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Signs & Symptoms of Elavil Abuse

Elavil abuse may present as confusion, fatigue, and headaches. Recognizing addiction includes uncontrolled use and behavioral changes. Withdrawal symptoms like nausea are common. In case of overdose, immediate medical attention is crucial. Treatment involves medical supervision and behavioral therapy.

Struggling with Antidepressant Addiction? Get Help Now

Signs and symptoms of Elavil abuse may include confusion, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and digestive issues. 

Elavil is a brand-name antidepressant comprised of the drug amitriptyline. Addiction to this drug isn’t common, although researchers aren’t exactly sure of its total abuse and addiction potential. Though the drug has legitimate medical uses, some reports suggest it may be more dangerous than previously thought.

What Are the Most Common Signs & Symptoms of Elavil Abuse?

Elavil is a prescription medication used to treat depression, but it can also be abused. Here are some common signs and symptoms of Elavil abuse:

  • Blurry vision
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dry mouth 
  • Excessive sweating
  • High levels of fatigue and tiredness
  • Headaches
  • Severe nausea or vomiting

Importantly, these symptoms can also occur with regular Elavil use, but they become more common if the drug is being misused. A person exhibiting these signs isn’t necessarily misusing or abusing their medication, however. 

A more obvious sign of abuse is going through medication faster than makes sense if the medication was only being taken at the prescribed dose. As prescribed, this drug is generally taken one to four times a day, at around the same time each day. 

What Are the Dangers of Elavil?

Elavil abuse can have serious and potentially dangerous effects on the body. Below are some dangers of Elavil abuse. These risks are also generally present when taking the drug only as prescribed, but again, their potential increases if the drug is misused:

  • Physical dependence, which can lead to withdrawal
  • Potentially life-threatening allergic reaction
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Liver complications
  • Severe mood changes, including getting unusually aggressive or considering suicide
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty thinking before acting
  • Extreme excitability or mania

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. If you have suicidal thoughts, this should be considered an emergency. 

How to Recognize Elavil Addiction

Elavil addiction isn’t common, but there are some signs to look out for. Here are some ways to recognize addiction in an individual:

  • An inability or difficulty controlling drug use despite being aware it is doing harm
  • Spending excessive amounts of time getting, using, or recovering from the substance, often at the detriment of being able to meet important responsibilities or engage in previously enjoyed activities 
  • Changes to social behavior, especially through becoming more isolated and secretive
  • Interpersonal problems as a result of drug use, such as getting into conflicts with family or friends due to that drug use
  • An intense craving to engage in drug abuse, especially in locations where drugs have been used in the past
  • Having attempted or strongly desiring to reduce or stop drug use but being unable to do so

It isn’t clear how much potential for abuse and addiction amitriptyline, the drug Elavil contains, has. There isn’t a large body of evidence suggesting it is addictive, but there is at least one case report that supports the hypothesis that it may be more addictive than has yet been fully proven. Many researchers suggest it has dangers we don’t fully understand even if the drug is still accepted as having legitimate medical uses.

Elavil Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from Elavil can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. Here are some common Elavil withdrawal symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Drug cravings

Generally speaking, doctors recommend tapering Elavil doses over time if you want to stop taking the medication. This helps prevent withdrawal. 

Even if you feel well, you shouldn’t just stop taking Elavil without talking to a doctor. You can talk with your doctor about whether the changes you feel in your mood are because of your medication, how stopping might change your mood, and if there are any alternative medications that may help you if you still want to stop taking Elavil.

What to Do if Someone You Know Is Overdosing on Elavil

An Elavil overdose can be life-threatening, so it is important to take immediate action. Taking too much of this drug can cause serious health issues such as changes in your heartbeat or seizures.

Here are some steps to take if someone you know is overdosing on Elavil:

  • Call 911, immediately alerting the operator that you believe someone is having an overdose. Give their current location. 
  • Talk to the individual overdosing if possible and those around you to get the operator any information they ask for if you can. Try to give them the patient’s medical history as well as a list of the drugs you believe the individual has taken and in what amounts.
  • Stay with the individual, and if they stop breathing or their heart slows dangerously or stops, begin CPR. If you don’t know how to safely perform CPR, ask those around you if they know.
  • Stay on the phone with the 911 operator until help arrives, continuing to answer any questions they have and listening closely to all instructions.

Help for Elavil Abuse

If you have been misusing Elavil or any substance, it’s a sign that help is needed. Addiction treatment takes many forms, but the first step is reaching out for assistance. With the right supportive care, you can stop all forms of substance abuse and begin to build a better future.

Updated November 21, 2023
Resources
  1. Amitriptyline. (July 2017). National Library of Medicine.
  2. Do Antidepressants Have Any Potential to Cause Addiction? (1999). Journal of Psychopharmacology.
  3. Signs and Symptoms of Addiction. Psychology Today.
  4. Amitriptyline Dependence and Its Associations: A Case Report and Literature Review. (January 2021). Case Reports in Psychiatry.
  5. Amitriptyline for Pain and Migraine. (September 2020). UK NHS.
  6. Adverse Drug Reactions Associated With Amitriptyline — Protocol for a Systematic Multiple-Indication Review and Meta-Analysis. (March 2020). Systematic Reviews.
  7. Classics in Chemical Neuroscience: Amitriptyline. (January 2021). ACS Chemical Neuroscience.
  8. Amitriptyline Abuse and Misuse. (March 2005). The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology.
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