Escitalopram: Its Use and Side Effects

Escitalopram: Its Use and Side Effects
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Acute depression, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder… These are all very real conditions, and many people suffer greatly with their symptoms. They also have something else in common: they are often treated with escitalopram (Cipralex). This is an antidepressant drug, one of the most prescribed ones by doctors, and are part of the group of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Escitalopram is on the market under such well-known names as Cipralex, Lexapro, Ezentius, Ipran or Neuroipran. Those who have gone through a major depression, or who are currently suffering one, will have undoubtedly heard of this component. If this is the case, then that’s because it’s especially effective in comparison with other drugs, such as its predecessor, Citalopram or even Fluoxetine (Prozac).

Escitalopram (Cipralex) is a medication developed by the Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck, which acts as a selective inhibitor of serotonin reuptake (SSRI) and is especially effective in the treatment of acute depression.

We are talking about one of the most prescribed psychotropic drugs for the treatment of mood disorders. After coming on to the market in 2001, through the laboratories of Lundbeck and Forest, people had high hopes about it for one specific reason. Escitalopram is a fast-acting antidepressant. It works quicker than other drugs of the same type. Let’s look at it in detail.

Escitalopram formula

What is escitolopram and what is it used for?

In our blog we have already talked about serotonin. This substance is exceptional in the fact that it behaves as a hormone in the blood, and a neurotransmitter in the brain. One of its main purposes is to regulate our state of mind. It generates well-being, motivation, and boosts energy and optimism. In essence, it enhances all the abilities that define us as human beings and that allow us to function, relate to others and be creative.

In mood disorders, such as depression or panic disorders, this neurotransmitter is lacking in some way. It is common to have to resort to the pharmaceutical approach, in order for the patient to recover their neurochemical balance. Escitolopram achieves this, and it does it by blocking the reuptake of serotonin. In other words, it prevents it from being reabsorbed into the postsynaptic receptors. By doing this, it increases its concentration in the intersinaptic spaces.

The ability to ensure our brain has an adequate amount of this neurotransmitter is something that many other drugs can do, drugs such as fluoxetine. So what distinguishes escitolopram from the rest? Why is this psychotropic drug one of the most popular? Let’s have a look…

Sad woman

Advantages of escitalopram

  • Escitalopram is a eutomer, a type of compound that is able to act very quickly.
  • Escitalopram also has a greater affinity for serotonergic neurons. Thanks to this, it facilitates not only their production, but also their transportation.

We have to say that for a time there seemed to be another reason why health professional prescribed escitalopram so much. Many felt that it was due to the heavy marketing, which tried to convince mental health professionals to prescribe it. Now that all the results from the clinical studies are in, we can see that they are conclusive. All of them make one thing clear: this psychotropic drug is demonstrably superior to other SSRIs on the market.

What is escitalopram used for?

  • Escitalopram is highly effective in the treatment of acute depression.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Panic disorder
  • Social phobia.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Side effects of escitalopram

The side effects of escitalopram are very similar to that of the other SSRIs of the same type. Furthermore, they are generally tolerable, although that will undoubtedly depend on the duration of the treatment itself. The most common side effects would be the following:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Heartburn.
  • Constipation.
  • Fatigue.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Headache.
  • Weight gain.

Among the most severe effects that can develop is sexual dysfunction. However, we should point out that this characteristic is reversible, once the treatment is suspended. Finally, as always, we have to point out that these types of drugs can only be prescribed by professionals. You must avoid combining them with other medications, such as antidepressants in the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) class.

Medicine capsules

Likewise, it is important to assess whether the patient has kidney or liver problems. In these cases it is better to try other options. Pregnant women and the elderly will always receive a lower prescribed dose. Therefore, you should trust the advice given by your doctor and his recommendations and prescription. Don’t forget that drugs are not the only answer for the treatment of mental disorders. They are just one part of a multidimensional, personalized and sensitive approach.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Álvarez, E., Vieira, S., & Garcia-Moll, X. (2014). Citalopram, escitalopram y QT largo:¿ alerta o alarma?. Revista de Psiquiatría y Salud Mental7(3), 147-150.
  • Cipriani, A., Santilli, C., Furukawa, T. A., Signoretti, A., Nakagawa, A., McGuire, H., … & Barbui, C. (2009). Escitalopram versus otros agentes antidepresivos para la depresión (Revisión Cochrane traducida). Biblioteca Cochrane Plus, (3).
  • Insa, P. A. S., Martín, O. S., & Lacal, G. S. (2008). Efectos secundarios de los ISRS sin importancia para la salud que pueden contribuir al mal cumplimiento o al abandono del tratamiento. Psiquiatría Biológica15(4), 101-108.
  • Rodríguez, N. H. (2015). Efectividad de los antidepresivos atípicos e inhibidores de la recaptación de serotonina y noradrenalina frente a los clásicos inhibidores de la recaptación de serotonina. PHARMACIENCIA3(1), 39-42.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.