DRUGS belonging to the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) group are used for the treatment of depression and anxiety symptoms. They act by restoring the balance of serotonin, the mood-influencing biochemical that is predominantly found in the brain cells. However, SSRIs, without exception, come with their side-effects which can be severe. The severity of side-effects spurred medical research and led to newer SSRIs, the latest of which is Lexapro (Escitalopram Oxalate).
Known as Cipralex in most west European countries, Lexapro has been demonstrated to be superior over its predecessor SSRI in terms of promptness of action, lower dosage, and more manageable side-effects if taken faithfully as prescribed by the physician. Despite its advantages of dosage and lower side-effects, the most significant benefit of Lexapro is that it acts quicker than the others.
Importance of quick action: Usually, Lexapro begins to show positive effects within 10-to-14 days of the start of treatment (in some cases, it starts within a week). Complete healing does not come about within this time span, but the patient makes enough progress to retain confidence in the medication. This confidence is crucial because depression and anxiety are psycho-somatic illnesses requiring the patient to have faith in the treatment.
Though, as stated above, onset of improvement in the patient’s condition usually happens within 10-14 days of start of Lexapro treatment, it takes four-to-six weeks for the full effect to be seen. Thereafter, under medical advice, the treatment may continue for several weeks more if warranted or is tapered off (never abruptly stopped, to minimize withdrawal symptoms).
Comparison with other SSRIs: In contrast, other SSRIs take longer to act; some take four-to-six weeks. For a reasonable comparison, let’s look at research findings on two sets of patients who didn’t respond by the end of the eighth week of treatment. One set was being administered Lexapro, and the other set Celexa (Citalopram), another SSRI drug. At the end of the 24th week, it was found that 55% of Lexapro patients achieved relief, compared to 51% of Celexa patients.
In other words, 4% of Celexa patients had to be administered Celexa for more than 24 weeks to reach the relief-level that Lexapro patients achieved in 24 weeks. The fact that the Lexapro dosage was half (10-20mg a day) the Celexa dosage (20-40mg a day) is extraneous to the point.
To conclude, though we have compared Lexapro with only one other SSRI, Celexa, it is important to note that it is the immediate predecessor of Lexapro in the SSRI family. The gap between Lexapro and Celexa in terms of speed of only widens as we compare Lexapro with SSRIs older than Celexa.