What Is Amitriptyline Used For? What Is Elavil MOA?

Last Updated: February 7, 2020

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Elavil has a few uses and can be recommended for the treatment of various conditions. The drug amitriptyline is used for the treatment of depressive disorders, as well as the off-label use of the medication is also known. This article discusses the various uses of the drug in addition to different contraindications and warnings.

The FDA-Approved Use Of Amitriptyline

Amitriptyline for depression is the main utilization of the medication that is presently endorsed for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. Elavil is an antidepressant with sedation effects on the body, and as such inhibits the uptake of norepinephrine and serotonin adrenergic neurons. Long term use of amitriptyline has been believed to ease the side effects of depression. However, patients should use antidepressant amitriptyline, according to the doctor’s prescription to achieve maximum benefit from the drug and minimize the adverse effects.

The Off-Label Use Of Elavil

Amitriptyline can also be prescribed off-label for the treatment of several conditions such as sleep disturbances, migraine, anxiety, headaches, tinnitus, and interstitial cystitis, among others.

Elavil For Pain

The medication is used in the treatment of neuropathic pain, which is pain from damaged nerves, which has a variety of other names. The use of amitriptyline for pain provides relief in 25% more people than placebo. However, the long term side effects of amitriptyline are also reported in about 1 in 4 more people than placebo.

Elavil for good sleep

Amitriptyline For Sleep

Data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that about 35 out of 100 Americans are not getting enough sleep due to sleep disturbances. Amitriptyline is used to treat sleep disturbances due to the resulting effect it has on histamine. The amitriptyline dosage for sleep is usually lower in contrast to the dosage prescribed to treat depression.

Amitriptyline For Migraines

Although it has not been approved in the prevention of migraines, its usage for migraine prevention has proven effective in many patients.

Amitriptyline For Anxiety

In a weekly clinical study, out of the 23 patients who completed the study, 17 had all the earmarks of being completely relieved of the condition. In this manner, the Elavil indication for the treatment of anxiety has been demonstrated to be compelling.

Elavil For IBS

The drug amitriptyline is used for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. In a preliminary study, the medication was seen as fundamentally progressively powerful in increasing satisfaction with bowel movements.

Elavil treats headache

Amitriptyline For Headaches

This is another of Elavil use that is prescribed off-label in the United States. The medication takes on average 6 weeks before patients taking it to treat headaches can start to benefit fully from its usage.

Elavil For Tinnitus

The US National Library of Medicine, in a study of determining the efficacy of Elavil in tinnitus treatment, gave the medication to 20 patients with auditory problems for 6 weeks. 95% of these patients recorded an improvement confirming that amitriptyline use for tinnitus is promising.

Amitriptyline For IC (Interstitial Cystitis)

As per Harvard Health Publishing, tricyclic antidepressants, including Elavil, taken at low doses forestall the arrival of neurochemicals that cause bladder agony and aggravation by loosening up the bladder. The drug Elavil is used for interstitial cystitis given this explanation since the viability has been affirmed.

Elavil For TMJ

In most cases, temporomandibular joint complications disappear on their own with time. Seek assistance from a medical doctor if the symptoms persist. Amitriptyline HCl is used for TMJ complications to relieve pain.

Elavil OCD

The use of amitriptyline in the treatment of OCD is not as effective as compared to other antidepressant medications such as Citalopram and Prozac. The drug has minimal improvement in obsessive-compulsive behavior in children.

how Elavil works

Amitriptyline Mechanism Of Action

Similar to other tricyclic antidepressants, Elavil increases levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. Amitriptyline MOA is the reason why the drug is used to manage depressive symptoms. People with depression have an imbalance of these chemicals, which are used for communication between nerves.

How Long Does Amitriptyline Stay In One’s System?

Amitriptyline half-life is about 20 hours, meaning it takes 20 hours to diminish the measure of the medication by half in the human body. Drug screening for antidepressants is not a typical test, but it can be carried out as a specific additional test. If a patient takes amitriptyline, drug tests may show up false positive for hallucinogens such as LSD.

General Amitriptyline Warnings & Contraindications

Elavil Safe And Responsible Use

Elavil for depression is the only FDA-approved usage of the drug in the United States. Nevertheless, there are other off-label Elavil indications. There is a direct link between amitriptyline and weight gain, so the patients should stay cautious when using this antidepressant medication. Those who abuse the drug should stop since there is a fatal risk of an overdose. Seek assistance from an addiction treatment center in the case of addiction. Such facilities can provide a high level of care during substance abuse treatment and therapies and ensure a successful recovery.


Page Sources

  1. Sleep and Sleep Disorders: Data and Statistics. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html.
  2. Aurón Zaltzman D. El clorhidrato de amitriptilina en el tratamiento de la ansiedad y el insomnio, y como tranquilizante [Amitriptyline hydrochloride in the treatment of anxiety and insomnia and as a tranquilizer]. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry. 1976; 17(3): 165–169. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1004682-amitriptyline-hydrochloride-in-the-treatment-of-anxiety-and-insomnia-and-as-a-tranquilizer/.
  3. Rajagopalan M, Kurian G, John J. Symptom relief with amitriptyline in the irritable bowel syndrome. European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 1998; 13(7): 738–741. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1746.1998.tb00723.x. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9715427-symptom-relief-with-amitriptyline-in-the-irritable-bowel-syndrome/.
  4. Diagnosing and treating interstitial cystitis. Harvard Health Publishing. 2011. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/diagnosing-and-treating-interstitial-cystitis.
  5. Moore R, Derry S, Aldington D, Cole P, Wiffen PJ. Amitriptyline for neuropathic pain in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015; 7. Art. No.: CD008242. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008242.pub3. https://www.cochrane.org/CD008242/SYMPT_amitriptyline-neuropathic-pain-adults.

Published on: February 7th, 2020

Updated on: February 7th, 2020

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.

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