A prescription drug that is used to treat depression! Unfortunately, depressive and anxiety disorders are of most usual mental ailments in the united states. Annually, these illnesses affect about 25 percent of people of 18 years old and higher. One of the medications that are used for the treatment of depressive or anxiety disorder, is Lexapro. Read on to learn more!
What is Lexapro?
Lexapro is an antidepressant drug that belongs to a class of medications used for the treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders, called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and hormone that its level directly affects the mood. SSRI medications make more serotonin available by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin by the specific nerves in the brain cells. Lexapro is a brand name for the generic drug escitalopram.
The Main Ingredient
As mentioned above, escitalopram is the generic drug name and the main ingredient in Lexapro in form of escitalopram Oxalate with a chemical formula of C20H21FN2O • C2H2O4. Based on the formulation of Lexapro, whether it is a tablet or oral solution, the ingredients are different.
The inactive ingredients of the Lexapro tablet are magnesium stearate, colloidal silicon dioxide or microcrystalline cellulose, talc, and croscarmellose sodium. These tablets are available with 5 mg, 10 mg or 20 mg of active ingredient (escitalopram oxalate). In oral solutions of Lexapro, each ml of the solution contains 1 mg of escitalopram oxalate and the inactive ingredients are citric acid, sorbitol, purified water, sodium citrate, glycerin, malic acid, methylparaben, propylparaben, and natural flavors.
What Does It Treat?
Whether used as a tablet or oral solution, the active ingredient, escitalopram oxalate, regulates the mood and well-being by controlling the level of serotonin, and it is used to treat generalized anxiety disorder and depression. This drug has not proved to treat panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder but sometimes doctors prescribe it off-label. However, it is not an FDA approved use!
The Benefits of Lexapro
Lexapro has a shorter lifetime than some of the other drugs that are used for depression or anxiety. Therefore, it is a good choice for older adults that usually have a slower drug metabolism process. Lexapro can also be used for adults in the ages of 12 and older, while some other antidepressant drugs cannot be prescribed for 12-18 years old patients.
Other than treating depression and generalized anxiety disorder, Lexapro can be used off-label to prevent a migraine, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder but again, this is not a recommendation approved by FDA.
The Recommended Lexapro Dosage
Although Lexapro is a safer drug comparing to the opioids, you still need to use it as directed by your healthcare provider. The common dosage of Lexapro is 5 mg, 10 mg and 20 mg per day depending on the doctor’s recommendation and depression or anxiety severity. It is taken one time per day, in the morning or in the afternoon and with or without food.
It is common that your doctor prescribes a lower dosage at first and increase it over time. It is important to have a fixed time of the daily usage and stick to that time. That’s a good habit for taking most of the drugs.
The Lexapro Equivalents
Depending on the mental health disorders, doctors may prescribe drugs from different classes of chemicals. Other than SSRIs, there are three other classes of drugs for mental health disorders: Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), Benzodiazepines, Tricyclic Antidepressants, and Ketamine. As mentioned before, Lexapro belongs to SSRIs group. Other drugs in this groups are as follow:
Celexa (Citalopram), Zoloft (Sertraline), Prozac (Fluoxetine) and Paxil (Paroxetine).
These drugs that belong to the same group, have similar effects but some of them can treat more variety of mental health disorder than others. Also, the strength and side effects obviously vary from one another or from person to person. One thing in common though to remember: Do not mix these drugs with other medications without consulting your doctor first!
Lexapro vs. Celexa
Celexa is the brand name for citalopram. Citalopram is also a drug from the SSRI category. Similar to Lexapro, Celexa also can be used to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorders. Improvement of energy levels and also feelings of well-being are possible effects of Celexa. This occurs through the balancing of serotonin levels in the brain.
Celexa is also available in tablets containing 10 mg, 20 mg, or 40 mg of active ingredients and also oral solutions with 10 mg/5mL solutions. Usually, the dosage stars with 10 or 20 mg/day and it increases depending on the situation.
You may think now that there is a lot of similarities between Lexapro and Celexa. You are correct! So, here is the story:
Lexapro and Celexa have molecule structures that are very much alike. In fact, they have the same chemical formula. There is only a difference between their stereochemistry, that is the relative spatial arrangement of atoms. Celexa was approved in 1989!
Fourteen years later, in 2003, the patent got expired and when that happens, drug manufacturers start producing the generic form hence, taking the profit away from the company which owned the patent! In these cases, companies usually come up with a similar form of the drug that proves to be more potent to create another patent and keep the profits.
Celexa is a mix of R and S enantiomers of citalopram. Lexapro is the S-enantiomer of citalopram or escitalopram as it was mentioned earlier. It is an extremely difficult process to separate the R and S enantiomers but if companies can do it and they prove that one form is more potent than the other, they can patent that form and that’s what happened in this case.
Celexa and Lexapro have the following side effects in common:
- Dry mouth
- A headache
- Increased sweating
- Sexual difficulties
Besides these, Celexa may cause vomiting.
The dosage for Celexa is higher than Lexapro due to its lower potency. While the common initial prescription for Lexapro is 10 mg per day, for Celexa is 20 mg per day. They are both increased twice after the first or second week of treatment.
Lexapro vs. Prozac
Prozac is one of the brand names for fluoxetine which is the generic form (Rapiflux, Sarafem and Selfemra are also other brand names of fluoxetine). Prozac is also used for the treatment of depression and generalized anxiety disorder.
However, Prozac has a wider range of usage compare to Lexapro. It can be used to treat OCD, panic disorder, depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder and bulimia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder which is marked by binging and followed by methods to avoid weight gain.
Beside tablet and oral solution, Prozac comes in oral capsules as well. Prozac has a much longer half-life in the body (210 hours compared to 2 hours for Lexapro) and so it stays in the body for a longer time. The common prescribe dosage of Prozac can be double or triple than that of Lexapro’s. the common side effect of these two drugs are as follows:
- Sexual problems
- Dry mouth
Lexapro vs. Zoloft
Zoloft is the brand name of sertraline. Zoloft is also another member of the SSRIs family with a wider range of usage compare to Lexapro. Other than depression and generalized anxiety disorder, Zoloft can be used to treat OCD, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Both of these antidepressant drugs come in forms of oral tablet and oral solutions. However, the Zoloft is less potent than Lexapro and comes with tables with 25 mg, 50 mg and 100 mg of active ingredient and the concentration of the oral solution of Zoloft is 20 mg per ml.
Side effects of Zoloft and Lexapro are very similar except that Zoloft does not cause constipation. A full list of side effects of Lexapro are mentioned below:
Lexapro Side Effects
Just like any other drug, Lexapro comes with both common and serious side effects. It is very important to talk to your doctor about your condition, your medication, and your other possible diseases before taking Lexapro.
Common Side Effects
Some of the common side effects of Lexapro listed below. You have to note that one patient is not going to experience all of these side effects. Type and severity of side effects depend on the dosage and your genetics and varies patient to patient. Most of these side effects though usually fade after one or two weeks of taking the medication.
- A headache
- Dry mouth
- Increased sweating
- Feeling restless
- Sexual difficulty
- Loss of appetite
Severe Side Effects
If any of the below side effects happen to you upon taking Lexapro, stop taking the drug immediately and call your doctor!
- Drop in body sodium levels (losing the focus, trouble with remembering, weakness and severe headache)
- Seratonin syndrome (shivering, diarrhea, fever, seizures and in some cases death)
- Teeth grinding
- Angle-closure glaucoma (eye pain, vision problems, eye redness or eye swelling)
- Bleeding gums or nose (especially if is taken with anti-inflammatory drugs)
Lexapro and Pregnancy
In some case, pregnancy can cause depression. But is it wise to take Lexapro to treat it during pregnancy?
There are five different categories of pregnancy medication. These categories are A, B, C, D, and X. Categories A and B proved to be safe backed by scientific data. Categories D and X, on the other hand, proved to be dangerous. Lexapro in this classification belongs to the C category which is the confusing category as there is not enough evidence to prove either side.
In C categories, animal studied showed risks to the fetus but there has not been a controlled study on pregnant women. So, it may or may not be potentially harmful. The best option, in this case, is to consult with your doctor.
Lexapro Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms
Just like any other drugs, it is not wise to suddenly stop the medication unless severe side effects occur. Depending on the drug, sudden withdrawal may be accompanied by some side effects. Following is a list of sudden Lexapro withdrawal signs and symptoms:
- Tingling sensations,
- Vivid dreams
- Poor mood.
- Flu-like symptoms
- A headache
- Sleeping trouble
Chemical synthetic alternatives for Lexapro such as Celexa, Prozac, and Zoloft were discussed in this article! Though Lexapro or other equivalents that belong to SSRIs family are common medications for a variety of mental health disorders, one might not want to deal with the side effects. You may probably look for drugs with fewer side effects or even natural medications.
There are natural herbal extracts that can help with the depression, such as Curcumin, Saffron, and Cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Obviously, the effect of these compounds varies a lot and its not like that severe depression can be treated with Saffron!
CBD: The Natural Alternative
CBD is a natural constituent of the herbs cannabis and hemp. It can regulate the central nervous system. The other constituent of these herbs is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is responsible for the “High” feeling usually after inhaling marijuana. However, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning that it does not make you high.
How CBD Helps With Depression
Our body produces some sort of cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. It helps with the regulation of the pain sensation, mood, appetite and sleep. Endocannabinidol interacts with brain cells by binding to the specific receptors that increase the effect of Seratonin, which as mentioned, is responsible for regulating the mood. Just like the natural endocannabinoids in the body, CBD pronounces the effect of serotonin and therefore affects the mood.
Where To Buy CBD
CBD can be purchased online, brick and mortar stores or dispensaries. CBD can be extracted from hemp or Marijuana plants and it comes in different forms. Tinctures, tropicals, vape pens, transdermal patches, and even infused edibles are different types of CBD containing products you can purchase. Amazon and cannainsider are good resources to find CBD products!
Why Choose CBD Over Lexapro?
Studies have shown that CBD improves depressive symptoms and it is indeed effective in the treatment of anxiety and or depression. CBD is natural and it not addictive. It doesn’t come with Lexapro side effects.
So, Lexapro is a relatively strong prescription antidepressant drug and it has several pharmaceutical equivalents. It comes with several side effects and to use it during pregnancy, definitely a doctors consultation is needed! CBD is a natural alternative to treat depression which is available through online stores and it doesn’t need a prescription. As always, you have to be cautious about taking any medication, synthetic or natural!
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