Lexapro is a the brand name for a prescription medication that is indicated for the treatment of major depressive disorder in adults and adolescents, and generalized anxiety disorder in adults. The generic substance is called escitalopram oxalate. The FDA approved Lexapro in 2002. Lexapro inhibits the reuptake of serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain, back into nerve cells. Deficiencies of serotonin are associated with mental health disorders.
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Mental Health Disorders
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, major depressive disorder affects 15 million adults and generalized anxiety disorder affects 7 million adults in the United States each year. Major depressive disorder is characterized by excessive feelings of sadness and worthlessness. Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive fear and worry.
Lexapro is supplied in 5 milligrams, 10 milligrams and 20 milligram tablets, and a peppermint flavored oral solution. The recommended dosage of Lexapro for depression is 10 milligrams and for generalized anxiety disorder is 10 milligrams. Increases in dosage should occur after one week to enable the patient to establish tolerability of the drug. A gradual reduction of dosage is recommended before discontinuing therapy to avoid any adverse effects such as dizziness or dysphoria.
According to the product label, several types of drugs can interfere with Lexapro or cause severe adverse reactions. Drugs that affect serotonin such as triptans, lithium, tramadol, and other antidepressants should be used with caution. Drugs that affect the central nervous system should also be used with caution. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors can cause delirium, coma and even death. Drugs taken for pain, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, naprosen and ibuprofen, can increase internal bleeding. Sumatriptan and Lexapro could cause weakness, incoordination of muscles, and overactive reflexes. Medicines that cause drowsiness, such as cold or allergy drugs or muscle relaxers, can exacerbate sleepiness caused by Lexapro, making it dangerous to drive or operate machinery.
Nutrition Supplement Interactions
Nutritional supplements that contain L-tryptophan and St. John’s Wort should not be used with Lexapro because these substances can exacerbate the effects of Lexapro. L-tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor in the production of serotonin in the brain. St. John’s Wort is a herb that enhances serotonin activity in the brain.
According to the FDA, infants born to mothers who take Lexapro after the 20th week of pregnancy are six times more likely to have persistent pulmonary hypertension than infants born to mothers who did not take Lexapro. Neonatal pulmonary hypertension is a disorder that affects the newborn’s ability to breathe outside the womb. The condition is often fatal.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Forest Laboratories: Lexapro Prescribing Information
- Food and Drug Administration: FDA Approved Drug Products
- Drugs.com: Lexapro
- Food and Drug Administration: Information for Healthcare Professionals: Escitalopram (Marketed as Lexapro)
- National Institute of Mental Health
- American Psychiatry Association