It is always important when taking any prescription medication to carefully follow the instructions. For most antidepressants like Elavil, those instructions include not mixing alcohol with the drug. This can be a particularly challenging rule for some people who rely on alcohol for socialization and who do not like the idea of becoming the ‘one who doesn’t drink.’
However, this instruction is there for a reason: mixing amitriptyline with alcohol can be dangerous and can make you prone to an accident or blackout. In this guide, we will go over the dangers of drinking alcohol with Elavil and the reasons why you should avoid it.
Elavil is a common brand of the drug amitriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA). This type of antidepressant was amongst the first to be developed and distributed, which means that Elavil has been around since the 1960s. Since then, advances in medical research have led to the creation of more sophisticated antidepressants, namely SSRIs and SNRIs, which have taken over in popularity due to their reduced side effects.
However, Elavil is still often prescribed because of its success with chronic and neuropathic pain, including the pain associated with illnesses such as fibromyalgia and arthritis. It can also, in higher doses, have the added benefit of tackling both the chronic pain and any depression and anxiety caused by it.
Common side effects of Elavil include:
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Weight gain
- Trouble urinating
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Loss of libido
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One of the main side effects of amitriptyline is drowsiness and fatigue. This is so common that most doctors will tell patients to take their dose 30 minutes before bed so that it helps them sleep and keeps them awake during the day. However, this is not an option for everyone, as Elavil is often taken in several small doses throughout the day.
The main reason why amitriptyline should not be mixed with alcohol is that alcohol is a depressant, meaning it too causes fatigue and drowsiness. Combining the two can increase the effect, making you excessively sleepy and reducing alertness. In extreme cases, this could lead to passing out or blackouts. Drinking can also exacerbate other side effects of Elavil, like dizziness and headaches.
If you are drinking, you should not be driving or operating heavy machinery at all. However, if you have combined alcohol and Elavil, you should be wary of doing so even the day after, and the effects can stay in your body for a while. Also, avoid any other activities that require you to be alert, such as cycling, using gym equipment or supervising children.
Do not try to get around the issue by ‘skipping’ a dosage of amitriptyline so that you can drink: this could trigger withdrawal symptoms which can range from unpleasant (headaches, nausea, lack of concentration) to dangerous (anxiety and panic attacks, depression, thoughts of suicide). Stick to your prescribed treatment schedule; if you cannot avoid drinking, only do so in an environment where you are comfortable and surrounded by friends who are aware of your medication.
Overall, it is true that the negative effects of mixing alcohol and amitriptyline are not as serious as with some other antidepressants. The main risk lies in making you excessively drowsy, which can be dangerous. This is more likely to happen if you have just started taking Elavil or if you have just increased your dose.
As a rule, avoid drinking when taking Elavil, as this is the easiest way to make sure you stay safe. If you do choose to drink, the main thing to remember is to avoid driving or heavy machinery, even the day after drinking, and to make sure you have a plan for getting home safely at the beginning of the night. If you know you are going to be drinking and taking Elavil, let your friends know and ask them to keep an eye on you. If you start feeling excessively sleepy, drowsy or dizzy, ask them to help you get home.
Essentially, you do not want to mix amitriptyline and alcohol in any environment or situation that requires you to be alert and aware of your surroundings. If you would not be comfortable being drowsy in a certain place or situation, do not drink alcohol in that situation whilst you are on your course of Elavil.