HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Escitalopram

Return to Escitalopram overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else
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Taking Venlafaxine
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Escitalopram can be used to treat the following conditions

Headmeds fills the medicines information gaps for young people - things you might want to know about meds like will it affect my sex life? Can I still study?  Can I drink?
Headmeds does not give medical advice so this is just general information.
Each medicine has a balance of good and bad effects, and each person gets their own individual effects.
You might want to know just one thing about your medicine, but on each page we have given you the ‘safety headlines’. Please read them as they are important.
We have included lots of information about each medicine - but if you want all the details, please look at the patient information leaflet - which is inside every pack. These leaflets are also at www.medicines.org.uk - where there will be the most up-to-date information.

Safety headlines

  • If you have taken more escitalopram than it said on the label, you must see a doctor quickly – even if you do not feel any different.
  • As part of depression some people think about hurting themselves or committing suicide. Taking an antidepressant may not stop this. You must get some urgent help if you are having these sorts of thoughts. Speak to someone who is looking after you or go straight to hospital with your tablets.
  • Escitalopram can also cause other serious side-effects: allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, swelling of your face or throat, itching skin lumps), and other serious symptoms that you can find here. Go to a hospital if you get any of these symptoms, with your medicine.
  • Stopping escitalopram suddenly can cause -unpleasant withdrawal effects – go to your doctor if you want to stop, or if you are having these effects.
  • You might feel sleepy in the first few days after taking escitalopram – do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate machines until you see how this affects you.
  • If you take escitalopram while you are pregnant, it is unlikely to affect the developing baby. Also, not treating your depression may be worse for both you and your baby so do talk to your doctor or midwife about this and get their help. Escitalopram may rarely cause symptoms in newborn babies affecting breathing so your baby will be closely checked.
  • In most cases you should be able to breastfeed as normal.
  • Escitalopram does not mix well with some other medicines and drugs. Do not take escitalopram if you have taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressant (MAOI) like moclobemide, phenelzine, isocarboxazid or tranylcypromine in the last 14 days.

Basic details

The drops contain a small amount of alcohol and will stay fresh for 8 weeks once opened

  • The drops contain a small amount of alcohol, but they will not affect your blood alcohol level.
  • Once opened, the drops stay fresh for 8 weeks in the bottle in a cool, dry place like a cupboard. After that, you need to get a new bottle and return any unused drops to the pharmacy so that they can throw them away safely. Do not pour them down the sink or toilet.
  • Drops can be mixed with water, orange juice or apple juice to make them easier to take.

You can take escitalopram as tablets or drops

  • Tablets (5mg, 10mg and 20mg strengths)
  • Oral drops (20mg per ml – 5 drops are like one 5mg tablet)

Escitalopram can be used for a number of conditions

  • Low mood (depression)
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Disorder
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Social anxiety
  • Social phobia

Escitalopram can help to adjust the chemicals your brain needs 

For low mood (depression):

The brain is usually good at making sure we have enough of the chemicals we need to function properly.

  • Reasearch suggests that depression or low mood is more likely to happen when the brain doesn’t have enough of a chemical called serotonin (also called ‘5HT’).
  • Medicines like escitalopram are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) because they focus on increasing brain serotonin involved in nerve activity. They work by blocking recycling of released serotonin back in to the nerve endings.
  • This means that the amount of serotonin is increased l and the depression and low mood gets better.

You should take escitalopram once a day

  • To get the best effect from escitalopram, take it once a day - every day.
  • Make sure that you know your dose. If it is not written on the label, check it with your pharmacist or doctor.
  • You can take it every morning, when you have breakfast or brush your teeth.
  • If you find that it makes you sleepy, you can take it at night-time instead.
  • You can take it before or after food.
  • Swallow the tablets with a drink of water - if you chew them, they taste bitter.

If you forget to take a dose then just take it as soon as possible 

What to do if you miss a dose:

  • If you remember later during the day, take it as soon as possible.
  • If you forget to take it by bedtime, just start again on the next day.
  • Do not take a double dose.

What might happen?

  • If you forget to take it for a few days, you may start getting withdrawal symptoms. If you do, see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • If you want to stop your tablets, please speak to your doctor first as it is safer if they are stopped slowly over a few weeks rather than stopping suddenly.

You must go to A&E if you take too much 

What to do if you take too much:

  • If you have taken more escitalopram than it said on the label, you must get help quickly – even if you do not feel any different.
  • Go to A&E. Take your medicine with you, to show to the doctors. Tell them how much you have taken.
  • Get a friend or family member to go with you, if you can, just in case you feel ill on the way.

You might get any of the following signs:

  • changes in your heartbeat, going fast or unevenly
  • feeling sick (nausea) or being sick
  • having a fit (seizure/convulsion)
  • sweating
  • feeling sleepy
  • passing out
  • feeling shaky (tremor) or dizzy
  • changing blood pressure, where you feel dizzy if you stand up
  • feeling agitated
  • going into a coma

You are also at risk of getting ‘Serotonin syndrome’. This is when you can get a high fever, agitation, confusion, trembling, or weird movements of your muscles. This is rare, but you should watch out for it. It will still be rare but more likely if you start another drug that has a strong serotonin action. Check with your pharmacist if a new medicine is planned. Go straight to A&E if you experience these side effects.

It can take 2-4 weeks for escitalopram to start helping 

It takes 2-4 weeks for escitalopram to show its full effect. We do not know why.

  • Scientists believe that at first the higher level of serotonin have direct effects which do not help relieve the depression. In fact you are likely to feel a bit more anxious or on edge for a couple of weeks.
  • But after some days of regular treatment, adaptive changes take place in the brain which lead to improvements in mood and depression.

Your doctor might start you on a low dose and then increase it slowly over 2-4 weeks to your full dose. They might also reduce your dose, depending on how it affects you.

You might even feel a little more anxious right at the beginning of taking them, but this will get better as the medicine takes effect.

Most people take escitalopram for about 6 months 

You and your doctor should talk about how long you need to take escitalopram.

  • You will not get the full effect for 2-4 weeks.
  • You should probably take it for at least 6 months after you feel well again - otherwise your symptoms can come back.
  • Never stop the tablets suddenly because this may make you more at risk of experiencing your symptoms again and getting withdrawal effects. Ask your doctor or your pharmacist for advice on how to stop medicines safely.

Reference sources

Search www.medicines.org.uk to find patient information leaflets and prescribing information on escitalopram. The drops are Cipralex brand only. The SmPC lists all the inactive ingredients in the product so you can check against any allergies. If you are still unsure about this then speak to your pharmacist.

  • British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for children. Download the BNF/BNFC app (blue background) on to your mobile device. No longer available for public access via the web
  • Taylor D, Barnes T, Young A. Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry, 13th edition. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, May 2018. ISBN: 978-1-119-44260-8
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Medicines Ethics and Practice (42nd edition). London: RPS, 2018. Standards for pharmacists to work to. It is not a free publication
  • World Anti Doping Agency WADA Prohibited List https://www.wada-ama.org/en/resources/science-medicine/prohibited-list-documents
  • Choiceandmedication; an independent source of information on many mental health conditions and their medicines with easy to read fact sheets www.choiceandmedication.org Personal subscriptions to download the app available for £1 per month (with proportionate discounts for longer periods) but your local mental health Trust may subscribe and provide information sheets for free.
  • Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS). Information sheets on drugs in pregnancy http://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/
  • Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Information on drugs in breastfeeding https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm