Nov 23rd 2022
Amitriptyline is a prescription medicine used to treat symptoms of low mood and depression. It is classified as a tricyclic antidepressant and works by increasing levels of certain natural chemicals in the brain. Always consult your doctor before using amitriptyline, as it can have dangerous effects if used under certain conditions or in conjunction with certain other medications.
Some common brand names that amitriptyline is sold under include:
Amitriptyline is most typically prescribed to treat symptoms of depression in adults, most notably with general depressive disorder.
Amitriptyline can also be used to treat a variety of other conditions, including chronic pain, post-herpetic neuralgia, eating disorders, panic attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and migraines. It is very important that you consult a doctor before using amitriptyline.
Amitriptyline is from a group of medications called tricyclic antidepressants that work to increase certain natural chemicals in the brain, helping to maintain mental stability and balance. It helps to increase the serotonin level in your brain to improve mood and counteract symptoms of depression.
It may take a few weeks to feel the therapeutic benefits of amitriptyline, but it is important to stick to the dose prescribed by your doctor to avoid any serious side effects. Make sure not to stop taking it suddenly without consulting your doctor.
Amitriptyline is typically prescribed in tablets taken via oral administration, in doses of either 10mg, 25mg, or 50mg. The tablets should be swallowed whole with water. Amitriptyline also comes in liquid form which comes with a plastic syringe or spoon to measure out the correct dose.
Doses of amitriptyline can have quite a strong sedative effect that could cause you to feel drowsy, so it is often advised to be taken once a day in the evening or before you go to bed.
The usual dose used to treat depression in adults is between 50mg and 100mg a day. The maximum dose of amitriptyline is usually 150mg a day. Your doctor will most likely start by prescribing you a low dose and gradually increase this to help you avoid experiencing severe side effects.
If you miss a dose, you can take the missed dose when you remember. However, if the next dose is coming up soon, skip the missed dose and continue as normal. Do not take a double dose to replace the missed dose.
The length of time amitriptyline stays in the system will vary between each person, depending on things like dosage, physical size, genetics, and other medication being taken.
Amitriptyline has a half-life between 10 and 28 hours. This is the amount of time it takes for the concentration of the medication to reduce by a half in your bloodstream. It takes about 5 half-lives for a drug to be completely expelled from your body. Amitriptyline will therefore usually stay in your system for about 2-6 days. 
Different drug tests can detect amitriptyline for varying lengths of time:
Taking amitriptyline may cause unexpected changes to your physical and mental health. It can sometimes cause suicidal thoughts, most commonly at the start of treatment or as dosage is being altered. Therefore, it is very important to take amitriptyline exactly as prescribed.
The following list is not exhaustive and those using amitriptyline may experience other side effects.
Common side effects
If any of these side effects start to bother you or don’t go away, consult your doctor:
Severe side effects
If you are experiencing any of the following, you should call a doctor straight away:
Emergency side effects
Call an ambulance immediately if you are suffering from any of the following:
Before taking amitriptyline, it is important to share the following information about your medical history with your doctor to ensure it is safe for them to prescribe the medication:
Your doctor may warn you to take the following precautions while taking amitriptyline:
Many medicines and amitriptyline can affect each other and increase the chances of side effects. Always inform your doctor of any medication you are taking and check with your doctor or a pharmacist before starting any new medicine while you are taking amitriptyline.
Medications that have the most severe side effects when taken with amitriptyline include
Some other examples of specific interactions with amitriptyline:
Examples of other drugs that may affect how amitriptyline works:
Amitriptyline should be stored at room temperature and kept away from any moisture and heat. It is important to keep the container tightly closed when not in use to avoid moisture getting to the medication.
Taking more than your prescribed dose of amitriptyline can cause serious effects. Symptoms of an overdose may include:
Is amitriptyline addictive?
Amitriptyline is not known to be addictive. However, you can get withdrawal effects if you decide to stop taking it suddenly. It is important to avoid this, or changing your prescribed dose at all, without consulting your doctor.
Does amitriptyline cause weight gain?
Yes, weight gain has been reported as a side effect for patients taking amitriptyline. Amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant, and these are known to block histamine receptors. This can be a cause for an increase in appetite and subsequent weight gain.
Are there any alternative treatments to amitriptyline?
Antidepressants like amitriptyline are only one of the methods to treat depression and low mood. Other options to explore include talking therapy (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy), exercise programs, and support groups.
Our Medical Affairs Team is a dedicated group of medical professionals with diverse and extensive clinical experience who actively contribute to the development of our content, products, and services. They meticulously evaluate and review all medical content before publication to ensure it is medically accurate and aligned with current discussions and research developments in mental health. For more information, visit our Editorial Policy.
MentalHealth.com is a patient-first health technology company driven by its mission to make optimal mental health attainable for everyone. With a focus on expanding care access, empowering patient choice, and enhancing care quality, the company delivers innovative solutions that support individuals throughout their mental health journey.