Lexapro Overdose Symptoms: Can Escitalopram OD Cause Death?

Last Updated: April 12, 2021

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Escitalopram (Lexapro) overdose occurs when the patient consumes a potentially toxic amount of the substance. This drug is considered to be one of the safest antidepressants, and overdosing on it is a relatively rare case, especially when consumed according to the prescription. However, in some rare cases, taking too much Escitalopram may lead to dangerous consequences.

The most common complications include such unpleasant symptoms as nausea, sweating, dizziness, vomiting, and excessive drowsiness. In rare cases, the overdosage can also lead to blue skin coloration due to lack of oxygen, known as cyanosis. Read here about Lexapro dosage forms and strengths, overdose symptoms, possible side effects, and how its overdose can be treated.

Lexapro Overdose Symptoms

The symptoms of Lexapro overdose can vary. It depends on whether this drug was taken alone or was it a mix with other substances. For example, combining Lexapro and alcohol, weed, or other prescription drugs may lead to more severe complications.

The Most Common Overdose Symptoms Include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Excessive dizziness and drowsiness
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Convulsions
  • Confusion
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Hypotension
  • Anxiousness

How Much Does Lexapro It Take To Overdose?

The amount of Escitalopram that may create a toxic effect on the system will depend on the many factors and may vary for different people. However, the overdose within the dosages defined by the FDA (ranging from 5 to 20 mg) is almost unlikely to cause any negative consequences.

That’s why it is imperative to follow the doctor’s prescription and not to increase the dosage without prior consultation with the therapist who prescribed the drug.

Can One Overdose On Lexapro and Die?

Data on intentional overexposure to Lexapro is quite limited. During the clinical trials of Escitalopram overdose instances were reported for intake of up to 600 mg without any lethal effect. Furthermore, during post evaluation, the Lexapro overdoses involving overdoses of over 1000 mg did not cause death either.

However, scientists have tested Lexapro on animals, and it turned out that the lethal dose of escitalopram for a rat is about 980 mg/kg, and for a rabbit is about 3200 mg/kg.

A man experiences Lexapro overdose side effects.

Possible Side Effects And Complications Of Lexapro Overdose

The Lexapro side effects emerging after taking too much of the drug may seem relatively mild.

However, Some Severe Complications Are Also Possible:

  • QT prolongation
  • Torsade de Pointes ( the abnormal heart beating rhythm that may result in the sudden cardiac death)
  • Acute renal failure (sudden loss of kidney function)
  • Coma
  • With the History of Suicidal Behaviors: The overdosage of this drug increases the risk of suicidal thoughts, especially in young adults, kids, and children.

The Escitalopram half-life is relatively short; however, it does not mean that the overdose of this drug can be left untreated. In case of the signs of overdose emergence, reach out for medical help immediately to prevent severe outcomes.

Risk Groups Who May Overdose On Lexapro

Although there is a low risk of getting an unintentional overdose on Lexapro, some populations are more likely to od on escitalopram, including:

  • People trying to potentiate the drug. It takes at least 4 weeks for Lexapro to show improvements in an individual. Some patients may think that the prescribed dose is not enough to cope with their disease and may try to increase the dosage without medical consultation.
  • People with multiple diagnoses. Taking several different medications together may result in unexpected interactions, which may include overdosing on Escitalopram.
  • People with personal intolerance to Lexapro. Some individuals tolerate the drug much worse than others. They are more likely to overdose even on the smaller amount of the medication.
A woman counts and puts Lexapro pills in her hand.

Escitalopram Overdose Treatment

Medical professionals of emergency care can manage the Escitalopram overdose. Note that there is no specific antidote existing to treat the overdose on Escitalopram.

As a Rule, The Following Procedures Apply:

  1. Therapeutic irrigation or lavage – to remove the medication from the gastric tract
  2. Activated charcoal – to absorb the leftovers of Lexapro in the stomach
  3. Symptomatic care – to treat overdose symptoms (anti-nausea drugs, benzodiazepines for sedation, etc.)

Later on, doctors may give some intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and replenish the essential nutrients.

What To Do If Someone Overdoses On Lexapro?

If Someone Has Overdosed On Lexapro, Here Are the Steps to Take:

  1. Call the emergency care office or the Poison Control Center.
  2. Provide all the necessary information about the patients in full.
  3. Follow the instructions of the medical representative precisely.
  4. Place the person in a comfortable position, but make sure they are not lying on the back as this may cause choking if the person vomits. The preferable position for the patient is lying on their right side.
  5. Clear the airway and encourage the oxygen flow – undo the top buttons on the patient’s shirt, take the scarf or jewelry that may put pressure on their neck.
  6. Ask the hotline agent of the poison center or emergency care before administering any medication to the patients.

Getting Help With Abuse And Addiction

Although Lexapro is not physically addictive, it may cause some psychological dependence and withdrawal in people trying to cope with the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Overdosing on Lexapro may be a sign of drug abuse. Treating drug dependence is faster and easier if started in the early stages. Look for a rehab center for drug abusers in case of any addiction signs to this SSRI antidepressant.

If someone overdoses on Escitalopram or is addicted to this drug, consult the rehab support advisors. They help patients, answer all the queries and assist in finding the support they need for long-term recovery.

 

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Page Sources

  1. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (2014, December 16). Escitalopram (marketed as Lexapro) Information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/escitalopram-marketed-lexapro-information
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017). HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION Lexapro® (escitalopram oxalate) Tablets. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/021323s047lbl.pdf
  3. Pelissolo, A. (2008). Efficacy and tolerability of escitalopram in anxiety disorders: a review. L'Encephale.
  4. Katzung, B., & Trevor, A. (2020). Basic and Clinical Pharmacology 15e (15th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education / Medical

Published on: February 20th, 2019

Updated on: April 12th, 2021

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.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.