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What is Elavil®?

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox

The medication Elavil®, which is the brand name for amitriptyline, is used to treat depression and several other conditions caused by chemical imbalance in the brain. It works by balancing the levels of certain neurotransmitters. As with other antidepressants, an adjustment period of a few months is needed to determine whether the medication will help the patient.

Depression has a number of different causes, including chemical imbalance. Elavil® can be used to treat depression that is caused by an imbalance of the chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine. By stabilizing levels of these chemicals, Elavil® can lessen or eliminate the symptoms of depression.

Doctor taking notes
Doctor taking notes

As a tricyclic antidepressant, Elavil® treats symptoms of depression by interfering with the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Usually, these neurotransmitters are produced and absorbed at the same rate, which keeps their levels stable. Sometimes, however, these neurotransmitters are absorbed faster than they can be replenished, creating a chemical deficiency that can lead to depression. Elavil® stops absorption of these neurotransmitters, leaving more of them available for use in the body which improves a patient’s mood.

Although the most common use for this medication is in the treatment of depression, Elavil® can be used to treat other diseases as well. One common condition it can be used for is the treatment of migraine headaches. It is also effective for pain from the disease shingles. Elavil® treats these conditions in the same manner that it treats depression.

It usually takes at least a few months to be sure that the patient is receiving the correct dose of Elavil®. As with many other antidepressants, an incorrect dose or a change in dose can temporarily cause symptoms of depression to worsen. Although feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon when adjusting to this type of medication, it is important to report these types of mood changes to a health care professional. Adverse mood changes are most often reported in patients younger than 24, though they can manifest in patients of any age.

Elavil® has been known to have a number of severe side effects. It can be dangerous to take this type of medication within 14 days of taking an antidepressant in the monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor class, so patients will have to wait until that medicine has been completely eliminated from the body before starting on a tricyclic antidepressant. It has also been known to cause severe problems in patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, diabetes, and compromised heart function.

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