Elavil vs Prozac

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For patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) or other forms of depression, certain therapeutic drugs that modify the concentrations of neurotransmitters in the brain can help to stabilize mood swings and manage symptoms. Elavil and Prozac are two such medications frequently prescribed for this purpose. Both influence different neurotransmitters but have comparable effects on stabilizing moods in patients suffering from depression. Elavil, also known as Amitriptyline, is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA), which impacts both serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain while having additional antihistamine properties. On the other hand, Prozac is a selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), primarily affecting serotonin levels. The choice between these two drugs often depends on patient-specific factors such as their overall health status, comorbid conditions, symptom severity, and response to previous treatments.

What is Elavil?

Amitriptyline (the generic name for Elavil) was a prominent drug of the first class of antidepressant drugs, known as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). It was widely used before the development and approval of Fluoxetine (Prozac), which marked a significant progression in depression treatment by introducing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Amitriptyline works by increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that help regulate mood. While Prozac selectively targets serotonin with minimal influence on dopamine and norepinephrine, resulting in fewer side effects, Elavil affects all three neurotransmitters. This broader impact can often lead to more side effects when compared to SSRIs like Prozac. However, both medications are prescribed for various forms of depression and their use is determined based on individual patient needs.

What conditions is Elavil approved to treat?

Elavil is approved for the treatment of various types of depression:

  • Major depressive disorder, also known as unipolar depression
  • Endogenous depression, a type of major depressive disorder that's thought to be caused by internal factors rather than environmental triggers
  • Different anxiety disorders in conjunction with other medications or psychotherapy

How does Elavil help with these illnesses?

Elavil, also known as amitriptyline, manages depression by increasing the amounts of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain's synapses. It achieves this by inhibiting their reabsorption into neurons, thereby maintaining higher levels for longer periods. Both serotonin and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters that act as messengers in the brain and throughout the body. They play vital roles not only in mood regulation but also cognition, memory, sleep patterns among others. It is thought that individuals with depression have relatively lower levels of these neurotransmitters. By enhancing both serotonin and norepinephrine concentrations, Elavil can limit depressive symptoms effectively helping patients manage their condition better while stabilizing their mood significantly.

What is Prozac?

Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), meaning it increases the levels of serotonin in the brain by reducing its absorption. It does not act on other neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine or dopamine. Fluoxetine was first approved by the FDA in 1987 and has become one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants due to its efficacy and side-effect profile.

Unlike Elavil (amitriptyline) which is a tricyclic antidepressant affecting multiple neurotransmitters and more likely to cause sedation, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction, Prozac's primary action is on serotonin. This focus makes Prozac less likely to cause these common side effects associated with drugs like Elavil. The impact on serotonin can be beneficial for treating depression, particularly in patients who have not responded well to other types of antidepressant treatments.

What conditions is Prozac approved to treat?

Prozac is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of:

  • Major depressive disorder (MDD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by inappropriate methods to avoid weight gain.

How does Prozac help with these illnesses?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in mood regulation, sleep and appetite. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression. Prozac works by increasing the levels of serotonin available in the brain, which can help alleviate some symptoms of depression. Its action on norepinephrine and dopamine may also play roles in its effectiveness as an antidepressant but are less significant than its impact on serotonin levels. As such, it's typically prescribed as a first line treatment for depressive disorders due to its selective action on serotonin (hence being classified as an SSRI or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). It's often chosen when patients do not respond well to tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil, which affect multiple neurotransmitters and tend to have more side effects. Alternatively, it may be combined with these types of medications for a broader approach to treating resistant cases of depression.

How effective are both Elavil and Prozac?

Both amitriptyline (Elavil) and fluoxetine (Prozac) have well-established histories in treating patients with depression, though they were developed decades apart, with Elavil first approved by the FDA in 1961 and Prozac gaining approval in 1987. Since they belong to different classes of antidepressant drugs - tricyclic antidepressants for Elavil and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for Prozac - their mechanisms of action differ significantly.

The effectiveness of amitriptyline versus fluoxetine has been directly compared in several clinical trials over the years. For instance, a double-blind trial conducted in 1993 showed that both drugs were similarly effective at relieving symptoms of depression. However, there was a notable difference regarding side effects: while patients taking Prozac experienced less sedation and anticholinergic effects like dry mouth or constipation than those on Elavil, sexual dysfunction occurred more often among users of Prozac.

A review study from 2010 emphasized that fluoxetine is generally well-tolerated from the first week onwards; it also mentioned its favorable safety profile as compared to many other antidepressants. Indeed, due to its overall tolerability and fewer side effects, fluoxetine has become one of the most widely prescribed antidepressant medications worldwide.

On the other hand, while showing an equal efficacy rate as newer drugs like SSRIs when used alone for treating depressive disorders according to a meta-review published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal (2016), amitriptyline is usually considered only after initial therapies have failed due to its pronounced side effect profile including weight gain or sleepiness which can be burdensome for some individuals.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Elavil typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Elavil, also known as Amitriptyline, range from 25–150 mg/day for adults depending on the condition being treated. However, research suggests that a lower end dose of 50 mg/day is often sufficient to manage depression in most individuals. For adolescents and elderly patients, a lower initial dosage may be prescribed by physicians – typically starting at around 10 mg/day. If there's no improvement after several weeks of treatment, your doctor might increase the dosage gradually while closely monitoring any side effects. The maximum daily dosage should not exceed 300 mg under any circumstance.

At what dose is Prozac typically prescribed?

Prozac treatment typically begins at a dosage of 20 mg/day taken in the morning. Depending on the patient's response and tolerance to the medication, this can be increased after several weeks to a maximum dose of 80 mg/day. The higher dosages are usually divided into two doses per day for better absorption and efficacy. It is important to note that Prozac has a long half-life meaning it stays longer in your system compared to other drugs, so changes in dosage should always be done gradually under medical supervision. If there isn't any significant improvement or if adverse effects persist after upping the dose, consult with your healthcare provider immediately.

What are the most common side effects for Elavil?

Common side effects of Elavil, or amitriptyline, can include:

  • Drowsiness (somnolence)
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in sexual desire or ability (decreased libido)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rash or urticaria
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight causing skin reactions -Anxiety and nervousness

On the other hand, Prozac, also known as fluoxetine, may cause these common side effects:

-Nervousness -Nausea -Dry mouth
-Sleep problems like insomnia or unusual dreams
-Decreased appetite leading to weight loss. However some people might experience an increased appetite and weight gain. -Decrease in sex drive and difficulty reaching orgasm. -Impotence

It's important for patients to remember that everyone reacts differently to medications. Therefore they should discuss all possible benefits and risks with their healthcare provider before starting any new medication regimen.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Elavil?

When comparing Elavil to Prozac, it's important to note that both medications can potentially cause serious side effects. For Elavil (Amitriptyline), these may include:

  • Increased suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Signs of an allergic reaction: difficulty breathing, hives, swelling in your face or throat
  • Vision changes such as blurred vision or seeing halos around lights
  • Heart issues like fast heartbeats, chest fluttering/pressure/pain, shortness of breath and sudden dizziness
  • Low sodium levels - symptoms might include headache, confusion, slurred speech, severe weakness,vomiting and feeling unsteady
  • Severe nervous system reaction with symptoms like rigid muscles, high fever,sweating ,confusion ,fast heartbeats,tremors and a possibility of fainting.

For Prozac (Fluoxetine), some people may experience Serotonin Syndrome characterized by agitation,hallucinations ,fever,sweating ,shivering,muscle stiffness,twitching loss of coordination nausea vomiting or diarrhea. Please always consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice based on your medical history and current medications.

What are the most common side effects for Prozac?

Prozac, a widely used antidepressant, can potentially cause the following side effects:

  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Sweating or feeling hot
  • Nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Sleep problems including insomnia
  • Feeling jittery or nervous
  • A faster heartbeat than usual
  • Unusual thoughts of harm to oneself (suicidal ideation)
  • Skin rash or hives
    -Increased frequency of urination -Muscle weakness and aches -Persistent headaches and dizziness.

It's crucial to note that not everyone will experience these side effects, but if you do notice any bothersome symptoms while taking Prozac, it's essential that you consult your healthcare provider promptly.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Prozac?

Although Prozac is generally well-tolerated, it can cause some serious side effects in rare cases. These might include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction: hives, itching, fever, swollen glands or difficulty breathing; swelling of your face or throat
  • Severe skin reaction including sore throat, burning eyes and skin pain accompanied by a red or purple rash that blisters and peels
  • Increase in suicidal thoughts or ideation about self-harm
  • Sudden confusion or unusual changes in mood and behavior
  • Vision problems such as blurred vision, seeing halos around lights and eye pain coupled with swelling
  • Cardiovascular issues like fast-paced irregular heartbeats
  • Manifestations akin to a manic episode which may encompass racing thoughts, increased energy levels leading to reckless behavior; feeling exceedingly happy or irritable more than usual along with severe sleep disturbances.

If you experience any of these symptoms while taking Prozac contact your doctor immediately.

Contraindications for Elavil and Prozac?

Just like Prozac, Elavil could potentially exacerbate symptoms of depression in certain individuals. If you observe an intensification of depressive symptoms or a rise in suicidal thoughts or behavior while on these medications, please seek medical attention immediately.

Elavil and Prozac should not be used concurrently with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). It is crucial to inform your healthcare provider about any medication you are currently taking; if MAOIs have been part of your regimen, there should be at least a 5-week gap before beginning treatment with either Elavil or Prozac to avoid harmful drug interactions.

How much do Elavil and Prozac cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price for 30 tablets of Elavil (25 mg) averages around $400, which works out to roughly $13–26/day, depending on your dose.
  • The cost for 30 capsules of Prozac (20 mg) averages about $570, working out to approximately $19/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Elavil (i.e., 150 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Prozac is less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be a primary consideration in determining which of these drugs is right for you.

For the generic versions of Prozac (fluoxetine) and Elavil (amitriptyline), costs are significantly lower:

  • Amitriptyline is available in packs from 15 up to several hundreds with approximate costs ranging from as low as $0.10 per day up to about $1.50 per day based on dosages between 25mg and upwards till about 300mg daily.

  • Fluoxetine follows similar trends being available in packs starting from sizes as small as 15 going up all the way till packs containing upto1000 capsules. Costs can start from just around five cents daily when purchased upfront and typically do not exceed ninety cents even at larger doses.

Popularity of Elavil and Prozac

Amitriptyline, commonly known by the brand name Elavil, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 2.5 million people in the US in 2020. Amitriptyline accounted for nearly 9% of tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) prescriptions in the US. Despite being an older class of antidepressants now superseded by SSRIs and other newer medications due to their better side effect profiles, TCAs like amitriptyline are still prescribed today for various uses including chronic pain syndromes and migraines.

Fluoxetine, including brand versions such as Prozac, was prescribed to approximately 4.7 million people in the USA during that same year. In the US market, fluoxetine accounts for just under 20% of SSRI prescriptions and slightly less than 10% of overall antidepressant prescriptions. The prevalence of fluoxetine has remained fairly steady over recent years despite increased competition from newer classes of antidepressants.


Both Elavil (amitriptyline) and Prozac (fluoxetine) have a long-standing history of use in treating depression, backed by a plethora of clinical studies indicating their efficacy over placebo treatments. Occasionally, the drugs may be used in conjunction; however, this necessitates meticulous consideration by a physician due to potential interactions. Their mechanisms of action differ, with Prozac primarily affecting serotonin reuptake inhibition while Elavil acts on multiple neurotransmitters including norepinephrine and serotonin.

Prozac is typically considered as a first-line treatment option for depression due to its more tolerable side effect profile compared to tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil. Conversely, Elavil can often be seen as an alternative or adjunct therapy for patients who haven't responded well to SSRIs or those dealing with concurrent issues such as nerve pain or migraines where its broader mechanism of action may offer additional benefits.

Both medications are available in generic form which constitutes significant savings especially for uninsured patients. It should be noted that both medications require some time—often several weeks—to reach full therapeutic effects.

In terms of side effects, both drugs generally exhibit good tolerance but they do differ significantly: While sexual dysfunction and changes in weight are common concerns with Prozac use, Elavil has been associated with anticholinergic effects such as dry mouth, constipation and urinary retention along with drowsiness due to its sedative properties. For all antidepressant users regardless of type or brand name it's crucially important that any changes in mood—especially any worsening depressive symptoms or emerging suicidal ideation—are reported immediately to healthcare professionals.