How Long Does Lexapro Stay in Your System?

how long does Lexapro stay in your system

Lexapro (escitalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which means it increases the amount of serotonin in your brain. Because individuals with anxiety or depressive disorders often have less serotonin in their brains, this medication is used to treat those conditions and can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Unfortunately, suddenly stopping the use of Lexapro can result in withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, taking another SSRI medication before Lexapro has left your system can cause you to develop a condition known as serotonin syndrome. For these reasons, it’s important to be aware of how long Lexapro stays in your system.

What are the Side Effects of Lexapro?

Like all medications, Lexapro might cause side effects when you first start taking it. Most of the side effects will subside as your body adjusts to the medication. If you continue to experience side effects that are difficult to cope with, you should consult with your doctor.

Common side effects of Lexapro include:[1]

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling weak or tired

While uncommon, Lexapro can cause severe side effects among individuals who are allergic or intolerant of it. If you experience the following side effects, contact your doctor immediately:[1]

  • Constant headaches
  • Long-lasting confusion
  • Weakness or frequent muscle cramps
  • High temperature, agitation, or trembling
  • Coughing up or urinating blood
  • Signs of blood in your stool
  • Bleeding from your gums or unexplained bruises

Can Lexapro Cause Withdrawals?

When you take Lexapro for an extende period of time, your brain and body will begin to adjust to the presence of the substance. If you suddenly stop taking the medication, you could experience symptoms of withdrawal. Typically, these symptoms are not life-threatening, however, they can be incredibly difficult to cope with.

The symptoms of Lexapro withdrawal include:[2]

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Depersonalization
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Indigestion

Because escitalopram can cause withdrawal, you should always consult with your doctor before you stop taking the medication. They may suggest that you taper off of the medication instead of suddenly stopping its use.

How Long Does Lexapro Stay in Your System?

Exactly how long Lexapro stays in your system will depend on a variety of personal factors. For example, your weight, body composition, dosage, frequency of use, and rate of metabolism can all play a role in how long the drug remains in your body. However, most people follow the same general timeline when it comes to eliminating escitalopram from their system.

The half-life of Lexapro is between 27 to 32 hours, which means 50% of the substance will be eliminated from your system at this time.[3] It takes about 4 to 5 half-lives for a drug to be completely removed from your body, so Lexapro stays in your system for about 6 days.

The long half-life of Lexapro might be why this substance is so effective in treating anxiety and depression. If you have just started taking the medication, it is important to understand that you might not experience positive results for a few weeks. This is because it takes time for the medication to make changes in your brain that cause lessened symptoms of anxiety or depression.

When is it Safe to Start a New Medication?

When you are switching from Lexapro to another SSRI, you have to use extreme caution. If you start taking a new medication before escitalopram is removed from your system, you could develop a condition known as serotonin syndrome. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Serotonin syndrome, more aptly named serotonin toxicity, is a potentially fatal drug-induced condition caused by too much serotonin in synapses in the brain.”[4]

The symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Loss of muscle coordination or twitching
  • High blood pressure
  • Rigid muscles
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shivering and goosebumps
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • High fever
  • Tremors
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures

Taking another SSRI too soon can cause this life-threatening condition, so you must consult with your doctor about how to avoid serotonin syndrome. Typically, medical providers will taper you off Lexapro before giving you a new medication. This could take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, depending on your dosage and personal needs.[5]

Find Help Now

If you or a loved one suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism, it’s time to seek help. At Moving Mountains Recovery, we can provide you with all of the tools and support you need to maintain long-term recovery. Treatment typically includes a combination of evidence-based behavioral therapies, group counseling, holistic treatments, and relapse prevention planning.

To learn more about our drug and alcohol rehab programs, contact Moving Mountains Recovery Center today.

References:

  1. National Health Service (NHS): Side effects of escitalopram, Retrieved July 2023 From https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/escitalopram/side-effects-of-escitalopram/
  2. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Characteristics of Escitalopram Discontinuation Syndrome: A Preliminary Study, Retrieved July 2023 From https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27171568/
  3. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Lexapro, Retrieved July 2023 From https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2003/21323se1-003,se8-007,21365se8-001,se1-004_lexapro_lbl.pdf
  4. The National Institutes of Health (NIH): Demystifying serotonin syndrome (or serotonin toxicity), Retrieved July 2023 From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6184959/
  5. The National Institutes of Health (NIH): Tapering of SSRI treatment to mitigate withdrawal symptoms, Retrieved July 2023 From https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30850328/
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