What Is the Difference Between Amitriptyline and Nortriptyline?

Amitriptyline is made in tablet form, while nortriptyline is available in capsule and liquid form.
Side effects of amitriptyline and nortriptyline may include fatigue.
Amitriptyline and nortriptyline are medications that are both used to treat depression.
Amitriptyline and nortriptyline withdrawal symptoms may include headache.
Article Details
  • Written By: Jay Leone
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article

Amitriptyline and nortriptyline are both prescription-strength medications used to treat symptoms associated with depression. Both medications belong to a class of drugs referred to as tricyclic antidepressants. Each increases the production of certain chemicals in the brain that are essential to maintaining mental balance. Aside from the fact that nortriptyline is manufactured in two forms while amitriptyline manufacturers exclusively produce their product in tablet form, there are few differences between these medications.

While amitriptyline is made in tablet form, nortriptyline is available in capsule form and liquid form. Doses of both medications are designed to be taken anywhere between one and four times daily as directed by a doctor. Doctors tend to start patients on lower doses of amitriptyline and nortriptyline before they begin outlining a regimen involving higher doses of these medications. A patient may begin to experience a lessening of the symptoms of depression shortly after taking these medications, and be tempted to discontinue use his or her doctor recommends. Discontinuing use prematurely however, may result in a resurgence of symptoms.

Both of these medications are used in treatment plans for other types of illnesses and conditions. Post-herpetic neuralgia refers to the burning, pains, and aches associated with a former shingles infection. Amitriptyline and nortriptyline can both be used as part of a post-herpetic neuralgia treatment plan. Nortriptyline can also be prescribed to treat panic disorders while amitriptyline is often used to prevent migraines and treat certain eating disorders.

Ad

Some patients may experience side effects while taking either of these medications. Common side effects linked with these medications include nausea, weakness or tiredness, dry mouth and blurred vision. Less common but more severe side effects linked with amitriptyline use include severe hives or skin rash outbreaks, rapid or irregular heartbeat, fainting and hallucinating. More severe nortriptyline side effects include high fever, difficulty breathing and yellowing of the eyes or skin. Patients experiencing severe reactions to either of these medications should immediately seek professional medical attention.

Regular amitriptyline and nortriptyline use can be habit-forming. Patients may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache and nausea after abruptly discontinuing use of these medications. Most doctors will gradually decrease a patient's dose of these medications as part of a post-treatment plan to discourage the development of withdrawal symptoms.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

anon925237
Post 4

I have used both and prefer nortriptyline. I think it has fewer side effects.

turquoise
Post 3

I think that nortriptyline is a superior drug to amitriptyline. Nortriptyline is basically the newer version of amitriptyline. Nortriptyline has less side effects and a longer half-life. The good part about a longer half-life is that it makes withdrawal easier.

ddljohn
Post 2

@donasmrs-- I don't think that amitriptyline and notriptyline are too different in terms of side effects. I'm on notriptyline and it gives me headaches, dry mouth and increased appetite. It also made my depression worse in the beginning of treatment and then slowly got better.

I'm not a doctor though, so you need to speak to your doctor about your side effects and the possibility of switching to another medication.

Also, people respond differently to medications. So nortriptyline might give me a lot of side effects and give you very little. It depends on a lot of factors like your dose, your body weight, tolerance and interactions with other medications. So it would be best to ask your doctor and then try nortriptyline for yourself if your doctor approves.

donasmrs
Post 1

Has anyone been on both of these medications? In your experience, which has less side effects and works better for depression?

I'm on amitripyline and it's causing weight gain as a side effect. Since nortripyline is in the same family, I would like to switch to it if it has less side effects. Is this a good idea?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email