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 the Difference between Amitriptyline and Nortriptyline?

By Jay Leone
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 and nortriptyline are both prescription-strength medications used to treat symptoms associated with depression. Both medications belong to a class of drugs referred to as tricyclic antidepressants. Each increases the production of certain chemicals in the brain that are essential to maintaining mental balance. Aside from the fact that nortriptyline is manufactured in two forms while amitriptyline manufacturers exclusively produce their product in tablet form, there are few differences between these medications.

While amitriptyline is made in tablet form, nortriptyline is available in capsule form and liquid form. Doses of both medications are designed to be taken anywhere between one and four times daily as directed by a doctor. Doctors tend to start patients on lower doses of amitriptyline and nortriptyline before they begin outlining a regimen involving higher doses of these medications. A patient may begin to experience a lessening of the symptoms of depression shortly after taking these medications, and be tempted to discontinue use his or her doctor recommends. Discontinuing use prematurely however, may result in a resurgence of symptoms.

Both of these medications are used in treatment plans for other types of illnesses and conditions. Post-herpetic neuralgia refers to the burning, pains, and aches associated with a former shingles infection. Amitriptyline and nortriptyline can both be used as part of a post-herpetic neuralgia treatment plan. Nortriptyline can also be prescribed to treat panic disorders while amitriptyline is often used to prevent migraines and treat certain eating disorders.

Some patients may experience side effects while taking either of these medications. Common side effects linked with these medications include nausea, weakness or tiredness, dry mouth and blurred vision. Less common but more severe side effects linked with amitriptyline use include severe hives or skin rash outbreaks, rapid or irregular heartbeat, fainting and hallucinating. More severe nortriptyline side effects include high fever, difficulty breathing and yellowing of the eyes or skin. Patients experiencing severe reactions to either of these medications should immediately seek professional medical attention.

Regular amitriptyline and nortriptyline use can be habit-forming. Patients may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache and nausea after abruptly discontinuing use of these medications. Most doctors will gradually decrease a patient's dose of these medications as part of a post-treatment plan to discourage the development of withdrawal symptoms.

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.
Discussion Comments
By ivan45 — On May 03, 2017

Amitriptyline and nortriptyline are both tricyclic antidepressants that can be used for migraine prevention. My wife took amitriptyline for migraine pain after she fell in 1996. It didn’t work for her, but I know many who have good results with this medication.

A word about starting new medications if I may. One of the frustrating things about starting new medications is that we may not see results right away. It can take up to three long months before we see a reduction in our migraine frequency and severity. During this time potential side effects may lessen as our body adjusts to the new medication.

I hope that helps.

By anon993020 — On Oct 18, 2015

I've been on both for migraines and I've found amitriptyline better for me. It does make me drowsy, but nortriptyline gave me horrible nightmares so I woke up tired anyways - plus it didn't supress my headaches as well. To each his own!

By anon984228 — On Jan 06, 2015

I have been on both. I've been on Amitriptyline for one year and switched to Notriptyline three months ago. I am not on these meds for depression. I have bilateral ATN.

The side effects with Amitriptyline were fatigue, foggy-head, dry mouth, stomach troubles and constipation. All side effects are less with Nortriptyline. I feel much more like myself.

The doctor switched me from 60mgs Amitrip. to 60mgs Nortrip. I will say I am still adjusting and I went through withdrawal. I have had increased anxiety and irritability. I am slowly getting back to normal.

By anon925237 — On Jan 10, 2014

I have used both and prefer nortriptyline. I think it has fewer side effects.

By turquoise — On Nov 03, 2013

I think that nortriptyline is a superior drug to amitriptyline. Nortriptyline is basically the newer version of amitriptyline. Nortriptyline has less side effects and a longer half-life. The good part about a longer half-life is that it makes withdrawal easier.

By ddljohn — On Nov 03, 2013

@donasmrs-- I don't think that amitriptyline and notriptyline are too different in terms of side effects. I'm on notriptyline and it gives me headaches, dry mouth and increased appetite. It also made my depression worse in the beginning of treatment and then slowly got better.

I'm not a doctor though, so you need to speak to your doctor about your side effects and the possibility of switching to another medication.

Also, people respond differently to medications. So nortriptyline might give me a lot of side effects and give you very little. It depends on a lot of factors like your dose, your body weight, tolerance and interactions with other medications. So it would be best to ask your doctor and then try nortriptyline for yourself if your doctor approves.

By donasmrs — On Nov 03, 2013

Has anyone been on both of these medications? In your experience, which has less side effects and works better for depression?

I'm on amitripyline and it's causing weight gain as a side effect. Since nortripyline is in the same family, I would like to switch to it if it has less side effects. Is this a good idea?

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.