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Elavil Addiction & Abuse | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Elavil addiction isn’t well studied and doesn’t seem especially common, although there are at least a few reports of people struggling to stop abusing the medication and needing medical help in order to do so. Elavil misuse (or the misuse of its generic form, amitriptyline) can be dangerous. It’s important to only take this medication as prescribed and to seek help from a medical professional if you can’t stop abusing it.

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What Is Elavil?

Elavil is a brand name for the medication amitriptyline. Elavil is no longer available for legal purchase. It was discontinued by the FDA in 2000.

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The medication was used to address clinical depression or anxiety disorders. It was usually used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that involves various therapeutic approaches beyond just taking medication. 

As an antidepressant medication belonging to the tricyclic group of agents available on a prescription-only basis, this medication affects chemical messengers in the brain and can help to reduce negative thoughts or feelings while potentially alleviating symptoms such as insomnia or even chronic pain. 

If you are taking amitriptyline, the generic form of Elavil, which is still available, it’s important to ensure proper use of the medication. It is crucial to take it only as prescribed and to work with a doctor to account for its potential side effects. 

Patients should always follow their doctor’s directives regarding dosage and administration. Abrupt cessation of the medication without first consulting your physician is strongly discouraged.

Who Abuses Elavil?

Antidepressants are among the most commonly prescribed medications worldwide, owing to their effectiveness in managing different types of mood disorders like depression or anxiety-related issues. But similar to any other prescription drug available in the market today, Elavil comes with the potential for abuse. 

While almost anyone could potentially abuse a prescription drug in the wrong circumstances, individuals who have histories with illicit substance abuse or who face intense withdrawal symptoms are more predisposed toward the abusive use of antidepressant drugs. While Elavil doesn’t trigger euphoria like opioids or other substances of abuse, people who abuse it may mistakenly think it does. 

Certain groups face an elevated risk of antidepressant misuse. For those with a personal history of mental illness like bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, substance abuse sometimes functions as an attempt to self-manage symptoms. Individuals who prioritize “quick fixes” over comprehensive treatment plans are also at heightened risk for drug misuse. 

Data shows that young adults display higher instances of prescription medication misuse, including the misuse and abuse of antidepressants, compared to other age groups. However, the vast majority of people who take antidepressants rely on them to provide mental health support safely and effectively. They use them only as prescribed with any misuse being accidental and rare.

Nevertheless, if you have suspicions about potential misuse or abuse regarding Elavil or amitriptyline, seek the opinion of a qualified healthcare provider. Doing so will help the person struggling with abuse to receive proper treatment, and this helps to minimize the associated risks and side effects of that abuse.

What Are the Causes of Elavil Addiction?

Antidepressants aren’t generally considered to have significant addiction potential. Despite Elavil also having painkilling properties (which can raise a drug’s addiction potential), there don’t appear to be many reports indicating individuals are likely to develop an addiction to the drug.

However, there is at least one report of a patient who at least arguably suffered from an addiction to amitriptyline (the generic version of Elavil). It is not entirely clear from the report if this would qualify as an addiction or abusing the medication in order to self-medicate due to a desire to experience a “high.” At the very least, the report declares he was dependent on the drug and unable to control his drug abuse. 

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Elavil Addiction?

While it’s important to acknowledge research in this area is limited, an addiction to Elavil or similar medications is likely to cause signs and symptoms common among people who struggle with drug abuse. Some common signs a person may have a problem with substance abuse include the following:

  • Continued use despite negative consequences: A person with an addiction to Elavil will often continue to abuse the medication despite experiencing problems resulting from such use in their job, relationships, and general health. Since Elavil is no longer available in the U.S., any use is abuse since the medication would have to be obtained illegally.
  • Loss of control: People who are addicted to a substance often lose control over their use, being unable to stop or reduce their use to a significant degree even if they’re able to acknowledge that it is causing them problems.
  • Cravings: A very common sign of addiction is a strong craving for the drug. Although this is notably a sign of physical dependence, not everyone who experiences cravings is necessarily addicted to a drug if they otherwise only use the drug as prescribed.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: If a person is physically dependent on a drug (which is common among people who have an addiction), they will experience withdrawal if they suddenly stop taking the drug, experiencing unwanted side effects like anxiety and nausea. Some degree of physical dependence occurs with long-term antidepressant use. 
  • Neglecting responsibilities: A drug addiction often leads to a person neglecting important responsibilities, such as going to school or work, which can often have serious detrimental effects on their life as time progresses.
  • Tolerance: Repeated, heavy use of a drug will often result in building a tolerance to that drug, meaning a person will need a higher dose of that same drug to produce the same effect than they once did. Combining antidepressants with other substances of abuse can further increase tolerance.
  • Continued use despite wanting to quit: Oftentimes, a person addicted to drugs will understand their drug abuse is doing them harm and will want to quit but will feel they are unable to do so.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of these signs, speak with a healthcare professional or addiction specialist.

How Does Elavil Impact the Mind & Body?

Used as intended, amitriptyline is a medication that can treat depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. It is classified as a tricyclic antidepressant, which means it works by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that regulate mood. 

Amitriptyline can serve as a practical, evidence-based treatment for various issues, although it works best as part of a comprehensive mental health treatment plan. It doesn’t “cure” depression and similar disorders. However, it has demonstrated value in lifting spirits and diminishing feelings associated with depression and anxiety disorders.

The medication also helps with inadequate sleep by shortening the duration required for sleep onset while heightening restorative sleep periods. However, these advantages come along with generally unwanted side effects like weariness, vertigo, obscured eyesight, oral dryness, irregular bowel movements, and issues urinating. On rare occasions, complications like heart-related anomalies have manifested.

The supervision of a healthcare provider is important while consuming amitriptyline, as its impact on the mind and body needs to be monitored. In case a change in medication or dosage adjustment is necessary, only a healthcare professional can provide such guidance. 

Any use of Elavil is abuse since the medication has been discontinued in the U.S. If you are using the generic form of amitriptyline, only use it according to your provider’s instructions.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Elavil Addiction

If you have been abusing Elavil, seek medical advice before stopping use. Discontinuing or reducing Elavil intake abruptly may trigger a host of unexpected and unpleasant symptoms due to a withdrawal syndrome. 

Withdrawal symptoms associated with antidepressant use is termed antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. The manifestation of these symptoms may differ on a case-to-case basis, but they are usually flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches, chills, headaches, and potentially debilitating sweating and nausea.

Additionally, withdrawal may result in sleep disturbances characterized by insomnia and vivid, distressful dreams, often leading to exhaustion during daytime activities when one’s energy is low. 

In certain exceptional cases of Elavil discontinuation syndrome, movement disorders like tremors or muscle rigidity may be observed. These will not typically be permanent, although they do warrant talking with a medical professional as soon as they occur.

A major concern surrounding the withdrawal process of the antidepressant medication Elavil is its potential effects on individuals with bipolar disorder. Withdrawal from antidepressants can trigger incidences of hypomania or mania characterized by impulsivity, an upswing in mood, and increased energy levels. Because of this, individuals with these co-occurring disorders should only stop taking amitriptyline under direct medical supervision.

In addition to this, sudden cessation without proper guidance could usher in further risks relating to cardiac arrhythmias, including life-threatening conditions like heart failure or stroke. 

Patients considering tapering dosage must seek help from specialized professionals who would conduct such plans progressively and cautiously. In the event that withdrawal symptoms manifest, healthcare providers can prescribe and administer suitable treatment and render support accordingly.

Can You Overdose on Elavil?

It is possible to overdose on Elavil, which can result in serious and potentially life-threatening symptoms. An overdose occurs when a person takes more than the recommended amount of the medication, either accidentally or intentionally. 

If someone takes too much amitriptyline, they are usually admitted to the hospital. Effects can include respiratory depression, tachycardia, and coma. Death is possible.

It is important to always take medications as prescribed and to never take more than the recommended dose. If you are struggling with depression or another mood disorder and are concerned about your medication or treatment, speak with your healthcare provider. They can work with you to adjust your dosage or explore other treatment options that may be safer and more effective for you. 

Simply “taking more” Elavil without talking with a doctor is not a safe or effective way to improve how you feel. The results could be incredibly harmful.

Overdose Symptoms

Elavil overdose symptoms Elavil include the following: 

  • Cardiac complications, such as arrhythmias or bradycardia, which are especially dangerous for those with pre-existing heart problems 
  • Dizziness
  • Discomfort in the chest 
  • Fainting 
  • Severe bewilderment
  • Restlessness
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Seizure

Toxic levels of Elavil consumption have the potential to render a person unconscious or comatose, warranting immediate medical intervention. Medical professionals will provide supportive measures for patients in critical condition through observance of vital signs while administering supportive treatments, such as oxygen therapy and IV hydration support during hospitalization.

Treatment Options for Elavil Addiction

Misuse of Elavil can lead to numerous physical and psychological issues that may be life-threatening in extreme cases. Dependence on the drug necessitates expert intervention from medical personnel or addiction specialists for those who cannot control their drug use and who take their medication in a way different than prescribed.

As with all forms of substance addiction, professional help is recommended for Elavil abuse and addiction. After an evaluation, multiple therapeutic methods may be used, such as medications, therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), behavioral modification treatments, alternative treatments like art therapy or other forms of expressive therapies, skill-building workshops, and support groups.

For individuals struggling with Elavil abuse, detoxification or medical management of withdrawal symptoms may be necessary at the start of treatment. This phase can be executed under the supervision of a healthcare professional in either a hospital setting or detoxification facility. Many addiction treatment programs feature medical detox as part of their comprehensive treatment plan.

Timely intervention for Elavil addiction is crucial. With proper care, you can leave substance abuse in your past.

Updated January 19, 2024
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