What to Know About Cipralex (Escitalopram)

An SSRI Used to Treat Depression

How SSRIs, specifically Cipralex, work in the brain and what forms of depression it can relieve

Verywell / Laura Porter

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Cipralex is the brand name for escitalopram in the UK. This drug is available in tablet and liquid form. Cipralex belongs to a group of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that, when released, stabilizes your mood and causes feelings of well-being and happiness. For this reason, serotonin is often referred to as the "happy chemical."

However, when serotonin is reabsorbed back into the nerve cells, it no longer has an effect on your mood. SSRIs like Cipralex prevent (or "inhibit") serotonin from being reabsorbed by your nerve cells (a process known as "reuptake"). This keeps serotonin levels high, which prolongs their 'happy' effect and helps relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.

In the U.S. escitalopram is available under the brand name Lexapro. Only Lexapro is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Uses

Cipralex is used to treat a form of depression called major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Research shows the active ingredient in Cipralex, escitalopram, is also effective for a variety of other conditions, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder (SAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

It can take a couple of weeks to feel better once you start taking Cipralex, and you may not experience the full benefits of the medication until you've been following a recommended treatment plan for several months.

Before Taking

Talk to your doctor about all medications, supplements, and vitamins that you currently take. While some drugs pose minor interaction risks, others may outright contraindicate use or prompt careful consideration as to whether the pros of treatment outweigh the cons in your case.

Precautions and Contraindications

You should not take Cipralex if you are allergic to escitalopram, take monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), or take medicines for heart rhythm problems or drugs that may affect your heart's rhythm, such as:

  • Antipsychotics (e.g., phenothiazine derivatives, pimozide, haloperidol)
  • Certain antihistamines (e.g., astemizole, hydroxyzine, mizolastine)
  • Certain antimicrobial agents (e.g., sparfloxacin, moxifloxacin, erythromycin IV, pentamidine, anti-malarial treatment particularly halofantrine)
  • Class IA and III antiarrhythmics
  • Tricyclic antidepressants

Additionally, you should tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. As with most antidepressants, you should not take Cipralex if you are pregnant or breastfeeding unless you and your doctor have discussed the risks and benefits involved.

Prior to starting Cipralex, it's important to tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions or illnesses, as they may need to take this into consideration:

  • A stroke
  • A tendency to easily develop bleeding or bruises
  • Bipolar disorder (manic depression)
  • Diabetes
  • Drug addiction or suicidal thoughts
  • Epilepsy
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat, fainting, collapse, or dizziness on standing up
  • Heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Low levels of sodium in your blood
  • Seizures

Dosage

Cipralex comes in tablets and a liquid solution. Check your prescription and talk to your doctor to make sure you are taking the right dose for you.

Cipralex should only be given to adult (ages 18 to 64) and elderly (ages 65 years and older) patients. Neither the tablet nor the oral drops should be given to children and adolescents under 18 years.

Oral Tablets

Cipralex tablets are available in 5 milligrams (mg), 10 mg, and 20 mg strengths. The following listed dosages are according to the drug manufacturer:

  • For adults with depression, SAD, GAD, and OCD: The recommended dose of Cipralex tablets is 10 mg taken as one daily dose. The dose may be increased by your doctor to a maximum of 20 mg per day.
  • For adults with SAD: The recommended dose of Cipralex tablets is 10 mg taken as one daily dose. Your doctor can either decrease your dose to 5 mg per day or increase the dose to a maximum of 20 mg per day, depending on how you respond to the medicine.
  • For adults with panic disorder: The starting dose of Cipralex tablets is 5 mg as one daily dose for the first week before increasing the dose to 10 mg per day. The dose may be further increased by your doctor to a maximum of 20 mg per day.
  • For elderly patients (ages 65 years and older): The recommended starting dose of Cipralex tablets is 5 mg taken as one daily dose. The dose may be increased by your doctor to 10 mg per day.

Oral Drops Solution

Cipralex liquid oral solution comes in a strength of 20 mg per milliliter (ml). The following listed dosages are according to the drug manufacturer:

  • For adults with depression, SAD, GAD, and OCD: The normally recommended dose of Cipralex is 10 mg (10 drops) taken as one daily dose. The dose may be increased by your doctor to a maximum of 20 mg (20 drops) per day.
  • For adults with SAD: The normally recommended dose of Cipralex is 10 mg (10 drops) taken as one daily dose. Your doctor can either decrease your dose to 5 mg (5 drops) per day or increase the dose to a maximum of 20 mg (20 drops) per day, depending on how you respond to the medicine.
  • For adults with panic disorder: The starting dose of Cipralex is 5 mg (5 drops) per day for the first week before increasing the dose to 10 mg (10 drops) per day. Your doctor may increase the dose to a maximum of 20 mg (20 drops) per day.
  • For elderly patients (ages 65 years and older): The recommended starting dose of Cipralex is 5 mg (5 drops) taken as one daily dose. The dose may be increased by your doctor to 10 mg (10 drops) per day.

How to Take and Store

Cipralex tablets can be taken with or without food. As with all medicines, combining Cipralex tablets with alcohol is not advised.

When taking Cipralex oral drops solution, count the required number of drops into your drink (water, orange juice, or apple juice), stir it briefly, and then drink all of it. Do not mix the Cipralex with other liquids and do not mix them with other medicinal products.

Follow your doctor's instructions for taking Cipralex. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about this medication.

Side Effects

Most people will only experience a few mild side effects when taking Cipralex. As your body adjusts to taking Cipralex, the side effects should go away. If you notice they are getting worse or are interfering with your quality of life, talk to your doctor.

Common

Like all medicines, Cipralex can cause side effects. Feeling sick and headache Very common (may affect more than 1 in 10 people) side effects are feeling sick (nausea) and headache.

Common side effects (may affect up to 1 in 10 people) include:

  • Abnormal dreams
  • Aching muscles or joints
  • Anxiety
  • Blocked or runny nose
  • Decreased or increased appetite and weight gain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Gastrointestinal issues (diarrhea, constipation, vomiting)
  • Headache
  • Increased sweating
  • Nausea
  • Sexual problems (such as decreased sex drive, difficulty achieving orgasm; in men, erectile dysfunction or problems with ejaculation)
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)

Severe

Seek immediate help if you experience any of the following unusual side effects of Cipralex including:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Flu-like achiness
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Memory loss
  • Rash
  • Seizures
  • Significant changes in mood or personality
  • Swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Information presented in this article may be triggering to some people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

A Word From Verywell

This overview of the use of Cipralex for mental health conditions does not cover every possible outcome of taking this medication. If you have been prescribed this medication by your doctor, be sure to follow the instructions carefully. If you have additional questions, they are best answered by a medical professional.

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Article Sources
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  1. Kirino E. Escitalopram for the management of major depressive disorder: a review of its efficacy, safety, and patient acceptability. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2012;6:853-861. doi:10.2147/PPA.S22495

  2. Taylor C, Fricker AD, Devi LA, Gomes I. Mechanisms of action of antidepressants: from neurotransmitter systems to signaling pathways. Cell Signal. 2005;17(5):549-557. doi:10.1016/j.cellsig.2004.12.007

  3. Cipralex tablet label. Updated June 15, 2018.

  4. Cipralex oral drops solution. Updated June 2020.