Escitalopram, more commonly known by its brand name Lexapro, is a prescription drug used to treat major depression and generalized anxiety disorder. This selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is widely used, and it is the 26th most prescribed medication in the United States, with more than 25 million prescriptions written out for it annually. Most users find the medication tolerable.
While medical researchers have studied it, there is little information on how escitalopram affects the brain. The information available here may shed some light on how this medicine may cause memory problems for some who take it.
First, we need to understand how escitalopram affects the brain.
Escitalopram – How It Affects The Brain
A small study conducted in 2014 yielded some intriguing information on how Lexapro affects the brain. It noted that, “In a small study of healthy volunteers, researchers found that a single dose of the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) seemed to temporarily reduce “connectivity” among clusters of brain cells in most regions of the brain.”
The exceptions to that were the cerebellum (the part that coordinates voluntary bodily movement) and the thalamus (the part that affects sleep and sensory information). Connectivity was boosted in these two parts of the brain. In addition, the study found that SSRIs affect brain connectivity immediately and the entire organ, as well.
As an SSRI medication, escitalopram works to increase the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, that transmits signals between the neurons or nerve cells in the brain.
An SSRI inhibits the reuptake of serotonin into the neurons, which permits more serotonin to be available to be taken up by other nerves. This is where the feeling of overall “wellness” comes from when taking an SSRI medicine. Escitalopram, and drugs like it, are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors because they primarily affect serotonin.
Escitalopram and Memory
You may be wondering how escitalopram affects your memory. There are a few theories about that.
First, some prescription and over-the-counter medicines have been found to interfere with or cause memory loss; antidepressants are one.
Second, it has been reported that escitalopram can lower the sodium level in the blood in people over age 65. When someone has a low sodium level, it can lead to memory problems or confusion.
Also, confusion and forgetfulness are two symptoms of an escitalopram overdose.
There are alternatives to taking an SSRI available if you want to forgo medications like escitalopram. If you are concerned about how this drug may affect your memory, please speak with your doctor.