What is Elavil (Amitriptyline) Used For?
Elavil is a tricyclic antidepressant that has mainly been used in the treatment of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety and is also prescribed to improve sleep.
Elavil arrived to a relatively eager-eyed consumer base along with a rash of new drugs and new discoveries about the human body, genes, hormones, and much new information that rode in on the post-WWII wave of cultural, economic, political and social change.
Prescription drugs were beginning to establish themselves in mainstream treatment of physiological illnesses, for example, the advent of new vaccines. Food preservatives were being developed that would alter the food industry forever. And, mental health treatment was quickly transforming to a system that relied much more than before on chemical-based remedies rather than psychotherapy-based solutions to mental unease.
The 1950’s decade was a time of discovery and experiment, and drugs like Elavil emerged at the dawn of the 1960s. The drug was tried out on a surprising number of conditions, on all ages, including very young children. However, prescribing Elavil for anyone under the age of 25 is now not recommended due to the serious risk of suicidality, as the FDA black box warning most clearly stipulates.
Here are some of the purposes for which Elavil (Amitriptyline) has been prescribed:
- SAD (social anxiety disorder, or panic disorder)
- GAD (generalized anxiety disorder)
- MDD (major depression disorder)
- Premenstrual symptoms
- ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactive disorder)
- OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
- Anorexia Nervosa (eating disorder)
- Bulimia (eating disorder)
- Bipolar Disorder
- BPD (borderline personality disorder)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Quitting smoking
- Tourette Syndrome
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Chronic hiccups
- BDD (body dysmorphic disorder)
- And a host of other conditions.
Elavil (Amitriptyline) Alternative Names and Slang
Elavil has not earned any common street names, as it rarely ever made its way into the world of recreational use/abuse despite its euphoric and hallucinogenic effects at high doses. Due to the toxicity of the drug on the brain and the cardiovascular system at such high levels, recreational use would not uncommonly be fatal.
US drug makers no longer use the brand name “Elavil,” having changed it to Endep instead. In the US, the drug is mostly prescribed as a drug of last resort, opting for a tricyclic when other types of antidepressants have not worked.
Other brand names for Amitriptyline number in the hundreds. As of 2017, 64 different drug manufacturers produce this drug under many names, such as:
- Dot Trip
- And so on.
Elavil Side Effects
Some of the most common and relatively mild side effects for Elavil (Amitriptyline) have been reported as constipation, urinary retention, a feeling of drowsiness, dizziness, or feeling lightheaded, dry mouth, weight gain, and blurred vision.
Note – To reduce lightheadedness, it may help to remember to get up from a lying or sitting position more slowly than normal. (2)
However, there are other Elavil side effects that may present and should be monitored carefully should they worsen or become hard to tolerate, as this could signal that medical attention is needed on an immediate basis. The following adverse Elavil side effects can be serious and should be watched for carefully:
- Cognitive impairment
- Memory loss
- Long term use is connected to increased incidence of dementia
- Increased suicidality, thoughts of suicide, obsessive thoughts of death, hurting oneself, hopelessness, etc.
- Cardiac arrest
- Numbness or tingling
- Tardive Dyskinesia
- Emotional blunting
- Abnormal involuntary movements
- Akathisia (internal profound and unrelenting restlessness usually accompanied by rocking, pacing, twisting, marching, etc.)
- Sexual dysfunction
- Overdose leading to coma, delirium, cardiac arrest
- Dry mouth
- Increased body temperature
- Blurred vision
- Constipation/urinary retention
- High or low blood sugar levels
- Testicular swelling in males, and swelling of breast tissue in females
Note: Amitriptyline has more than 250 major interactions with other medications including common cold and cough remedies, sedatives, histamines, oral contraceptives, and even alcohol. Avoiding all other medications and drugs is essential to your health and safety, whether prescribed or gotten over the counter. Consult with your caregiver before taking any other drug, medicine, or alcohol if you are taking Amitriptyline.
Elavil Withdrawal Symptoms
Elavil withdrawal symptoms are generally not life-threatening where the taper is gradual, but they can nonetheless be very uncomfortable especially if one has been on amitriptyline for a very long time, or the dosage was very high or is being cut too quickly. There is more information discussed below on how to get off Elavil and similar drugs safely and comfortably.
If someone is on multiple medications, this can make the withdrawal process somewhat more complex. Always consult a medical practitioner familiar with withdrawal from prescription drugs for the safest guidance.
As is the case for many prescription drugs, Elavil withdrawal symptoms can resemble the side effects, and re-emergence of original symptoms is also not uncommon, though they can significantly intensify during cessation, especially if the Elavil withdrawal is too rapid or sudden.
Elavil withdrawal can present the following adverse reactions:
- Crying or other sudden emotional outbursts
- Hypersensitivity to lights, sound and external motion
- Muscle pains and aches
- Weight gain or loss
- Sleep disturbance
- Unusual dreams
- Rash, swelling, especially of the face and tongue
- Insomnia, interrupted sleep
- Unusual dreams
- Joint pain
How Long do Elavil Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
Elavil withdrawal is commonly reported to last a number of weeks or months until these symptoms eventually begin to fade.
Individual factors can greatly affect the time it takes to recover from withdrawal, such as age, general health, genetic factors, diet, social support or lack thereof, stress from the immediate environment, whether someone is on multiple medications, extant pathology, etc.
Discontinuing/Quitting Elavil (Amitriptyline)
Some people will experience very mild withdrawals, while others may feel so overwhelmed as to make the task near to impossible. It can happen that without proper support and guidance, the person may decide to give up completely and go back on the antidepressant. With proper step by step help, it may be possible for even the most difficult of withdrawals to be gently and correctly guided along to a successful outcome.
Can I stop Taking Elavil Cold Turkey?
It is unsafe to try stopping Elavil cold turkey. Abrupt withdrawal from Amitriptyline is hard to distinguish from the signs of acute toxicity.3
Acute toxicity develops rapidly whatever the cause and requires immediate hospitalization to prevent injury or death. Airway compromise, respiratory failure, coma, seizure, convulsions can all present and need intensive care to prevent irreparable damage.
Therefore, coming off tricyclic antidepressant drugs such as Elavil (Amitriptyline) should never be done abruptly or too quickly. Always consult a medical caregiver/physician who is familiar with safe Elavil withdrawal treatment before you begin any attempt to come off an antidepressant.