What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a prescription medication given to patients primarily to treat seizures stemming from epilepsy. This medicine can also be given to patients with restless leg syndrome, or with certain types of nerve pain conditions resulting from diabetes. It’s believed to work by stabilizing levels of GABA in the user’s brain and body. GABA is a neurotransmitter responsible for calming nerve activity. When certain electrical impulses are firing between nerves, it causes seizures and other symptoms. This medicine is available in generic and brand-name forms, as well as immediate and extended-release variations. Gabapentin is classified as an anticonvulsant. As well as calming nerve messages, it may reduce pain sensitivity.
While gabapentin does have therapeutic benefits, it also has possible side effects and risks associated with its use. One of the most common side effects is drowsiness. Many people who use gabapentin to experience drowsiness, slowed thinking and motor skills, as well as possible drowsiness. Other common side effects include nausea and vomiting, double vision, swelling and unusual eye movements. These side effects tend to dissipate after using the medicine for a few weeks.
Severe side effects can occur with gabapentin, although they’re rare. One area of concern patients are warned about when they’re prescribed this medicine is the potential for changes in mood. Gabapentin can cause new or increasing anxiety, as well as suicidal thoughts or tendencies. Anytime mood changes are recognized in someone on gabapentin, it should be reported to a medical professional.
Gabapentin’s recreational use as a means to get high has been on the increase in recent years. At high doses or when used in ways other than what’s prescribed, gabapentin may create a feeling of euphoria or sedation that users could find desirable. Despite this risk, it’s not considered addictive, and gabapentin isn’t currently a controlled substance in the U.S. There is also the potential for dependence, which is why it’s important for people to understand the half-life of gabapentin to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms can include things like nausea or anxiety, but also seizures. When someone stops using this anticonvulsant, they may have recurring seizures that occur back-to-back. This is considered a life-threatening medical emergency. The possible severity of gabapentin withdrawal is why doctors will often instruct patients to gradually taper their dosage of the medication instead of stopping cold turkey.
While gabapentin can have its own side effects and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms when used properly and as instructed it tends to be fairly safe. It’s increasingly looked at as an addiction treatment option as well. It’s often used to treat alcohol use disorder. Gabapentin can reduce or eliminate some of the most dangerous symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include tremors and seizures. Gabapentin has also shown promise to help people stop using benzodiazepines like Xanax.
In general, half-life refers to the time it takes for the amount of drug present in the system to be reduced by 50%. After one half-life of gabapentin, its concentration in the body would be half the original dose. Different factors play a role in the half-life of any drug, such as its standard clearance rate. This refers to the rate the body eliminates gabapentin or any other drug. There’s also the measurement called volume of distribution. This is the rate at which the drug is distributed around the body.
The half-life of gabapentin is estimated to be anywhere from 5 to 7 hours. It has a constant clearance rate, and its eliminated by renal excretion. Older adults or people with problems in renal function may have a reduced clearance rate if they take the drug. As is the case with any drug, gabapentin is usually processed more quickly in younger and healthier users. The half-life of gabapentin in an extended release version will be significantly longer than immediate-release. The half-life of gabapentin can vary somewhat, but if someone is prescribed to take, their physician will consider this when outlining dosage instructions.
Drug addiction can be painful and ultimately deadly. If you or a loved one is grappling with a substance abuse problem, reach out to The Recovery Village. We’re here to provide answers and help when needed.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
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