People need a prescription to take gabapentin, which is available as a generic drug and under brand names that include Neurontin and Gralise.
It comes in the following forms:
Doctors may prescribe gabapentin as an anticonvulsant to prevent partial seizures in a person with epilepsy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved gabapentin for this use.
The FDA have also approved gabapentin as a pain reliever for postherpetic neuralgia and similar conditions affecting the nervous system. This pain can occur due to shingles.
In addition to these FDA-approved uses, doctors may prescribe gabapentin off-label to treat long-term lower back pain, although some experts have expressed concerns about this use.
Gabapentin may also help relieve symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in people with alcohol use disorder, according to research in JAMA Internal MedicineTrusted Source.
How does it work?
Gabapentin belongs to a class of drugs known as gabapentinoids. The chemical structure of gabapentin is similar to that of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical that nerve cells use to transmit signals to muscles or other nerve cells.
However, gabapentin does not seem to affect GABA’s interaction with its target cells in the body, according to prescribing information for the medication. Scientists are not sure how gabapentin works to relieve pain or control seizures.
The medical community considers gabapentin a generally safe drug, although it can cause side effects.
Reasons you may choose to stop taking gabapentin
If you’ve been taking gabapentin, you and your doctor can discuss if the medicine is working. This might include a conversation about reducing or stopping the medicine for several reasons.
Gabapentin has some side effects associated with it. Some might be serious or bothersome enough to stop the medicine.
Side effects can include:
- allergic reactions (swelling of hands or face, itching, chest tightness, or trouble breathing)
- suicidal thoughts or behavior
- nausea and vomiting
- fever or viral infection
- lack of coordination and problems with movement which can cause falls or injury
- drowsiness, dizziness, or tiredness which can affect driving or work activities
- double vision
- swelling of the feet or legs
Central nervous system (CNS) depressants like alcohol and opioids taken together with gabapentin can increase drowsiness and dizziness.
Harmful effects can also include problems with breathing and mental status changes. Risk of death with co-use of opioids and gabapentin is up to 60 percentTrusted Source greater with doses of gabapentin over 900 milligrams per day.
Antacids with aluminum and magnesium like Maalox and Mylanta can reduce gabapentin’s effects. It’s best to take them separated by at least 2 hours.
You feel better
Remember, taking gabapentin might improve your symptoms of nerve pain or seizures but stopping the medication could bring symptoms back.
It’s important to talk with your doctor before you stop the medication on your own.
Gabapentin isn’t working
If your symptoms haven’t improved or you’re feeling worse, ask your doctor about other options to treat your condition.
It’s too expensive
If the cost of your medication is too high, ask your pharmacist or doctor about other medication choices.
These are all important reasons to consider stopping gabapentin. Remember, you and your healthcare providers are partners. They need to know if you’re having difficulty taking gabapentin. They can create a safe plan to stop the medicine and find an alternative that works better.