Understanding Elavil (Amitriptyline)
Elavil is the brand name for Amitriptyline, a prescription Antidepressant medication that belongs to a class of drugs called Tricyclic Antidepressants. Elavil is also sometimes prescribed for pain management stemming from arthritis, fibromyalgia, damaged nerve endings, and some cases of unexplained chronic back and neck pain. The drug works by affecting the balance of certain neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Tricyclic Antidepressants like Elavil have been mostly phased out in favor of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), which tend to have fewer side effects. However, Elavil is still commonly prescribed because of its effects on chronic pain as well as any depression or anxiety stemming from that pain. If used improperly, however, Elavil addiction and abuse may occur.
Elavil Effects And Abuse
Taking Elavil can improve mood, motor skills, and energy levels in patients that are experiencing depression or chronic pain. In addition to these benefits, the medication can produce a variety of negative and potentially harmful effects as well. These side effects can range from mild to severe and include any of the following:
- Blurred vision
- Weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Problems urinating
- Rash or itching
- Increased hunger
- Unusual taste
Another potential side effect of Elavil is overdose if an individual takes too much of the drug. The drug produces euphoric and sedating effects in high doses, which makes it popular for abuse. People will abuse the drug and increase their dosages to amplify those effects. An Elavil overdose can cause severe health problems such as cardiac arrest, dangerously low blood pressure, and seizures. In extreme cases, central nervous system depression and even death can occur.
Signs of overdose include chest pain, extreme drowsiness, vomiting, muscle stiffness, rapid heartbeat, slurred speech, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and unconsciousness. The risk of overdose is significantly increased when Elavil is combined with other drugs, particularly alcohol. This combination can cause extreme sedation and respiratory depression, but many people that abuse Elavil will mix them anyway simply to increase the intoxication experienced.
Signs Of An Elavil Addiction
Professionals generally consider Antidepressants to be nonaddictive; however, there is evidence that Elavil addiction is possible. Elavil depresses the central nervous system, an effect some find desirable, which can lead to misuse. An individual might abuse Elavil in order to feel relaxed, mildly euphoric, or sedated. Chronic use of the drug can cause physical dependence; a person that was simply taking a higher dose of Elavil due to pain can become accustomed to the presence of the drug in the system and effectively develop a dependence. In time, dependence can lead to addiction if left unchecked.
Signs that indicate someone may have an Elavil addiction include:
- Taking Elavil after it’s no longer needed or for longer than prescribed
- Losing interest in activities previously engaged in, including school, work, relationships, and hobbies
- Needing more and more Elavil to elicit the same effects
- Spending the majority of the day thinking about Elavil: how to get more, the effects it produces, and when to use it
- Constantly using the medication and being unable to stop
- Faking symptoms to get Elavil prescriptions
- Sudden changes in physical appearance, hygiene, and behavior
Another telling sign of Elavil addiction is abusing the medication in combination with another substance to produce a greater sense of euphoria. Alcohol is commonly abused alongside Elavil because the two substances heighten each others’ effects, causing the individual to experience a more intense sedation or high. People might also use Elavil as a way to come down from Stimulant drugs, such as Cocaine or Adderall.
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When those addicted to Elavil attempt to stop taking it or reduce doses, they will start to experience withdrawal symptoms. The severity of withdrawal is dependent on a variety of factors such as the time span over which the drug was taken, the dosage, and the physiology of the individual taking Elavil.
Common Elavil withdrawal symptoms include:
- Appetite changes
- Body aches
- Suicidal thoughts
Withdrawal symptoms are more likely to occur in individuals that were taking high doses of Elavil for a long time rather than a shorter course of treatment. It is never recommended that an addicted user try to quit Elavil “cold turkey” (abruptly quitting usage after prolonged, consistent use), as this causes the most severe withdrawal symptoms. The safest way to detox from Elavil is under the supervision of medical professionals using the tapering off method. Tapering off Elavil includes progressively reducing the dose of the drug over the course of a few weeks or months until eventually use stops completely. This reduces a user’s physical dependence on the drug and lessens the extremity of withdrawal.
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Elavil can be an effective way to help manage depression and chronic pain, but it’s important to remember that abuse of any prescription drug can be dangerous and lead to the development of a serious addiction. If you think that a loved one may be abusing or addicted to Elavil, know that there are multiple treatment options available.
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