Drug vs Drug

Which Is Better for Me: Zoloft vs. Lexapro?

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If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll go over the importance of mental health, available solutions and how to pick the right treatment for your needs.

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Why Is Mental Health Important?

From excess schoolwork to career demands, there is no shortage of daily stressors in our lives. As you navigate through these challenges, it’s important to watch out for your mental health. Mental wellness is closely connected to physical health and overall well-being — when your mental health declines, you may experience unpleasant symptoms. These include:

  • Loss of interests
  • Persistent sadness
  • Chronic worry
  • Trouble sleeping or concentrating
  • Appetite and digestion problems

 

Despite the importance of mental health, many people continue to ignore it. Studies show that approximately 450 million people across the globe struggle with mental health conditions — however, only 50 million of those actually seek treatment.

Whether you need genetic testing for depression, anxiety, ADHD or another disorder, finding a treatment that works for you is key to overcoming it. The majority of treatments involve a combination of talk therapy and prescription drugs. Let’s take a closer look at two well-known depression and anxiety prescription drugs: Zoloft and Lexapro.

Zoloft vs. Lexapro: What Are They?

Zoloft and Lexapro are two similar antidepressants that are commonly prescribed by healthcare providers. When used as instructed, they can lower the negative symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. Let’s take a closer look at the drug information for both these treatment options.

What Is Zoloft?

Zoloft is an oral tablet (generically known as sertraline) is a type of antidepressant that belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). When they enter the system, SSRIs block the reuptake (or reabsorption) of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences emotions, digestion, mindfulness, and sleep by retaining extra serotonin in the brain, Zoloft can increase positive emotions and combat depression symptoms.

Zoloft is also FDA-approved to treat anxiety conditions, such as the following:

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual dysphoric syndrome

 

Over time, serotonin can help reduce the chronic worry and intrusive thoughts connected to anxiety disorders.

What Is Lexapro?

Lexapro is an oral tablet (generically known as escitalopram) is approved to treat depression. Like Zoloft, it’s a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that works by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Over time, this reduces the negative feelings of depression.

While Lexapro shares many similarities with Zoloft, it differs in its treatment of anxiety. Zoloft may be prescribed for several anxiety disorders. Lexapro, on the other hand, is only FDA-approved to treat two: OCD and generalized anxiety. In some cases, it’s prescribed off-label to treat panic disorders.

Zoloft vs. Lexapro: Dosage Amounts

Both Zoloft and Lexapro are effective treatments for depression and anxiety. When prescribed, the first thing a healthcare provider will consider is the dosage amount. Dosages vary depending on the following factors:

  • Age: Children or teenagers are generally prescribed lower dosages than adults.
  • Medical conditions: If you’re experiencing multiple physical or mental health conditions simultaneously, your dosage may be lowered to reduce the risk of adverse symptoms:
  • Other used medications: When multiple medications are used at once, it’s advisable to take lower dosages (which helps prevent the drugs from clashing).
  • Condition being treated: The condition being treated can influence the dosage. For instance, anxiety may have lower dosages than depression.

Let’s examine the recommended dosages for Zoloft and Lexapro.

Zoloft Dosage Amounts

The general starting dosage for Zoloft depends heavily on which condition is being treated. Most healthcare providers prescribe 50 mg/day for the following conditions:
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Premenstrual dysphoric syndrome
  However, for other anxiety disorders (such as social anxiety, panic disorder and PTSD), the dosage goes down to 25 mg/day. Below is a chart outlining other important information regarding Zoloft dosages.

Available dosage forms Absorption rates Time for drug to become effective
Tablet, oral solution, capsule 6 to 8 hours 6 to 8 weeks

Lexapro Dosage Amounts

Unlike Zoloft, Lexapro’s recommended starting dosages are not dependent on the condition being treated. Whether you have depression, OCD or generalized anxiety, the starting dose is usually around 10 mg/day. Consult the chart below to learn more about Lexapro’s dosages.

 
Available dosage forms Absorption rates Time for drug to become effective
Tablet, liquid solution 3 to 4 hours 4 to 6 weeks

Zoloft vs. Lexapro: Common Side Effects

Whenever you start a new drug, there’s always a chance of side effects. Usually, these effects are your body’s response to an unfamiliar substance. As your system gets used to the presence of the new drug, the effects should diminish. Here are some common side effects for both Zoloft and Lexapro.

Common Side Effects of Zoloft

New Zoloft users may experience the following symptoms:

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Appetite and sleep issues
  • Upset stomach

 

In rare cases, Zoloft can cause hallucinations and fever. If symptoms persist or worsen, Zoloft may not be the right option for you.

Common Side Effects of Lexapro

Many new Lexapro users report the following symptoms:

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Sleep and stomach problems
  • Yawning and drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased nervousness
  • Painful urination

 

Lexapro may also lead to vision problems or seizures (although these symptoms are rare). Generally, symptoms should go away after a couple of weeks — if they don’t, your healthcare provider may recommend a different drug.

Zoloft vs. Lexapro: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about Lexapro and Zoloft.

Can children take Zoloft and Lexapro?

Because children are more susceptible to adverse effects than adults, healthcare providers must be very careful when prescribing antidepressants to children. In general, Zoloft is not prescribed to anyone under the age of 18. However, exceptions are made for OCD patients (as Zoloft is FDA-approved to treat OCD in children).

Like Zoloft, Lexapro is usually not advised for children — however, it may be prescribed to teenagers. The recommended minimum age for Lexapro is 12 years old.

Should I avoid any substances when taking Zoloft and Lexapro?

When taking Zoloft or Lexapro, you should avoid the following substances:

  • NSAIDs
  • Blood thinners
  • Warfarin
  • MAO inhibitors

 

Taking these medications in conjunction with Lexapro or Zoloft can cause issues like bleeding, bruising or (in the worst-case scenario) fatality. Always be transparent with your healthcare provider about any medications you’re taking.

In addition to avoiding certain drugs, you should reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol can exacerbate negative symptoms and even increase the feeling of depression and anxiety.

Can I take Zoloft and Lexapro together?

If you have both depression and anxiety, you might think that taking Zoloft and Lexapro together will be more effective than using just one drug. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

As mentioned earlier, Zoloft and Lexapro are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). While taking one will increase serotonin levels moderately, taking both may cause an excessive, unhealthy amount of serotonin. This often causes the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Muscle twitching
  • Sleep problems
  • Rapid heart rate

 

If you think multiple antidepressants will be helpful, speak to your healthcare provider about your options.

Will I experience adverse effects when taking Zoloft or Lexapro?

It’s difficult to know whether you’ll experience adverse effects — the only way to tell for sure is by actually taking the drug. However, you may be at an increased risk of side effects if you meet the following conditions:

  • Other medication use: Taking multiple medications at once increases the likelihood of unwanted symptoms.
  • Genetics: If your family has a genetic history of adverse effects, you may be more at risk.
  • Health conditions: Having other physical or mental health conditions puts you at greater risk of adverse effects.
  • Substance abuse: Those who have a substance abuse disorder may be more susceptible to unsavory symptoms.
  • Age: Older adults (65+) and teenagers or children (18 or under) are more likely to experience side effects.

If you meet any of these criteria, your doctor may recommend a lower-than-average starting dose for you.

Should I take Zoloft or Lexapro?

Overall, Zoloft and Lexapro are fairly similar antidepressant medications that are used to treat many of the same conditions. Thus, you might be wondering: which one is right for me? Historically, the only way to decide between drugs was to actually try them. A doctor would prescribe one antidepressant medication, wait to see the results, then either adjust the dosage or switch to another medication.

While the “trial and error” process is ultimately effective, it consumes valuable time and increases the risk of adverse effects. Fortunately, there’s a better alternative: DNA testing.

DNA Testing for Zoloft and Lexapro

Pharmacogenetic testing is a type of DNA testing that uses the information available in your DNA to determine which prescription drugs are right for you. More specifically, it analyzes the cytochrome P450 enzyme, which is responsible for breaking down (or metabolizing) over 70% of clinically used drugs. Through a pharmacogenetic DNA test, you can learn if a prescription medication will do the following:

  • Be ineffective
  • Cause adverse effects
  • Provide dosage guidelines

With this information, you’ll know whether you need an above-average dosage, lower dosage or different medication altogether. Not only does this save time, but it also helps ensure you get the right treatment as soon as possible. A great place to start is ClarityX, ClarityX provides clinical grade pharmacogenetic testing options.

ClarityX: Get your DNA Test Today!

Are you ready to make better, well-informed healthcare decisions and take the guesswork out of your medications? If so, ClarityX can help. Start by requesting one of our DNA tests — you can choose between the following:

  • The Mindwell Test: This test is designed for mental health conditions and evaluates your response to a wide range of over 133 antidepressant medications, and anxiety medications including SSRIs like Zoloft and Lexapro.
  • The Max Rx Test: This test builds upon the Mindwell test. In addition to mental health conditions, it covers 16 therapeutic areas (ranging from pain management to rheumatology).

 

Once you’ve selected one of these options, complete the check-out process and activate the test. Then, you’ll receive your own at-home cheek swab test kit. Simply provide a saliva sample, send it back using our pre-paid envelope and await your results. We’ll send a personalized report directly to your patient portal , you can share the results with your healthcare provider and make better healthcare decisions for years to come!

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