Can I stay on Lexapro forever?
Lexapro is the brand name of the drug escitalopram. It belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and can help with depression and anxiety symptoms by restoring the balance of serotonin in the brain.
Healthcare professionals often prescribe Lexapro as a long-term treatment option. However, the duration can vary for each person.
Is it safe to stay on Lexapro forever?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, taking Lexapro to treat depression for prolonged periods of time is considered safe. There are currently no known problems linked to the long-term use of this medication.
However, some reports suggest that taking escitalopram long-term may cause some side effects, such as increasing the levels of carcinoembryonic antigen in the blood. This may increase the risk of developing cancer, but more research is needed to confirm this.
What are the benefits to staying on Lexapro long term?
One of the primary benefits of Lexapro is that it can help relieve or manage anxiety and depression by increasing the levels of serotonin in your brain. It can also help manage symptoms of depression, such as:
- difficulties sleeping or staying awake
- loss of interest in everyday activities
- low energy and fatigue
- muscle tension
- excessive anxiety
- difficulty concentrating
Lexapro may also help people manage other health conditions when prescribed as an off-label medication by doctors. This may include:
- panic disorder
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- eating disorders
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What are the risk factors to staying on Lexapro long term?
Taking Lexapro is generally safe. However, it is not risk-free. This medication may interact with certain drugs, such as cold medications and cough suppressants. This may cause a significant increase in serotonin, leading to serotonin syndrome, a potentially life threatening reaction.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome can include:
- tachycardia, a heart rate over 100 beats per minute
- eye pupils dilation
Lexapro may also decrease your platelet counts. Platelets are cell fragments in your blood cells that form clots, helping to stop or prevent bleeding. A low platelet count can increase the chance of severe bleeding.
You should always inform a doctor if you have health conditions that can cause severe bleeding, such as a blood clot disorder, or if you take medications that increase your risk of bleeding, such as aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Other side effects you may experience when taking Lexapro may include:
- restlessness and difficulty sleeping
- dry mouth
- nausea and vomiting
- increased sweating
- difficulty achieving orgasm and ejaculatory delay
- decreased libido
In some rare cases, Lexapro may cause severe side effects such as seizures and even coma.
There is also some evidence that taking Lexapro long-term may cause an increase of carcinoembryonic antigen levels in the blood, increasing people’s risk of developing cancer in the future. The same evidence reported that after discontinuing Lexapro, carcinoembryonic antigen levels decreased.
However, more research is needed to confirm if Lexapro may increase the risk of cancer.
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Alternative treatment options
Lexapro is not the only treatment available for depression. There are several alternative options available, such as:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs):
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs):
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Talk therapy and lifestyle changes can also be important in treating depression. This may include a combination of therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).
These types of talk therapy aim to modify certain behaviors and thinking patterns that can lead to anxiety and depression.
During therapy, the specialists may also teach you mindful exercises that can help you manage and reduce your stress levels and anxiety. This may help reduce the chance that depression will reoccur.
Doctors may recommend lifestyle changes to help naturally improve your anxiety and depression. These may include:
- eating a balanced and healthy diet
- getting enough sleep, at least 7 hours for adults
- doing physical exercise regularly
- practicing mindful activities, such as medication and breathing exercises
- doing activities that lower your stress levels, such as listening to music or reading a book
- scheduling self-care activities during the week
- doing activities and hobbies that you enjoy and that make you happy
If you find that your depression symptoms are impacting your day-to-day life, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can work with you to put together a suitable treatment plan.
Lexapro (escitalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication that doctors often prescribe for the long-term treatment of anxiety and depression. This medication is considered safe for prolonged use.
However, taking Lexapro may cause some side effects that can vary from mild to severe. It can interact with certain medications, which can cause severe complications such as serotonin syndrome, a life threatening condition.
It is important to always tell a doctor about any medication you are taking or health conditions that you have to reduce the risk of serious side effects when taking Lexapro.
Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.
- Amaraneni A, et al. (2023). Anticoagulation safety. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519025/
- Ceylan ME, et al. (2016). Long-term use of escitalopram and a high level of carcinoembryonic antigen. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5122670/
- Chand SP, et al. (2023). Depression. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430847/
- (2023). Depression. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression
- Depression medicines. (2019). https://www.fda.gov/consumers/free-publications-women/depression-medicines
- Escitalopram (Lexapro). (2023). https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Escitalopram-(Lexapro)
- How much sleep do I need? (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
- Landy K, et al. (2023). Escitalopram. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557734/
- Simon LV, et al. (2023). Serotonin syndrome. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482377/