Lexapro Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment
Dr. Gerardo Sison, Pharm.D.
Lexapro is one of the most popular antidepressants on the market. Used for the treatment of depression including major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders including general anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and panic disorders including panic attacks, Lexapro is sold under the generic name escitalopram and belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Other common SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft).
Like other SSRIs, Lexapro can cause withdrawal symptoms when use of the medication is abruptly discontinued or reduced. Here’s what you need to know about Lexapro withdrawal.
Who is likely to experience symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal?
Studies show that more than half -- about 56 percent -- of people who take SSRI antidepressants may experience withdrawal symptoms, which can range in severity from mild to severe.
Your risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms from Lexapro will vary depending on a variety of factors, including how long you have been using the drug, what dose of the medication you take, and your personal medical history.
It can take four to six weeks to experience the full effects of Lexapro. Patients are considered to be at risk of experiencing Lexapro withdrawal symptoms when they have been taking the medication for four weeks or longer.
If you have been taking Lexapro for four or more weeks and you want to stop taking the drug or reduce your dose of the medication, make sure to talk to your doctor first. Your doctor can help you develop a plan to gradually reduce your dose over time in order to minimize your risk of withdrawal symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal?
Lexapro can cause withdrawal symptoms like other medications in its class. About 46 percent of people who experience antidepressant withdrawal symptoms describe their symptoms as severe.
Common symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal may include:
- Muscle tension
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble remembering things
Dizziness, chills, and muscle tension are the most common symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal and are estimated to affect nearly half of all Lexapro users. Other symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal and common side effects of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome in general include:
- Changes to motor control, including tremors, difficulty controlling movement of the mouth, and unsteady gait
- Flu-like symptoms
- Mood changes, including anxiety, panic, depression, anger, and more
- Unusual sensations of “electrical shock” or “brain zaps”
- Digestive upset, including nauseous, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite
- Instability, including feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Sleep problems, including nightmares, insomnia, vivid dreams, and unusual dreams
- Sexual side effects such as delayed orgasm
What is the timeline for Lexapro withdrawal?
Each person’s experience with Lexapro withdrawal will be different. While some people may begin experiencing symptoms of withdrawal within a few hours of their last dose, most people begin to experience withdrawal symptoms within one to three days of their last dose. Others may not experience symptoms for up to a week after their last dose.
Most patients find that their Lexapro withdrawal symptoms gradually subside over the course of several weeks, although some may find that their symptoms last for several months. There is no way to know how long your withdrawal symptoms will last, but the best way to avoid them or minimize them may be tapering the dose of your medication gradually over time.
What treatment is available for Lexapro withdrawal?
The best strategy to minimize your Lexapro withdrawal symptoms is to gradually taper down your dose over time with the assistance of a medical professional. However, it may not stop symptoms completely. In general, tapering lasts for at least two weeks and may take longer for patients who take a higher dose of the medication.
Most patients will not need to take additional prescription or over-the-counter drugs to treat symptoms resulting from Lexapro withdrawal, and inpatient treatment is uncommon. However, because Lexapro can cause withdrawal symptoms in a large percentage of patients, you should only stop using the drug under the guidance of your doctor.
If you are concerned about experiencing Lexapro withdrawal, make sure you talk to your doctor about the best way to reduce your use of the drug. Tapering your dose of the medication can help you avoid or reduce common side effects of Lexapro withdrawal like dizziness, chills, and muscle tension.
Lexapro withdrawal symptoms can range in duration from several weeks to several months. If you experience severe symptoms, make sure to talk to your doctor.
The information provided in this article is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice.