(NaturalNews) Lexapro is an anti-depressant that's been prescribed millions of times since it was first introduced, and physicians continue to prescribe it today, despite the fact that the drug -- along with other drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs -- has been associated with significant side effects, some of which are potentially life-threatening.
Lexapro is the brand name for a drug known as escitalopram. Escalitopram works by altering your brain's chemistry and neurologic processes, with the aim of making it easier for your brain to properly process serotonin, a chemical naturally produced by the body and associated with positive, "happy" feelings. In some patients with depression, serotonin is either under-produced or not used properly by the brain, resulting in feelings of depression and anxiety which may be persistent.
When SSRIs were introduced, they were hailed as panaceas for those suffering from serotonin-related depression and anxiety. But as more and more patients were prescribed these drugs, the medications' side effects became more apparent. Many studies report that Lexapro's side effects are devastating to many patients, especially those who take the drug for prolonged periods. (1)
Eventually, the number and severity of these side effects became so severe that even the FDA was prompted to act. In 2005 and again in 2007, the agency proposed new regulations requiring companies manufacturing Lexapro and other SSRIs to place a "black box" warning -- the most significant labeling measure under FDA guidelines -- cautioning patients about the side effects, most notably suicidal thoughts or actions. (2)
Auditory or visual hallucinations (hearing and seeing things that aren't there)
Severe muscle stiffness
The FDA also lists the following serious side effects:
Suicidal thoughts or actions, especially in children or young adults or when the dosage is changed
Sudden changes in behavior or mood, including new or severe changes in thoughts, actions or feelings
Aggressive or violent behavior
Worsening depression or anxiety or panic attacks
Feelings of irritability, restlessness, agitation or anger
Manic behavior, such as a significant increase in activity or excessive talking
Any other unusual change in mood or behavior
In addition, the FDA warns that Lexapro could result in allergic reactions that may involve swelling of the throat, face or tongue, difficulty breathing, rash or hives, fever or joint pain.
Any SSRI medication carries the additional and potentially life-threatening risk of what's known as serotonin syndrome. This condition can include:
Changes in mental status including coma
Uncontrollable muscle twitches or coordination problems
High or low blood pressure
Unusual bruising or bleeding
Diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
Fever or profuse sweating
Convulsions or seizures
Elderly people who use Lexapro may also be prone to low levels of sodium in their blood, which can result in headache, feelings of weakness, or confusion or memory problems.
Children and adolescents especially may notice increased feelings of thirst, difficulty urinating, agitation and nose bleeds. What's more, Lexapro can actually cause delays in a child's growth.
Of course, depression and anxiety have their own harmful effects, and neither condition should be ignored. But what most medical professionals won't tell you is that there may be alternative, holistic ways of managing feelings of depression and anxiety that can help you feel better without assuming the serious and potentially life-threatening risks associated with antidepressant drugs like SSRIs.
Dietary changes to include specific types of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients known to enhance mood can provide tremendous benefits to many patients. Other lifestyle changes like increasing aerobic activity or practicing yoga or meditation can help manage stress.
As with any other medical condition or disease, knowing your options when it comes to managing depression and anxiety can help you make the best, most informed decisions and, ultimately, lead a healthier life overall.