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Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you’re dealing with an anxiety disorder (like panic attacks) or depression (whether it be moderate or major depression) and have done some research on medications used to treat these things, you’ve almost certainly come across Xanax® and Lexapro®.
These medications are prescribed to treat both anxiety and depressive disorders. Lexapro specifically has been found to help with symptoms of anxiety, while Xanax is effective in treating the symptoms of major depression. And if one medication is good, you may wonder if taking two is even better.
Before you figure out whether it’s a good idea to take Xanax and Lexapro together, you need to have a basic understanding of what each medication is used for.
Xanax (also known by its generic name, alprazolam) is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. Alprazolam is most commonly used to treat anxiety disorders like panic disorder. It’s also sometimes used to treat depression and premenstrual syndrome.
It comes in either an extended release tablet or a disintegrating tablet, and can also be prescribed in liquid form.
Common side effects of alprazolam include:
Dizziness and light-headedness
Drowsiness and tiredness
Change in sex drive
Changes in appetite or weight
Generally, it’s not recommended that someone take benzodiazepines for long stretches of time, as they can be addictive.
The generic version of Lexapro is called escitalopram. It is primarily used to treat depression, but can also be used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This anxiety disorder is characterized as excessive worry that lasts for more than six months.
Escitalopram is in a class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This type of medication works by increasing the level of serotonin in your brain. In turn, this can help you maintain a good mental balance. Other examples of SSRIs include citalopram and sertraline.
This SSRI comes in a tablet or liquid — both of which are taken orally. It can take up to four weeks before you start noticing the benefits of taking escitalopram.
Decreased sexual ability or low libido
Decreased appetite and/or weight loss
Along with the above, there are some more serious adverse reactions. While rare, you should contact a medical professional as soon as possible if you notice unusual excitement, hallucinations, hives or difficulty breathing.
Risk of suicide, though rare, is perhaps the most serious of all adverse effects associated with taking antidepressants. Again, it’s not common, but it’s one of the potential risks that you should be aware of.
Technically, you can take a benzodiazepine and an SSRI together. In fact, there may be some instances when it’s helpful.
A 2008 study looked at taking these two types of medications for people who deal with both depressive disorders and anxiety.
Researchers found that taking these two types of medications can help get anxiety under control more rapidly, reduce agitation that can occur in the beginning phases of taking an SSRI and help improve situational anxiety.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, SSRIs and benzodiazepines may be combined initially to treat GAD.
However, after two to four weeks, a healthcare professional should wean you off of the benzodiazepine slowly (this helps eliminate withdrawal symptoms and the risk of experiencing serotonin syndrome) so that you are only taking the SSRI medication (like escitalopram).
This can help someone get used to taking an SSRI slowly but doesn’t involve long-term use of benzodiazepines which, as noted above, can be addictive.
You should never mix medications on your own. If you are interested in seeing if combining a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor like escitalopram with a benzodiazepine like alprazolam could work for you, schedule a consultation with a mental health professional for medical advice.
They will assess you for psychiatric disorders (from depression to bipolar disorder to anxiety and more) and determine if there are any risk factors to putting you on both of these medications at once.
There are a variety of psychiatric disorders out there and many different types of mental health prescriptions (like antidepressant medication) that can help. Anxiety and depression are two common mental health issues.
Both Xanax and Lexapro have been found to help in the treatment of depression and anxiety — and they can even be taken together to help you get used to taking an SSRI.
Xanax, which is a benzodiazepine, is never intended for long-term use because one of its more dangerous side effects is addiction. So, you would never take this combo for more than a few weeks at a time to avoid harmful effects.
A healthcare provider can best assess if taking these two medications for your mental health condition could be fruitful. Hers offers online psychiatry appointments, which make it easy to speak with a healthcare provider about whether medication may improve your quality of life.
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.
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