People are often surprised to learn that Lexapro abuse and addiction are a problem in the United States. They are even more shocked to hear that getting off this drug might require time spent in a rehab facility. But the reality is that while this medication does have its appropriate uses, it is possible to get addicted to it. Once a person is addicted, recovering can be a very difficult process.
Lexapro is one of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States. Doctors are known for discussing its benefits with their patients, but they rarely talk about the possibility of growing dependent upon it. Sadly, many people do, and they may not even realize it until they try to stop taking it. But there is more than the risk of dependence to be concerned about. This medication can have serious short and long-term effects that more people need to be made aware of.
When it is used appropriately and only for a short time, Lexapro does have its benefits. But there are those who stay on it for years, and who have inadvertently gotten addicted to it. We want to shed some light on the abuse of this drug and offer solutions for those who want to recover.
Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. It works by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in the body. Doctors frequently prescribe to patients who exhibit signs of anxiety and depression. It can be very effective at balancing out various chemicals in the brain, which can cause problematic symptoms.
When people take Lexapro appropriately, they typically experience more energy. They start to feel better once the medication begins to work, and any anxiety symptoms are decreased. But there are those who choose to abuse it by taking more than they should at one time. People may also combine this medication with other drugs, such as alcohol, as a way to enhance its effects.
Normally, Lexapro is a medication that’s given in various doses, but it’s to be taken once a day. It is very common for people to want more immediate relief of their symptoms of anxiety and depression, and so they increase their dosages on their own. It’s also possible to develop a tolerance to Lexapro and take more of it without consulting a physician first.
When Lexapro is taken in higher doses, it can produce a euphoric effect that becomes addictive. Lexapro abuse is defined as anytime the drug is taken without a prescription, when it is taken outside of its prescribed instructions, or when it is taken in a way that’s different than just swallowing a pill. For example, there are those who will crush their Lexapro pills and snort them to get high, or to increase the effectiveness of the drug. These are all considered to be Lexapro abuse.
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes people abuse Lexapro simply by taking higher doses than they should. It is a medication that should only be taken once a day, but people may add an evening dose, or an afternoon dose as well.
Another common way that people abuse this drug is by mixing it with other drugs and/or alcohol. Because they get their prescriptions from a doctor, they assume that it is safe. Some doctors may warn about the dangers of mixing Lexapro with other drugs, but not all of them do.
Regardless of how it is abused, misusing Lexapro in any way can be dangerous. It can lead to an addiction and dependence upon the drug, and it can be very difficult to stop taking it.
There are a number of different drugs that are dangerous to mix with escitalopram. They can have various effects, including making the medication not work as well, and even increasing the risk of addiction/dependence.
Escitalopram carries several different warnings about dangerous drug interactions. They include all of the following drugs, but this list is not a complete one.
Research has shown that consuming alcohol while taking Lexapro can result in worsened negative mental health effects. It can make depression and anxiety much worse, which could, in turn, cause people to up their dose of their medications.
This combination also causes people to feel tired, and it can have a direct impact on their motor skills and ability to make good decisions. Taking the two together tends to increase the severity of Lexapro’s side effects as well. That includes increasing the risk of suicidal ideation.
Alcohol itself also tends to have a negative impact on mental health issues. It can cause people to worry more, make them more irritable and make it hard for them to sleep at night. Clearly, the combination of alcohol and Lexapro is one that should be avoided.
Marijuana is becoming more popular than ever before because so many states have made consuming it legal. It makes sense that there would be more people who use it along with their antidepressants. But the combination of cannabis and Lexapro is not one that is recommended by any medical professional.
Cannabis is also a depressant drug, and using it alongside escitalopram can increase side effects. People may notice that it is much harder for them to concentrate, and they may feel confused, dizzy and/or drowsy. This is especially true for the elderly population, who tend to be much more sensitive to the effects of any drug.
There may be times when doctors might recommend their patients to take more than one SSRI at a time. But those types of recommendations tend to be rather rare. There are also other types of antidepressants, and an excellent example is Wellbutrin, which is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). Doctors may choose to try their patients on this or a similar drug as a way to treat their depression or anxiety.
But that does not mean that the combination is always going to be safe. Sometimes people will combine Lexapro with other antidepressants as a way to self-medicate. Usually, they are only looking for relief from their symptoms, but combining the two drugs without instructions to do so from a doctor can be very dangerous.
The side effects of both drugs are likely to be magnified. Also, this increases the risk of addiction to both or one of the medications.
There are many doctors who are quick to prescribe their patients with Lexapro for daily use and a benzodiazepine drug as needed. While many are careful to follow their doctors’ instructions carefully, not everyone will. The medication Xanax is an excellent example.
Xanax is a drug that is prescribed to treat severe anxiety and panic attacks. It should only be used as needed, but there are people who abuse it. It can cause euphoria; especially if it is taken in higher doses than intended.
When Xanax is mixed with Lexapro, the risk of serious side effects with both drugs is increased. Also, elderly patients should be particularly careful about combining them because of their sensitivity to various drugs.
Doctors should always be careful about prescribing prescription painkillers to anyone who is taking Lexapro. This is because when opiates/opioids and Lexapro are combined, there is a risk for a serious condition known as serotonin syndrome.
Serotonin syndrome causes the following symptoms:
People who use Lexapro may frequently abuse opiates or opioids, whether they are legal or illegal. The euphoria that can result can be very addictive. Continuing to use this combination can result in a need for addiction treatment for both types of drugs.
It is extremely dangerous to combine any type of stimulant with Lexapro. The two drugs do very different things in the body, and there are several major, known interactions when they are used at the same time.
Adderall is a medication that is commonly prescribed to treat ADHD and ADD. This is one of the drugs that is most often taken alongside Lexapro, which works to increase the side effects of the stimulant drug.
Also, taking them together can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome, which we discussed previously when talking about benzodiazepines. If left untreated, this condition can cause people to fall into a coma, and it can even become fatal.
The same is true when Lexapro is mixed with a stimulant drug like methamphetamine. The combination can be deadly, and it should be avoided at all costs.
An addiction to Lexapro may not be a concern for someone who has been taking it long-term, and in appropriate doses. But that individual is likely to be dependent upon the drug because of the way it works in the body. Forming a dependence and being addicted are different, although the former can and often does lead to the latter.
When a patient who has been taking Lexapro appropriately wants to get off it, their doctor should taper them off slowly. That will minimize any withdrawals they might experience. But for someone who has been using it inappropriately, long-term, they may need to consider professional treatment.
Forming an addiction to Lexapro only happens because of continual abuse. The brain gets accustomed to the higher doses of the drug, and when it is stopped, the brain responds with withdrawal symptoms. Some of them can become severe, which – more often than not – drives people back to using it again. These individuals have an addiction that needs to be treated. Otherwise, they may not ever be able to get off the drug successfully or safely.
There is a fine line between Lexapro addiction and abuse, and it can be difficult to decipher where that line is, exactly. However, abuse usually precedes addiction with this type of medication.
You may be addicted to Lexapro if you feel as though you need to have it just to feel normal throughout the day. Traditionally, Lexapro is not a drug that is considered to be very physically addictive. Its addictive qualities are more psychological than physical. Even so, there are some physical addiction symptoms that do manifest when you’re addicted to Lexapro.
There are many side effects of Lexapro that may be experienced soon after you’ve started taking it, or further down the road. Everyone is different, but in the short term, you might experience insomnia or other sleep disturbances, headaches and hot or cold sweats. In the long-term, you are more at risk. The longer you take Lexapro, the more apt you are to experience:
Once a person knows that they are addicted to escitalopram, getting help should be their primary focus. It is so important to treat both the physical and the psychological sides of the addiction. Otherwise, the addict is not likely to experience a full, long-term recovery.
It can be hard to convince someone to go to rehab if they formed an addiction to Lexapro. They may even be in denial because they cannot fathom why their doctor would give them an addictive medication. But the reality is that it happens all the time.
Getting treatment offers hope to those who are addicted to escitalopram. It gives them a way to manage their withdrawal symptoms and minimize their risk of relapsing once the drug is stopped. But even more, it can give them their lives back.
The first course of action should be to go to a quality drug detox to get help. Detoxing may not always be necessary, but some people may need it in order to get through their withdrawal symptoms.
Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms people experience when getting off Lexapro include:
The goal of detoxing is to remove harmful toxins from a drug from the body. This can be done by using an approach to treatment that combines both medications and holistic treatments.
In some cases, medical detox will be necessary for someone who is recovering from a Lexapro addiction. But this might depend upon a number of different factors, such as:
For someone with this addiction, the doctor may first talk with them about a medical taper. This allows them to take less of the drug over time as a way to minimize the severity of withdrawal. Tapering should not be attempted outside medical supervision. Patients may get off the drug too quickly and experience withdrawal that becomes very hard to manage.
During the taper and after Lexapro has been stopped, any remaining withdrawal symptoms can be treated with medications.
For someone who suffers from a Lexapro addiction, drug rehabilitation is critical. They need to take the time to get treatment for the cause of their substance abuse problem. More often than not, it was caused by either depression or anxiety, which are both co-occurring disorders.
Many people with addictions also have co-occurring disorders, or mental health issues that they self-medicate with drugs. Unless these conditions are treated, even after attending the best addiction treatment program, a relapse is very probable.
During drug rehab, patients receive various types of therapy, including participating in group sessions and individual sessions with a counselor. This is such an important part of the recovery experience, and without it, a positive long-term outcome will mostly likely not occur.
When a person is addicted to Lexapro and they want to stop, they have two basic options for treatment. They can choose an outpatient rehab program or an inpatient one. For many people, outpatient treatment seems more appealing because it can be really flexible. But that may not be the best decision.
Many people will find that they need at least some level of detoxification when they decide to quit taking Lexapro. This is a drug that can cause withdrawal symptoms, and they can be difficult to manage. There can also be complications that arise as a result of going through withdrawal. While there are outpatient detox programs, we never recommend them. The risk of relapsing is much too high, and emergency treatment may be needed in the event of a problem.
Also, outpatient programs are not always equipped to provide people with all the support they need when they are new to treatment. It can be really difficult to get off this drug, and people need to know that someone will be there for them 24 hours a day.
Inpatient programs offer patients a way to immerse themselves in a recovery-oriented atmosphere. They learn what it means to live without relying on a drug to help them get through each day. If there are problems during detox, they can be treated immediately. But more often than not, potential complications are avoided in inpatient settings.
At Northpoint Washington, we offer one of the best inpatient drug rehab programs in the state. It is a 28-day program, which includes both detox and rehab. These services are offered at the same location, which means there is no break in treatment. This is important because we want the care our patients receive to be continuous during this critical time.
When patients come to us for addiction recovery, they are treated as individuals with their own needs. We compile personalized treatment plans for all of our patients so we can be sure that their needs are being met.
First, anyone who is addicted to Lexapro will be assessed for the need for detox. If necessary, that is where their healing will begin. Detoxing will help them get through the withdrawal phase faster, and it will also keep their symptoms under control. Many of our patients find that they do not experience even some of the most common symptoms of this type of withdrawal because of detoxing. It is a process that can take as long as ten days, but it is usually shorter.
During drug rehab, our patients work with a therapist that has been assigned to them, as well as in group settings. Family therapy may be recommended, as well as other types of treatment. We offer dual diagnosis treatment for anyone with co-occurring disorders, and we always treat cross addictions.
We are located in Edmonds, Washington and we participate with many of the more popular health insurance plans in Washington State.
At Northpoint Washington, we have worked with many people who were addicted to Lexapro. So many of them started taking this drug with the best of intentions, and they never meant to get addicted to it. Sadly, it happens all the time, and when it does, we are here to provide the support people need to stop using it.
Even though doctors do not advertise Lexapro as addictive, make no mistake; it can be when it is abused. Our caring, qualified and experienced staff know exactly how to treat this addiction to help people reach their recovery goals.