How Long Does It Take for Lexapro to Work? Side Effects and More

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Lexapro, also known as Escitalopram, is a common medication provided for symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. Lexapro is one of the most prescribed drugs for treating mental disorders, and it works over time by building up in your body and increasing serotonin. A quick search online shows mixed reactions on when you may start to feel the effects of Lexapro. Some people report feeling better after their first dose, while others warn it could take weeks to begin to feel better. So, how long does it take for Lexapro to work? This article discusses what you need to know about Lexapro and when you can expect to start working.

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How Does It Work?

Lexapro is an SSRI standing for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter in your brain. Reuptake sites in your brain will take in and recycle the serotonin.

SSRIs work by blocking some of those reuptake sites, so they don’t remove as much serotonin.

To put it simply, Lexapro helps the body build up serotonin which helps us regulate our moods and feel better mentally when dealing with depression or anxiety.

Pros and Cons of Lexapro (Escitalopram)

As with any medication, there are numerous benefits and side effects you might experience.

The main benefit, and usual reason for getting this prescription, is to stabilize one’s mood. Lexapro and its generic alternative (Escitalopram) are less expensive than other depression and anxiety disorder treatments.

Lexapro is well known for working well and being safe (though not recommended for pregnant people).

This medication can be used in the short or long term to treat urgent depression symptoms or grief and regulate ongoing emotional problems.

Some other pros are that Lexapro has fewer drug interactions and fewer side effects than the alternatives. Lexapro can also be given to children as young as 12 for depression.

Of course, no drug is without some side effects. As mentioned previously, this is not recommended for anyone pregnant.

Another con is how long this drug takes to show results, with some saying upwards of 8 weeks.

Lexapro can also raise your risk of bleeding and cause some sexual problems. Finally, suddenly stopping Lexapro can cause some withdrawal symptoms as well.

Related: When Is The Best Time To Take Lexapro For Anxiety? 

Potential Side Effects

Besides some severe side effects, the common side effects of taking Lexapro are

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Excess tiredness or trouble sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Excess sweating
  • Weight gain
  • Low sodium levels

There is also a risk in those 24 years of age and younger of an increase in depressive and suicidal thoughts.

Please immediately inform your doctor if you are experiencing these side effects on Lexapro.

Symptoms should resolve as your body gets used to the drug, but always consult your healthcare professional if you have any concerns about alternative treatment options.

Lexapro Drug Interaction

Though Lexapro has fewer drug interactions than alternatives, you should look for some.

A rare but potentially dangerous side effect is Serotonin Syndrome. Suppose you take other medications that raise your serotonin levels, such as migraine, pain, and other mental health meds.

In that case, it is possible to develop this condition where there is too much serotonin in the brain.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome are fast heart rate, sweating, muscle stiffness or spasms, fever, and confusion.

Let your medical professional know your health conditions and if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Before starting Lexapro, also let your doctor know what medications you are taking to avoid risks such as these.

There is also an increased risk of bleeding or severe bruising when taking Lexapro with certain blood thinners.

These can include antiplatelets like aspirin or anticoagulants like warfarin and apixaban.

If you take medications that can affect your heart rhythms, such as amiodarone and ciprofloxacin, adding Lexapro could increase this risk.

Symptoms include a pounding chest, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and chest pain. Contact 911 immediately if these symptoms appear after starting Lexapro.

Ensure you inform your doctor of all medications you are taking before starting Lexapro so they can determine if there will be any interaction between them.

Also, let your doctor know you are on Lexapro before starting any other medication.

Lexapro and Alcohol

It is recommended to avoid alcohol while taking Lexapro as it can increase the risk of sleepiness and dizziness.

Alcohol can also worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression. Because of this, alcohol consumption is not recommended while taking Lexapro.

Lexapro Dosage

Lexapro comes in either oral solution or tablet form. The oral solution comes in a 5mg dosage, while the tablets come in 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg.

Lexapro treats depression disorders in children and adults but only for anxiety disorders in adults.

The starting dosage for both is usually 10mg once daily. Then depending on effects and age, this could be raised to the maximum dosage of 20mg once a day.

Children on Lexapro must wait at least 3 weeks before increasing dosage, while adults might need an increase in as little as 1 week.

Dosage maximum changes if the patient is elderly or has liver or kidney problems.

The maximum dose people who fit into those categories can have is 10mg.

Depending on what dosage you start on and how quickly it is moved to its maximum dose can affect how quickly you feel it is working.

How long does it take for Lexapro to work

A common question when starting this medication is how long until you can feel it working. Some people can notice an improvement in their mental health within the first week of starting.

Others, however, may have to wait upwards of 8 weeks to begin feeling the effects of this drug.

Lexapro blocks reuptake sites and builds up the level of serotonin in your brain.

Depending on your dosage and your sensitivity to noticing differences in your mood will change how fast this drug will work.

Most people say they feel the effects after 4 weeks of treatment.

It is important to note that on day one of taking Lexapro, it starts blocking the reuptake sites. So though you might not feel the effects immediately, it starts working immediately.

A higher dosage or more extended time of taking Lexapro will block more reuptake sites until you notice the difference increased serotonin levels make.

How Long Does It Take For Lexapro To Work?

What To Expect When You’re Started on Lexapro

When first starting Lexapro, you might not notice any significant change. However, some research shows a noticeable rise in serotonin levels can take up to 2 weeks.

Why Lexapro Might Work Immediately

Multiple factors could help with feeling the effects of Lexapro sooner than the expected multiple weeks.

These include the dosage you start on, genetic factors, other medications you are taking, other medical conditions, and simply how self-aware the user is.

Another way Lexapro might work sooner is simply believing it will work sooner. Your brain chemistry changes after the first dose of Lexapro and continues the more you take.

Assuming you will feel the effects immediately helps you pick up on the subtle shifts in mood that show it’s working.

Starting dosage can affect how quickly you feel Lexapro “kicks in,” with people starting on a higher dose feeling the effects sooner.

This is because higher doses block more serotonin reuptake, thus having faster and more noticeable results.

Genetics can also play a part. Lexapro works faster or slower with specific enzymes.

Based on how quickly your body metabolizes that enzyme and, in turn, metabolizes Lexapro can change how fast it affects you.

Your healthcare professional should be able to consider this when dosing this medication.

Previous SSRI medication use could also increase the speed at which you see the effects.

But, again, this is because it could be working with Lexapro, or your body may be used to how medications like these work.

Why Lexapro May Take Longer To Work

Along with things that can hasten the time between the first dose and relieving effects, some things could inhibit how fast you see results.

As discussed in the previous section, your genetics and other medication use can change when you start seeing results.

While sometimes these factors can help, they can also hinder.

Patients with liver or kidney problems, brain damage, or neurodegeneration might take longer to feel the effects of Lexapro.

How and when you take Lexapro can also change when you feel the effects. Some users claim faster results when taken in the morning than at night or vice versa. Same with taking it on an empty stomach compared to a full one.

Though some say, there is no difference in how or when they take their dose.

When discussing the dosage time, it is essential to remain consistent with the time of day you take Lexapro. Doing this will allow it to build up faster.

How To Safely Stop Using Lexapro

Given the possibility of Lexapro withdrawal symptoms when you abruptly stop using the drug, knowing how to stop if you ever need to safely is essential.

On average, one dose of Lexapro can stay in your body for about 6 days, though certain factors can increase or decrease this number.

All medications have what is called a half-life. A half-life is how long it takes for the drug to decrease by half in your body.

For Lexapro, that number is 27 to 32 hours. For example, if you took a 10mg pill, after 27-32 hours, you would have a 5mg dosage remaining in your body.

That number will continue to be cut in half after every 27-32 hour window. Though the quantity of Lexapro will steadily decrease, it takes between 5.3 and 6.7 days to lower to a clinically insignificant amount.

Factors that can change the time windows listed above include age and the health of your liver and kidneys.

Elderly patients may see half-life be longer or shorter due to changes in their metabolism. For example, users with kidney or liver issues will take longer to metabolize and excrete Lexapro than those without an underlying problem.

Suddenly stopping Lexapro can result in symptoms similar to starting the drug and may also include irritability, nightmares, paresthesias (an abnormal skin sensation), and vomiting.

Stopping can also bring back the symptoms of anxiety or depression that the drug was used to treat.

Talking to your doctor before changing how you take this medication is essential.

Your doctor will help you by slowly lowering your dosage over days or weeks to minimize the risks of adverse effects.

Your doctor might switch you to another medication that can help treat the symptoms of depression or anxiety better if Lexapro isn’t giving the desired outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Lexapro can take anywhere from 1 week to 2 months to feel its full effects. This is based on multiple influences, which you can read further in this article.

Lexapro can stay in your body for around 6 days. However, age, kidney, and liver function can increase or decrease that time. Therefore, if you plan on stopping Lexapro, you must talk to your doctor before suddenly stopping.

Different users report different effects based on when they take Lexapro. For example, some say it works better when taken at night, some say morning, and others report no difference. What is most important is taking it consistently to allow it to build up in your system.

Though studies have shown no congenital disabilities linked to Lexapro, there has been a study indicating an increase in birth complications.

However, SSRIs are among the safest depression and anxiety drugs to take while pregnant.

If breastfeeding, it is known that a small amount of Lexapro can transfer into breast milk.

While some babies see no effects from this, they can have symptoms such as drowsiness, restlessness, or poor feeding.

If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, consult a doctor before starting Lexapro.

The content on Doctor Alexa’s blog is reviewed by Advanced practice registered nurses or pharmacist and is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be relied upon as professional medical counsel. Be sure to always consult with your physician about the dangers and benefits of any medication, treatment or procedure.

You shouldn’t wait to see the doctor for simple health needs.