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Lexapro Withdrawal, Escitalopram Effects, Detox, & Timeline

The most effective strategy to reduce Lexapro withdrawal symptoms is to gradually taper off your medication. Tapering is gradually reducing your dose until your body becomes accustomed to lower amounts of the medication. Continue to learn more about Lexapro withdrawal and treatment.


Lexapro Withdrawal

Lexapro (escitalopram) is an SSRI that is prescribed to treat mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. It is critical not to discontinue Lexapro without first consulting with your doctor, as doing so might result in a number of unpleasant Lexapro withdrawal symptoms. Agitation, nausea, headaches, and other symptoms of this antidepressant withdrawal syndrome might occur.

Although some people do not suffer Lexapro withdrawal symptoms, the majority experience them one to three days after their last dosage. These symptoms usually go away within a few weeks, although they can continue longer in certain situations.

How Long Does Lexapro Withdrawal Last? Lexapro Withdrawal Timeline

The length of withdrawal effects of Lexapro depends on several factors, including how long a person has taken the medication as well as the dosage that they are taking. The withdrawal effects from Lexapro also tend to last longer if a person quits cold turkey rather than gradually tapering off of the medication.

Given these many considerations, there is no exact timeline to determine how long a person will experience Lexapro withdrawal symptoms. A large number of people, however, notice that the most severe discontinuation symptoms tend to increase after 90 days or three months. There are people, however, who report taking months or even over a year to fully recover.

What is Lexapro?

Escitalopram (marketed as Lexapro) is included in the class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). [1] This class of drugs is used to treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. It works by boosting levels of a natural substance in the brain called serotonin.

Serotonin, known as the “happy” neurotransmitter, signals an increase in feelings of happiness or well-being. It’s released into the spaces between your brain cells (synapses) in order to transmit this “happiness” signal through your brain and central nervous system.

Lexapro may also be helpful when prescribed “off-label” for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders such as binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). “Off-label” means that it hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this condition.

Although this medication may not be considered addictive, some people develop a tolerance to it and dependence on it, leading to Lexapro withdrawal symptoms. The definition of addiction is the compulsion to ingest intoxicating substances, and since Lexapro does not act quickly enough on brain chemistry to induce a high, it is an unlikely target of abuse or addiction.

People who have struggled with substance abuse or polydrug abuse in the past may attempt to abuse Lexapro. The medication also has interactions with several drugs, including other prescription medications, so some may try to combine Lexapro to enhance a high from another drug.

How long does it take for escitalopram to work?

Escitalopram, (brand name “Lexapro”) always starts working on the very first day of intake. In fact, Escitalopram begins significantly inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin within just a few hours of ingesting the first dose.

Although Lexapro substantially modifies neurotransmission on the first day of treatment, this does not automatically mean that users will derive therapeutic benefit – or even notice that the medication is “working.”

While a small percentage of Lexapro users may respond to the medication rapidly (e.g. on the very first day of treatment, or within several days of treatment initiation), most will not notice Lexapro working immediately.

It is most common for Lexapro users to notice the medication working (or alleviating medical symptoms) after several weeks of daily administration – usually between weeks 4 and 8 of treatment. Moreover, some individuals may require more than 8 weeks to notice that Lexapro has taken effect.

Lexapro (Escitalopram) Drug Facts

Generic Name: escitalopram [ EE-sye-TAL-o-pram ]

Drug Class: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

Scheduled Substance: Schedule 4 – prescription only medicine

It may take 1 to 4 weeks or longer before you feel the full benefit of Lexapro. It is crucial for you to continue to take Lexapro even if you feel well. Do not stop taking the medication without talking to your doctor. Your doctor will probably decrease your dose gradually.

Lexapro Missed Dose Withdrawal

To avoid unpleasant withdrawals from Lexapro, take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.

Weight Loss After Lexapro Withdrawal

You may lose weight when you stop using an antidepressant like Lexapro, but don’t stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor first. If you have a loss of appetite as a result of depression and your depression returns after discontinuing antidepressants, you may also lose weight.

Lexapro Withdrawal Brain Zaps or Dizziness Lexapro Withdrawal

Symptoms of withdrawal from Lexapro brain zaps can develop upon abrupt discontinuation, after a missed or decreased dose, and at any time when the medicine is used as recommended. Despite the number of recorded cases, brain zaps remain a little-studied phenomenon. Brain zaps are frequently characterized as feeling like quick electric shocks to the head that may radiate to other regions of the body. Some describe it as a short shaking of the brain. You might also hear them referred to as “brain zaps,” “brain shocks,” “brain flips,” or “brain shivers.”

Lexapro withdrawal dizziness and flu-like symptoms are frequent early withdrawal Lexapro side effects, and they can continue for up to three weeks. Lexapro withdrawal dizzy symptoms might linger for months or even years in certain circumstances. Seeking professional medical assistance is advised.

Withdrawal Symptoms from Lexapro

Tell your doctor if you experience any of the following withdrawal symptoms of Lexapro while you are decreasing your dose of escitalopram or soon after you stop taking escitalopram.

If you suddenly stop taking Lexapro, you may experience Lexapro withdrawal side effects such as:

  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Burning
  • Numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Frenzied or abnormally excited mood
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Lexapro Withdrawal Diarrhea

When you stop taking antidepressants or reduce the dose too quickly, neurotransmitters affect the body, and you may feel physical as well as mental repercussions. Digestive problems are a common ailment. You might have nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, or a loss of appetite.

Lexapro Withdrawal 3 Months

Withdrawal from Lexapro symptoms often takes 90 days to three months of discontinuing this medication. Symptoms of withdrawal from Lexapro may last for several weeks or even months. During this time, a person can take some steps to help reduce the severity of symptoms.

Before modifying the dose or duration of the Lexapro drug course, people should always consult with a doctor. A doctor will evaluate the optimum way to decrease the medicine while minimizing the dangerous symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal.

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Lexapro Abuse Statistics

Rates of prescription drug abuse have reached epidemic proportions. The majority of individuals prescribed antidepressants do not misuse the medication. However, certain classes of antidepressants do carry abuse potential. Vulnerable patient populations include those with a history of substance abuse and those in controlled environments. Warning signs include the presence of aberrant behaviors. Physicians should include antidepressants when screening for risky prescription medication use. When antidepressant misuse is detected, a thoughtful treatment plan, including referral to an addiction specialist, should be developed and implemented.


7.2%

In 2018, an estimated 7.2% of American adults had a major depressive episode in the past year. Antidepressants are one of the primary treatments for depression and are among the most frequently used therapeutic medications in the United States.

Source: CDC

1/3

About one-third of persons with severe depressive symptoms take antidepressant medication.

Source: CDC

40

Among both males and females, those aged 40 and over are more likely to take antidepressants than those in younger age groups.

Source: CDC


Lexapro Side Effects

Most individuals do not experience severe side effects when taking Lexapro. After a few weeks, any side effects typically go away once the body has grown accustomed to the medication.

However, there are some side effects that may include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion
  • Other abdominal or digestive issues
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Rebound depression or anxiety
  • Increased sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Dry mouth
  • Runny nose, sneezing, or other flu-like symptoms

Some serious side effects could indicate a bad reaction to Lexapro. These include:

  • Unusual excitement
  • Mania
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Irregular heartbeat or racing heart
  • Serious muscle stiffness
  • Fever
  • Extreme confusion

It is important to contact 911 immediately when experiencing these symptoms. Moreover, people who are younger than 24 years old are at an increased risk of developing suicidal thoughts or actions when taking SSRIs, including Lexapro.

Individuals who have bipolar disorder that has not been diagnosed or misdiagnosed as depression are more likely to experience a serious manic episode. When a person experiences mania or hypomania, they should not take Lexapro.

Lexapro Long Term Side Effects 

Lexapro has no long-term side effects except for possible dependence and tolerance, which are not associated with addiction in this instance. A physician will work with their patient to appropriately adjust their dose of Lexapro to help with dependence and tolerance over time and, at some point, may decide to switch their patient to a different antidepressant. If an individual has an undiagnosed pre-existing condition, like liver disease, seizure disorder, kidney problems, or a thyroid problem, Lexapro may make these conditions worse.

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Lexapro and Serotonin Syndrome

“Serotonin syndrome” happens when serotonin levels in the brain become too high. Other medications which affect serotonin levels can increase the risk. These medications may include cough remedies, herbal supplements, and migraine treatments.

Serotonin syndrome from Lexapro is more likely to occur with high doses. Symptoms of serotonin syndrome should be reported to a doctor immediately and may include:

  • Sudden or unexpected high fever
  • Increased heart rate, irregular heartbeat
  • Loss of balance, lack of coordination
  • Confusion and/or hallucinations
  • Seizures

Sexual Lexapro Side Effects

Lexapro can also cause sexual side effects, such as delayed ejaculation or difficulty coming to orgasm. Sexual issues often don’t resolve as long as you’re taking the drug.

Lexapro Side Effects Weight Gain

Over time, Lexapro can contribute to weight gain. This is because depression often causes decreased appetite, and taking an antidepressant can help you eat more. Some research shows the drug can lead to weight loss in some people, too.

Drug Interactions with Lexapro

It can be dangerous to mix Lexapro with other medications and supplements. Drug interactions can occur with:

  • Other antidepressants: SSRIs like Celexa (citalopram), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline) increase the risk of serotonin syndrome if you take them with Lexapro. So do monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) like Zyvox (linezolid).
  • Pimozide: Combining Lexapro with the antipsychotic drug pimozide (Orap) can cause severe heart problems.
  • Blood thinners: Prescription drugs that decrease blood clotting, like Coumadin (warfarin), raise the risk of bleeding when combined with Lexapro.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) also increase bleeding risk by decreasing blood clotting. 
  • Some supplements: Check with a healthcare professional for specifics, but St. John’s Wort is one supplement that raises the chance of side effects and can cause serotonin syndrome.

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What Causes Lexapro Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is a set of symptoms that may occur when the amount of a particular medication or drug in a person’s body decreases significantly. Some patients who take Lexapro (escitalopram) and feel better may assume that they no longer need the medicine, so they stop taking it. 

Stopping Lexapro suddenly is unwise because the medication has an important relationship with serotonin, the neurotransmitter found in blood platelets and the central nervous system linked to depression. As a result, when medications like Lexapro that affect serotonin levels in the brain are suddenly stopped, you may experience very severe emotional and physical Lexapro cold turkey withdrawal symptoms.

Once a person stops taking Lexapro, the body needs time to adjust. The amount of serotonin may decrease suddenly and will need time to replenish. During this time, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Lexapro withdrawal can have serious consequences for your life, both physically and mentally. SSRIs, such as Lexapro, act by raising serotonin levels in the brain. After you stop taking them, your brain takes some time to adjust to the drug's absence.
Lexapro withdrawal can have serious consequences for your life, both physically and mentally. SSRIs, such as Lexapro, act by raising serotonin levels in the brain. After you stop taking them, your brain takes some time to adjust to the drug’s absence.

Factors Affecting Lexapro Withdrawal

There are several factors that will affect your Lexapro withdrawal. These factors can affect the length and severity of your Lexapro withdrawal. For instance, the longer you take Lexapro, the more severe your Lexapro withdrawal is likely to be. These factors also help determine how a doctor treats your Lexapro withdrawal.

  • How much Lexapro do you take?
  • The frequency with which you take it
  • The amount of time you have been on it
  • Whether or not you go cold turkey
  • Your body makeup, including your brain

Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms

As previously mentioned, Lexapro withdrawal symptoms start after abrupt cessation following prolonged use. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that this phenomenon is not unique to Lexapro, and it can occur with even greater frequency in those SSRIs that have shorter durations of action than Lexapro. 

With continued disuse of SSRI medications, Lexapro withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety and depression may arise which may be related to the relapse of the patient’s major depression or generalized anxiety for which they were receiving antidepressant treatment with SSRIs in the first place.

The symptoms and signs can occur within days or weeks of stopping Lexapro and are dependent on the duration of usage, the half-life of the medication, and the patient’s individual physiology. There can be over 53 different Lexapro withdrawal symptoms and signs which can occur within 1 to 7 days of stopping or reducing SSRI use as reported by one study [3] which attempted to develop diagnostic criteria for SSRI discontinuation syndrome.

The Most Frequently Encountered Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Gastrointestinal Problems: Nausea, emesis, anorexia, cramps, and diarrhea
  • Hyperarousal: Jerkiness, anxiety, irritability, mania, agitation, aggression
  • Vasomotor Instability: Hyperhydrosis, Flushing, Difficulty tolerating heat
  • Flu-like Symptoms: Malaise, fatigue, aching, headache
  • Paresthesias: Sensations of “burning” “tingling” “electric brain zaps”
  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia, Hypersomnia, Vivid dreams, Nightmares
  • Imbalance: Dizziness, Pre-syncope, uneven gait

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Tips for Coping with Lexapro Withdrawal Symptoms

A person should never try to quit Lexapro without discussing this decision with their doctor and developing an action plan. In most cases, a doctor will recommend slowly reducing the dosage and possibly switching to an alternative SSRI medication to aid the tapering process.

Some general tips for coping with Lexapro withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Eating a healthful and nutritious diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking all other medications according to the prescription
  • Completing the tapering process
  • Tracking changes in the mood on a calendar or in a notebook
  • Telling a doctor about any withdrawal symptoms
  • Seeking support from friends, family, or community groups

Know the Warning Signs of Lexapro Withdrawal

When you stop or reduce your dose of Lexapro, there is a risk that you may begin to feel suicidal. Large-scale research studies have found a clear association between the discontinuation of antidepressants and suicide attempts. It is important to keep this in mind during your Lexapro withdrawal experience, if you begin noticing unusually strong symptoms of depression it is imperative that you seek help immediately. 

If you or someone you love shows any of the following signs or symptoms after stopping Lexapro, get help:

  • Becoming preoccupied with death, dying, or violence
  • Engaging in risky or self-destructive activities, such as driving drunk
  • Feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Gathering the means to commit suicide, such as bullets or pills
  • Getting affairs in order or giving away belongings
  • Having intense mood swings
  • Planning how you would commit suicide if you were going to do it
  • Saying goodbye to people as if it were the last time 
  • Talking or thinking about suicide more than normal, for example, “I wish I were dead”

There is a strong link between mental health and substance abuse. Individuals who struggle with mood disorders like depression and anxiety are more susceptible to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol, often to self-medicate symptoms of their underlying mental health condition. These co-occurring disorders can make each other worse without proper treatment.

Many rehabilitation programs keep up with the scientific understanding of co-occurring disorders and offer dual-diagnosis treatment for mood disorders alongside therapy for addiction. Lexapro withdrawal may be part of addiction treatment to help a mood disorder. 

Treatment plans vary for each individual. For occasional substance misuse, occasional counseling may be enough to help a person recover. For more serious cases, time at a rehabilitation facility may be the best option. The only way to truly determine the correct treatment plan for each person is to see a qualified treatment professional.

If someone is abusing Lexapro because of its intense and often dangerous Lexapro withdrawal symptoms, that person ought to consider inpatient Lexapro detox. We Level Up NJ addiction specialists are standing by to help. Call us at any time, we are open for calls 24/7. Each call is private and confidential.

If you or someone you know has been affected by Lexapro withdrawal and misuse, there are resources to help you recover.
If you or someone you know has been affected by Lexapro withdrawal and misuse, there are resources to help you recover.

Top 5 Withdrawing from Lexapro FAQs

  1. How to stop Lexapro withdrawal symptoms?

    If you are considering quitting your antidepressant medication, consult with your doctor first to explore the risks of side effects from Lexapro withdrawal and the advantages of doing so. In many circumstances, the best method to discontinue most antidepressants like Lexapro is to gradually reduce your dose under the supervision of your doctor. This is known as tapering. Tapering allows your brain to acclimate to the chemical changes and may help reduce withdrawal symptoms Lexapro can cause. Your doctor will instruct you on how to gradually reduce your dose over a few days. Never attempt this on your own.

  2. How long do Lexapro withdrawals last?

    There is no established Lexapro withdrawal symptoms timeline. Many people will notice an improvement in their side effects of Lexapro withdrawal after three months, which might feel like an eternity if you are dealing with these Lexapro withdrawal effects on your own.

  3. When does Lexapro withdrawal begin? When does Lexapro withdrawal start?

    Most people experience the initial signs of withdrawal Lexapro symptoms during the first few days of stopping. Mild effects may appear even if the user reduces their dose. Before they diminish, Withdrawal of Lexapro symptoms progresses more acute. Users begin to feel dizzy, nauseated, shaky, and feverish.

  4. What helps with Lexapro withdrawal?

    The first step toward quitting Lexapro is detox. The treatment might then progress to include therapy and counseling. Counselors can assist people in comprehending and overcoming the underlying reasons for their sadness, the main reason why you were prescribed Lexapro in the first place.

  5. How to stop dizziness from Lexapro withdrawal?

    Some people appear to be sensitive when they withdraw from Lexapro. It may take several more months for the dizziness to fade. With other Lexapro withdrawal headaches or Lexapro withdrawal stories, the symptoms eventually go away, usually within one to three weeks.

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Sources

[1] Escitalopram (marketed as Lexapro) Information – Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

[2] EscitalopramU.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health

[3] Black K, Shea C, Dursun S, Kutcher S. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor discontinuation syndrome: proposed diagnostic criteria. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2000 May;25(3):255-61. PMID: 10863885; PMCID: PMC1407715.

[4] McKay JR. Impact of Continuing Care on Recovery From Substance Use Disorder. Alcohol Res. 2021 Jan 21;41(1):01. DOI: 10.35946 PMID: 33500871; PMCID: PMC7813220.

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[6-7] Justinova Z, Panlilio LV, Goldberg SR. Drug addiction. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2009;1:309-46. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-88955-7_13. PMID: 21104390; PMCID: PMC3039293

[8] McLellan AT. Substance Misuse and Substance Use Disorders: Why do they Matter in Healthcare? Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2017;128:112-130. PMID: 28790493; PMCID: PMC5525418.

[9] Justinova Z, Panlilio LV, Goldberg SR. Drug addiction. Curr Top Behav Neurosci. 2009;1:309-46. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-88955-7_13. PMID: 21104390; PMCID: PMC3039293.

[10] Jahan AR, Burgess DM. Substance Use Disorder. [Updated 2022 May 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK570642/