Last Updated on October 31, 2022 by Dr. Alberto Solà

For many people, the drug escitalopram is necessary to help them get through each day. Often referred to by its brand name Lexapro®, this medication is prescribed for people who struggle with depression or generalized anxiety disorder. Escitalopram works by changing the chemistry of the brain, which is why, like other medications of its kind, it has to be taken exactly according to a doctor’s instructions so serious side effects don’t occur. It’s also crucial to not mix Lexapro® and alcohol, a combination that could have drastic health consequences.

Escitalopram and the Long-Term Effects of Lexapro®

Escitalopram is a drug that is known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. This category of drugs also includes fluoxetine (Prozac®), citalopram (Celexa®), paroxetine (Paxil®, Pexeva®), and sertraline (Zoloft®). SSRIs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat depression.

Lexapro®, and other SSRIs, help elevate mood by boosting serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, the chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells in the brain, and low serotonin levels can be indicative of a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression. Because of their effectiveness, SSRIs are the most commonly used kind of prescription antidepressants. They may help alleviate feelings of unworthiness, a lack of interest in normal activities, low energy, impaired cognitive function, changes in sleeping and eating habits, nervousness, and suicidal tendencies.

As with any prescription medication, there can be some long-term effects of Lexapro.® Escitalopram, and other SSRIs, can cause potential side effects, which can depend on a person’s tolerance and metabolization of the drug. Some of those effects can include drowsiness, insomnia, dry mouth, headaches, gastrointestinal issues (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting), dizziness, sexual dysfunction, appetite changes, and feelings of nervousness or agitation. There can also be problematic interactions with other medications or supplements. Rare side effects of Lexapro® can include low sodium levels in the blood, which can lead to headache, lack of focus, teeth grinding, weakness, glaucoma and other vision problems. There is also an increased risk for a condition called serotonin syndrome, whose symptoms include fever, diarrhea, muscle tension, confusion, shivering, seizures, and death. Because escitalopram and other SSRIs can trigger bleeding, there may be a risk of bleeding in the nose, mouth, or gastrointestinal system.

Generally, Lexapro® is taken once a day, with doses ranging from 10 mg to 20 mg, depending on each patient’s specific case. It’s important for people with Lexapro® prescriptions to not stop taking the drug on their own, without a doctor’s permission. That can trigger withdrawal symptoms such as dizziness, vomiting or nausea, irritability, headaches, nightmares, or a prickly sensation in the skin. The medication also carries a “black box” warning on its label that states short-term studies have noticed increased suicide risk in children and young adults under the age of 24 who are taking antidepressants. Given the short- and long-term effects of Lexapro®, people should review their health history with their physician and talk about the pros and cons before taking the medication.

Can You Drink Alcohol on Lexapro®?

Unsurprisingly for people on Lexapro®, alcohol should be avoided. (And that’s true for any antidepressant as well.)

Perhaps the biggest reason why escitalopram and alcohol shouldn’t be combined is that alcohol acts as a depressant—and depression is exactly what Lexapro® is trying to combat. While alcoholic beverages are often consumed in social settings, there is actually a link between alcohol abuse and depression. It’s unknown if one causes the other, but people struggling with drinking may be experiencing depression, and vice versa.

Alcohol, which is a depressant in itself, can also reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants. Mixing Lexapro® and alcohol can have a powerful impact on the brain. While Lexapro® affects the serotonin neurotransmitters, alcohol can affect neurological pathways while also, in cases of alcohol use disorder, actually change the structure of the brain. Chronic drinkers can experience low serotonin levels in the brain, and that can be reversed in part by consuming alcohol again. Alcohol can also affect the dopamine, GABA, and glutamate neurotransmitters; research has also shown that it could be linked to shrinkage of the brain’s hippocampus.

The other problem is that, in some cases, there are similarities in the side effects of Lexapro® and alcohol. Alcohol, like escitalopram, can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, tiredness, and sexual dysfunction, so the risks of those side effects can increase when the two substances are combined. Alcohol can also exacerbate certain Lexapro® problems. For instance, if Lexapro® triggers a loss in appetite, alcohol prevents the body from properly digesting what nutrients it does get, which could lead to malnutrition. If escitalopram causes a person to feel restless or agitated, alcohol could make those mood swings even more intense.

For anyone who wonders, can you drink alcohol on Lexapro®, the answer, in essence, is that the risks are simply too great and the potential toll on a person’s health and well being isn’t worth it.

Treatment for Lexapro®, Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol use disorder can be detrimental to your physical and psychological health and mixing Lexapro® and alcohol only compounds the problem. If you are experiencing the negative effects of this toxic combination, it’s time to seek professional help. Our ibogaine treatment center in Mexico helps clients gently, safely, and effectively so they can move towards a successful recovery. Our team of medical professionals tailors each treatment to the individual client and this personalized attention ensures a safe and comfortable experience. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.