If you are experiencing symptoms related to depression, anxiety, or a related mental illness, you are not alone: More than 75 million Americans suffer from some form of depression or anxiety disorder every year.
The good news: Prescription medications like Lexapro (escitalopram) can help patients with depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges manage their emotions, boost their mood, and improve their quality of life.
Lexapro is a brand-name prescription drug that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for patient use since 2002.
It is part of a class of antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that work by blocking the absorption, or “reuptake” of serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked with emotional regulation.
Decreasing the amount of serotonin that is reabsorbed increases the total amount of this neurotransmitter in your body at one time.
Healthcare professionals consider Lexapro a first-line treatment for mental illness because it’s safe, effective, and, for most patients, does not come with a risk of serious side effects.
The FDA has approved Lexapro for use with adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). It is also one of only a handful of prescription medications approved to treat adolescent patients with MDD ages 12-17.
Occasionally healthcare providers will also prescribe Lexapro “off-label” to treat patients with anxiety-related disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa.
If you are suffering from psychological distress, seek medical advice from your healthcare provider. Lexapro or another SSRI antidepressant may be able to help you manage your symptoms and live a healthier life.
In this article, I’ll tell you whether you need a prescription in order to take Lexapro, and whether you can buy it online. I’ll also explain what Lexapro is, how it works, and whether there’s a generic alternative to the brand name drug. I’ll also tell you about side effects, dosages, interactions with other drugs, and the costs of Lexapro.
Finally, I’ll help you determine how to know if Lexapro is right for you.
Do You Need a Prescription for Lexapro?
Lexapro, like all selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), is only FDA-approved to be available by prescription.
That’s because the medication is not for everyone: Some patients can experience uncomfortable side effects or adverse drug interactions when they take Lexapro along with contraindicated drugs or other substances.
If you believe you would benefit from taking Lexapro, make an appointment to talk with your doctor, or start a free assessment here.
Be prepared to discuss your medical history, mental health symptoms, any prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re currently taking, as well as any herbal supplements you’re using.
If your doctor agrees that Lexapro is appropriate for you, they’ll write you a prescription that lists the proper dosage for your condition.
Once that happens, you will be able to purchase your medication from any local pharmacy or online retailer.
Can You Buy Lexapro Online?
If you have a prescription for Lexapro from a healthcare professional, you can buy your medications from any local pharmacy or online retailer of your choice.
Online pharmacies can be a great way to purchase the prescription drugs you need because they offer some of the lowest prices available. They also safely and conveniently ship your medication straight to your door.
What is Lexapro?
Since being approved by the FDA in 2002, Lexapro has helped many Americans with their mental health symptoms and find relief. More than 5.5 million patients used Lexapro or its generic counterpart, escitalopram, in 2018 alone.
Lexapro rebalances the neurochemistry in the brain to positively impact mood, emotional stability, energy levels, and appetite.
It’s considered a first-line treatment for mental illness because of its effectiveness and safety, and because most patients tolerate it without serious side effects.
Healthcare professionals use Lexapro to treat major depressive disorder (MDD) in adult patients and pediatric patients over 12.
They also recommend it for adult patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In some circumstances, healthcare professionals will prescribe Lexapro “off-label” to treat patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), binge eating disorder, and bulimia nervosa.
How Does Lexapro Work?
Lexapro is a type of antidepressant called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Like these other SSRIs, Lexapro increases the amount of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in your body.
Serotonin is a chemical that helps your brain and body communicate with each other. It carries messages between cell receptors and acts as a hormone to help your body regulate appetite, sleep, energy levels, and other body processes.
Under normal circumstances, your body reabsorbs serotonin as soon as it’s delivered its message.
When you take Lexapro or another SSRI, the drug blocks your body from completing that reabsorption, or “reuptake” process, increasing the amount of serotonin available in your body.
Although researchers are still investigating the relationship between low or unbalanced serotonin levels and mental illness, we know that increasing serotonin is linked with brighter moods, more stable emotions, regulated appetite, and improved sleep.
Is There a Generic for Lexapro?
Lexapro is a brand name prescription medication manufactured by a pharmaceutical company called Forest Laboratories Inc.
It is available as a generic drug called escitalopram. Generic medicines are identically effective and contain the same active ingredients as their brand-name counterpart. The only difference is that pharmacies can offer generic medicines at a lower price.
Like many medications, Lexapro comes with a risk of side effects. Patients who experience side effects most commonly report the following symptoms:
- Dry mouth
- Increased risk for glaucoma
- Loss of appetite
- Sexual dysfunction
- Weight change
If you are taking Lexapro and are having uncomfortable side effects, talk to your doctor before stopping your medication abruptly.
Even a few missed doses can put you at risk for experiencing withdrawal symptoms like muscle stiffness or tension, confusion, flu-like symptoms, hallucinations, and more.
Your doctor can help you avoid these withdrawal symptoms by slowly tapering off your medication.
All SSRIs, including Lexapro, come with a rare but serious risk of worsening suicidal thoughts and behavior in pediatric and young adult patients.
If you suspect that you or someone you know may harm themselves, call 9-1-1 or immediately go to the nearest emergency room.
Does Lexapro Cause Weight Gain?
Every patient is different. Some people experience weight gain or weight loss while taking Lexapro, while others do not experience any weight changes.
Sometimes, patients taking Lexapro experience weight shifts that have less to do with taking the medication and more to do with the improvements in their mental and emotional state.
For example, people who have depression will sometimes eat more or less due to their mental illness. When they begin to feel better, they eat more healthily and experience weight changes as a result.
Lexapro is available in a tablet form and comes in three dosage strengths:
- 5 mg
- 10 mg
- 20 mg
The National Institute of Health recommends that doctors prescribe patients who are just beginning to take Lexapro a low dosage (10 mg or less) until they know how the patient tolerates the drug.
If a low dosage proves ineffectual, doctors should then incrementally increase the prescription.
Like other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), Lexapro can interact poorly with certain medications, herbal supplements, and illicit drugs.
Tell your doctor about all medications, supplements, and drugs you regularly take to avoid experiencing adverse interactions.
Talk to your doctor about taking Lexapro with any of the following treatments:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- St. John’s Wort
- Tricyclic antidepressants
Mixing certain medications with Lexapro can put you at risk of serotonin syndrome, a condition in which the body has too much serotonin at one time.
Symptoms include agitation, confusion, a racing or irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, muscle tremor or rigidity, and seizure. The condition is rare but can be life-threatening if left untreated. If you believe you are suffering from serotonin syndrome, seek medical attention right away.
The costs of any prescription drug, including Lexapro, can vary depending on an individual’s dosage, insurance coverage, and pharmacy location.
If you are concerned about the price of your medication, ask your doctor if they can prescribe escitalopram, the less expensive, generic version of Lexapro.
You may also want to consider ordering your medication over the internet; reputable online pharmacies will often offer a safe, convenient way to buy Lexapro at the lowest price.
Is Lexapro Right for You?
For decades, millions of Americans have used Lexapro and other prescription antidepressants to help them manage depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.
If you have intrusive or intense symptoms that have lasted two weeks or more, talk to your doctor about whether Lexapro or another SSRI is appropriate for your condition.
Talk to a Doctor Today
If you are having difficulties with your mental health, you do not have to suffer without treatment.
Anxiety and depression are among the most under-reported and under-treated diseases in America. Nearly 20% of adults in the US suffer from mental health illness, and fewer than half receive treatment. Our mission is to increase access to treatment for those suffering in silence.
You can start controlling your anxiety and depression and get access to the treatment you need with K Health. Starting at $19/month, get prescriptions for mental health medications plus unlimited doctor visits through the K Health app. Start your free assessment here.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Facts & Statistics (2021). https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
Lexapro Pediatric Safety Review and Utilization Review (2017). https://www.fda.gov/media/111604/download
Escitalopram Oxalate. Drug Usage Statistics, United States, 2008 - 2018 (2021). https://clincalc.com/DrugStats/Drugs/EscitalopramOxalate
Escitalopram (Lexapro) (2020). https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Escitalopram-(Lexapro)
Lexapro label: escitalopram oxalate tablet (2010). https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=23ff2d62-b5ff-4837-8b54-439a65609d90
Escitalopram for the management of major depressive disorder: a review of its efficacy, safety, and patient acceptability (2012). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3526882/