There are many drugs used to treat anxiety. New studies are now showing that Gabapentin has been a successful treatment for individuals who suffer from anxiety. However, there are no randomized controlled trials on the effectiveness of this medication in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and there are only a few case reports.
People with GAD who take Gabapentin have shown to be less irritable, reduce the use of alcohol as self-medication, have fewer depression symptoms, feel less anxious anticipating the future, improve in phobic avoidance (going out in public more and experiencing a significant decrease in panic disorder and reduction of panic attacks).
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug that is primarily used to treat seizures and the pain that follows after an episode of shingles. Gabapentin is considered an off-brand drug used to treat anxiety. Neurontin is the most common brand name for Gabapentin, as well as Horizant and Gralise. Gabapentin has shown to help people with sleeping better, as insomnia is a symptom of anxiety.
Treatment with Gabapentin: Important Things to Know Before Taking Gabapentin
Before you start gabapentin therapy, you should have a thorough medical exam to rule out any medical issues. This includes any blood or urine tests. Medical evaluations are important as gabapentin can induce hormonal imbalances. Like any other drug, you should not take gabapentin if you’re allergic to it.
There are side effects—more on that in a minute. But a few of the most important things your doctor will want to find out before prescribing gabapentin is if you have or have had any of the following:
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Kidney problems (or if you’re on dialysis)
- Liver or heart disease
- Lung disease (see the warning above on respiratory issues)
- Mood disorders, depression or bipolar; or if you’ve ever thought about suicide or attempted suicide
- Seizures (unless, of course, you’re taking it for seizures)
You should also know that not enough studies have been done to understand the exact risks of gabapentin if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Side Effects of Gabapentin
Like all medications, there are several side effects to taking Gabapentin. Side effects that you experience are relative to your personal reaction to the drug. Everyone is different, so you may not experience side effects that others do or don’t. Some side effects can be nausea, vomiting, tremors, dizziness, sleepiness, double vision, loss of control of bodily movements, fluid retention, difficulty speaking, jerky movements, unusual eye movements, double vision, and unsteadiness.
If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor immediately. Get emergency help if you suspect you are having an allergic reaction like; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, hives, and difficulty breathing. If you notice that your symptoms are worsening, contact your doctor immediately. You may not notice symptoms until weeks after taking Gabapentin.
What happens if you suddenly stop gabapentin?
It’s important to discuss your concerns about gabapentin first with your doctor or pharmacist before you stop the medication.
You might have certain symptoms if you suddenly stop gabapentin:
- withdrawal symptoms such as agitation, restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, sweating, or flu-like symptoms. The risks of withdrawal are higher if you’re taking high doses or have been on gabapentin for longer than 6 weeks. Withdrawal symptoms can start from 12 hours to 7 days after stopping the medication.
- status epilepticus, which is a rapid cycle of seizure activity so that an individual experiences an almost constant seizure for a period of time
- irregular heart rate
- return of nerve pain