Compare Effexor vs. Elavil

Head-to-head comparisons of medication uses, side effects, ratings, and more.

Effexor
(Venlafaxine)

Elavil
(Amitriptyline)

Improves mood and helps you relax. Effexor (Venlafaxine) is good for treating depression and anxiety. May work when other antidepressants haven't, it's but more likely to cause side effects and withdrawal symptoms than other antidepressants.Improves mood and relieves certain kinds of pain. Elavil (Amitriptyline) is an older antidepressant that's sometimes used to treat pain and sleep problems, but it can have more side effects than similar medications.
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Reviews & ratings
Button Group. All currently active
Button Group. All currently active
5.041304347826087Effexor
Reviews for Effexor (Venlafaxine)
61%
of people say Effexor (Venlafaxine) is worth it
50%
say it works well
22%
say it's a big hassle
Reviews for Elavil (Amitriptyline)
52%
9% vs. Effexor (Venlafaxine)
34%
16% vs. Effexor (Venlafaxine)
23%
1% vs. Effexor (Venlafaxine)
Side effects
EffexorElavil
  • Nausea 42%
  • Drowsiness 22%
  • Dizziness 20%
  • Nervousness 17%
  • Sleep difficulty 16%
  • Loss of appetite 15%
  • Sweating 14%
  • Dry mouth 13%
  • Dry mouth 11%
  • Muscle weakness 10%
More Effexor side effects »

The Elavil FDA package insert doesn’t have numbers about how common side effects are.

More about Elavil side effects »
How it works
EffexorElavil
Effexor (Venlafaxine) is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) antidepressant. It increases serotonin and norepinephrine activity in the brain, which regulate mood.Elavil (Amitriptyline) is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA). Researchers don't know exactly how it works. It may change serotonin and norepinephrine activity in the brain, which regulates mood and pain perception. It also has sedative effects.
Type of medication
EffexorElavil
Antidepressant
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI)
Prescription only
Antidepressant
Tricyclic antidepressant (TCA)
Prescription only
Available as
EffexorElavil
  • Pill
  • Extended release
  • Pill
Used for (click to learn more)
EffexorElavil
How well it works for depression
The free Iodine Start program helps people track how well they are improving, and find the right antidepressant faster.

After 4 weeks using Start and Effexor (Venlafaxine), here’s how much better people feel.

The free Iodine Start program (personal reports and coaching) is currently only for antidepressants. For now, you can read our pharmacist info about this medication.Learn more about Elavil (Amitriptyline)
Risk factors for serious side effects
EffexorElavil
  • Age 24 years or younger
  • Using other medications that affect serotonin
  • Stopping Effexor (Venlafaxine) suddenly
  • History of high blood pressure
  • Taking other blood-thinning drugs
    • History of bipolar disorder
    • At risk for bipolar disorder
    Detailed Effexor (Venlafaxine) risks & warnings »
    • Age 24 years or younger
    • History of bipolar disorder
    • At risk for bipolar disorder
    • History of cardiovascular disease
    • Age 65 years or older
    • Age 65 years or older
    Detailed Elavil (Amitriptyline) risks & warnings »
    Pregnancy category
    EffexorElavil
    CFDA pregnancy category (Weigh risks vs. benefits)

    Research studies with animals found harmful effects on unborn babies. It hasn’t been properly studied in humans. The benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

    See the FDA package insert
    CFDA pregnancy category (Weigh risks vs. benefits)

    Research studies with animals found harmful effects on unborn babies. It hasn’t been properly studied in humans. The benefits might outweigh the risks even if you’re pregnant. Talk with your doctor.

    See the FDA package insert
    Alcohol
    No specific alcohol-related info.No specific alcohol-related info.
    Food
    • You can take the extended-release form once a day with food either in the morning or in the evening at about the same time each day.
    No specific food-related info.
    Kidneys and liver
    No specific kidneys and liver-related info.No specific kidneys and liver-related info.
    Sex
    • Can cause sexual side effects like low libido and an inability to orgasm or ejaculate.
    • Effexor (Venlafaxine) can cause lower sex drive or difficulty having an orgasm. If the problem persists after the first 2 to 3 months, you can talk to your doctor about alternative antidepressants or performance-enhancing medications.
    No specific sex-related info.
    Sleep
    • Causes more sleepiness than other antidepressants, so it's good for people who have trouble sleeping.
    • Stopping Effexor (Venlafaxine) suddenly may cause withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, agitation, flu-like symptoms, trouble sleeping, and dizziness. Withdrawal symptoms usually occur within 3 days of stopping the medication, and go away within 1 to 2 weeks. Work with your doctor to gradually reduce your dose.
    • Low doses of Elavil (Amitriptyline) start working in 45 minutes to help you sleep better.
    • Can cause dizziness, drowsiness, constipation, and weight gain.
    Weight
    No specific weight-related info.
    • It's more likely to cause sleepiness, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and weight gain (1 to 5 pounds) than other antidepressants.
    • Can cause dizziness, drowsiness, constipation, and weight gain.
    Upsides and benefits
    EffexorElavil
    • Effective at relieving depression and anxiety symptoms.
    • Lowers relapse rates of depression.
    • Causes more sleepiness than other antidepressants, so it's good for people who have trouble sleeping.
    • Six out of ten people who use an antidepressant for the first time find that it works for them.
    • Might work when other antidepressants haven't worked since it affects two chemicals in the brain that impact your mood. Many other antidepressants affect only serotonin, but not norepinephrine too.
    • Low doses work well to treat certain kinds of chronic pain. It can take 2 weeks to feel the full effects of the medication.
    • Low doses of Elavil (Amitriptyline) start working in 45 minutes to help you sleep better.
    • Six out of every ten people who use an antidepressant for the first time find that it works for them.
    Downsides and risks
    EffexorElavil
    • Can cause sexual side effects like low libido and an inability to orgasm or ejaculate.
    • Not the best option for people with high blood pressure.
    • Overdosing on this medication could be fatal.
    • It's more likely to cause nausea and vomiting or make you feel sick if you miss a dose than other antidepressants. Also causes more sleepiness than others.
    • Like most antidepressants, it can cause a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior for people younger than 24.
    • The first antidepressant you try doesn't always work or it can cause side effects you really don't like. You might need to try a few different medications until you find one that works for you.
    • When used for depression, Elavil (Amitriptyline) causes more side effects and has a higher risk of overdose than other antidepressants. It's usually used when other medications haven't worked.
    • It's more likely to cause sleepiness, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and weight gain (1 to 5 pounds) than other antidepressants.
    • People age 65 and older have a higher risk for this medication's side effects.
    • Like most antidepressants, it can cause a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior for people age 24 and younger.
    • The first antidepressant you try doesn't always work or it can cause side effects you really don't like. You might need to try a few different medications until you find one that works for you.
    Tips from our pharmacists for people taking the medication
    EffexorElavil
    • Takes about 8 to 12 weeks to see the medication's full effects on your mood.
    • You can take the extended-release form once a day with food either in the morning or in the evening at about the same time each day.
    • Extended-release capsules should be swallowed whole. If you can’t swallow pills, open the capsule, sprinkle it on a spoonful of applesauce and then swallow it without chewing.
    • Stop taking it slowly to avoid getting withdrawal symptoms.
    • Tell your doctor if you notice sudden mood changes or unusual thoughts.
    • Take at bedtime to avoid some of its side effects.
    • Can cause dizziness, drowsiness, constipation, and weight gain.
    • Stop taking it slowly to avoid getting withdrawal symptoms.
    • Tell your doctor if you notice sudden mood changes or unusual thoughts.
    Learn more
    More about EffexorSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert
    More about ElavilSide effectsReviews & ratingsAlternativesFDA package insert