What Are The Differences Between Celexa And Lexapro?

Last Updated: June 10, 2020

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Celexa and Lexapro are among the most widely used drugs for treating depression. Despite both drugs having a number of similarities, citalopram and escitalopram differ in their chemical composition, FDA approved uses, prescribed dosage, etc. That’s why patients need to know what exactly makes Celexa and Lexapro different to avoid improper use of each drug.

Citalopram Vs Escitalopram: General Differences And Similarities

Escitalopram and citalopram are potent drugs that help to suppress depression and its effects over time. By affecting the level of serotonin in the brain, they can control the mood and emotional states of a patient. Among the similar drugs currently available on the market, citalopram is the first most affordable, and the fourth most popular. At the same time, escitalopram takes the second position on affordability, and the third on popularity. Celexa and Lexapro are equally available in the pharmacies, so can be bought everywhere.

Drug brand name Celexa Lexapro
Generic name citalopram escitalopram
Drug class Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI)
Availability of generic versions yes yes
Approved age of use 18 y. o. and older 12 y. o. and older
Treatment length long-term long-term
Prescription forms oral tablets,
taken once a day
oral tablets,
taken once a day
Risk of withdrawal yes yes
Insurance coverage yes yes
Average price for 30 tablets of 20mg $35.37 $98.15

Celexa Vs Lexapro Dosage

escitalopram vs citalopram dosesConsidering dosage, citalopram and escitalopram start at the lowest prescribed dose which is expected to increase over time after a doctor’s advice. Those who wonder how long Celexa take to work compared to Lexapro should know that 12 weeks are an average time span for both drugs. If a patient is switching from Celexa to Lexapro, the initial doses of both drugs may differ. Thus, it is dangerous to make a transition without professional medical supervision. Despite Celexa dosing and Lexapro dosing varies, it is highly recommended by the FDA not to go beyond 40mg per day for citalopram, and 20mg per day for escitalopram.

Below is information on Celexa vs Lexapro dosage:

Drug brand name Celexa Lexapro
Doses available (tablets) 10 mg, 20 mg, and 40 mg
oral solution: 2 mg/mL
5 mg, 10 mg, and 20mg
oral solution: 1 mg/mL
Starting dose 20 mg/day 10 mg/day
Normal daily dose 40 mg/day 20 mg/day

Celexa And Lexapro FDA Approved And Off-Label Uses

Drug name Citalopram Escitalopram
FDA approves use – Depression – Major Depressive Disorder
– Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Off-label use – Alcoholism
– Binge-Eating Disorder
– Generalized Anxiety Disorder
– Panic Disorder
– Hot Flashes
– Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
– Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
– Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
– Insomnia
– Vasomotor Symptoms Associated with Menopause
– Panic Disorder
– Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
– Social Anxiety Disorder
– Pathological Gambling

Citalopram was approved by the FDA in 1998, while escitalopram in 2002. Although their approved uses are similar, both are prescribed for mood disorders, Celexa and Lexapro have differences in off-label uses. Off-label use is not illegal, and mental health providers can still prescribe such medications for not approved disorders. In other words, citalopram and escitalopram have no FDA approval for treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but a doctor can recommend them in some cases to adjust the treatment of a disease.

Celexa Vs Lexapro Use While Pregnant And During Breastfeeding

celexa vs lexapro during pregnancy and breastfeedingCelexa and Lexapro are not safe during pregnancy. In particular, citalopram exposure on the fetus during the third trimester may result in adverse implications. Both drugs are unrecommended to use while pregnant. The only exception the doctor can prescribe citalopram or escitalopram is when the benefits outweigh the hazards.

Both Lexapro and Celexa are drugs that pass into breast milk of nursing mothers. Hence, their intake poses health hazards during lactation. These could be some unwanted effects on newborns like developmental disorders if citalopram or escitalopram is taken.

Celexa Vs Lexapro: Side Effects

Celexa Lexapro
– nausea
– dry mouth
– fatigue
– changes in sex drive
– sweating
– hallucination
– heavy menstrual periods
– frequent urination
– weight gain/loss
– muscle or joint pain
– uncontrollable shaking
– weakness
– nausea
– dry mouth
– constipation
– decreased interest in sex
– fainting
– hallucination
– rash
– unexplained fever
– fast heartbeat
– twitching muscles
– unusual agitation
– troubled breathing

Both antidepressants have a list of the side effects, and the patients should be aware of them. While some users may experience no effects, the others have Celexa anxiety when citalopram is being discontinued or Lexapro sexual problems. Being antidepressants, citalopram and escitalopram affect weight gain. Not everyone is to experience weight changes, but it is much more likely during long-term treatment. As a result, patients can also have some side effects while withdrawal from citalopram as well.

Celexa Vs Lexapro: Drug Interactions

Both Celexa and Lexapro have drug interactions resulting in no complications, as well as moderate and severe complications. For instance, the use of Wellbutrin with Celexa is only recommended by prescription. The same refers to Lexapro, too. Citalopram and escitalopram should not be taken with MAO inhibitor drugs, including isocarboxazid, phenelzine, and tranylcypromine. The MAOIs can be taken only after 14 days after stopping Celexa or Lexapro.

Lexapro Or Celexa: What Statistics Says

Before taking any drug, patients need to know how effective they are. Celexa and Lexapro are not an exception. Comparing Celexa vs Lexapro relative efficacy, research has shown that escitalopram is significantly more effective than citalopram in overall depression treatment effects, as a percent of remissions is much lower. Another study examining the treatment of new episodes of major depression has revealed that escitalopram seems to be dominant in the treatment of new major depression occurrences when compared to citalopram. The reason for such a conclusion was higher remission rates and lower total costs of Lexapro. Also, it is worth noting that citalopram side effects are more prevalent than escitalopram ones.

Medical Administration Is Important

Both escitalopram and citalopram have been proven to be excellent remedies for depression and related conditions. However, before taking each of them, a doctor’s consultation is required. Users should understand what citalopram is and what escitalopram medication is. At the same time, if a patient misuses any of the two drugs, an overdose may happen. Thus, it is strongly recommended that a victim visits a professional rehabilitation and addiction centers as soon as possible.

Page Sources

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a699001.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20875220
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21034375

Published on: April 23rd, 2019

Updated on: June 10th, 2020

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.


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