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Lexapro vs. Effexor – Differences & Side Effects

Both Lexapro and Effexor have some similarities, but they’re completely different drugs that work in different ways to treat various medical issues. Here are some of their major differences.

Half-life

Effexor has a half-life of around 4 hours while Effexor XR has a half-life around 5 – 7 hours. Lexapro’s half-life is considerably longer at 32 hours. Lexapro stays in your system for longer than either type of Effexor. While the may not change its effectiveness for treatment, it can have an impact on the rate of dependence and the effectiveness while switching from a different medication.

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Uses

Both medications can be used to treat major depressive disorder and depression, but they each have other common uses, both prescribed and off-label.

Lexapro is often used for treating generalized anxiety disorder as well as anxiety. Effexor can be useful for treating negative symptoms of autism, as well as short-term depression disorders like postpartum depression and eating disorders like bulimia.

Although they’re both used in cases of depression and major depressive disorder, they have different effects on the condition and won’t give all patients the same outcomes. Some patients may respond better to one medication than the other.

Treatment Period

Both drugs are known to be safe for short-term use. However, clinical trials have not been performed to show any information on long-term use of either. Many patients do take either Lexapro or Effexor (especially Effexor XR) for long-term treatment of depression or anxiety. Effexor has been recorded to have a lower likelihood of developing negative treatment-related side effects than some other anti-depressants.

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Dependency

Although studies have shown little evidence of drug-seeking behavior from patients on Lexapro or Effexor, dependency and tolerance are possible with both drugs. Dependency can be developed, even with regular prescription use. The risk of dependency is higher when the drug is abused than when it’s used as prescribed.

Effexor and Effexor XR tend to have a higher likelihood of developing tolerance and subsequent dependency than Lexapro. They also have a higher instance of patients developing side effects during the regular treatment period.

In most cases, dependency was most visible in patients who abruptly discontinued rather than those who took a slower tapering off approach. If doses are cut too abruptly, symptoms of dependence and tolerance can emerge.

Side Effects of Lexapro

There are many potential side effects that can come from taking Lexapro. Most reported side effects are uncommon, especially in patients receiving a lower maintenance dose for long-term treatment. As the dose is increased, the likelihood of experiencing side effects also increases. Some patients experience no side effects at all.

Most Lexapro side effects are not experienced in a serious or life-threatening form. These are the main side effects that can appear:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Indigestion
  • Malaise
  • Drowsiness
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Lower sex drive
  • Ejaculation disorder

Along with the side effects of taking the medication, there are reports of side effects from discontinuing treatment with Lexapro as well. The main side effect reported in this category is insomnia. Studies showed that adults taking larger doses of Lexapro were more likely to experience side effects from discontinuation, even if that was there prescribed dosage.

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Side Effects of Effexor

Effexor is often taken as a long-term maintenance medication to treat major depression in adults. The larger the dosage taken on a regular basis, the higher the chance is that side effects will appear. Most side effects are mild and will disappear after some regular usage, while others are more serious and may warrant a change in medications or discontinuation of Effexor. Not everyone experiences side effects.

There are the main side effects that can potentially occur in patients taking Effexor:

  • Drowsiness
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Increased anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Abnormal ejaculation/orgasm
  • Headaches
  • Malaise
  • Tiredness
  • Chills
  • Chest pains
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormally low appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Tremors
  • Vivid dreams
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Blurred vision

Effexor can also lead to side effects when treatment with the medication is discontinued. If the medication is taken at a higher dose or for an extended period of time, the risk of experiencing side effects from discontinuation increase. Discontinuation side effects are similar to those listed above.

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Sources

https://www.drugs.com/compare/effexor-vs-lexapro

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15367045

https://www.rxlist.com/lexapro-drug.htm

https://www.rxlist.com/effexor-drug.htm#description

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2006/0801/p449.html

https://www.pfizermedicalinformation.ca/en-ca/effexor-xr/action-and-clinical-pharmacology

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10695900

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5122670/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7806687

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