What Is Nortriptyline Used For?

How Does Nortriptyline Work?

Nortriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant. Tricyclic antidepressants are an older group of medications that have been used to treat depression for many years. Even though nortriptyline has been around for a long time, it is not entirely clear how the medication works. It is known that nortriptyline affects several chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and norepinephrine.

Can Children and Teens Use It?

Nortriptyline is not recommended for use in people younger than 18 years old, as it has not been thoroughly studied in children or teens. Antidepressants have been shown to increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in short-term research studies involving children and teenagers (see Nortriptyline and Suicide for more information on the risks of suicide with nortriptyline). Talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options for childhood or teen depression.

Is Nortriptyline Used for Off-Label Reasons?

On occasion, your healthcare provider may recommend nortriptyline for something other than depression. This is called an "off-label" use. At this time, there are several off-label nortriptyline uses, such as:
  • Chronic pain: Nortriptyline works best for chronic pain that is nerve-related, such as nerve pain from having shingles (including postherpetic neuralgia).
  • Anxiety disorder: Many antidepressants (including nortriptyline) are used to treat anxiety disorders.
  • Bedwetting: Nortriptyline has been used to help people stop bedwetting.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Nortriptyline can be used to treat ADHD, especially if other ADHD medications have not been effective or cause side effects.
  • Fibromyalgia: Nortriptyline has been used to treat pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.
  • Prevention of migraine headaches: Nortriptyline can be used on a daily basis to prevent migraine headaches. Nortriptyline is not effective for treating a migraine headache once it starts.
  • Treatment for bulimia: Nortriptyline has been found to improve bulimia symptoms, including binge eating and vomiting.
  • Smoking cessation: Nortriptyline is sometimes used to help people quit smoking.
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