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What is Amitriptyline?

23rd October 2019

Amitriptyline belongs to a category of medication called "tricyclic antidepressants", however, it is rarely prescribed for this use. More often, Amitriptyline is used to treat neuropathic pain because of the way in which it affects the central nervous system.

How long does it take for Amitriptyline to treat pain?

Unlike painkillers such as Codeine where pain relief can begin within a half hour to 60 minutes, Amitriptyline can take much longer to be effective, up to weeks. According to the NHS, "You may notice a difference after a week or two but it can take 6 weeks for Amitriptyline to work as a painkiller."

Who should use Amitriptyline?

Adults can take Amitriptyline, as well as children between the ages of 2 and 17 for certain types of nerve pain. This drug is not for everyone. The following are conditions that would prevent someone from taking Amitriptyline. Be certain to let your doctor know if you have any of the following conditions.

  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to Amitriptyline in the past.
  • If you have a heart condition, as Amitriptyline can make some heart problems worse.
  • If you have porphyria (a rare hereditary disease in which the blood pigment haemoglobin is abnormally metabolized).
  • If you have liver or kidney problems.
  • If you have epilepsy, as Amitriptyline can increase seizures.
  • If you have taken other medicines for depression, as they may interfere with Amitriptyline.
  • If you are pregnant, wish to become pregnant or if you are breastfeeding.
  • If you have Glaucoma, as Amitriptyline can increase the pressure in your eye.
  • If you have had thoughts about ending your life.

Amitriptyline dose for pain relief 

You should take exactly as much Amitriptyline as prescribed by your doctor. A typical starting dose for adults and children aged 12 to 17 is 10mg per day. For children between 2 and 11 years of age, doses depend on body weight and symptoms.

The maximum dose of Amitriptyline for the treatment of pain is typically never more than 75mg per day. Doctors may prescribe a higher dose for the prevention of migraine headaches.

If you happen to skip a dose of Amitriptyline, never take an extra dose to make up for the skipped one. If you forget a dose, simply take your next dose as normal.

Can you overdose on Amitriptyline?

Yes, you can overdose on Amitriptyline. Only take the amount prescribed by your doctor. Symptoms of an Amitriptyline overdose include the following:

  • vomiting
  • shaking
  • drowsiness
  • change in your heartbeat
  • seizures

If you experience any of the above symptoms when taking Amitriptyline, contact your doctor immediately.

Common side effects of Amitriptyline

The following list contains common side effects of Amitriptyline. Not everyone will experience these side effects. These are not considered serious side effects, though you will want to notify your doctor if you experience them and they do not go away.

  • constipation
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • feeling sleepy
  • difficulty peeing
  • headache

Serious side effects of Amitriptyline

The following list contains more serious side effects of Amitriptyline. If you experience any of the following, discontinue use and seek a doctor's attention immediately.

  • If you experience a fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • If you have yellow skin, or if your eyes turn yellow, as these are indicative of a liver problem.
  • If you have a painful headache.
  • If you feel confused or weak.
  • If you experience muscle cramps or a seizure.
  • If you get thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life.
  • If you experience eye pain, a change in your eyesight or swelling or redness around your eyes.
  • If you experience severe constipation or are unable to pee.
  • If you experience severe stomach pain.
  • If you experience weakness on one side of your body (signs of stroke).
  • If you have trouble speaking or thinking (signs of stroke).
  • If you have loss of balance or blurred eyesight (signs of stroke).

Is Amitriptyline addictive?

Amitriptyline is not addictive, however, you can experience side effects if you stop taking it suddenly. Your doctor will likely prescribe smaller doses for you gradually over the span of several weeks if you need to discontinue taking it.

How long should I be on Amitriptyline?

If you have been taking Amitriptyline and have been feeling better for more than six months, your doctor may suggest coming off this medication. While not addictive, Amitriptyline can cause side effects if discontinued rapidly. Some of the reactions you could experience when going "cold turkey" are dizziness, feeling sick, numbness or tingling in hands or feet, difficulty sleeping, feeling anxious or anxious, headaches and shaking. For this reason, your doctor will slowly reduce your prescribed dose over time.