Elavil (Amitriptyline) was one of the very first drugs ever produced in the class of antidepressants called “tricyclics”, first marketed in the 1960’s. The word tricyclic comes from the triple ring of atoms that comprise the drug’s structure. The toxicity of this drug has become renowned. Those attempting suicide with it are usually successful, as Elavil’s lethal effects are tragically well documented over the last nearly six decades. Overdoses are tragically frequent as well, due to not only the toxic effects on neurochemistry, but on the heart and respiratory systems as well.
Below we have collated important and useful information concerning this neurotoxic substance, but there may be other questions you have about which you should consult with your doctor or caregiver especially if you have not yet begun a prescription.
Below, we will cover side effects, helpful information regarding Elavil (Amitriptyline) withdrawal, and other information that may be useful in deciding whether to begin treatment with the drug, and to acquire some familiarity with how the drug can potentially affect various functions of the body, including the heart, the digestive and urinary tracts, and the brain.
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, with 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.
The 1950’s decade was a time of discovery and experiment, and drugs like Elavil emerged at the dawn of the 1960’s. 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:
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:
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.
However, there are other 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 effects can be serious and should be watched for carefully:
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.
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, the withdrawals 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 withdrawal is too rapid or sudden.
Withdrawal from Elavil can cause the following adverse reactions:
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.
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.
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 tapering before you begin any attempt to come off an antidepressant.
Below are several commonly asked questions about Elavil (amitriptyline). If you have other questions please seek additional information and consult a medical practitioner whenever possible.
Mild treatment for amitriptyline dependence can help alleviate the symptoms that can often accompany coming off an antidepressant. Since genetic factors can inform some of the potential difficulties, these can be specifically tested for prior to withdrawal, and can be mitigated to a degree through nutrition and supplementation. There are many other gentle methods to make cessation as smooth and mild as possible.
Dependence on a drug can be tough to turn around if done too quickly and without the proper care and nutritional support that the body needs to make the adjustment. Patience, compassion, targeted nutrition and other non-invasive methods can all help.
If you have questions about the best methods of treatment for antidepressant cessation, we can offer much information on request that can help in understanding the process, and the most effective methods that are available to soften and ensure a mild, comfortable taper and a maximally health-restoring experience.
Dr Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine. Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.