Safety and Risks of Taking Gabapentin

Gabapentin appears to work by altering electrical activity in the brain and influencing the activity of chemicals called neurotransmitters, which send messages between nerve cells. Brand names for gabapentin include Horizant, Gralise, and Neurontin. The medication is available in capsule, tablet, or liquid form.

In this article, we describe the uses, dosages, and side effects of gabapentin. We also look into the associated risks and other safety considerations.

People taking gabapentin should be aware of the following:

Risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Some people experience thoughts of suicide or exhibit suicidal behavior when taking gabapentin or other anticonvulsants.

If a person or their loved one notices changes in mood or behavior, they should contact a doctor immediately.

Interactions with other medications and substances

Gabapentin can interact with other prescription or over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Be sure to give the doctor a full list of current medications and supplements before taking gabapentin.

Results of a 2017 review suggest that the following are the main substances that interact with the drug:

  • caffeine, which is present in tea, coffee, and cola
  • ethacrynic acid, a diuretic
  • losartan, a medication for high blood pressure
  • magnesium oxide, a mineral supplement and antacid
  • mefloquine, an antimalarial drug
  • morphine, an opioid pain medication
  • phenytoin, an anti-seizure medication

If gabapentin causes sleepiness, speak to the doctor before taking other medications that can also cause drowsiness, including:

  • antianxiety medications
  • antidepressants
  • antihistamines
  • cold and flu medications
  • muscle relaxers
  • narcotics (pain medications)
  • sleeping pills

Presence of other health conditions

To ensure that gabapentin is safe to take, a person should tell their doctor if they currently have or have ever experienced:

  • breathing problems
  • depression or other mental health disorders
  • diabetes
  • dialysis treatment
  • drug and alcohol misuse issues
  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • seizures (if taking gabapentin for conditions unrelated to seizures)

Risks during pregnancy and when breastfeeding

People who are pregnant, or intend to become pregnant, should tell their doctor before taking gabapentin.

Pregnant women should only take the drug if it is absolutely necessary. However, it is also essential to control seizures while pregnant.

Do not start or stop taking gabapentin for seizure control before talking to the doctor, who will assess the potential risks and benefits.

Gabapentin passes into breast milk, but its effects on babies are unknown. It is best to discuss this issue with a doctor before breastfeeding.

Potential for a drug allergy

Individuals with gabapentin allergies should not take the drug.

Also, the medication may contain other ingredients that can trigger allergy symptoms in some people. Discuss all drug and food allergies with a doctor before taking gabapentin.

Other safety considerations

Because gabapentin can cause drowsiness, anyone taking the drug should exercise caution while driving or using machinery.

Do not take antacids within 2 hours of taking gabapentin, as antacids reduce the body’s ability to absorb the drug.

People should also avoid alcohol or limit their intake while on gabapentin because there is a risk of adverse reactions.

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