Amitriptyline and pain patient information leaflet

Amitriptyline was used as an anti-depressant for many years (rarely these days) it can also be used at low doses to help burning, shooting or stabbing pain caused by irritated or damaged nerves.  It is not a sleeping tablet.  The most noticeable side effect that people find is a dry mouth.

What are the benefits of amitriptyline?

• You may have a reduction in pain which allows you to do more

• You may sleep better so you have more energy

• You may find you can cope better with your pain

Amitriptyline works best if taken regularly and not so well on an ‘as required’ basis. This is because slowly, over time, it alters chemicals in the brain that are involved in registering pain messages.

But I am not depressed.

It is common to use antidepressants in the treatment of pain.  There is no suggestion that you are depressed or that the pain is ‘in your mind.’  The dose given to relieve pain is lower than that used to treat depression.

When do I take my tablets?

Take your tablet a couple of hours before bed, which allows it time to work. When you first start to take this tablet, you may feel drowsy the next day. This tends to settle down within a few days, as you continue to take it. It is advisable that when you start taking amitriptyline, you do not go to work the following day in case you experience any side-effects.

If the clinic has advised you to increase your dose of amitriptyline, wait until the “hangover” effect has settled before doing so. When you do increase your dose, you may again experience a “hangover” effect for a few days.  If dry mouth is a problem, drink some water.

What if I miss a dose?

Although it is important that you take your tablet regularly, if you do miss a dose, just take your usual dose next time. Do not take a double dose to make it up.

When will I feel better?

It may be several weeks before you feel the benefit from this tablet. Usually, the treatment begins with a low dose which can be gradually increased until the optimum dose is reached.

Can I drink alcohol?

If you drink alcohol whilst taking amitriptyline, it may make you more drowsy. However, drinking in moderation is unlikely to cause any problems.

What are the side-effects?

• You may experience a “hangover” effect, such as drowsiness, dizziness or blurred vision. These may be a problem in the short-term but should settle down within a week or two. If you are affected, please do not drive or operate machinery.

• Dry mouth

• Nausea, constipation, difficulty in passing urine, sweating

Occasionally, other side-effects are reported. Please see the information leaflet in your tablet box for further details.

If you are taking a low dose, you may have no side-effects at all. If you do have side-effects, you may reduce your dose then gradually increase it again over time.



Drowsiness* Confusion
Dizziness* Nausea
Blurred vision* Sweating
Constipation Rashes
Weight gain Fast pulse
Effects of alcohol increased Trouble passing water
Dry mouth – this usually gets better Sensitivity to sunlight
*If affected do not drive or operate machinery until effects wear off. Loss of interest in sex or impotence

If you have been taking amitriptyline for eight weeks or more and you wish to stop it, it is important not to stop suddenly. Sudden withdrawal may make you feel ill. Please seek medical advice if you wish to stop taking it, and you will be advised how to discontinue it safely.

What should I do if someone accidentally takes my tablets or I take too many?

Call your doctor or hospital straight away and tell them what dose and how many of the tablets have been taken. They will need to know the name and number of tablets taken.

If you have any comments about the content, please let us know. Comments made by other patients have helped in the development.