Lexapro Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment
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Lexapro (escitalopram) is a type of prescription drug known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor or SSRI that is used to treat depression and anxiety. Similar to drugs like Prozac and Zoloft, Lexapro works by reducing the absorption of serotonin in the brain and increasing its levels in the brain, which restores balance and decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Lexapro is also commonly used to treat people who are in recovery from substance use disorder and alcohol addiction, as it can reduce alcohol cravings and help reduce feelings of depression and anxiety in recovery.
A dose of Lexapro comes in a 5, 10, or 20 mg tablet, as well as in liquid form. A typical dose may be anywhere from 10 to 20 mg per day but will vary depending on the condition it is being used to treat. Lexapro is known to be less severe than other drugs and although most people don’t experience strong side effects, some may occur.
It is possible to abuse Lexapro while taking it for anxiety or depression, which is particularly dangerous because about 20 percent of people taking SSRIs like Lexapro experience discontinuation syndrome, which causes moderate or severe physical withdrawal symptoms. Although it can cause withdrawal, Lexapro is not classified as an addictive drug and is not a controlled substance.
If you are abusing Lexapro or have been taking it as treatment for depression or anxiety, do not stop taking it suddenly, as this can cause moderate or serious withdrawal symptoms. A medical detox program can help you slowly taper off the drug to reduce the likelihood of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.
Lexapro is one of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs in the U.S. and many people end up taking it for decades following a quick diagnosis of depression. Although it is not a controlled substance and the FDA has reported that it is physically non-addictive, you can develop a psychological addiction to Lexapro with regular abuse.
Although Lexapro addiction isn’t as common as addiction to other prescription drugs and narcotics, people may take larger doses to try to improve their mood more or to experience the euphoria that is created by a high.
Lexapro can be abused in many ways, such as:
- Taking more Lexapro than was prescribed by your doctor
- Taking someone else’s Lexapro that was not prescribed to you
- Continuing to take Lexapro long after symptoms of depression and anxiety have subsided
- Buying Lexapro from friends, family members, or dealers
- Forging prescriptions for Lexapro
Escitalopram, also known as Lexapro, is not considered a controlled substance in regards to the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Those suffering from substance abuse or depression have been prescribed with Lexapro as a treatment. Being a part of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors drug class, Lexapro is effective at reducing alcohol cravings, generalized anxiety, and primarily depressive disorders. The FDA disclosed that Lexapro is non-addictive physically, however, if the medication is abused and taken recreationally or against prescribed orders, a psychological addiction can occur. With that being said, in some cases, patients reported to develop alcohol addictions without any prior addiction history. Stopping medication also subdued and curved any cravings in those reported patients.
Both Lexapro and Xanax are commonly known for the treatment of anxiety. However, there is a big difference between the two. First, the two medications are in different drug classes–Xanax being a benzodiazepine and Lexapro is an SSRI. Additionally, they treat different symptoms. Lexapro primarily focuses on depressive disorders, while Xanax is used for treatment against panic attacks.
The biggest difference between the two medications would be the side effects. Lexapro being an antidepressant may cause restlessness, sexual difficulties, and a risk of suicidal thinking in children and adolescents. Whereas the side effects of Xanax may cause fatigue, memory problems, or speech problems.
Many patients may use Lexapro as a long term treatment. This may, in fact, increase the chance of a psychological addiction. In response, any patients that need to stop treatment with Lexapro need to be properly weaned off the medication with the approval of their medical physician. To date, Lexapro has no known long term problems, other than a psychological addiction which can be avoided if the medication is taken as advised by your medical professional.
Lexapro abuse can cause some severe physical and psychological side effects. Common side effects of Lexapro abuse include:
- Memory problems
- Sensations that feel like electric shocks
- Sexual dysfunction
There are no documented long-term side effects of Lexapro abuse, but risks of continued abuse may include:
- Physical dependence
If a person is abusing Lexapro or is addicted to it, there will be some outward signs and symptoms of abuse. These may include:
- Taking larger doses of Lexapro than necessary
- Faking symptoms of depression or anxiety to get Lexapro from a doctor
- Seeing multiple doctors to get Lexapro prescriptions
- Having severe mood swings
- Having trouble sleeping at night
- Appearing to be high or sedated
- Pretending to lose prescriptions to get early refills
- Needing more Lexapro pills to experience the same effects they used to provide
- Isolating oneself from friends and family
- Hiding Lexapro use from loved ones
- Lack of interest in hobbies and activities they used to enjoy
Someone who has a history of substance abuse or who abuses other prescription drugs or illegal substances may also be more likely to abuse Lexapro.
If you use Lexapro and then suddenly stop, you may experience withdrawal symptoms or discontinuation syndrome, with symptoms that can range from mild to severe.
Lexapro withdrawal symptoms frequently include:
- Vivid or disturbing dreams
- Excessive sweating
- Pins and needles
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blurred vision
- Ringing ears
- Flashes of light
- Electric shock feelings in the legs, arms, and brain
Symptoms of discontinuation syndrome may include:
- Sensory disturbances
- Flu-like symptoms
While the duration and intensity of Lexapro withdrawal will vary from person to person, it can be quite an uncomfortable and disturbing experience. Lexapro withdrawal and detox are best completed under medical supervision at a detox center.
Medical detox for Lexapro addiction and withdrawal provides 24/7 medical monitoring to ensure a safe and effective tapered withdrawal from the medication. Clinical and medical staff work together to create a personalized and fluid treatment regimen that will help you overcome Lexapro withdrawal and addiction without putting yourself in physical danger.
A medical detox program can also greatly reduce the risk of relapse, as it provides a safe, supportive, and sober environment in which to detox. You’ll have nurses, doctors, and recovery specialists on your side as you make the difficult transition from a life of prescription drug abuse and addiction to a life of sobriety.
Continuing addiction treatment after Lexapro detox is extremely important because many people still experience symptoms of discontinuation syndrome for weeks or months after detox and withdrawal are complete.
Dealing with these symptoms on your own can be extremely difficult, but a comprehensive addiction treatment program can provide the support you need to stay sober after Lexapro detox. There are several different types of addiction treatment programs for people who are recovering from addiction. The most common are:
- Residential inpatient drug rehab
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- Sober Living Program
- Community 12-Step Program groups
During rehab, clients participate in behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, and other specialized therapies to achieve the following objectives:
- Learn more about the disease of addiction and chemical dependency
- Work the 12-Step Program
- Learn how to prevent relapse
- Gain important life skills for sobriety maintenance
- Have time to live sober in a supportive environment
- Establish healthy relationships with sober peers
Inpatient and outpatient rehab are both effective methods of treatment for Lexapro addiction, however, determining which one is the best fit will provide the most effective treatment possible.
- Inpatient residential rehab program – An inpatient residential rehab program is more structured than an outpatient program and provides gender-specific living spaces for men and women attending treatment. Clients live on-site while they complete their rehab program and they must adhere to the daily schedule provided for them by treatment staff. While at a residential rehab center, contact with the outside world is limited. On-site visits with family and friends can be arranged and clients may also be awarded day passes or overnight passes as a reward for progress.
- Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – On the other hand, an intensive outpatient drug rehab program consists of eight weeks of outpatient meetings held at a safe clinical location. These meetings are open to male and female clients enrolled in the program and each session is facilitated by a trained addiction treatment professional. IOP allows more flexibility for those who cannot commit to living at a residential center for 90 days or who have other commitments that keep them from doing that, such as work, school, or children at home.
The cost of an inpatient or outpatient program will vary greatly depending on the program, the type of treatment offered, the facility amenities, and the location, among other factors. Most rehab facilities will offer payment options to make treatment more affordable. They often include:
- Health insurance benefits
- Third-party financed healthcare loans
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits
- Out-of-pocket payments
After rehab is complete, there are a few different continued care options a person can choose from to receive continued support in sobriety. Sober living program and Aftercare programs are two types of programs that are designed to help people in recovery sustain their sobriety, prevent relapse, and establish a firm foundation in recovery.
Sober Living Programs
A sober living program offers transitional housing and recovery support services for people in recovery. Sober living homes (also known as ¾ houses, halfway houses, or transitional housing) are gender-specific group homes that help people sustain their sobriety by providing structured housing, a sober environment, and recovery support services.
High-quality sober living houses offer recovery support services like:
- Personal monitoring
- Tiered recovery programming
- Personal sober coaches
- Drug testing
- Employment assistance
- Education assistance
- Volunteer assistance
These services are all designed to help sober people learn how to live independent sober lives and become active, contributing members of their local communities.
Depending on the type of sober living home, the location, and the recovery support services offered, the cost of the program will vary.
Aftercare programs are also designed to support people in recovery, but they are specifically tailored to rehab alumni. These alumni programs provide a safe and supportive place for people in recovery to get together, share successes and struggles, and provide encouragement and wisdom when it’s needed most.
Many people also use aftercare as an opportunity to check in with their sober peers and maintain accountability with someone outside of their immediate family members or friends. Although they are often associated with people who have been in recovery for a long time, aftercare programs are perfect for people in all stages of sobriety, whether they’ve struggled with chronic relapse or not.
If you are addicted to Lexapro or abuse it and other prescription drugs, it is possible for you to get sober and live a fulfilling life in recovery. A comprehensive addiction treatment program is key to overcoming any drug addiction. Nova Recovery Center can provide personalized, effective treatment that addresses the core causes of your addictive behaviors instead of just treating the symptoms.
Could you have an addiction to Lexapro?
Take this confidential Lexapro use disorder assessment.
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