Amitriptyline (Elavil) is one of the oldest tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) on the market today. As you can tell, it works on depression but works differently from Zoloft or Prozac. When you think of tricyclic, your first thought is tricycle, which has 3 wheels. Amitriptyline has three atom rings on its chemical structure so hence it is tricyclic.
How Does Amitriptyline Work?Amitriptyline acts primarily as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI). In layman’s terms, it reduces the ability for the body to absorb serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain which in low concentrations are known to cause depression and anxiety. Tricyclic antidepressants were the first types of drugs to fight depression. I can get into the whole chemical history and how it was derived but let’s save it for another day.
Amitriptyline Side Effects
Amitriptyline is prescribed mostly for depression disorders, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), migraines, eating disorders, bipolar disorders and insomnia. As one comes up with more disorders, I am sure that this drug will help. Like any other drug, Amitriptyline side effects are still there. The side effects range from mild symptoms like drowsiness and dry mouth to more severe like weight gain, muscle stiffness, nausea, constipation, dizziness, insomnia and changes in sexual function.
Now, if you noticed one side effect that really contradicts Amitriptyline is insomnia, considering the fact that this antidepressant is used to treat insomnia. I haven’t been able to get that contradiction cleared up yet. Chances are, when reading side effects, one has a favorite. Not the favorite type that you wish you would get, for Amitriptyline anyway, but the type that makes you laugh or creates intrigue. My favorite side effect based on humor is changes in sexual function. At first I thought it might mean the ability for a male to get pregnant and give birth. Upon closer examination, it is meant mostly as mood altering in terms of less sexual desire or the inability to have an erection.
Black Label Warning
The one thing we have not written about is the black label warning from the FDA concerning suicide or suicidal thoughts. Any time you use an antidepressant such as Amitriptyline you will see warnings about an increase in suicide risks. Amitriptyline doesn’t have as severe risk as other antidepressants. I am not saying that there is no risk; it is just not as severe to get a warning label imprinted by the FDA. Which antidepressant drug works best?