We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Amitriptyline?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Amitriptyline, used to be more commonly known by its brand name Elavil®. Elavil is not sold in its named form in the US at present, and the generic form is now the most common name for this prescription drug, used primarily in the treatment of depression. The medication is not the most popular one for depression treatment, since it is a tricyclic antidepressant and has significant side effects. However, when introduced and tested by the FDA in the 1980s, it was thought beneficial, and some people still benefit from its use. Medications like amitriptyline have been widely replaced by drugs called selected serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs and SNRIs).

It would be useful to compare amitriptyline to SNRIs. Like most SNRIs, this medication acts to free up epinephrine and serotonin. When these neurotransmitters are available in free form, they can have a positive effect on mood, and help end depression. The medication may also be used to treat migraines, to control bedwetting, as part of complex treatment strategy for chronic pain, and to control some aspects of multiple sclerosis.

Like most antidepressants, there is some risk associated with use of amitriptyline in children, teens and young adults. In these populations, antidepressant use has been linked to increased risk for suicidal ideation and behavior. Evidence that the drug is resulting in negative behavioral changes, or things like panic attacks, and hostility, is indication to contact a doctor immediately. However, people on this drug shouldn’t stop taking without it doctor’s guidance.

Common side effects of amitriptyline include dizziness, drowsiness and fatigue and some people report having strange or scary dreams while using this medication. Others suffer from stomach upset and/or dry mouth. Some people are frustrated by reduction in libido that may accompany use, and a few users of this medication are challenged by difficulty remaining focused on tasks. These side effects can vary and not all people will experience all of the side effects, or they will experience them for a short time only while their bodies adjust to the medication.

There are very serious side effects associated with amitriptyline and these are considered medically urgent. People who experience any of the following should get in contact with their doctors right away or go to the nearest emergency room:

  • Rash and hives
  • Extreme bruising
  • Thirst accompanied by extreme nausea
  • Pounding heart rate with excess sweating
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Uncontrolled movement of the muscles or involuntary trembling
  • Confusion that occurs suddenly

One of the reasons that tricyclic antidepressants are not preferred to treat depression is because they are extremely toxic in overdose amounts, and overdose is more likely in people suffering from severe depression. It is always essential to contact emergency services if an overdose has occurred, as treatment is required right away. Symptoms of overdose may include changes in heart rate, sweating, seizure, nausea and vomiting, and ultimately unconsciousness or coma.

There are many medications that may interact with amitriptyline. Doctors should have a full list of any meds a person takes, even if they are over the counter medications or herbs, prior to prescribing this drug. Some people are not candidates for amitriptyline because of other medical conditions. People with bipolar disorder, diabetes, hypo or hyperthyroidism, previous or current cardiovascular disease, enlarged prostate or glaucoma, may need to take different levels of this medication or avoid it completely.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Nov 04, 2013

Amitriptyline is not the best medication for depression, but depression is not the only thing it can be used for. It's also used off-label for migraines, chronic pain and some inflammatory illnesses like IBS. I think it's also used sometimes in MS patients.

By SarahGen — On Nov 03, 2013

@literally45-- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are not usually used to treat anxiety and social anxiety. It's mainly used for depression and insomnia.

If someone suffers from anxiety, depression and insomnia though, amitriptyline might be prescribed to deal with the depression and insomnia. I know a few people who have been on this for insomnia. It's taken in relatively small doses at night and the sedative effect helps people sleep. But apparently, amitriptyline has a lot of side effects and I've never met anyone who used this medication for a long time for insomnia because of the side effects.

By literally45 — On Nov 03, 2013

Is amitriptyline used in the treatment of anxiety and social anxiety? Has anyone here used it for anxiety?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.