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Elavil (Amitriptyline)

Elavil, which in its generic form is called amitriptyline, is used to control the symptoms of depression in adults, young adults, and teens. Elavil is one of a class of medications called tricyclic antidepressants; it is designed to help control the thoughts and behaviors that accompany depression. In some cases, this drug may be used as part of a treatment plan for shingles, some eating disorders, or for migraines.


Elavil comes in tablet form and can be taken from one to four times per day depending on what your physician prescribes. Your doctor may adjust your dosage as needed to manage your symptoms. It may take several weeks before you feel the full effects of this prescription. You should take this medication each day as directed, even if you feel better.

Important Information Before Use

Your doctor can help you decide if the benefit of this medication outweighs the risk of using it. Antidepressants, including Elavil, can cause suicidal thoughts and behavior in children, teens, or young adults under the age of 24. Tell your doctor if you are taking or have recently taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). You should not take Elavil within two weeks of taking an MAOI. If you have ever had a heart attack, you should not use Elavil. If you are over 65 years old, your doctor may suggest an alternative medication for depression; Elavil is not recommended for use by this age group. If you have or have ever had a glaucoma, an enlarged prostate, seizures, schizophrenia, an overactive thyroid, or any type of liver, kidney, or heart disease, you should talk to your doctor before you take Elavil.Tell your doctor if you currently have or have used alcohol excessively. You should also mention to your doctor any serious reactions you have had to other similar medications.


If you are taking other prescription drugs or supplements, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking Elavil. Elavil may interact with other medications or supplements, including MAO inhibitors, antihistamines, antidepressants, antacids, herbal preparations including St. John's Wort, sleeping pills, antipsychotics, high blood pressure medications, and more.

Important Information During Use

  • If you are pregnant or become pregnant while taking Elavil, you should talk to your doctor about alternative treatments for depression. If taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, Elavil can cause problems in newborns.
  • Elavil can make you extremely drowsy; using alcohol can worsen this side effect. Don't drive or work with heavy machinery until you know how Elavil affects you.
  • Your surgeon or anesthesiologist needs to know that you are taking Elavil if you are having any type of surgery, including oral or dental surgery.
  • Elavil overdose can be deadly, so it is important to take only the correct amount of this medication each day. Signs of overdose include drowsiness, confusion, weakness, lightheadedness, seizure, or coma.

Side Effects

Call your doctor if you experience serious or severe side effects from taking Elavil. Serious side effects from this medication may include:

  • Irregular, pounding, or fast heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness in arms or legs
  • Facial or tongue swelling
  • Hives or severe rash
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Unusual, uncontrollable shaking
  • Spasms in the back, neck, or jaw
  • Speech difficulties
  • Hallucinations
  • Yellowed skin or eyes
  •  Bruising or bleeding

Less serious side effects include:

  • Drowsiness or weakness
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Numbness or tingling in extremities
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain or increase in appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, or constipation
  • Difficult urination
  • Nightmares
  • Sweating
  • Blurred vision


See your doctor before reducing or discontinuing this medication; do not stop taking Elavil abruptly. Slowly tapering off of this medication will help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Possible symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Return of depression
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or stomach upset


  1. Commonly prescribed psychotropic medications. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Policymakers_Toolkit&Template=/ContentManagement/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=18971
  2. Elavil. (2009, April 9). Retrieved from http://www.drugs.com/elavil.html


Last Update: 12-17-2014


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