name for the antidepressant medication escitalopram. It is prescribed to treat various mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Lexapro can cause several side effects, including nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, insomnia, and dry mouth. It can also cause a risk of severe side effects that may require treatment or a change of medication.
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What is Lexapro?
Lexapro is an antidepressant containing escitalopram. It is a medication in the class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Lexapro is prescribed as a tablet in 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg strengths and as an oral liquid. 
What is Lexapro used for?
Lexapro is approved for use in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) in people over the age of 12 and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in adults. It is also sometimes used off-label for other anxiety disorders and mood conditions. 
A typical dose of Lexapro is 10-20mg per day and individuals will often be tapered onto the medication to help reduce severe side effects. 
Why do people abuse Lexapro?
Lexapro is not a commonly abused substance, as it does not cause a feeling of euphoria or ‘high’ and it is not habit forming. However, some people misuse the medication by taking more than they are prescribed or taking it along with other substances to enhance the effects. 
Common side effects of Lexapro
It is usual to experience some side effects when commencing Lexapro treatment. Often, these side effects will be alleviated within a few weeks as the body adjusts to the medication. Common side effects of Lexapro include: 
Vivid or unusual dreams
Severe side effects of Lexapro
Rash or hives
Severe cognitive impairments
Extreme changes in heart rate or blood pressure
Persistent vomiting or diarrhea
Seizures: This risk may be higher in those with a history of seizures.
Mania: Lexapro could cause the onset of mania or hypomania, particularly in those with a history of mania or bipolar disorder.
Serotonin syndrome: If combined with other serotonergic medications, Lexapro could cause serotonin syndrome.
Unusual bleeding: Unexplained bruising or bleeding can occur when taking Lexapro, particularly when combined with NSAIDs or other blood-thinning medications.
If the individual taking Lexapro or their family members notice any concerning changes in mood and behavior, including thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it is important to seek the advice of a professional. They can provide appropriate support, such as close monitoring of adverse effects and changes in mood and behavior throughout treatment. 
Although Lexapro is not addictive, some physical dependence can occur with prolonged use, which can lead to the onset of withdrawal symptoms or discontinuation syndrome when stopping treatment, particularly if stopped abruptly. 
Discontinuation syndrome can include changes in mood and behavior, sensory disturbances, headaches, and insomnia. Because of this, a gradual dose reduction is recommended when discontinuing treatment. 
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of consciousness
People taking Lexapro may be at risk of accidental or intentional overdose. Additionally, the risk of overdose may be increased if Lexapro is combined with other substances, including alcohol. In the event of an overdose, call 911 immediately. 
Getting treatment for Lexapro dependence
As Lexapro is not often associated with abuse or addiction, it is not typically necessary to receive detox or rehabilitation treatment when ending Lexapro use. However, if Lexapro is misused or abused alongside additional substances, these services may be required to manage addictive behaviors, reduce use, and provide psychosocial support. 
Individuals taking Lexapro as prescribed should receive regular monitoring and reviews throughout their treatment. If it is deemed appropriate or necessary to discontinue Lexapro treatment, the prescribing doctor will likely advise on a safe cessation process. This will involve a gradual dose reduction over several weeks to help prevent or reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. 
As Lexapro is used to treat mood and anxiety disorders, during and following discontinuation individuals should ensure that they receive adequate psychological support. Changes in mood and behavior can occur during cessation and may require monitoring and intervention. Similarly, it is important to continue to manage any ongoing mental health symptoms following the discontinuation of medicinal treatment. 
Often, therapeutic intervention is beneficial, either as a lone treatment or alongside medications. Various types of therapies can be utilized, including: