If you’re one of the 40 million American adults living with an anxiety disorder, or one of the 16 million Americans with major depressive disorder (MDD), your doctor may prescribe you Lexapro, a brand name version of a medication called escitalopram oxalate.
If you’re been taking Lexapro and are interested in switching medications or considering stopping the drug, you should only do so according to your doctor’s instructions.
Stopping abruptly, or without a doctor’s guidance, may lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Still, you may want to know how long Lexapro takes to leave your system.
Being aware will help you avoid using certain drugs that interact with Lexapro.
It will also help you understand how to taper off the medication safely in order to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
In this article, I’ll discuss how Lexapro works, the factors influencing how long it stays in your system, and some potential withdrawal symptoms to look out for.
How Does Lexapro Work?
Serotonin is a brain messenger molecule that affects sleep, mood, emotions, appetite, and other bodily functions.
Usually, after it has delivered its message, serotonin is reabsorbed by the brain.
Lexapro works by preventing serotonin reabsorption, increasing the amount of serotonin present in the brain.
This is thought to ease the symptoms of depression.
Although they are not free of side effects, SSRIs tend to have fewer side effects than many other antidepressants and are effective for a lot of people, so they’re considered a first-line treatment for depression.
What is the Half-Life of Lexapro?
The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for the amount of the drug in your body to decrease by half.
The half-life of Lexapro is estimated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be 27-32 hours.
This means that if you take a dose of 10 mg of Lexapro, only 5 mg will remain in your bloodstream after 27-32 hours.
After 54-64 hours, only 2.5 mg will stay in your bloodstream.
It continues like this until there is no significant amount left in your bloodstream.
For patients over age 65, the half-life of Lexapro is up to 50% longer.
How Long Does Lexapro Stay in Your System?
Many drugs clear out of the bloodstream by the fifth half-life. While there is no clinically significant amount left by this time, they can often still be detected in urine or blood tests.
Lexapro is detectable in your body system for up to 6.1 days, at which point 99% of the medication will be out of your body.
Factors that Influence How Long Lexapro Stays In The Body
The typical dosage of Lexapro is 10 mg per day.
At that dose, the medication will stay in the body for approximately 6.1 days for this dosage.
A higher dosage will lead to a higher concentration in the body, taking longer to clear.
Age and sex
The FDA approves the prescription of Lexapro for adolescents (above 12 years), young adults, and older people.
The medication’s half-life is increased by about 50% in the bodies of people 65 and older, meaning it stays in their bodies longer compared to that of young adults.
Older people have slower metabolisms compared to young people.
They also may have age-related problems with their liver and kidneys, which are the organs responsible for clearing the drug.
No study shows that the sex of an individual affects how long Lexapro stays in the body, so there is no need for dosage adjustment based on gender.
Lexapro stays longer in the body with decreasing body weight.
A study showed that an individual’s weight has a significant effect on the clearance of Lexapro from the body.
Other medications taken
Lexapro interacts with other drugs like warfarin, aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, including ibuprofen), and lithium, sometimes causing serious side effects when the two are taken together.
Please speak to your doctor if you were recently on Lexapro before starting any of these medications.
Potential Symptoms of Withdrawal
The abrupt discontinuation of antidepressants can lead to antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, or withdrawal.
These symptoms are usually mild, but can be uncomfortable.
Common symptoms associated with discontinuing Lexapro include:
- Paresthesias (sensory disturbances like the sensation of pins and needles)
In the case of withdrawal, symptoms appear within two to four days and resolve once you reintroduce Lexapro or introduce another drug in the same drug class (another SSRI).
If you experience severe withdrawal symptoms, you might need to continue using Lexapro and then discontinue at a slower rate.
Never stop your medication or adjust your dose without talking to your doctor.
The best way to avoid withdrawal symptoms is to taper off the drug, or slowly lower the dosage, according to a schedule created by your doctor.
When to See a Doctor
Lexapro is a prescription medication, which means you cannot purchase it without a doctor’s prescription.
Do not use it without being monitored by a doctor.
If you plan on stopping Lexapro because it does not seem to be helping your condition or you think you do not need it anymore, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider first.
They can best assess your need for the drug, adjust your dosage if needed, or taper you off the drug if they feel you no longer need it.
How K Health Can Help
Do you want to stop using Lexapro?
You need to taper off the medication, and this should be done only after consulting a doctor.
Did you know you can get in contact with a doctor using the K Health app?
Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.
Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Effect of Age, Weight and CYP2C19 Genotype on Escitalopram Exposure. (2013).
Understanding Anxiety: Facts and Statistics. (n.d.).
Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome. (2006).
Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome. (2017).