How Amitriptyline WorksAmitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant. Tricyclic antidepressants are an older group of medications that have been used to treat depression for many years. Even though amitriptyline has been around for a long time, it is not entirely clear how it works. Amitriptyline affects several chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and norepinephrine.
Amitriptyline Use in Children and TeensAmitriptyline is not recommended for use in people less than 12 years old, as it has not been thoroughly studied in children. Antidepressants have been shown to increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in short-term research studies involving children and teenagers (see Amitriptyline and Suicide for more information on the risks of suicide with amitriptyline). Talk with your healthcare provider about treatment options for childhood or teen depression.
Off-Label Amitriptyline UsesOn occasion, your healthcare provider may recommend amitriptyline for something other than the condition(s) discussed above. This is called an "off-label" use. At this time, there are several off-label amitriptyline uses, including:
- Chronic pain: Amitriptyline works best for chronic pain that is nerve-related, such as nerve pain from having shingles (including postherpetic neuralgia).
- Anxiety disorders: Many antidepressants (including amitriptyline) are used to treat anxiety disorders.
- Bedwetting: Amitriptyline has been used to help people stop bedwetting.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Amitriptyline can be used to treat ADHD, especially if other ADHD medications have not been effective or have caused side effects.
- Fibromyalgia: Amitriptyline has been used to treat pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia (see Fibromyalgia Symptoms).
- Prevention of migraine headaches: Amitriptyline can be used on a daily basis to prevent migraine headaches. Amitriptyline is not effective at treating a migraine headache once it starts.
- Treatment for bulimia: Amitriptyline has been found to improve symptoms of bulimia, including binge eating and vomiting.
- Smoking: Amitriptyline is sometimes used to help people quit smoking.