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Lexapro Overdose Guide to Symptoms, Treatment and Recovery

Last Updated: March 21, 2024

Reviewed by Dr. Ash Bhatt

Depression can be perceived as an individual struggle. Yet, its repercussions affect families, communities and economies.

In 2019, the cumulative economic burden of major depressive disorder (MDD) was estimated at $333.7 billion, equivalent to $16,854 per adult, with healthcare expenses as the primary cost driver, totaling $127.3 billion (38.1% of the total). Escitalopram (Lexapro) is one of the first-line drugs to ease this growing disorder, exhibiting higher potency than other drugs.

As with any antidepressant, Lexapro should be used under strict medical supervision to minimize its potential adverse effects and drug interactions. Read on to learn about its clinical applications, warnings, and how to avoid a Lexapro overdose.

What is Escitalopram (Lexapro)?

Trade name: Lexapro®

Generic name: Escitalopram

Lexapro is an antidepressant drug belonging to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) class, considered a first-choice medication for the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Escitalopram is the active enantiomer of Citalopram, meaning it’s the pharmacologically active component responsible for the drug’s therapeutic effects. Its mechanism of action involves the inhibition of serotonin reuptake in the synaptic cleft, leading to increased serotonin concentrations in the brain. Higher serotonin levels help regulate mood and alleviate symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

Lexapro Dosage Structure

As a controlled substance, Lexapro users need to follow the dosage instructed by their doctor. The dosage will vary according to the patient’s requirements.

The information below outlines average Lexapro doses:

Age Group Condition Dosage Range Description
Adults (18+) Depression 10-20 mg/day Start with 10 mg once daily, up to 20 mg/day as needed.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) 10-20 mg/day Start with 10 mg once daily, up to 20 mg/day as needed.
Older Adults (65+) Depression 10 mg/day Start with 10 mg once daily.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) 10 mg/day Start with 10 mg once daily.
Adolescents (12-17) Depression 10-20 mg/day Start with 10 mg once daily, up to 20 mg/day as needed.
Children (7-11) Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) 10 mg/day 10-20 mg/day. Start with 10 mg once daily, up to 20 mg/day as needed.
Children (<7) Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) N/A Use and dose must be determined by a doctor.

Can You Get a Lexapro Overdose?

Yes, it’s possible to overdose on Lexapro.

Taking more than the prescribed amount can lead to excessive levels of the medication in the body, potentially causing severe side effects or toxicity. Overdose may happen in different scenarios such as:

Accidental Overdose

Accidental overdose of Lexapro can occur when patients inadvertently take more than the prescribed dosage. This can happen due to confusion regarding the correct dosage, misunderstanding of instructions or forgetfulness.

Intentional Overdose

Intentional overdose may happen when individuals purposefully consume excessive amounts of Lexapro, either as a suicide attempt or due to substance abuse issues. This event can occur in patients experiencing severe emotional distress or psychiatric conditions.

Drug Interactions

Interactions with other medications or substances can increase the risk of Lexapro overdose.

Combining Lexapro with certain drugs, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or other antidepressants, can lead to serotonin syndrome—a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by excessive serotonin levels in the brain.

Serotonin syndrome symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Disorientation
  • Hyperthermia
  • Tachycardia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremor
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Hyperreflexia
  • Myoclonus
  • Dilated pupils
  • Ocular clonus
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Flushed skin
  • Increased bowel sounds
  • Bilateral Babinski sign

Individual Factors

Factors such as age, weight, metabolism and health can influence the risk of overdosing on Lexapro.

For example, older adults or those with impaired liver or kidney function may be more susceptible to overdose due to slower drug clearance from the body. Progressive tolerance to Lexapro should also be considered.

Signs of Lexapro Overdose

The symptoms of an overdose of Lexapro can vary. It depends on whether the drug was taken alone or was a mix with other substances. The lists of the most common overdoses include:

  • Restlessness/nervousness.
  • Intense feelings of worry or fear.
  • Confusion/ impaired judgment.
  • Profuse sweating.
  • Potential fever
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Discomfort in the stomach, vomiting.
  • Involuntary shaking or trembling of limbs.
  • Stiffness or inflexibility of muscles
  • Enlarged pupil and sensitivity to light.
  • Dryness in the mucous membranes.
  • Red, flushed skin.
  • Increased bowel sounds.
  • Bilateral Babinski sign

How Much Lexapro Does It Take To Overdose?

In clinical trials, there have been reports of Lexapro overdose, including overdoses of up to 600 mg, with no associated fatalities. In the postmarketing evaluation of escitalopram, there have been overdoses of over 1000 mg of escitalopram oral solution.

Lexapro Side Effects vs. Overdose

Understanding the distinction between side effects and Lexapro overdose gives patients the advantage of recognizing potential risks and seeking appropriate medical attention when necessary.

Here is how to differentiate between the two scenarios:

Understanding Side Effects

Mild to moderate reactions like nausea, headache, dizziness and insomnia may occur within the therapeutic dosage range. It’s important to remember that these effects usually fade as the body adjusts to Lexapro.

Recognizing Overdose Symptoms

Severe symptoms like agitation, confusion, rapid heartbeat, tremors, and seizures may indicate an overdose. Immediate medical attention is necessary if excessive Lexapro is ingested.

Monitoring Dosage Intake

Any sign of dosage excess should point to a Lexapro overdose. Adhering to the prescribed dosage minimizes this risk. Patients must follow their healthcare provider’s instructions and avoid exceeding recommended doses without guidance.

What to do in a Lexapro Overdose?

If you or someone you know is considering an overdose, please call emergency services or your local poison control center immediately. In the US, first call 911.

Here are the steps to take in case of an overdose of Lexapro:

  1. Try determining the severity of the overdose by assessing symptoms and vital signs.
  2. If you cannot call for help, have someone else call for you.
  3. Provide all the information you can (i.e., amount of Lexapro ingested, vital signs).
  5. Stay calm and wait for help to arrive.

Treatment for Lexapro Overdose – Seeking Help

As overdose symptoms can escalate rapidly and pose serious health risks, seek medical help as soon as you can. Provide details and strictly follow the instructions.

Treatment may involve interventions such as activated charcoal to absorb the medication, intravenous fluids to maintain hydration, and medications to manage symptoms like agitation or seizures. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a Lexapro overdose, don’t hesitate to take action.

People Also Ask

How to take Lexapro?

Take Lexapro orally, with or without food, usually once daily in the morning (if you have trouble sleeping) or evening. Follow your doctor’s instructions precisely. Swallow the tablet whole with water. Do not crush, chew or break it. Dosage depends on your condition.

Is 30mg of Lexapro too much?

Yes, a dosage of 30mg of Lexapro may be considered high and exceeds the maximum licensed dosage of 20mg. It’s crucial to discuss any concerns or potential side effects with your doctor to determine the appropriate dosage for your condition.

What does a Lexapro overdose feel like?

Symptoms of a Lexapro overdose may include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, tremors, seizures, confusion and fainting. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect an overdose or experience any unusual symptoms after taking Lexapro.

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Retrieved on March 21, 2024.

Published on: February 20th, 2019

Updated on: March 21st, 2024

María José Petit-Rodríguez

About Author

María José Petit-Rodríguez

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Ash Bhatt

Throughout his professional life, Dr. Bhatt has been conferred with diplomate status by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, certifying him in both adult and child/adolescent psychiatry. His experiences in emergency rooms, frequently encountering patients with simultaneous health and addiction issues, directed his attention to these specific fields.

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