Are you dissatisfied with your anxiety or depression medication, or would you like to learn more about different treatment options? There are a large number of medications available, which can make this process feel overwhelming.
In this article, we will discuss the major differences between two commonly prescribed tricyclic medications: Doxepin and Amitriptyline. Although these two medications are a part of the same family of drugs, there are a number of key differences between them that we’ll outline. We’ll cover the basics, including how they work, common side effects, and some warnings associated with each medication.
This article is intended to help you understand the differences between Doxepin and Amitriptyline for educational purposes. However, you should never attempt to self-medicate or self-diagnose your symptoms.
A medical professional on Klarity can help you navigate the process and offer you a professional evaluation, diagnosis, and prescription through convenient and affordable online anxiety treatment, if applicable. Schedule an appointment to meet with a licensed healthcare provider in your state within 48 hours.
|Drug Class||Tricyclic antidepressant||Tricyclic antidepressant|
|Brand / Generic Status||Generic (Brand name: Silenor)||Generic (Brand name: Elavil)|
|Form(s) of the Drug||• Capsules|
• Clear, blueberry-mint flavored liquid suspension
• Topical cream (for itching)
• Yellow, fruit-flavored liquid suspension
• 10mg per dose
• 5% formula
• 10mg per dose
|Conditions Treated||FDA-approved uses:|
• Major depressive disorder
• Anxiety disorder
• Itchiness due to atopic dermatitis, pruritus, or lichen simplex chronicus
• Topical neuropathic pain
• Major depressive disorder
• Anxiety disorder
• Chronic fibromyalgia pain
• Nerve pain
• Sleep disorders
• Bladder pain
• Irritable bowel syndrome
|Cost||Generic form (doxepin)|
• $36 to $90 for a 30-day supply
• $8 for a 30-day supply with coupons/discounts
|Generic form (amitriptyline):
• $140 to $300 for a 30-day supply
• $4 for a 30-day supply with insurance or coupon card
|Side-Effects||Common side effects:|
• Agitation, confusion
• Black, tarry stools, bleeding gums, blood in urine or stool
• Blurred vision
• A sensation of burning, itching, or “pins and needles” on the skin
• Chest pain or tightness, fast or irregular heartbeat
• Chills, cold sweats
• Urinary retention
• Dizziness upon standing, loss of consciousness
• Hearing loss
• Muscle spasms, stiffness, twitching
|Common side effects:
• Drowsiness, blurred vision
• Dry mouth, constipation
• Weight gain
• Difficulty urinating
• Persistent heartburn
• Easy bruising or bleeding
• Black stools
• Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
• Muscle spasms, shaking
• Severe abdominal pain
• Decreased libido
• Enlarged or painful breasts
• Severe dizziness, fainting, seizures, confusion
• Eye pain, redness or swelling, vision changes
|Warnings For Use||Drug interactions:|
• Thyroid supplements
• Anticholinergic drugs
• Some blood pressure medications: clonidine
• MAO inhibitors: isocarboxazid, linezolid, metaxalone, methylene blue
• St. John's Wort
• Drugs to treat irregular heart rate
• Many other antidepressants: SSRIs
• Type 1C antiarrhythmics
• MAO inhibitors
• Thyroid medication
• Alcohol, barbiturates and other CNS depressants
• Anticholinergic drugs
Amitriptyline and Doxepin Are the Same Class of Drugs (Tricyclics)
Doxepin and Amitriptyline belong to the class of medications called tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and are commonly prescribed to treat depression and anxiety disorders. This class of medications is among some of the oldest forms of antidepressant medications that were developed, but due to their side effect profile, they are no longer commonly prescribed.
However, this type of medication remains to be a good treatment option for some, especially those with treatment-resistant anxiety or depression. If SSRIs, SNRIs, or benzodiazepines aren’t effectively treating your symptoms, speak to your healthcare provider about trying tricyclic antidepressants.
What Are Tricyclics?
Tricyclic antidepressants are a class of drugs that work by acting on a number of different chemical neurotransmitter pathways or messaging systems in the brain to improve mood. TCAs block the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, leading to increased levels of these chemicals. They work in the brain to elevate mood, slow down activity, as well as relieve itching.
Amitriptyline and Doxepin Are Both Used To Treat Major Depressive Disorder
Amitriptyline and Doxepin are two common medications used in the treatment of major depressive disorder and various anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Despite having the same mechanism of action, there are a number of differences between these medications.
What Else Does Amitriptyline Treat?
In addition to anxiety and depression, Amitriptyline is used to treat and prevent migraines and can be used to treat schizophrenia with depression.
Off-label Uses for Amitriptyline:
- Chronic pain – fibromyalgia
- Nerve pain, including postherpetic neuralgia
- Irritable Chronic fatigue syndrome-related sleep disorders
- Bladder pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
What Else Does Doxepin Treat?
In addition to anxiety and depression, Doxepin is used to treat insomnia.
Off-label Uses for Doxepin
- Itchiness caused by atopic dermatitis, pruritus, or lichen simplex chronicus
- Topical neuropathic pain
Doxepin: Doses, Dosage Form, and Side Effects
What is Doxepin?
Doxepin is a tricyclic antidepressant that is used to treat anxiety, depression, and hives. It acts on the neurochemistry of your brain by increasing serotonin and norepinephrine.
Common Doxepin Doses and Forms
Doxepin is available in capsule, tablet, and solution forms. Capsules come in 10, 25, 50, 75, 100, and 150 mg dosing, tablets are available in 3 and 6 mg dosing, and solutions are 10 mg/mL dosing only. In addition, there is a 5% topical cream used when prescribed for itching.
The initial dose of Doxepin typically starts at 75 mg once daily for the treatment of anxiety. This dose can then be slowly titrated up to a maximum dose of 150 mg/day. Your healthcare provider will help determine which dose is best for you based on your clinical symptoms and ability to tolerate the medication.
Common Doxepin Side Effects
Like any medication, there are some common side effects to keep in mind when starting a new medication.
Some of the most common side effects associated with Doxepin include:
- Agitation, confusion
- Black, tarry stools, bleeding gums, blood in urine or stool
- Blurred vision
- A sensation of burning, itching, or “pins and needles” on the skin
- Chest pain or tightness, fast or irregular heartbeat
- Chills, cold sweats
- Urinary retention
- Dizziness upon standing, loss of consciousness
- Hearing loss
- Muscle spasms, stiffness, twitching
Common Doxepin Drug Interactions
As always, it is important to discuss all medications, including over-the-counter medications and supplements, with your healthcare provider before starting a new medication.
Some common drug interactions with Doxepin include:
- Thyroid supplements
- Anticholinergic drugs
- Some blood pressure medications: clonidine
- MAO inhibitors: isocarboxazid, linezolid, metaxalone, methylene blue
- St. John’s Wort
- Drugs to treat irregular heart rate
Licensed providers on Klarity provide personalized mental health treatment. Find a provider that matches your needs and preferences.
How Much Does Doxepin Cost?
Doxepin is relatively affordable with the use of coupon cards and is covered by the majority of insurance providers. A 30-day supply of capsules ranges from $36 – $90 based on dosing and is significantly reduced with coupon cards—around $8.
Amitriptyline: Doses, Dosage Form, and Side Effects
What is Amitriptyline?
Amitriptyline is a tricyclic antidepressant that is used to improve mood and treat nerve pain and insomnia. It acts on the neurochemistry of your brain by increasing serotonin and norepinephrine.
Common Amitriptyline Doses and Forms
Amitriptyline is available as a tablet or solution. Tablets come in 10, 25, 50, 75, 100, and 150 mg dosing and the solution is 10 mg/mL. The average dose for anxiety is 75 mg and is taken at bedtime.
The typical maximum dose on an outpatient basis is 150 mg per day, although when used in an acute hospitalized setting, patients may require up to 300 mg per day.
Common Amitriptyline Side Effects
As with other medications, Amitriptyline is commonly associated with side effects. Everyone reacts to medication differently when initially starting a new medication and with different doses.
Some common side effects of Amitriptyline include:
- Drowsiness, blurred vision
- Dry mouth, constipation
- Weight gain
- Difficulty urinating
- Persistent heartburn
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Black stools
- Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Muscle spasms, shaking
- Severe abdominal pain
- Decreased libido
- Enlarged or painful breasts
- Severe dizziness, fainting, seizures, confusion
- Eye pain, redness or swelling, vision changes
Common Amitriptyline Drug Interactions
There are a number of drug interactions associated with Amitriptyline, and it is important that you disclose all medications that you are currently taking with your healthcare provider, including over-the-counter medications and supplements.
Some common drug interactions with Amitriptyline include:
- Many other antidepressants: SSRIs
- Type 1C antiarrhythmics
- MAO inhibitors
- Thyroid medication
- Alcohol, barbiturates & other CNS depressants
- Anticholinergic drugs
How Much Does Amitriptyline Cost?
Amitriptyline ranges from $140 – $300 for a 30-day supply, based on dose and frequency. This medication is covered by most insurances, and the price is significantly reduced with the use of coupon cards—around $4 for a 30-day supply.
Do I Need A Prescription for Amitriptyline or Doxepin?
Yes, you need a prescription from a healthcare provider for both medications.
Schedule an appointment with a provider on Klarity to discuss your current symptoms and find out which medication, if any, may work best for you.
Other Complications of Tricyclics:
Serotonin Syndrome is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs from high levels of serotonin accumulated in the body. Signs and symptoms include:
- Altered mental status: agitation, confusion, anxiety, delirium, coma
- Autonomic dysfunction: high blood pressure, fast heart rate, sweating, overheating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Neuromuscular abnormalities: tremor, exaggerated reflexes, muscle rigidity, involuntary movements
- Serious complications: breakdown of muscle, metabolic acidosis, kidney or respiratory failure, seizures, and even death
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding on Tricyclics
TCAs are typically avoided during pregnancy due to the following complications:
- Spontaneous abortion
- High blood pressure, preeclampsia
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Preterm birth
- Postnatal effects: withdrawal symptoms, hypoglycemia, respiratory illness, jaundice
Breastfeeding while on TCAs is viewed as generally safe for the infant, due to the relatively low drug levels found in breast milk.
- Nortriptyline is the preferred tricyclic for lactating women who are beginning treatment postpartum
- Doxepin is avoided due to its long half-life
Increased Bleeding Risk With Tricyclics
TCAs do not appear to increase bleeding risk when used alone. This is unlike other antidepressants, such as SSRIs, which have a significantly increased bleeding risk, especially when used with over-the-counter pain relievers.
TCAs prevent Warfarin, a common anticoagulant, from metabolizing and breaking down in the body. When taking both medications simultaneously, there could potentially be an increased risk of bleeding.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Black, tarry stools
- Severe abdominal pain
- Easy bruising
- Bleeding gums
Doxepin and Amitriptyline Frequently Asked Questions
Are Doxepin, Amitriptyline, and other Tricyclics the same drug?
No, they are all different medications but belong to the same class of medications that act in similar ways on your brain’s neurotransmitters. They have similar side effects and drug interactions but are not identical.
Why is Doxepin an off-label treatment for anxiety?
Doxepin is considered an off-label treatment for anxiety because there are other medications that are safer and more effective in treating anxiety, like SSRIs for example.
What’s better for anxiety? Doxepin or Amitriptyline?
Of the two medications, Doxepin is a better medication to treat anxiety. Although, due to the safety and efficacy of other medications, TCAs are rarely used to treat anxiety alone.
What’s better for depression? Doxepin or Amitriptyline?
Amitriptyline is a better medication to treat depression when compared to Doxepin. Yet, due to the extensive side effect profiles of both medications, they are no longer considered first-line medications to treat anxiety or depression.
Tricyclics are typically prescribed when patients’ bodies don’t respond to other anxiety or depression medications, or when healthcare providers are concerned about the long-term effects of benzodiazepines.
Can I drive on antidepressants like Doxepin or Amitriptyline?
Due to the sedative effects of TCAs, people taking Doxepin or Amitriptyline should be instructed by their prescribing physician not to drive or operate machinery after taking the medication.
Can I drink alcohol on Doxepin or Amitriptyline?
No, you should avoid alcohol consumption while taking TCAs due to the sedating effects of both substances. When taken together, there is a greater risk for safety and health concerns, such as falls and depression of the central nervous system, which can be lethal.
Does it matter what time of day I take Doxepin or Amitriptyline?
Yes, these medications should be taken at night before bed due to their sedating effects.
Find the Right Medication for Your Anxiety with Healthcare Providers on Klarity
There are a large number of prescription medications and treatment modalities used to treat anxiety. With so many options, finding the right medication may seem like a challenge to some people.
Let Klarity connect you with a licensed medical professional in your state for online anxiety treatment. Your provider will develop an individualized treatment plan based on your symptoms, and can prescribe medications like Doxepin or Amitriptyline if they feel it is right for you.
If you need affordable online care at your convenience, with no insurance, subscriptions, or hidden fees, schedule an appointment today.