Amitriptyline

This leaflet has been archived. This is because amitriptyline is no longer recommended for the treatment of depression. There are other uses for amitriptyline (such as to help with sleep, or for nerve pain) but these are unlicensed uses. This leaflet has not been checked since 15/12/2011.  External links and references may no longer work.

It may take a week or two after starting this treatment before you start to feel the benefit. Do not stop taking amitriptyline, thinking it is not helping.

This medicine may make you sleepy. If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol.

Tell your doctor if you feel that you are getting worse or if you experience any troublesome side-effects.

Your doctor will ask you to carry on taking amitriptyline for several months even after you feel better - this is to stop your symptoms from returning.

Type of medicine  Tricyclic antidepressant
Used for  Treatment of depression
Available as  Tablets; oral liquid

The exact cause of depression is not known. Anyone can develop depression. It can develop for no apparent reason or it may be triggered by a life event such as a relationship problem, bereavement, or illness. Amitriptyline is not prescribed very often for depression any more, as other antidepressant medicines are usually preferred.

Although amitriptyline is only licensed for use in depression, it is also commonly prescribed to help prevent migraine or for certain types of nerve pain. If you have been given amitriptyline for either of these reasons, then you should ask your doctor if you have any questions about your treatment.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking amitriptyline it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have thyroid problems.
  • If you have liver problems.
  • If you have epilepsy.
  • If you have diabetes.
  • If you have been constipated for several days.
  • If you have any difficulties passing urine, or have had prostate trouble.
  • If you have recently had a heart attack, or have any other heart problems.
  • If you have ever had a mental health problem (such as bipolar disorder or psychosis).
  • If you have glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye).
  • If you have phaeochromocytoma (a tumour on your adrenal gland).
  • If you have porphyria (a rare inherited blood disorder).
  • If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines. This is especially important if you have taken a treatment for depression, known as a monoamine-oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), recently.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
  • Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack.
  • Take amitriptyline exactly as your doctor has told you.
  • Amitriptyline can cause drowsiness so your doctor may advise you to take a small dose when you first start taking amitriptyline and then to increase it gradually as your body gets used to it.
  • Amitriptyline is usually given as a once-a-day dose at bedtime, although it may also be taken in smaller doses two or three times a day. Your doctor will have told you which is right for you and these directions will be on the label of the pack for you too.
  • Try to take amitriptyline at the same time(s) each day to avoid missing any doses.
  • If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • You may feel that amitriptyline is not working for you straightaway. It can take a week or two after starting this treatment before the effect builds up and 4-6 weeks before you feel the full benefit. Do not stop taking it after a week or so, thinking it is not helping.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • Do not to drink alcohol while you are being treated with amitriptyline. Taking amitriptyline and alcohol will increase the chance that you experience side-effects.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with amitriptyline.
  • There are several types of antidepressants and they differ in their possible side-effects. If you find that amitriptyline does not suit you then let your doctor know, as another may be found that will.
  • While you feel depressed or are taking amitriptyline, you may have thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life. It is very important that you tell your doctor about this if it happens.
  • Your doctor will ask you to carry on taking amitriptyline after you feel better. You should expect that a normal course of treatment will last for around six months after your symptoms have eased.
  • Amitriptyline may cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than usual. Avoid strong sunlight and sunbeds until you know how your skin reacts.
  • If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood glucose more frequently, as amitriptyline may affect the levels of sugar in your blood. Your doctor will be able to advise you about this.
  • Do not stop taking amitriptyline unless your doctor tells you to do so. Stopping treatment suddenly can sometimes cause problems and your doctor may want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with amitryptiline. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Common amitriptyline side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
 Dry mouth  Try chewing sugar-free gum or sweets.
 Constipation  Try to eat a well-balanced diet containing plenty of fibre and drink plenty of water.
Feeling of a fast heartbeat Speak with your doctor if this continues.
Feeling dizzy, faint or light-headed when getting up Getting up more slowly may help. If you begin to feel faint, sit down until the feeling passes.
Feeling sleepy, blurred vision If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. Do not drink alcohol.
Feeling or being sick Stick to simple foods. Try eating smaller meals but more regularly.

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Monica Kapoor
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Last Checked:
05/09/2014
Document ID:
28938 (v1)
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