Amitriptyline is used to treat many types of chronic pain. It is especially good for nerve pain, such as burning, shooting or stabbing pain, and for pain that keeps you awake at night.
Amitriptyline belongs to the group of medicines called tricyclic antidepressants that are also used to treat depression. However, the dose of amitriptyline needed for pain relief is usually much lower than that prescribed for depression.
Amitriptyline works by changing the amount of specific nerve transmitters in the nervous system, reducing pain messages arriving in the brain.
When should I take it?
It is best to take amitriptyline in the evening. Start by taking it 2-3 hours before going to bed, if you find that you feel drowsy the next morning, try taking it earlier in the evening.
How long will it take to work?
Every patient is different. You may notice some initial benefit within 2 weeks, however it may take up to 2 months for a full effect. Your doctor may need to increase the dose to get the maximum effect.
Amitriptyline does not work for everyone. If you do not feel any improvement in your pain, do not suddenly stop taking the tablets but speak to your GP or Pain Medicine Consultant.
What are the possible side effects?
Most side effects are mild and it is expected that they reduce after a few doses. Common side effects include; drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, constipation and sweating. If you have these side effects and they are severe contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice. Less common side effects include fainting, trembling, irregular heartbeat, blurred vision or problems passing water. If any of these side effects occur contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
What if I want to stop taking amitriptyline?
If you stop taking amitriptyline suddenly, you might experience withdrawal symptoms. Speak to your healthcare professional (doctor, nurse, pharmacist) who will be able to supervise a gradual reduction.
* This information is not intended to replace your doctor’s advice. We advise you to read the manufacturer’s information for patients, which will be supplied by your pharmacist when your medicine is dispensed.
** Source: Faculty of Pain Medicine: Patient information leaflets, British National Formulary