Amitriptyline (Elavil)


Overview: Amitriptyline, known by the brand name Elavil, is an antidepressant of the Tricyclic class. Amitriptyline is used to treat DepressionAnxiety and rarely, Bipolar Disorder. Amitriptyline has proven helpful to many people suffering from mental health problems. Amitriptyline is an older antidepressant, and is therefore not used much in the modern era. There are more side effects and general health concerns over Tricyclic antidepressants compared to newer SSRI antidepressants. Amitriptyline is only available on prescription.




Key Facts: It will take around four to six weeks for Amitriptyline to work, however minor improvements might be visible after around a week. There are some side effects to Amitriptyline, as mentioned below. Amitriptyline should be used without interruption – you shouldn’t suddenly stop taking the medicine. The medication should help jump start your mood, and slowly make you feel like your old self again.


How do they work?: Unfortunately, it isn’t entirely known how antidepressants work. The most widely accepted belief is that antidepressants work by increasing levels of a group of chemicals in the brain named neurotransmitters. Some of these neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and noradrenaline, can help improve mood and emotion. How this process exactly works is unknown. It is recommended that Amitriptyline is used in conjunction with therapy.


Dosage: Normally, you will take Amitriptyline once a day. It doesn’t upset the stomach, and therefore can be taken with or without food. Normally, Amitriptyline should be taken during the evening. This is because it can make you feel drowsy. On occasion, at the start of treatment you will be given a lower dose – meaning you will take 2 or 3 tablets a day until your body has gotten used to the medication. In any case, the usual dose in adults is 75mg, with a maximum dose of 200mg. A typical treatment course of Amitriptyline is six months, though a longer treatment is common.


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Side Effects

With each box of Amitriptyline, there will be an information leaflet enclosed. This will provide an exhaustive list of side effects. Side effects from Amitriptyline should only last a few days, though can cause issues. It is natural to experience some side effects as your body gets used to the medication.


Common side effects of Amitriptyline include drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, tiredness, urinary retention, weight gain and sexual dysfunction.


A recent study has suggested that some anticholinergic medicines such as Amitriptyline raise the risk of developing dementia.


Serious side effects include suicidal thinking, seizures, chest pain and psychosis. An overdose should be avoided, as it can cause the potentially fatal Serotonin Syndrome and severe cardiovascular problems. You should contact your doctor if any of these serious side effects take place.




You should always read the information leaflet that comes with your medication as it will include important information there. You should tell your doctor if you are taking any other medication. It is important that you don’t use the herbal remedy St. Johns wort. You shouldn’t take any other antidepressant with Amitriptyline unless directed by your doctor. There are many medicines to avoid when using Amitriptyline, some include other Anticholingernic agents, antipsychotics, Disulfiran, Tramadol and Guanthidine among many others. Always ask your doctor if you are unsure on combining medicines.


Alcohol acts as a depressant, therefore it is recommended that anyone taking an antidepressant stays away from drinking alcohol. Combining Amitriptyline with recreational drugs is also not recommended.


Amitriptyline is not recommended in pregnancy or the breastfeeding stage. Antidepressants are generally considered unsafe to use in pregnancy.


Amitriptyline is not normally prescribed to anyone under the age of 18. Instead, some form of psychotherapy is recommended. Younger people have been shown to be more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts when using antidepressants. In the case that an antidepressant needs to be prescribed, Fluoxetine will instead generally be prescribed.


Other Tricyclic Antidepressants: