Is Gabapentin Safe to Take?

What Is Gabapentin?

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the prescriptions written for a medication called gabapentin. Available as capsules, an oral solution, and tablets, the primary use of gabapentin is to reduce or control epileptic seizures. There are additional uses for gabapentin to be prescribed. It’s recommended to treat pain related to a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, occurring after a shingles outbreak. There’s an extended-release version of gabapentin used to treat symptoms of restless leg syndrome. On occasion, gabapentin is used to treat pain stemming from diabetic neuropathy, which is numbness or tingling from diabetic nerve damage.

This medication is classified as an anticonvulsant, and it’s believed to calm certain impulses that occur in the central nervous system. Gabapentin may alter how neurotransmitters communicate with one another by increasing the amount of GABA produced. GABA is known as a calming neurotransmitter. There is also some research showing gabapentin can slow the production of glutamate, which causes nerve excitement. Doctors believe glutamate is a specific neurotransmitter that plays a role in epileptic seizures.

While gabapentin does have therapeutic benefits, there are side effects and risks associated with its use as well, which is why people wonder is gabapentin safe. The side effects can range from mild to severe, and there are risks to consider such as drug misuse and a buildup of physical dependence.

Is Gabapentin Safe to Take?
The side effects vary quite a bit, which is one of the reasons people question if gabapentin is safe to take. For people questioning, this is something that can ultimately be answered by a medical professional who will weigh the risks and benefits for each individual. Some of the common side effects can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Weight gain

More severe gabapentin side effects can include seizures, problems breathing, and allergic reactions. People who begin used gabapentin are warned to watch for changes in their mood or emotional state. For example, someone who has changes in mood like new or worsening anxiety, panic attacks, anger or violence should contact their physician immediately. Gabapentin also has the potential to cause suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

It’s important for people to discuss their full medical history with their physician before taking gabapentin, and to let their healthcare professional know any other substances they use regularly including alcohol, drugs, medications, vitamins or herbal supplements. Gabapentin may interact with certain types of drugs including pain medications like hydrocodone. If someone uses gabapentin and hydrocodone together, it can cause severe side effects. Drinking alcohol and taking gabapentin can cause extreme drowsiness or dizziness. Patients are advised to drink minimally or avoid alcohol altogether when taking gabapentin. Other interactions include with naproxen, available in over-the-counter medications like Aleve.

Despite the risk of side effects from using the drug, it can be more dangerous to stop using it. Gabapentin causes physical dependence, which means if someone stops using it suddenly they may go through withdrawal. Withdrawal from gabapentin can be dangerous or life-threatening.

While there are severe side effects possible with the use of gabapentin, they’re rare. Something that’s less rare are withdrawal symptoms when someone stops taking it suddenly. No one should stop taking gabapentin without speaking to their doctor. It can cause a condition called status epilepticus. The condition is where seizures continue one after another, and it’s a medical emergency that can be deadly. Other withdrawal symptoms that can occur include anxiety, sleep problems, pain, sweating and nausea. To avoid these symptoms, a physician will usually instruct patients to taper down their gabapentin dosage gradually. It is possible to overdose on gabapentin as well, so following doctor’s instructions is important.

Due to the ability of gabapentin to be used to treat certain pain conditions, people tend to wonder if it’s addictive. When taken as prescribed gabapentin isn’t considered habit-forming; however, people may misuse it recreationally. Gabapentin taken at high doses may cause euphoria or sedation. Because of how available gabapentin is and the fact that it’s not considered a controlled substance, it’s increasingly being abused either with opioids or instead of opioids.

So, what’s the consensus? Is gabapentin safe to take? Gabapentin is generally considered a safe medication that is helpful in treating conditions ranging from epileptic seizures to nerve pain under the direction of a medical professional. However, gabapentin isn’t without risks. Common side effects are possible, as are changes in mood but perhaps the biggest risk of using this drug are withdrawal symptoms. If your doctor prescribes you this medication, they have weighed the risks and benefits and determined that it will provide you with therapeutic value. Never take gabapentin without a prescription or outside of your doctor’s instructions.

If you’re struggling with gabapentin misuse, or someone you love may have substance use disorder, contact us. The Recovery Village works with people who suffer from a variety of substance use disorders and alcohol use disorder, to help them successfully work toward recovery.