What is nortriptyline, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- amitriptyline (Endep, Elavil),
- clomipramine (Anafranil),
- doxepin (Sinequan),
- imipramine (Tofranil),
- trimipramine (Surmontil),
- amoxapine (Amoxapine),
- desipramine (Norpramin), and
- protriptyline (Vivactil).
Individuals with depression may have an imbalance in neurotransmitters, chemicals that nerves make and use to communicate with other nerves. Like all TCAs, nortriptyline increases levels of norepinephrine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters, and blocks the action of acetylcholine, another neurotransmitter. It is believed that by restoring the balance of these different neurotransmitters in the brain depression is alleviated (for example, the mood is elevated).
Nortriptyline was approved by the FDA in November 1964.
What brand names are available for nortriptyline?
Pamelor (The brand name Aventyl has been discontinued in the US)
What are the side effects of nortriptyline?
The most commonly encountered side effects associated with nortriptyline include:
- Fast heart rate
- Blurred vision
- Urinary retention
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain or loss
- Low blood pressure on standing (orthostatic hypotension)
Rare side effects include:
Nortriptyline also can cause elevated pressure in the eyes of some patients with glaucoma.
If nortriptyline is discontinued abruptly, headache, nausea, and general discomfort may occur. Therefore, it is recommended that the dose of antidepressant be reduced gradually when therapy is discontinued.
Antidepressants increased the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in short-term studies in children and adolescents with depression and other psychiatric disorders. Anyone considering the use of nortriptyline or any other antidepressant in a child or adolescent must balance this risk with the clinical need. Patients who are started on therapy should be closely observed for clinical worsening, suicidal thinking or behavior, and unusual changes in behavior.
- What is nortriptyline, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?
- What brand names are available for nortriptyline?
- Is nortriptyline available as a generic drug?
- Do I need a prescription for nortriptyline?
- What are the side effects of nortriptyline?
- What is the dosage for nortriptyline?
- Which drugs or supplements interact with nortriptyline?
- Is nortriptyline safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should I know about nortriptyline?
Which drugs or supplements interact with nortriptyline?
TCAs, including nortriptyline, should not be used concurrently with a monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as tranylcypromine (Parnate), isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), and procarbazine (Matulane) because of the possibility of hyperpyretic crises (high fever), convulsions, and even death.
Cimetidine (Tagamet) can increase blood levels of nortriptyline in the blood by interfering with the metabolism (breakdown) of nortriptyline by the liver. Increased levels of nortriptyline may possibly lead to side effects. Other drugs which share this effect on nortriptyline include propafenone (Rythmol), flecainide (Tonocard), quinidine (Quinidex, Quinaglute), and fluoxetine (Prozac).
Nortriptyline exaggerates the effects of other medications and drugs that slow the activity of the brain, such as alcohol, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, for example lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and diazepam (Valium), as well as narcotics. Reserpine (Harmonyl), stimulates the brain when given to patients taking nortriptyline.
Combining nortriptyline or other TCAs with drugs that block acetylcholine (anticholinergic drugs) can cause constipation and even paralyze the intestine (paralytic ileus). Dangerous elevations in blood pressure may occur if TCA's are combined with clonidine (Catapres, Catapres-TTS).
Is nortriptyline safe to take if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
Safe use of nortriptyline during pregnancy has not been established. Doctors may use nortriptyline in pregnant women if its benefits are deemed to outweigh its potential but unknown risks.
Safe use of nortriptyline during lactation has not been established. It is not known if nortriptyline is secreted in breast milk.
Nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl) belongs to the drug class called tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and is used for treating depression. Off-label (non-FDA approved) use of nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl) include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults, children and adolescents, adjunctive therapy for chronic pain conditions. Side effects, warnings and precautions, drug interactions, and other drug information should be reviewed prior to taking this drug.
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