What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a prescription medication used as an antiepileptic drug (anticonvulsant) to control seizures.
Its action is similar to GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid.
GABA, a neurotransmitter, reduces the excitability of the nerve cells in the brain and subsequently reduces seizures and pain transmission.
It is also used to treat nerve pain experienced in shingles caused by the herpes zoster virus in adults.
Some gabapentin-containing medications like Horizant are also used in relieving symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).
Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition that causes discomfort in the legs and a constant strong urge to move the legs, especially at night, while sitting down or sleeping.
Find Your Risk For RLS and Other Sleep Disorders with the Gene Sleep Report.
Gabapentin is available as capsules, tablets, and an oral solution. It is routinely found in antiepileptic drug formulations with other medications.
Is Gabapentin A Narcotic?
Though some studies have reported misuse and abuse of gabapentin, it is not a narcotic substance.
There have also been reports of people experiencing gabapentin withdrawal symptoms when they discontinued the drug after taking higher than recommended dosages.
What Is Gabapentin Used For?
Gabapentin is used for the following:
- Prevent and control partial seizures
In adults and children over the age of three, gabapentin is routinely used to treat partial seizures.
- Relieves nerve pain associated with shingles
Shingle is a painful rash caused by the herpes zoster virus.
This virus causes chickenpox and often remains inactive in the spinal nerve root (nerves that connect the spinal cord to the peripheral nervous system).
When this virus gets reactivated due to stress many years later, it causes shingles.
The nerve pain caused by shingles is also called postherpetic neuralgia.
- Relieves moderate to severe restless leg syndrome
Gabapentin is used in the treatment of restless leg syndrome.
Depending upon your condition and its severity, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate dosage of the drug.
Is Gabapentin Like Xanax?
Gabapentin and Xanax (alprazolam) are both used to treat anxiety, but these drugs belong to different classes.
While gabapentin is an anti-seizure or anticonvulsant drug, Xanax is a benzodiazepine used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks.
Since gabapentin and Xanax belong to different drug classes, their mechanism of action differs.
How Does Gabapentin Work?
Gabapentin brings about seizure control by reducing the abnormal nerve excitement in the brain, which triggers a seizure.
Research states that the drug binds to a specific site on the voltage-gated calcium channels.
These channels play crucial roles in many body functions like neurotransmitter release, muscle contraction, nerve cell excitation, etc.
When gabapentin binds to this specific site on these calcium channels, they relax the nerves and relieve nerve pain and seizures.
What Is The Difference Between Gabapentin And Tramadol?
Gabapentin and tramadol are pain relievers, but they relieve different kinds of pain.
Gabapentin relieves postherpetic neuralgia, a type of nerve pain that follows shingles, while tramadol is an opioid pain reliever used to manage moderate to severe pain.
Can You Snort Gabapentin?
There are limited reports of gabapentin abuse, and those that exist have been found in people who have been prescribed the drug, probably in higher doses.
There are no reported instances of snorting gabapentin.
Side Effects Of Gabapentin
Gabapentin is a safe drug but may cause side effects in some individuals. Some common side effects of the drug include:
- Weight gain
- Difficulty in speaking
- Recurring infections
- Movement and coordination problems
- Shaking or tremors
- Memory loss
- Recurrent infections
- Vision problems like double vision or unusual eye movements
If you experience any of the following severe side effects on taking gabapentin, call your doctor immediately:
- Hoarseness of voice
- Swelling of the face, neck, throat, lips, eyelids
- Difficulty in breathing
Does Gabapentin Hurt Your Kidneys?
Gabapentin has a renal route of excretion, i.e., it is excreted via urine.
Though gabapentin is given to patients with kidney disease and those undergoing dialysis, the dosage of the drug varies.
In very rare cases, gabapentin may cause renal toxicity or failure.
Does Gabapentin Cause Constipation?
Constipation is a rare side effect of gabapentin but may occur in some individuals.
Clinical trial data states that of all adults who take gabapentin, around 4% of them experience constipation as a side effect.
Since 2% of people taking a placebo in the clinical trial also reported constipation, the percentage of people who experience constipation as a side effect is less than 4%.
Does Gabapentin Cause Hair Loss?
Existing research about gabapentin-induced hair loss is limited.
Few studies suggest that hair loss may be a lasting effect of gabapentin treatment.
A 2015 study stated that alopecia (hair loss) was a common side effect of many antiepileptic drugs, but gabapentin was not part of the study.
Interactions With Other Drugs
Gabapentin is known to interact with the following drugs:
- Antihistamines (medicines used to treat allergies)
- Medicines that are used to induce sleep or reduce anxiety
- Antidepressants like fluoxetine, amitriptyline, and sertraline
- Other anticonvulsant drugs like phenobarbital and primidone
- Medications used to treat stomach problems
- Antacids (those containing aluminum or magnesium reduce gabapentin absorption in the gut)
- General anesthetic agents
- Local anesthetics
- Muscle relaxants
- Narcotic pain medications like morphine (these drugs can increase the side effects of gabapentin such as tiredness and dizziness when taken together)
- Drugs used in the treatment of mental illnesses
Can You Take Ibuprofen With Gabapentin?
There have been no documented instances of gabapentin interaction with ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID drug).
So, you can take ibuprofen with gabapentin.
It is always recommended to inform your doctor before doing so.
Can You Take Tylenol With Gabapentin?
Tylenol can be safely taken with gabapentin as there have been no known interactions or adverse effects on taking them together.
However, it is advisable to inform your doctor before taking these two drugs together.
Can I Take Xanax With Gabapentin?
Xanax and gabapentin can interact to increase side effects of gabapentin, such as dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, and difficulty in concentrating.
Some older adults may experience motor coordination, thinking, and justice issues.
It is, therefore, recommended not to take Xanax with gabapentin.
Gabapentin: Gene-Drug Interactions
The SLC7A5 Gene and Gabapentin - rs4240803
Solute Carrier Family 7 Member 5 or SLC75 is a gene found on chromosome 16.
This gene gives instructions for producing amino acids like phenylalanine, tyrosine, leucine, arginine, and tryptophan.
rs440803 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the SLC7A5 gene.
The AG genotype of this SNP is associated with an increased risk of adverse events when treated with gabapentin in people with neuropathic pain as compared to people with the GG genotype.
There is no evidence of any association of adverse events between the AA genotype of the SNP and gabapentin.
Recommendations To Use Gabapentin
- Medical History
Inform your doctor about any medical conditions that you may have to avoid serious adverse effects on taking gabapentin.
People with breathing or lung problems may experience severe breathing difficulties when taking gabapentin.
People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and asthma must inform their doctor about their condition before taking gabapentin.
People with mental illnesses like depression may experience suicidal thoughts and behaviors when taking gabapentin.
If you suffer from other medical conditions like diabetes, kidney trouble, liver problems, etc., you must inform your doctor about the same before taking gabapentin.
This information helps your doctor determine the safe dosage of gabapentin for you.
- History Of Allergies
Inform your doctor if you are allergic to gabapentin or gabapentin enacarbil before taking the drug.
It is also important to tell your doctor about your allergies as sometimes, gabapentin formulation may contain active ingredients that can trigger an allergic reaction.
- Alcohol Consumption
Drinking alcohol while taking gabapentin can increase sleepiness, drowsiness, and dizziness.
You must, therefore, limit or avoid alcohol intake before starting on gabapentin.
- Discontinuing The Medication
After taking gabapentin, your seizures may be under control, and you may feel fine.
However, you must not stop taking gabapentin suddenly and without your doctor’s consent, as it may cause increased seizures.
- Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
There is no known information about how gabapentin can affect your unborn child.
Therefore, inform your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to get pregnant while taking gabapentin.
Gabapentin can pass into breast milk.
So, you must inform your doctor if you are breastfeeding to avoid any adverse reaction in your baby.
- Genetic Testing
Genetic testing helps your doctor determine if you are at risk of developing an adverse reaction to gabapentin.
- Overdosing On Gabapentin
Taking gabapentin in excess can cause an overdose, which may prove fatal.
Common symptoms of gabapentin overdose include severe drowsiness, speaking trouble, and weakness.
Overdosing on gabapentin usually occurs when the drug is taken with other opioids, addictive substances, or alcohol.
- Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug used to control seizures.
- The action of gabapentin is similar to GABA, a neurotransmitter.
- Apart from controlling seizures, gabapentin is also used to relieve nerve pain following shingles and restless leg syndrome.
- The exact mechanism of action of gabapentin is unknown, but the drug blocks calcium channels and relaxes the nerves.
- Though gabapentin is safe to use, some people may experience side effects.
- Gabapentin may interact with drugs like opioids, antacids containing aluminum and magnesium, antidepressants, tranquilizers, etc.
- People with the AG genotype of the SLC7A5 gene are at a higher risk of developing adverse effects with gabapentin than those with the AG genotype.
- To ensure safe consumption of gabapentin, you must inform your doctor about your medical history and the medications you are taking.