Sure, we all know that drugs aren’t made of sugar and spice, but sometimes the ingredients that are included in even the most popular and widely used drugs can be pretty disturbing. Although Lexapro is marketed as a drug for fighting both depression and anxiety, many of the ingredients contained in the medication have been linked with serious health conditions, including cancer.
Yes, the active ingredient in Lexapro is escitalopram oxalate; this is the ingredient that acts on the brain’s chemistry to exert influences over the brain’s ability to produce and process serotonin. On its own, escitalopram oxalate is a fine, whitish-yellow powder. During the manufacturing process, escitalopram oxalate is mixed with a range of ingredients aimed at helping the drug be shaped into a pill form and to aid in absorption once the drug has been ingested.
While the drug’s label clearly lists escitalopram oxalate on its prescription label, the “inactive” ingredients are listed in tiny print on the prescribing sheet that accompanies the bottle. In fact, most men and women who’ve taken prescriptions medicines of any kind have probably seen — and tossed out — many of these information sheets, all of which feature miniscule print and language that can be extremely difficult to decipher.
Even if the printing were clearly readable without magnifying lenses, understanding the chemical names of these so-called inactive ingredients as well as their potential health risks can take considerable effort and research.
So what does inactive mean? Simply, that these ingredients are not the primary chemical embodied by the drug. It does not mean that these ingredients are harmless. In fact, here’s a quick rundown of some of Lexapro’s inactive ingredients and their potential health risks:
Lexapro ingredients exposed
- Propylene glycol: In its industrial form, propylene glycol is used in anti-freeze and brake fluids. The pharmaceutical grade may also be used in certain types of antifreeze as well as a wide range of cosmetic and food products. Despite its use in cosmetics as a skin conditioner, it’s been linked with skin reactions including dermatitis and hives. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) also lists this ingredient as having a moderate risk for organ toxicity. (1)
- Propylparaben: Used as an antifungal preservative, propylparaben is listed as representing a “high overall hazard” for human health according to the EWG. (2) At least one study has suggested a link between propylparaben and the development of breast cancer, and the EWG also notes that the additive is associated with developmental and reproductive health risks as well as allergies and immunotoxicities. Propylparaben mimics estrogen and may act to disrupt the endocrine system.
- Methylparaben: Also used as an antifungal preservative, methylparaben has been associated with allergic and immune responses in individuals who are paraben-sensitive. Like propylparaben, methylparaben also mimics estrogen, which makes it a potential disruptor of the endocrine system. (3)
- Titanium dioxide: Recently classified as a “possible carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), titanium dioxide is used as a whitening agent in Lexapro and other drugs. It’s widely used in a broad range of medications and cosmetics — even vitamin supplements. (4)
- Croscarmellose sodium: Usually derived from wood pulp, croscarmellose sodium is used as a filler and also to aid in the absorption of medications in the intestine. It has a marked ability to absorb fluids, and in some sensitive people, it may cause stomach discomfort and even bowel blockage. (5)
- Magnesium stearate: Linked with the development of both kidney stones and liver disease, magnesium stearate is often found in combination with hydrogenated cottonseed oil, which means that it also carries a fairly significant risk of pesticide contamination. (6)
This quick review of Lexapro’s inactive ingredients shows that, unfortunately, even when we think that we’ve researched the drugs that are prescribed to us, there can be hidden dangers of which we know absolutely nothing. Taking the time to research each and every inactive ingredient included in Lexapro and other anti-depressant drugs is one way to understand the multitude of hidden risks posed by these drugs. But there is a better way — one that’s healthier for your body and for your overall health.
Try holistic first
Many studies have shown that, when it comes to treating depression and anxiety, there are plenty of holistic alternatives. For instance, regular moderate exercise of just 30 minutes each day has been shown in studies to improve mood and fight depression more effectively than antidepressant drugs like Lexapro. In one study, 30 percent of people who exercised regularly had complete remission of their depression symptoms. (7) Adding foods and supplements known to enhance mood is another great way to fight depression, anxiety and stress without consuming harmful “inactive” ingredients.
If you’re struggling with depression, before taking any antidepressant drug, take some time to learn your alternatives that can help you treat your condition without compromising your health.