Why have I been prescribed this?
- Amitriptyline is used to help reduce pain. It is especially good for nerve pain, such as burning, shooting, stabbing, pins and needles, crawling, electric shock like pain
- It can help you sleep so is useful if your pain is worse at night and is disrupting your sleep
- Amitriptyline belongs to a group of medications called ‘Tricyclic Antidepressants’. It can also be prescribed for depression but in much higher doses than we use for pain
How does it work?
Amitriptyline works by increasing the amount of nerve transmitters in the nervous system. The nerve transmitters are called noradrenaline and serotonin. This reduces pain messages arriving in the brain
When should I take it?
Amitriptyline is usually taken once a day. It can make you feel sleepy so it is best to take it in the evening or 1 to 2 hours before going to bed.
If you find you are still drowsy the next morning you could try taking it earlier in the evening
How should I take it?
Tablets should be swallowed whole with a glass of water It can be taken with or without food
How long will it take to work?
- Everyone is different
- You may sleep better straight away
- It may take up to 2 weeks to see an initial improvement in your pain and can take up to 2 months for a full effect. Your GP, pharmacist or pain team may need to increase your dose to get the maximum effect
- If after 6 to 8 weeks you haven’t noticed any benefit you should speak to your GP, pharmacist or pain team. Do not stop taking Amitriptyline suddenly
What dose will I be prescribed?
- The usual starting dose is 10mg once a day. Higher starting doses of up to 25mg once a day, may be prescribed for some people
- The dose may be increased slowly by your GP, pharmacist or pain team, no more frequently than every 3 to 7 days
- The maximum dose prescribed for pain is usually 75mg once a day
What if I forget or miss a dose?
- Take it as soon as you remember
- If you only take one dose before bed and you miss the dose, do not take the Amitriptyline in the morning. Wait until the next night and skip the missed dose
- Do not take 2 doses together
Can I take Amitriptyline long-term?
Yes, if it helps. You may wish to reduce treatment every so often, with the help of your GP, pharmacist or pain team, to see if your pain is still a problem
What are the possible side effects?
- Most side effects are mild and tend to go away 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 speak to your GP, pharmacist or pain team for advice
- Less common side effects include fainting, trembling or problems passing water. If they occur speak to your GP, pharmacist or pain team for advice
- Serious side effects are rare.
Contact a doctor immediately if you get:
- A fast or irregular heartbeat
- A headache, feel confused or weak, get muscle cramps or a seizure – these can be signs of a low sodium level in your blood
- Thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life
- Eye pain, a change in your eyesight, swelling or redness in or around the eye
- Severe constipation or you’re unable to pass water and it’s causing severe tummy pain
Tips to help manage side effects
- Dry mouth
Try chewing sugar free gum (increases saliva in the mouth), drink more non alcoholic drinks
Eat more high fibre foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables and cereals. Try to drink several glasses of water or non-alcoholic liquid every day. Exercise can help
Can I drink alcohol?
Alcohol increases the sedative effects of Amitriptyline, it is best not to drink alcohol when you start taking it or when increasing the dose.
Once settled on a steady dose, you may drink alcohol in moderation but it may make you more drowsy than normal
Can I drive?
Amitriptyline may cause drowsiness. If this happens, do not drive. Further information on driving can be found at https://www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law
What should I tell my doctor, pharmacist or pain team?
- If you have any drug allergies
- If you are taking any other medications or herbal medicines
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or plan on becoming pregnant in the future
- If you have or have previously had any of the following conditions: heart problems, recent heart attack, epilepsy or fits, glaucoma, difficulty passing urine, thyroid disease, mental health problems
- If you are taking an antidepressant medication, especially one called a monoamine oxidase inhibitor such as Isocarboxazid, Tranylcypromine, Moclobemide or Phenelzine Is it addictive?
- It isn’t addictive but can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly, see below
What if I want to stop taking it?
- Do not stop taking it suddenly as you might experience withdrawal symptoms. The risk of withdrawal symptoms is higher if you have taken Amitriptyline for 8 weeks or more
- Speak to your healthcare professional who will be able to supervise a gradual reduction, usually over 4 weeks or longer if you have been taking Amitriptyline for a long time
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.