Updated: 3 August, 2019
Lexapro is a brand name for the generic drug escitalopram, which belong to a type of medication referred to as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It is a prescription drug used to treat cases of depression and all forms of anxiety disorder in adult patients. This drug can be presented in the form of a coated tablet. Its different strengths are 5, 10 and 20 milligram. The liquid type is also available for use. As for all drugs, the brand name ones are usually more expensive than the generic types. Such generic types though more affordable, may not be available in all strengths as its brand name counterpart. Lexapro was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000 and in 2012, the first generic version of the drug was also approved by the FDA.
As an antidepressant drug, lexapro is used to treat a whole lot of associated conditions which include depression and extreme mood swings. As a drug of the SSRI class, it is used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder but might not be the best medication for this condition, therefore it may not be prescribed for it. Lexapro treats depression by helping the restoration of serotin balance in the brain. Serotin is a natural substance that can improve the level of your energy, how good you feel about your self or life and decrease any form of anxiety or nervousness. Before commencing treatment with this drug, discuss mode of treatment with your doctor to know if there are alternative ways to tackle your depression or anxiety without taking drugs. Use lexapro if it is found to be the best way to treat and improve your condition.
How To Use Lexapro
Read the instruction label very well before taking this medication. Make sure you fully understand what is written on it. Discuss with your doctor regarding any misunderstanding you might have. Check for the ingredients contained in the drug on the package. You should be able to identify any ingredient you are allergic to and tell your doctor about it. Adhere to all the instructions on the drug label. It is possible for your doctor to prescribe this medication for you in a different way as written on the medication package. Discuss this with your doctor if it happens and clarify why it was adjusted.
This medication can be taken with food or without it. For drug to function maximally and bring good results quickly, take them at the same time on a daily basis (as prescribed). Take medication by mouth and wash down your throat with a glass of water. If you are taking the liquid form, you will most likely be given a dosing syringe. Otherwise a special dosing spoon or cup will be made available to you if you do not have (request for it from your pharmacist if you were not given). Measure your liquid lexapro with this syringe, cup or spoon.
Patience is needed when taking this medication as it might take up to 4 weeks of medication for symptoms to improve. Keep a strict medication routine throughout this period. Try not to miss any dose. Continue taking your medication even if you feel well, till you complete it. Let your doctor know if your symptoms don’t improve. Withdrawal symptoms may occur if you suddenly stop using this drug. Such withdrawal symptoms are not good for you and might put you in a worse state than you were at the beginning of the medication. Adhere strictly to your doctor’s instructions on how to end your medication with care. You are to be gradually weaned off this drug.
The usual dose for adults suffering generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) starts at 10 milligram to be taken orally, once per day. After about 1 week of medication, your dosage might be increased by your doctor to 20 milligram to be taken once daily. The dosage per day should not exceed 20 milligram taken orally once in a day. Progress made while taking this medication is carefully monitored by the doctor. With this, your doctor can decide to up your dosage or make necessary adjustments. Frequent re-evaluation is to be done to determine if you are to continue with the medication. After some months of medication, the condition can be managed with maintenance treatment using a dosage of 20 milligram once per day to keep patients on track.
When treating depression, an initial dose of 10 mg is taken orally on a daily basis. This dosage can also be increased to 20 mg to be taken daily after one week of medication. At this rate, the dosage can not be increased again for daily intake until the end of this medication. For severe depression cases, treatment can take several months of steady therapy. Frequent follow up checks and examinations will be done to determine the effectiveness of this drug and if treatment should continue. 20 milligram once daily is prescribed by doctors for the maintenance treatment of depression in patients.
For major episodes of depressive disorder 10 milligram is usually prescribed to be taken by mouth, once daily. Patient is monitored by doctor, to make sure that there is consistent improvement. Maintenance treatment is also by taking 20 milligram of this drug, once daily.
For the treatment of depression and general anxiety in children 12 years and above, dosage usually starts at 10 milligram, taken once daily. This dosage can be increased to 20 milligram, daily, after about 3 weeks of treatment and frequent check-ins with the doctor. The dosage cannot be increased as this is the limit for this drug. Based on the severity of the condition, treatment can take several months while patient is assessed from time to time to know if maintenance treatment will be initiated. Patient is to take 20 milligram of the drug, once daily. Prescribed dosage should be adhered to strictly. Do not take more or less of the dosage prescribed. Do not take this medicine more than once daily.
If you accidentally overdose, call your doctor. You might experience the following symptoms due to such overdose:
- Lack of sleep
- Abnormal sweating
- Low blood pressure
- Shaky feeling
- Fast and intense heart rate
- Drowsiness without actually sleeping
- Coma if left unattended
In case of a missed dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if you remember that you missed a dose close to your next dose time, wait until the next dose and take a single dose. Do not double your dose. Try to keep to your dose time (try not to miss the dose as consistency makes the dose more effective). Do not reduce or increase your dose on your own, follow your doctor’s instruction to the later.
Do not stop taking lexapro abruptly, you may develop the following withdrawal symptoms if you do:
- Legs and feet numbness
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Easily irritated
Your doctor will tell you when to stop using this drug. You are to slowly wean off this medication to avoid the symptoms mentioned above. Tell your doctor about any uneasy feeling you might have while on this medication.
Side Effects of Lexapro
Your body has its own way of fighting foreign substances. When you start taking lexapro, your body will perceive it as foreign. It will therefore fight It and by doing so exhibit some symptoms. With time, your body will get used to the drug and begin to see it as one of its own. It will stop exhibiting those funny symptoms. In some cases, the body never fully accepts a particular drug and keep expressing the symptoms. They might even progress to worse symptoms of you continue taking the drug if your body does not accept it. These symptoms are referred to as the side effects of a drug.
Lexapro side effects include:
- Profuse sweating
- Change in sex drive
- Increased appetite
- Frequent yawning
- Stomach pain
- Patchy and dry mouth
- Flu symptoms like running nose, sneezing, coughing
- Constant tiredness
These side effects can progress into severe ones. Tell your doctor of this happens. You should send a report to the FAD by yourself or through your doctor if you start experiencing severe side effects of this drug.
Severe side effects include:
- Profuse sweating
- Sharp breaths
- Very stiff muscles
Do not take lexapro with other pills that might induce sleep as they will add to the side effects of this drug. Give your doctor complete and detailed information on all the drugs, vitamins, supplements or herbal substances you are currently using. Let your doctor be aware of any sleeping pills, anxiety drugs, depressants, muscle relaxers, narcotics or seizure medications you intend taking.
Some drugs that interact with lexapro include:
- Headache (migraine) medication
- Blood thinners
- Pain medication (narcotics)
- ADHD (stimulant) medication
Warnings regarding lexapro
A clinical study carried out on a group of children, teenagers and young adults (up to 24 years of age) who were taking antidepressants like lexapro showed that the people under study became suicidal. They were having thoughts of either killing themselves or have already started putting plans together to carry out their intentions. Some of them even tried to put their thoughts to action. From this clinical study it was established that children, teenagers and young adults who use antidepressants to treat depression or general anxiety disorder are more likely to commit suicide than other people within the same age group who are suffering depression but are not being treated with antidepressants.
There is still no valid theory to explain why the use of antidepressants increase suicidal tendencies in people and if children, teenagers and young adults should continue using the medication for the treatment of depression and anxiety problems. It is best not to treat children under 12 with antidepressants except recommended by their doctor as the most effective way to treat their condition with positive results.
Be aware that taking antidepressants like lexapro can cause sudden and unexpected changes to your mental health. This does not only affect younger people but adults above 24 too. Suicidal tendencies can arise at the onset of your medication or when your dosages are altered by increasing or decreasing them as your doctor deems best for you. Call your doctor if you develop any of these symptoms as they may indicate that your depression is getting worse while you are on this medication:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Suicidal actions
- Panic attacks
- Aggressive behaviour
- Spontaneous acts
- Easily irritated
- Severe restlessness
- Over excitement
There might come a time when you might be unable to seek treatment on your own. Let your family or caregiver know which symptoms to look out for so as to contact your doctor in case of an emergency. You are to be closely monitored by your doctor or health care provider while on this medication. Make sure to keep all appointments for check ups, so that your progress can be accurately evaluated.
Be sure you discuss the risks and benefits of using (or not using) this drug with your doctor before starting treatment. Let your doctor know the medical history of your family especially if there is any incident of bipolar among your family members. Having any form of mental illness increases your chance of being suicidal in the near future. Engage in any treatment program that will help get you out of this condition and make yourself available for regular monitoring by your doctor. They will help you watch out for any tendency to commit suicide. Let your family understand your condition so as to alert your doctor if need be.
Do not let anyone use your medication. Store your drug in its own container (close lid tightly). Keep away from extreme temperatures. Contact the drug disposal agency or your pharmacist to know the best way to dispose unused lexapro, do not flush down the toilet. Be very careful with this medication, keep away from children and pets.
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