Nortriptyline: What You Need to Know

May 9, 2023
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What is nortriptyline?

Nortriptyline is a medication used to treat a variety of mental health conditions and nerve pain. It is in a class of drugs called tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) that work by increasing the amount of two neurotransmitters known as serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. By doing so, it helps reduce feelings of depression and regulates mood. Nortriptyline is also sometimes used to treat chronic pain, headaches, and other conditions.

What is nortriptyline?

Nortriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant used to treat depression. It works by changing the balance of certain natural chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which are responsible for regulating mood. It is also used to treat chronic pain and nerve pain. It is available in capsule form and is usually taken one to four times per day. Common side effects of nortriptyline include dry mouth, drowsiness, sweating, constipation, dizziness, and blurred vision. Less common side effects include rash, weight gain, and changes in sex drive. It is important to stay in close contact with your doctor while taking nortriptyline so that any side effects can be monitored. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your medication.

What are the uses of nortriptyline?

Nortriptyline is primarily used to treat depression, but it can also be used to treat other mental health concerns such as panic disorder. Additionally, doctors sometimes recommend the drug for people suffering from insomnia, headaches, and chronic pain. Nortriptyline has also been used to help people quit smoking.

What are the side effects of nortriptyline?

Like all medications, nortriptyline can cause side effects. Common side effects include dry mouth, drowsiness, blurred vision, and constipation. Other more serious side effects include confusion, trouble speaking, seizures, abnormal heartbeat, and difficulty urinating. If any of these side effects occur, you should contact your doctor right away.

How to take nortriptyline

It’s important to take nortriptyline exactly as directed by your doctor. The dose, frequency, and time of day you take the drug will depend on your individual needs and medical condition. Generally, nortriptyline is taken one to three times a day with or without food. It’s important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions for taking the medication.

Can I split the nortriptyline capsule?

Nortriptyline capsules cannot be easily cut or split. If you need a smaller dose or have trouble swallowing the capsule, ask your pharmacist for help.

What should I do if I forget to take a dose?

If you forget to take a dose of nortriptyline, take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the regular time. Do not take a double dose of nortriptyline to make up for a missed dose.

What are some tips to help me remember to take my medication?

There are several ways to help you remember to take your medication. You could set an alarm on your phone or watch, keep your medication in a pill case, or put a reminder sign up in a place where you’ll see it. You could also ask a family member or friend to remind you to take your medication. If you are still having trouble remembering to take your medicine, talk to your pharmacist or doctor for suggestions.

Warnings while taking nortriptyline

Are there any birth defects linked to nortriptyline?

If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, start by talking to your healthcare provider about nortriptyline to discuss the best option for both you and your baby. When you find out you are pregnant, you may want to change the way you take nortriptyline or stop it altogether. But this can cause a relapse in depression which can negatively affect your baby’s health. To date, studies do not provide enough information to say if nortriptyline causes birth defects. In one study, 80 children who were exposed to nortriptyline during the first trimester had no decrease in IQ, language, or behavior compared to children who were not exposed to antidepressants.1 Babies born to mothers who took nortriptyline throughout pregnancy may have withdrawal symptoms after delivery, such as colic, irritability, blue skin, or breathing problems.

Does nortriptyline cause dependence?

Nortriptyline is not considered addictive, or likely to cause psychological or physical dependence.  However, people who take it for an extended period of time may experience withdrawal effects when they abruptly stop taking it, including mood changes, anxiety, sweating, changes in appetite, and dizziness. If you’re taking nortriptyline, talk to your doctor before stopping the medication.

What are some warnings for taking nortriptyline?

Nortriptyline can be an effective medication for treating conditions such as depression, but there are some important warnings associated with taking it. It can interact with other medications, potentially causing serious side effects. It can also cause dizziness and drowsiness as side effects, so it is important to avoid activities such as driving or operating machinery while taking it. Additionally, it can cause a dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome, so it is important to tell your doctor if you are taking any other medications that increase serotonin, such as SSRIs or MAOIs.

Are there any precautions I should take before taking nortriptyline?

Nortriptyline is generally considered to be a safe and effective medication for treating mood disorders. However, there are some important precautions that should be taken. It can interact with other medications, so it’s important to tell your doctor and pharmacist about any other medications and supplements you are taking before starting nortriptyline. Additionally, it can cause dizziness and drowsiness, so it is important to avoid activities such as driving or operating machinery while taking it, as well as activities that require alertness.

1Mother to Baby Fact Sheet. Nortriptyline. https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/nortriptyline-fs/pdf/

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