What does escitalopram do and how effective is it?

What does escitalopram do?

Escitalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It is related to the SSRI citalopram. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter — a chemical that relays signals between the cells in your brain. SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, and this is how escitalopram is thought to improve the symptoms of depression.

How effective is escitalopram?

About 50% of people treated with antidepressants find their depression symptoms are halved.

Although all antidepressants have shown similar efficacy when tested in groups of people in clinical trials, keep in mind that individuals can find one antidepressant works better for them than another. So if the first antidepressant you try doesn’t seem to be working for you after a few weeks, talk to your doctor about switching to another. A psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), could also be an option.

Find out more about

If you are starting escitalopram, see 10 things you should know about antidepressants.

You can also read more about depression and the options for treating it.

For more information

The consumer medicine information (CMI) for your brand of escitalopram is available from our website or a pharmacist. The CMI includes:

  • How to take this medicine
  • What to do if you forget to take it
  • If you take too much (overdose)
  • Things you must and must not do while taking this medicine
  • Signs of severe reactions and what to do.
  • Rossi S, ed. eAMH [online]. Adelaide: Australian Medicines Handbook, 2012. www.amh.net.au. (Accessed 9 February 2012).
  • Psychotropic Expert Group. Therapeutic Guidelines: Psychotropic, Version 6. In: eTG complete [CD-ROM]. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2008.
  • Williams JW Jr, Mulrow CD, Chiquette E, et al. A systematic review of newer pharmacotherapies for depression in adults: evidence report summary. Ann Intern Med 2000;132:743–56. [PubMed]
  • Lundbeck Australia Pty Ltd. Lexapro consumer medicine information. March 2011. (Accessed 22 March 2012).
  • National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. Depression: the NICE guideline on the treatment and management of depression in adults (updated edition). London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2010. www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/12329/45896/45896.pdf (accessed 9 February 2012).
  • Gartlehner G, Hansen RA, Morgan LC, et al. Comparative benefits and harms of second-generation antidepressants for treating major depressive disorder: an updated meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med 2011;155:772–85. [PubMed]