Gabapentin (Generic Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant) is an anticonvulsant drug prescribed with other medications to prevent and control seizures.
It is also prescribed to relieve nerve pain after recovering from shingles (a herpes virus) or to treat restless leg syndrome.
What is gabapentin used for?
Gabapentin is FDA-approved as a generic for Neurontin, Gralise, or Horizant. It has the same ingredients, dosing, and efficacy as its brand-name counterparts.
Gabapentin (Generic Neurontin) is used with other medications to treat seizures in adults and children age three and older and may be prescribed for shingles-related neuropathic pain.
Gabapentin (Generic Gralise) treats nerve pain that can last for months or years in adults following a shingles infection.
Gabapentin (Generic Horizant) treats nerve pain associated with restless leg syndrome (RLS) in adults.
Check to make sure you are taking the correct form prescribed by your doctor.
How Gabapentin Works ?
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug that controls electrical activity in the brain’s neurotransmitters, which send signals between nerve cells. Calming nerve activity may reduce the occurrence and intensity of seizures and reduce nerve pain related to other conditions.
Common side effects of gabapentin
- Feeling drowsy, tired, or weak
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Double vision
- Memory problems
- Unwanted eye movements
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite
- Weight gain
- Swelling in hands, feet, ankles, or legs
- Back pain
- Flu-like symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, coughing, sore throat, fever)
- Red, itchy eyes
If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, including severe itching; swelling in the face, tongue, throat, lips, or eyes; rash; hoarseness; difficulty swallowing or breathing; seizures; or blue-tinged skin, lips, or fingernails, contact your doctor immediately.
Gabapentin dosage information
- Capsule (100 mg, 300 mg, 400 mg)
- Tablet (600 mg, 800 mg)
- Solution (250 mg/5 mL)
Always check to make sure you’re taking the correct form of gabapentin in the accurate dosage. Ask your pharmacist or doctor if you have questions.
Adults and children may experience sudden mood or behavioral changes when taking gabapentin. Contact your doctor immediately if you or your child experience panic attacks, agitation, new or worsening irritability, aggressive or violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, or other unusual behavior or mood changes.
Gabapentin How to Use
It’s important to read the Medication Guide and, if available, the Patient Information Leaflet provided by your pharmacist, before you begin taking gabapentin and each time you get a refill. If you have any questions, ask your clinician or pharmacist.
Take gabapentin by mouth, either with or without food as directed by your licensed medical professional. Your dosage is based on your medical condition, as well as your response to treatment. In children, the dosage is also based on their weight.
If you are taking the tablet form of gabapentin and your licensed medical professional directs you to split the tablet in half, take the other half-tablet at your next scheduled dose. Be sure to discard remaining half-tablets if you haven’t used them within 28 days of splitting them. If you are taking the capsules, always swallow them whole with plenty of water.
It is very important to follow your licensed medical professional’s dosing instructions exactly. During the first few days taking gabapentin, your licensed medical professional may gradually increase your dose so that your body can adjust to the medication. To minimize the occurrence of side effects, take the very first dose at bedtime.
To get the most benefit, take this medication regularly. Gabapentin will work best when the amount of medication in your body is kept at a constant level. Therefore, take gabapentin at evenly spaced intervals at the same time(s) every day as prescribed. If taking this medication three times per day to control seizures, do not let more than 12 hours pass between doses, or you may increase the risk of having a seizure.
Do not increase your dose or take this medication more frequently without consulting your licensed medical professional. Your risk of serious side effects can increase, and your condition will not improve any faster.
Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your licensed medical professional. Some conditions can become worse when gabapentin is stopped suddenly. If you wish to stop taking gabapentin, your dose may need to be gradually decreased.
Antacids containing aluminum or magnesium may interfere with the absorption of this medication. Therefore, if you are also taking an antacid, it is best to take gabapentin at least 2 hours after taking the antacid.
Different forms of gabapentin (such as immediate-release, sustained-release, enacarbil sustained-release) are absorbed in the body differently. Do not switch from one form to the other without consulting your licensed medical professional.
Tell your licensed medical professional if your condition does not improve or if it worsens.
It’s also important to be aware of precautions and warnings around taking this medication.
Before taking gabapentin, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are allergic to it; or to gabapentin enacarbil; or if you have any other allergies. This product may contain inactive ingredients, which can cause allergic reactions or other problems. Talk to your pharmacist for more details.
Before using this medication, tell your doctor or pharmacist your medical history, especially of: kidney disease, mental/mood problems (such as depression, thoughts of suicide), use/abuse of drugs/alcohol, breathing problems.
This drug may make you dizzy or drowsy or blur your vision. Alcohol or marijuana (cannabis) can make you more dizzy or drowsy. Do not drive, use machinery, or do anything that needs alertness or clear vision until you can do it safely. Limit alcoholic beverages. Talk to your doctor if you are using marijuana (cannabis).
Before having surgery, tell your doctor or dentist about all the products you use (including prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and herbal products).
Older adults may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug, especially swelling of the hands/ankles/feet, slow/shallow breathing, dizziness, or loss of coordination. Dizziness and loss of coordination can increase the risk of falling.
Children may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug, especially mental/mood/behavior changes (such as hostility, problems concentrating, restlessness).
During pregnancy, this medication should be used only when clearly needed. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
Gabapentin passes into breast milk. Consult your doctor before breast-feeding.
Pregnancy, breastfeeding and fertility while taking gabapentin
Gabapentin and pregnancy
Gabapentin is not generally recommended in pregnancy.
There’s no firm evidence that it’s harmful to an unborn baby, but for safety pregnant women are usually advised to take it only if the benefits of the medicine outweigh the potential harm.
If you take gabapentin for epilepsy and become pregnant, do not stop the medicine without talking to your doctor first.
It’s very important that epilepsy is treated during pregnancy as seizures can harm you and your unborn baby.
If you’re trying to get pregnant or have become pregnant, you’re routinely recommended to take at least 400mcg of a vitamin called folic acid everyday. It helps the unborn baby grow normally.
Pregnant women who take gabapentin are recommended to take a higher dose of folic acid.
Your doctor might prescribe a high dose of 5mg a day for you to take during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
If you take gabapentin around the time of giving birth, your baby may need extra monitoring for a few days after they’re born because they may have gabapentin withdrawal symptoms.
Gabapentin and breastfeeding
Usually, you can breastfeed while taking gabapentin.
Check with your doctor first though if your baby is premature or has kidney problems.
Gabapentin and fertility
There’s no clear evidence to suggest that taking gabapentin will reduce fertility in either men or women.
But speak to a pharmacist or your doctor before taking it if you’re trying to get pregnant.
Gabapentin Pill Storage
Store gabapentin at room temperature, and away from moisture and light. Do not store gabapentin in the bathroom. Keep gabapentin, and all medications, away from pets and children.
Do not flush this or any medications down the toilet or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. When you no longer need your gabapentin, or when it has expired, be sure to properly discard the remaining product. Your pharmacist or local waste disposal company can tell you how.
Gabapentin Drug Interactions
Drug interactions can change how gabapentin and your other medications work, or even increase your risk for serious side effects. This document does not contain all possible drug interactions. Be sure to keep a list of all the products you use (including prescription and nonprescription drugs, as well as herbal products) and share it with your clinician and pharmacist. Do not start, stop, or change the dosage of any medicines without your licensed medical professional’s approval.
A product that may interact with gabapentin: orlistat.
Tell your clinician or pharmacist if you use other products that cause drowsiness, like drugs for sleep or anxiety (such as alprazolam, lorazepam, zolpidem), opioid pain or cough relievers (such as codeine, hydrocodone), antihistamines (such as cetirizine, diphenhydramine), muscle relaxants (such as carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine), alcohol or marijuana (cannabis).
Be sure to also check the labels on all of your medications (including cough-and-cold or allergy products) because they may contain ingredients that cause drowsiness. Ask your pharmacist about using those medications safely.
Do not use this medication with other medications that contain gabapentin (including gabapentin enacarbil).
Gabapentin may interfere with certain laboratory tests for urine protein. Make sure laboratory personnel and all your licensed medical professionals know you use this drug.
Symptoms of gabapentin overdose may include: severe drowsiness, slurred speech, weakness. If someone has overdosed and has serious symptoms such as passing out or trouble breathing, call 911. Otherwise, call a poison control center immediately. US residents can call their local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Canada residents can call a provincial poison control center.
If you miss a dose of gabapentin, take it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the regular time. Do not double the dose to catch up.
If you take gabapentin three times a day to control seizures, do not let more than 12 hours pass between doses, as your seizures can increase. Talk to your licensed medical professional right away if this occurs.
Do not share gabapentin with others.
When taking gabapentin, be sure to keep all of your regular psychiatric and/or medical appointments. Medical and/or laboratory tests (such as blood pressure and liver function) should be performed periodically to monitor your progress and check for side effects. Talk to your licensed medical professional for more details.
May include selected content from the Licensed Solutions data, included with permission and copyrighted by FDB, inc., 2014. This copyrighted material has been downloaded and Licensed data is not for distribution in professional healthcare settings. This information is generalized and not intended as specific medical advice. Consult your healthcare professional before taking any drug or commencing or discontinuing any course of treatment.
Who can take gabapentin ?
Gabapentin can be taken by adults and children aged 6 years and over.
Who may not be able to take gabapentin
Gabapentin is not suitable for some people.
To make sure gabapentin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you:
- have ever had an allergic reaction to gabapentin or other medicines in the past
- have ever misused or been addicted to a medicine
- are trying to get pregnant, pregnant or breastfeeding
- are on a controlled sodium or potassium diet, or your kidneys don’t work well (gabapentin liquid contains sodium and potassium, so speak to your doctor before taking it)
Can I get addicted to gabapentin?
Some people have become addicted to gabapentin after taking it for a long time.
If this happens, you’ll have withdrawal symptoms after you stop taking the medicine.
Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about becoming physically dependent on gabapentin.
Are there similar medicines to gabapentin?
Pregabalin (also called Lyrica) is a medicine that works in a similar way to gabapentin.
Like gabapentin, it’s taken for epilepsy and nerve pain. It can also be taken for anxiety.
But there are differences between pregabalin and gabapentin.
Pregabalin can be taken less often and in different doses to gabapentin.
If you need to change to pregabalin treatment, your doctor will explain how to safely swap from gabapentin.
How do I pick up a prescription for a controlled medicine?
Your gabapentin prescription will probably need to be hand signed by a doctor. This can take longer than normal repeat prescriptions.
It’s best to hand in your repeat prescription request up to five days before you’re due to run out of gabapentin. This will give your doctor enough time to sign it.
Once your prescription has been written, you’ll need to collect your medicine from a pharmacist within 28 days. If you don’t, your prescription will become invalid and you’ll need to get a new one.
If your pharmacist is unable to give you the whole amount prescribed, you’ll need to go again to pick up your remaining medicine.
You’ll need to do this within the 28 days of receiving your prescription otherwise it’ll become invalid. Your pharmacist won’t be able to give you your remaining medicine and you’ll need to get a new prescription again.
How long does gabapentin take to work?
Gabapentin is available as an immediate-release or extended-release tablet. The time it takes for either formulation to work depends on several factors such as age, kidney function and other medications. Because gabapentin can be used for a variety of indications, the time it takes for effects to kick in can vary.
In general, sleep problems due to nerve pain can improve in a week, but it may take up to two weeks to notice relief from the pain itself. Seizure reduction is often noticeable within a few weeks of starting gabapentin. Symptom relief from restless legs syndrome or postherpetic neuralgia, the nerve pain after shingles, may take several days or weeks to develop.
How long does gabapentin stay in your system?
Just like the length of time, it takes for the drug to work the time it takes to leave a patient’s system will also vary. Typically, in adult patients, the half-life of gabapentin is between 5 and 7 hours. This means that after that time, the concentration of gabapentin in the body will be reduced by half. It can take several half-lives for gabapentin to leave the body entirely. In general, after 1 to 2 days, there will be no gabapentin left in your system.
While the exact mechanism for how gabapentin works is unknown, it is known that gabapentin slows signals in the brain. Gabapentin readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, where its effect takes place. Doses may vary, ranging from 300 to 3000 mg per day and is tolerated to effect or added on to another medication, depending on the indication.
Conventional, or immediate-release, gabapentin, is usually taken three times daily since its half-life is approximately 5–7 hours. While gabapentin is detectable for three to five times that long, the concentration in the blood would be too low to prevent seizures or pain.
What drugs should you avoid taking with gabapentin?
Some of the most known interactions with gabapentin are losartan, ethacrynic acid, caffeine, phenytoin, mefloquine, magnesium oxide, cimetidine, naproxen, and morphine. Even if you are not taking any of these, you need to speak with your doctor about any other medications or supplements you are taking before beginning treatment with gabapentin.
How do you avoid gaining weight while taking gabapentin?
Patients who have been prescribed gabapentin are often concerned about weight gain as a side effect. However, they should note, weight gain is a very rare side effect, observed in less than 5% of patients. In cases where weight gain does occur, it is typically a result of an increased appetite or reduced exercise caused by the drug. Some ways to avoid weight gain include eating smaller meals throughout the day, exercising when possible, and eating low-calorie snacks like fruit to help curb hunger.
an you drink alcohol while taking gabapentin?
It is not considered safe to drink alcohol while taking gabapentin. If you drink alcohol with gabapentin the side effects may become amplified. The combination may lead to dizziness, extreme fatigue, and difficulty focusing.
Is gabapentin addictive?
Gabapentin is often considered to be a less addictive alternative to opioids. However, gabapentin addiction and abuse still can occur. This is especially true in patients with a predisposition towards addiction or a history of substance abuse. If you are concerned about the addictiveness of gabapentin you should speak with your doctor before taking it.
Is it safe to take gabapentin for sleep?
Gabapentin’s primary use is in treating seizures and neuropathic pain. However, in some cases, it may also be used for treating insomnia. It is considered to be safe and effective as a treatment for insomnia, but you must speak with your doctor before taking it as a sleep aid, even if you’ve already been prescribed gabapentin for other symptoms.
Immediate-release gabapentin has a half-life of about 5–7 hours. In addition to patient-specific factors such as age, kidney function and presence of other medications or substances, this number may increase as the dose increases. For this reason, immediate-release gabapentin is often taken three times daily, or up to twice daily for patients with impaired kidney function.
The extended-release formulation of gabapentin, under the brand name Horizant, has the same gabapentin half-life but is released more slowly throughout the day than the immediate-release formulation. For this reason, the extended release formulation is only taken once daily.
How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Urine?
Gabapentin can be detected in urine for 1–2 days.
How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Your Blood?
Gabapentin is detected in blood several hours after use, and can be detected for up to two days depending on how much was used.
How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in Your Hair?
While hair follicle tests usually measure within the previous 90 days, gabapentin is not typically included unless it is specifically requested.
How Is Gabapentin Metabolized?
When a dose of gabapentin is taken, it is absorbed in the small intestine and then enters the bloodstream. From there, it crosses the blood-brain barrier where it takes effect via unknown mechanisms in the brain.
Gabapentin is eliminated completely by the kidneys, rather than by the liver like some other medications. The kidneys filter gabapentin from the blood and eliminate it from the body through urine. For this reason, people with impaired kidney function metabolize gabapentin more slowly or accumulate the medication if too much is taken. For example, the reported half-life of one dose in a patient with end-stage kidney failure who is not producing urine would be 132 hours.
How Long Can You Stay on Gabapentin?
While there is a risk of becoming tolerant to gabapentin, where more of the medication is needed to produce the same effect, gabapentin may be safe for long-term use in certain cases. Your healthcare provider will routinely evaluate for side effects and to determine if the medication is still effective. If gabapentin is determined to be safe and effective, use can usually be continued. Sedation, dizziness and forgetfulness are some common side effects that may be present long-term or with higher doses.
Withdrawal from gabapentin typically begins 12 hours–7 days after the last dose. Abruptly stopping gabapentin can result in seizures or other more mild withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, nausea or pain.
To avoid this, it is important to discuss stopping this medication with your healthcare provider. The safest way to ease symptoms of withdrawal is to slowly taper your dose under medical supervision. Your provider will consider the dose you’re currently taking to determine how quickly or slowly you can safely taper use.
Even though gabapentin is not a controlled medication under the Controlled Substances Act, some states have started regulating it as a result of increasing misuse. If you or someone you love is taking gabapentin more often or differently than prescribed, this may be a sign of misuse.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with gabapentin addiction, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. The Recovery Village Ridgefield aims to help curb addiction throughout Washington and Oregon and provides people with a safe environment that promotes lifelong recovery.
We offer a full continuum of treatments that includes medical detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient care and partial hospitalization programs (PHPs). Now, we also offer online counseling in order to make ongoing treatment more accessible. Contact us today to learn more about gabapentin addiction programs that can work well for your unique situation.