Drugs Q & A

Why Is Gabapentin Bad? (5 Major Reasons)

Gabapentin is a medication that was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993 under the brand name Neurontin. It was originally developed as an anticonvulsant medication and was approved for the treatment of seizures in adults and children over the age of 12.

Gabapentin works by affecting the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which helps to reduce abnormal electrical activity in the brain that can lead to seizures.

Over time, it was discovered that gabapentin could also be useful for treating other conditions, such as nerve pain (neuropathic pain) and restless legs syndrome. In 2004, the FDA approved gabapentin for the treatment of postherpetic neuralgia, a type of nerve pain that can occur after an outbreak of shingles.

Gabapentin has also been used off-label (meaning for a condition that it was not specifically approved for) to treat anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric conditions. However, its effectiveness for these conditions is not well established, and the long-term safety of gabapentin use for these purposes is not fully understood.

Today, gabapentin is available as a generic medication, as well as under various brand names such as Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant. It is considered a relatively safe medication, but like any medication, it can cause side effects and should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

How is Gabapentin taken

Gabapentin is usually taken orally (by mouth) as a capsule, tablet, or solution. It is typically taken with food, as this can help to reduce side effects such as stomach upset.

The dosage and frequency of gabapentin will depend on the specific condition being treated, as well as individual factors such as age, weight, and overall health. It is important to follow the dosing instructions provided by your healthcare provider.

For the treatment of seizures, the usual starting dose of gabapentin is 300 milligrams (mg) taken three times per day. The dose may be increased over time as needed, up to a maximum of 3600 mg per day.

For the treatment of nerve pain or restless legs syndrome, the starting dose of gabapentin is usually lower, around 300 mg per day, and the dose is gradually increased over time as needed.

It is important not to suddenly stop taking gabapentin without the guidance of a healthcare provider, as this can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and nausea.

Why is gabapentin regarded as a bad medication?

Gabapentin is not inherently a bad medication, but there are some concerns surrounding its use. One of the main concerns is the potential for abuse and addiction. While gabapentin is not classified as a controlled substance, it can still be misused and lead to dependence. Some people have reported feeling a sense of euphoria or relaxation when taking gabapentin, which can lead to recreational use and abuse.

Another concern is the potential for side effects, particularly at higher doses. Common side effects of gabapentin include dizziness, drowsiness, and difficulty with coordination. At higher doses, gabapentin can also cause more serious side effects such as respiratory depression, which can be life-threatening.

There is also some controversy over the off-label use of gabapentin for conditions such as anxiety and depression. While some studies have suggested that gabapentin may be effective for these conditions, the evidence is not strong and more research is needed.

Overall, gabapentin can be a useful medication for the treatment of certain conditions, but like any medication, it should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider and with careful monitoring for side effects and signs of misuse or dependence.

Do gabapentin side effects in women differ from men?

There is no clear evidence to suggest that the side effects of gabapentin differ significantly between men and women. However, certain side effects of gabapentin may be more common or more severe in women.

For example, some studies have suggested that women may be more likely to experience weight gain or swelling as a side effect of gabapentin. This may be due to hormonal differences between men and women, or other factors that affect how the body processes and responds to the medication.

Additionally, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be advised to use caution when taking gabapentin, as there is some evidence to suggest that the medication may have an impact on fetal development or the health of a nursing infant.

Overall, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider about any concerns or questions regarding the use of gabapentin, regardless of gender. The risks and benefits of the medication should be carefully considered for each individual patient, based on their specific medical history and other factors.

What are the most serious side effects of gabapentin?

While gabapentin is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, there are some potential serious side effects that should be closely monitored for, including:

1.      Suicidal thoughts or behaviors: There have been reports of an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors in patients taking gabapentin, particularly in children and young adults.

2.      Respiratory depression: At high doses, gabapentin can depress the respiratory system, leading to difficulty breathing, which can be life-threatening.

3.      Severe allergic reaction: In rare cases, gabapentin can cause a severe allergic reaction characterized by swelling, rash, and difficulty breathing.

4.      Angioedema: Gabapentin can cause swelling in the face, throat, and tongue, which can make breathing difficult.

5.      Seizures: Gabapentin can sometimes cause seizures, especially in patients with a history of epilepsy.

6.      Stevens-Johnson syndrome: This is a rare but potentially life-threatening skin condition characterized by a painful rash, blisters, and sores.

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these serious side effects while taking gabapentin. Additionally, it is important to report any other side effects or concerns to your healthcare provider.

Can gabapentin cause permanent brain damage?

There is no evidence to suggest that gabapentin causes permanent brain damage when used as prescribed by a healthcare provider.

However, there is some concern that long-term use of gabapentin may lead to cognitive impairment, particularly in older adults. Some studies have suggested that gabapentin may impair cognitive function, including memory and executive function, in older adults, but the evidence is not conclusive and more research is needed in this area.

Additionally, there is some evidence to suggest that abrupt discontinuation of gabapentin after long-term use may lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can include seizures, anxiety, and confusion. Therefore, it is generally recommended that gabapentin be gradually tapered off under the guidance of a healthcare provider to avoid these potential risks.

Why are there gabapentin memory loss lawsuits?

There have been lawsuits filed alleging that gabapentin caused memory loss and other cognitive impairments. The lawsuits claim that the manufacturers of gabapentin did not adequately warn patients about the risk of memory loss associated with the medication and that they failed to conduct proper testing to determine the extent of the risk.

While there is some evidence to suggest that gabapentin may cause cognitive impairments in some patients, the link between gabapentin and memory loss is not yet fully understood. Some studies have suggested that gabapentin may impair memory and other cognitive functions, particularly in older adults, but the evidence is not conclusive and more research is needed.

It is important to note that the lawsuits are still in progress and the allegations have not yet been proven in court. As with any legal case, it is up to the courts to determine the validity of the claims made in the lawsuits.

If you are taking gabapentin and are concerned about potential memory loss or other cognitive impairments, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you understand the risks and benefits of the medication and develop a treatment plan that is right for you.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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