By Irfana Parveen

B.Sc (Psychiatry Ward)

23 November 2021
Medically reviewed by
Freny Menezes
Pharm. D
Table of Contents

Venlafaxine and Lexapro are medications used to treat mental health problems, such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Both of these medications are widely used in the process of dealing with depression and helping to overcome it. Let us get to know more about Venlafaxine and Lexapro (Praag, H., 2010).

Depression is a common but serious mental health disorder associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or actions. Patients of all ages who started on antidepressant therapy should be monitored appropriately and closely for suicidality, clinical worsening, or unusual changes in behavior.

A new study finds that nearly 10% of Americans suffer from depression, with the mood disorder increasing fastest among teens and young adults. Between 2015 and 2020, the incidence of depression reached 9% among Americans 12 and older.

Let us know more about the efficacy and dissimilarity between two antidepressants,i.e., Venlafaxine and Lexapro 

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Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)



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What is Venlafaxine?

Venlafaxine is an antidepressant drug and is a part of the drug class named Selective Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SSNRI). Venlafaxine hydrochloride is the active ingredient present in Venlafaxine. Along with being used as a medication for depression, Venlafaxine is also used for the treatment of other mental health disorders such as anxiety and panic disorder.

What is Lexapro?

Similar to Venlafaxine, Lexapro is also an antidepressant. Escitalopram is the generic name of Lexapro. It is a member of the drug group Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). It has Escitalopram oxalate as its active ingredient. Lexapro is also used for anxiety problems.

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How Venlafaxine Works?

Venlafaxine is a part of the SNRI drug class in which the drugs affect the chemicals present in the brain to eradicate mental problems. Venlafaxine helps promote the rise of chemical substances such as Norepinephrine and Serotonin by blocking their reuptake, which decreases depression symptoms. It helps to cheer up the mood and restrict the mind from getting into the loop of negative thoughts. 

How Lexapro Works?

Lexapro contains Escitalopram which affects the chemicals present in the brain which may make a person feel depressed or anxious. It affects the neurotransmitters and eliminates their imbalance by preventing reuptake. This balance in chemicals helps maintain proper mental health and decreases the chance of a person getting depressed or anxious. 

There are no known problems associated with the long-term use of venlafaxine. It is an effective and safe medication when used as directed.
Lexapro is detectable in your body for up to 6.1 days, at which point nearly 99% of the medication is out of your body.
The peak of a drug is its highest concentration in your bloodstream—Lexapro peaks in your bloodstream at about 5 hours after usage.

Dosages For Venlafaxine

Venlafaxine is an oral medication, and it is available in the form of tablets, capsules, and extended-release capsules. It can be taken with food daily at the same time without crushing the capsules and tablets.

For the treatment of GAD, the initial amount of dose can be 75 mg per day. 

The maximum amount of dose of Venlafaxine for GAD is 225 mg per day, and it should not exceed that to prevent further negative consequences.

For treatment of depression, an adult can start medication with an initial dose of 75 mg per day, which can be distributed in two doses of 37.5 mg each or 3 doses of 25 mg each.

The maximum dose for depression depends upon the condition and the stage at which the person faces depression. 

225 mg per day is the maximum dose limit for moderately depressed people, while the dose turns to 375 mg per day if the person is in severe depression.

Dosages for Lexapro

Lexapro is an oral medication that is available as tablets, capsules, and liquid. A proper dose-measuring device should be used while taking liquid Lexapro.

For GAD and Depression, the amount of dosage is the same.

The initial dose for an adult is 10 mg per day which can be taken to 20 mg per day as the treatment proceeds. 

But the maximum daily dosage of Lexapro is 20 mg and should not exceed the limit.

For children aged 12 and above, the initial dose can be 10 mg per day, increasing only if necessary to 20 mg per day after assessing for 3 weeks.  

Who should not take Venlafaxine?

One should not take Venlafaxine if having:

  1. Allergy to Venlafaxine
  2. Consumed MAO in last 14 days
  3. Liver and kidney disease
  4. Diabetes
  5. Glaucoma
  6. Thyroid
  7. Seizure
  8. Bleeding problems
  9. Below the age of 18
  10. Breastfeeding women. 

Venlafaxine can be taken during pregnancy only if recommended by the doctor.

Who should not take Lexapro?

One should not take Lexapro if having:

  1. Medication of Citalopram or Pimozide
  2. Consumption of herbal products
  3. Used MAO inhibitors recently
  4. Liver or kidney issues
  5. Heart problems and stroke
  6. Bleeding problems
  7. Deficiency of sodium in the blood
  8. Below the age of 12

Pregnant and breastfeeding ladies can consult doctors before taking Lexapro

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Side effects of Venlafaxine

Following are some severe side effects that can be experienced after consumption of Venlafaxine and need emergency medical help:

  1. Allergic reactions such as skin rash
  2. Hallucinations
  3. Shivering
  4. Stiffness of muscles
  5. Imbalance in co-ordination
  6. Fast heart rate
  7. Agitation

Some common side effects faced are:

  1. Nausea and vomiting
  2. Sleep problems
  3. Dry mouth
  4. Blurred vision
  5. Sexual problems

Side effects of Lexapro

There are some severe side effects linked to the consumption of Lexapro, which might need emergency doctor help and termination of medication.

  1. Continuous and racing thoughts
  2. Skin rashes
  3. Restlessness
  4. Breathlessness
  5. Behaviour changes 
  6. Suicidal thoughts

Following are some common side effects observed after medication of Lexapro:

  1. Nausea
  2. Constipation
  3. Drowsiness
  4. Insomnia
  5. Agitation
  6. Feeling shaky

Venlafaxine v/s Lexapro: A Study Of Comparision

Study: This is the study comparing venlafaxine and Lexapro conducted by Robert J Bielski. Et al.

Methods: The experimentation was conducted by gathering the subjects diagnosed with major depressive disorder. The speculation was done throughout the 8th week, and results were procured in the 8th week. The study was conducted based on surveying the subjects through the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) on the dosage of venlafaxine (20mg) and Lexapro (225mg), respectively.

Results: The results found on the MADRS scale were as follows; for venlafaxine, the result found was N= 97, and in the case of Lexapro, the result found was N= 98. The venlafaxine XR group had a higher incidence than the Lexapro group of treatment-emergent adverse events (85.0% vs. 68.4%), and many discontinued due to adverse events.

Conclusion: Lexapro is at least as effective as venlafaxine XR and significantly potent. These results do not support the meta-analysis that nonselective SRIs have greater efficacy than selective SRIs.

Which is better Venlafaxine Or Lexapro?

Both Venlafaxine and Lexapro are used for medication for the same problem- Depression. The effectiveness of both these drugs is similar and much higher as compared to other antidepressants. But, due to the side effects of Venlafaxine, which can cause more trouble, doctors may shift towards prescribing Lexapro. But both these drugs are equally effective and can be prescribed depending upon the medical health and doctor 

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