HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Return to Amitriptyline overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else
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Taking Mirtazapine and Amitriptyline: Sophie's story
I would've liked to have known it was used to treat a mental health condition and not "headaches" like I was originally told.

Amitriptyline can be used to treat the following conditions

Headmeds fills the medicines information gaps for young people - things you might want to know about meds like will it affect my sex life? Can I still study? Can I drink? Headmeds does not give medical advice so this is just general information. Each medicine has a balance of good and bad effects, and each person gets their own individual effects.

You might want to know just one thing about your medicine, but on each page we have given you the ‘safety headlines’. Please read them as they are important.

We have included lots of information about each medicine - but if you want all the details, please look at the patient information leaflet - which is inside every pack. These leaflets are also at www.medicines.org.uk - where there will be the most up-to-date information.

Safety headlines

  • If you have taken more amitriptyline than it says on the label, you must see a doctor quickly – even if you do not feel any different.
  • As part of depression some people think about hurting themselves or committing suicide. Taking an antidepressant may not stop this. You must get some urgent help if you are having these sorts of thoughts. Speak to someone who is looking after you or go straight to hospital with your tablets.
  • Although rare, amitriptyline can cause serious allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, swelling of your face or throat, itching skin lumps). Go with your medicine to the emergency department (casualty) of the nearest hospital if you get any of these symptoms.
  • Do not take amitriptyline if you have taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressant (MAOI) like moclobemide, phenelzine, isocarboxazid or tranylcypromine in the last 14 days.
  • Stopping amitriptyline suddenly can cause unpleasant withdrawal effects – go to your doctor if you want to stop, to sort out the best step down arrangements.
  • You might feel sleepy in the first few days after taking amitriptyline – do not drive a car, ride a bike or operate machines until you see how this affects you and things settle down.
  • Use good contraception while you are taking amitriptyline. If you take amitriptyline while you are pregnant, it may affect the developing baby. However not treating your depression may be worse for both you and your baby so do talk to your doctor or midwife about this and get their help. Amitriptyline can also cause symptoms in newborn babies such as extra sleepiness so your baby will be closely checked. In most cases you should be able to breast feed as normal.

Basic details

Amitriptyline can be used to treat depression in young people. 

  • Some studies have shown that tricyclic antidepressants are not very effective to treat depression in children and young people.
  • Even so, specialists might prescribe it ‘off label’ if it is the best medicine for you.

The tablets and liquid contain sugars and colours that can cause allergies in some people

  • The tablets may not be suitable for you if you have problems eating some sugars or dairy (milk-based) foods. If you are lactose intolerant get advice from your local pharmacist.
  • Liquid and tablet formulations of amitriptyline vary in the supportive ingredients (excipients) that make up the preparations. Sugars, colourings, preservatives and flavourings in most people usually do not cause any problems.
  • If you know you have a particular sensitivity to one of these then the information sheet for the product (www.medicines.org.uk) and look at SPC. This should tell you what the supporting ingredients are.
  • If you are still unsure ask your local pharmacist. Your doctor is less likely to know this type of information.

Reference sources

Search www.medicines.org.uk to find patient information leaflets and prescribing information on amitriptyline. Tablets and liquid are listed separately. The SmPC lists all the inactive ingredients in the product so you can check against any allergies. If you are still unsure about this then speak to your pharmacist.

  • British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for children. Download the BNF/BNFC app (blue background) on to your mobile device. No longer available for public access via the web
  • Taylor D, Barnes T, Young A. Maudsley Prescribing Guidelines in Psychiatry, 13th edition. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons, May 2018. ISBN: 978-1-119-44260-8
  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Medicines Ethics and Practice (42nd edition). London: RPS, 2018. Standards for pharmacists to work to. It is not a free publication
  • World Anti Doping Agency WADA Prohibited List https://www.wada-ama.org/en/resources/science-medicine/prohibited-list-documents
  • Choiceandmedication; an independent source of information on many mental health conditions and their medicines with easy to read fact sheets www.choiceandmedication.org Personal subscriptions to download the app available for £1 per month (with proportionate discounts for longer periods) but your local mental health Trust may subscribe and provide information sheets for free.
  • Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS). Information sheets on drugs in pregnancy http://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/
  • Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Information on drugs in breastfeeding https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/newtoxnet/lactmed.htm
  • NICE CG28 Depression in Children and Young People, September 2005. Updated September 2017 Available at http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg28