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Lexapro Addiction And The Best Rehab Centers For Treatment

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

January 17, 2019

Lexapro is the brand name for the drug compound escitalopram used to improve energy and elevate mood, as well as to reduce feelings of anxiety. The drug is often used to treat clinical depression and anxiety and is also effective in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Lexapro is sold as an oral tablet under the brand names Cipralex and Nexito.

How Lexapro Works

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Lexapro affect serotonin levels in the brain and along the central nervous system. They work by blocking the re-absorption of available serotonin by neighboring nerve cells.

While the exact mechanism for depression and anxiety is not yet known, blood levels of those tested indicate low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, though whether this is the result of or cause of depression, has yet to be determined.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter relating to mood and specifically to avoidance behaviors. In mammals, female populations tend to have lower levels of serotonin, making them more keenly aware of their surroundings and any threats posed to their offspring. Evolution favored those mammals who were more protective and the likely result is that women today are born with lower serotonin than men. Consequently, women tend to be twice as likely to experience anxiety as men. When serotonin is too low, it results in an intensity of those avoidance behaviors linked to the neurotransmitter, including anxiety and agoraphobia.

Serotonin, manufactured primarily in the gut, and also along the central nervous system, normally inhibits the excitability of nerve cells. When a person experiences significant stress serotonin is released to calm excitability of these cells, making the flow of information to and from the brain more organized and regulated, which diminishes anxiety. When not enough serotonin is available, it is hypothesized fear and anxiety is amplified.

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Lexapro Addiction

While Lexapro is not considered addictive, someone taking the drug for anxiety or depression may become psychologically addicted to the drug, thinking they need to take it for longer or in higher doses than recommended to feel normal. Additionally, someone suffering with mental disorders is already at a higher risk for drug dependency.

Withdrawal symptoms from Lexapro can also increase the likelihood of continued use of the medication. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and often resemble a bad flu virus, with headache, high fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive sweating, along with mood changes and irritability being common complaints. The co-occurrence of anxiety or depression accompanying these symptoms can reinforce the thought that the drug is necessary to maintain normalcy.

As with any SSRI medication, it is recommended someone taper the drug slowly under medical supervision.

Withdrawal From Lexapro

Somewhere between 20-50 percent of people who take an SSRI medication suffer from a disproportionate number of withdrawal side effects including flu-like symptoms, mood changes, and insomnia. Withdrawal from Lexapro may take longer and need to be more carefully monitored for those with sensitivity to withdrawal from the drug.

Those undergoing treatment for Lexapro addiction will go through a medically supervised detoxification period that is sometimes managed with medication to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Adverse Health Effects From Lexapro

Some common side effects from use of Lexapro include gastrointestinal upset, insomnia, headaches, and sexual dysfunction. Serotonin is closely linked to the regulation of sleep cycles, so experiencing changes in sleep patterns or vivid dreams is normal. Serious side effects may also occur and include suicidal thoughts, mania, significant changes in appetite, and convulsions. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek help from a medical professional immediately.

Common Lexapro Side Effects Include:

  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Strange dreams

Severe Lexapro Side Effects Include:

  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Mania
  • Changes in appetite
  • Convulsions
  • Abnormal bleeding

Lexapro And Serotonin Syndrome

In rare cases, someone taking an SSRI medication may elevate their levels of serotonin to dangerous levels. Symptoms of serotonin toxicity include agitation, hallucinations, muscle spasms, irregular or racing heart rate, significant changes in blood pressure, muscle rigidity, sweating and fever, and gastrointestinal upset.

Lexapro Overdose

Side effects from Lexapro overdose may mimic common side effects, but in greater severity. These side effects include vomiting, excessive sweating, drowsiness, convulsions, cyanosis, and coma. A person who has overdosed from Lexapro may begin hyperventilating, appear confused, and have difficulty concentrating. Seek help immediately if any of these symptoms occur with any severity.

Help For Lexapro Addiction

If you or someone you know is addicted to Lexapro, help is available. can connect you with the resources and treatment options available in your area. A comprehensive treatment plan will include help for any underlying issues resulting in the addiction. You are not alone and you need not go through treatment and recovery alone. Find out more by contacting today and begin living the life you imagined.

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