Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health problems in the United States. There are a variety of treatment options for people with mood and anxiety disorders, but SSRIs are among the most common. Escitalopram is a prescription SSRI that’s widely used in the United States. But what happens if you abuse this medication? Learn more about escitalopram abuse and how it can be treated.

What is Escitalopram?

Escitalopram is a prescription antidepressant medication that’s primarily used to treat major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Escitalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which works to increase the levels of important chemicals in the brain. SSRIs work by blocking reuptake, which is a process where chemicals are removed from the nervous system to avoid a build-up. In some cases, mental health issues are caused by chemical imbalances. Blocking the reuptake of serotonin, a chemical tied to feelings of happiness and well-being, can help correct chemical imbalances.

Is Escitalopram Addictive?

SSRIs like escitalopram are considered to be non-addictive. That is, they aren’t likely to cause severe substance use disorders that are characterized by compulsive drug use. However, your body can get used to them, causing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. People that have taken SSRIs for a while may experience withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Anxiety
  • General discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Flu-like symptoms

SSRIs like escitalopram aren’t controlled substances in the United States. Unlike other medications that are used to treat anxiety, like benzodiazepines, SSRIs aren’t scheduled. The drug can be purchased with a prescription. That means the government doesn’t consider it to have a high abuse potential. According to a 2014 review, the majority of patients that are prescribed antidepressants don’t misuse them. However, people with a history of substance use issues might be more likely to misuse them.

Signs of Escitalopram Abuse

Abuse of a drug like escitalopram increases the chance that you will experience some of the drug’s negative side effects. A very high dose could cause an overdose, which can come with symptoms like agitation, changes in heart rate, tachycardia, and tremors can occur. Generally, an overdose is dangerous, but the drug isn’t known to cause fatal accidental overdoses.

Miniature men in hazmat suits handling giant white pillsEscitalopram can also cause sexual dysfunction and decreased libido as an adverse reaction.

SSRIs can sometimes cause depression to worsen and increase your risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts or actions.

If you start to experience feelings of extreme depression or despair, seek professional help as soon as possible.

Drug abuse, in general, can come with some behavioral signs like hiding drugs, lying about drug use, doctor shopping, strange sleep patterns, and unexplained medical or financial issues.

How Can I Stop Using Escitalopram?

If you feel like you’ve become chemically dependent on escitalopram or if you’ve experienced uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms after cutting back, speak to your doctor. Medical professionals can help you taper off of medication safely and as comfortably as possible. It’s important to note that drugs that are used to treat mental health issues aren’t magic bullets for disorders.

Instead, it often takes trial and error to find a medication and dose that’s right for you. The goal is always to treat symptoms while mitigating side effects. To do that, you may need to keep track of your symptoms and keep your doctor informed.

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