Tricyclic antidepressants are medicines that relieve mental depression.
Since their discovery in the 1950s, tricyclic antidepressants have been used to treat mental depression. Like other antidepressant drugs, they reduce symptoms such as extreme sadness, hopelessness, and lack of energy. Some tricyclic antidepressants are also used to treat bulimia, cocaine withdrawal, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, certain types of chronic pain, and bed-wetting in children.
Named for their three-ring chemical structure, tricyclic antidepressants work by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. But because they also affect other chemicals throughout the body, these drugs may produce many unwanted side effects.
Tricyclic antidepressants are available only with a physician's prescription and are sold in tablet, capsule, liquid, and injectable forms. Some commonly used tricyclic antidepressants are amitriptyline (Elavil), desipramine (Norpramin), imipramine (Tofranil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), and protriptyline (Vivactil). Different drugs in this family have different effects, and physicians can choose the drug that best fits the patient's symptoms. For example, a physician might prescribe Elavil for a person with depression who has trouble sleeping, because this drug is more likely to make people feel calm and sleepy. Other tricyclic antidepressants might be more appropriate for depressed people with low energy.
The recommended dosage depends on many factors, including the patient's age, weight, general health and symptoms. The type of tricyclic antidepressant and its strength also must be considered. Check with the physician who prescribed the drug or the pharmacist who filled the prescription for the correct dosage.
Always take tricyclic antidepressants exactly as directed. Never take larger or more frequent doses, and do not take the drug for longer than directed. Do not stop taking the medicine just because it does not seem to be working. Several weeks may be needed for its effects to be felt. Visit the physician as often as recommended so that the physician can check to see if the drug is working and to note for side effects.
Do not stop taking this medicine suddenly after taking it for several weeks or more. Gradually tapering the dose may be necessary to reduce the chance of withdrawal symptoms.
Taking this medicine with food may prevent upset stomach.
Nancy Ross-Flanigan, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,