Common side effects of Gabapentin

Clumsiness while walking
Visual changes, including double vision
Runny nose
Weight gain
Indigestion or nausea
Muscle ache
Dry mouth or sore throat
Memory loss
Unusual thoughts
Diarrhea or constipation
Swelling of hands or feet
Itchy eyes
Serious side effects can also occur. If you have any of these side effects, call your doctor right away:

Thoughts of suicide or harming yourself
Fever or swelling of lymph nodes
Severe rash
Swelling of the face, lips, or tongue
Difficulty breathing or swallowing

What Is Gabapentin (Neurontin)?

Gabapentin is a prescription drug, marketed as Neurontin and Horizant, that’s used to treat epilepsy.

Doctors can prescribe gabapentin to treat epilepsy in people older than 12, and partial seizures in children ages 3 to 12.

Gabapentin may also be prescribed to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS), to relieve numbness and tingling related to diabetes, to prevent hot flashes, and to relieve pain that can accompany shingles (known as postherpetic neuralgia).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved gabapentin in 1993 under the brand name Neurontin for the drug manufacturer Pfizer.

In 2003, the FDA approved generic gabapentin, and it’s now made by several drug companies.

An extended-release form of gabapentin is available under the brand name Horizant.

In 2004, the drug maker Pfizer settled charges for marketing Neurontin for unapproved uses, and agreed to pay $430 million.

While it’s legal for a doctor to prescribe drugs for off-label purposes, it’s illegal for a drug manufacturer to actively promote off-label uses.

A study in the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia in 2013 revealed that gabapentin may help ease moderate to high levels of anxiety among people about to have surgery.

The researchers noted that doctors are increasingly using the drug to treat pain after surgery as well as a variety of psychiatric diseases, such as chronic anxiety disorders.

Gabapentin Warnings

You should know that gabapentin may increase the risk for suicide.

Suicidal thoughts or behavior occurs in about one in 500 people taking medications like gabapentin. This risk may begin within a week of starting treatment.

Let your doctor know if you experience:

Thoughts of suicide
Symptoms of depression
Panic attacks
Extreme worry
Acting without thinking
Abnormal excitement
You should also let friends and family members know about these symptoms.

If you have any thoughts of suicide, or if a friend or family member thinks you are acting strange, call your doctor right away.

Children ages 3 to 12 may experience behavior changes while taking gabapentin.

These changes could include restlessness, inability to pay attention, poor performance at school, and angry or aggressive behavior.

Children younger than age 3 should not take gabapentin to treat seizures.

Also, children should not take gabapentin to treat postherpetic neuralgia.

If you are older than 75 or have kidney disease, use caution when taking gabapentin.

Drinking alcohol may make some side effects of gabapentin more severe.

Once you start taking gabapentin, don’t stop suddenly or you could experience withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, sleep disturbance, nausea, pain, and sweating.

You need to reduce your dose of gabapentin gradually over a period of at least one week.

Tell your doctor if you are taking any prescription pain medications called opiates. These medications may increase drowsiness or dizziness when you also take gabapentin.

Your doctor will also want to know if you have kidney disease, if you have any surgery planned (including dental), or if you have ever had a problem with drug or alcohol abuse.

Gabapentin ‘High’ and Abuse

  • Numerous reports suggest that gabapentin has become a widely abused drug that gives users a euphoric “high.”
  • A 2014 study found that almost one-fourth of people in substance-abuse clinics reported abuse of gabapentin.
  • Not only is abuse of gabapentin likely to result in serious side effects, it may also lead to severe withdrawal symptoms in users.

Gabapentin and Pregnancy

Researchers don’t know if gabapentin is safe to take during pregnancy.

If you are pregnant or may become pregnant, talk with your doctor before taking gabapentin.

Gabapentin can pass into breast milk, and the effects on breastfeeding babies are unknown.

Ask your doctor if the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the potential risks of gabapentin to your infant.

 Gabapentin Interactions

It’s very important to let your doctor know about all drugs you are taking, including illegal or recreational drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbs, or supplements.

Types of drugs that are known to interact with gabapentin and may cause problems include:

Opiate pain medications, including Vicodin and morphine, among others
Naproxen (also known as the brands Aleve, Naprosyn, and others)
Medications used for heartburn, including Mylanta, Maalox, and cimetidine
If you do dipstick tests to check your urine for protein, tell your doctor. Gabapentin may affect the results of some of these types of tests.

Gabapentin and Alcohol

Drinking alcohol may make some side effects of gabapentin more severe.

Some doctors recommend drinking little or no alcohol while taking gabapentin.

In 2014, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that gabapentin holds promise as a treatment for alcohol dependence.

The drug improved people’s ability to remain abstinent from alcohol. It also reduced symptoms related to relapse, like insomnia and cravings for alcohol.

The study’s findings are particularly important because there are relatively few medications available to help treat alcohol dependence.

Gabapentin and Other Interactions

Gabapentin may make you feel drowsy and could affect your judgment.

Until you know how gabapentin will affect you, do not drive or operate machinery.

Gabapentin may affect the results of tests to check your urine for protein.