What is Gabapentin? Uses, Benefits, Side Effects
Everything You Need To Know About Gabapentin
You've probably heard about gabapentin, but if you’re like most people, you may not be aware of all the important details related to it. The FDA approved gabapentin in 1993. This drug boosts the effects of other drugs, but it also helps with other health issues like preventing and controlling seizures.
Gabapentin is available in three different forms: extended or immediate-release oral tablet and as an oral solution. Oral capsules are available as both brand-name (Neurontin) and generic drugs.
What is Gabapentin?
As an anti-epileptic drug, gabapentin affects the chemicals and nerves in our body that are connected to the cause of seizures and certain types of pain.
It's important to use the exact brand of gabapentin your doctor has prescribed because each brand has its own combination of drugs, and they don't have the same effect. For example, the Gralise brand of gabapentin isn't used for treating epilepsy or any other types of seizures. Instead, it's only intended for neuropathic pain (nerve pain.) The brand Neurontin, on the other hand, is used in treating seizures in adults and children, in addition to relieving neuropathic pain.
What is Gabapentin Used For?
Some of most important gabapentin’s uses include nerve pain relief and seizure control and prevention.
This FDA-approved drug helps prevent and control partial seizures in adults and children. It’s most often used for treating partial (focal) seizures. Adult patients need to take this drug combined with other seizure medications, while children with epilepsy of at least three years of age need to combine gabapentin with their standard therapy.
Moreover, gabapentin also helps relieve nerve pain caused by shingles (an excruciating rash caused by herpes zoster infection) in adults. Shingles can also appear after a varicella-zoster virus infection. This virus usually occurs in patients who have had the chickenpox.
Benefits of Gabapentin
If your doctor prescribed this drug, you might wonder what gabapentin does. As such, we’ll help you understand its functionality better.
Gabapentin can help treat various conditions like:
1. Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal can be excruciating. Hallucinations, seizures, vomiting, and heart palpitations are only some of the symptoms that may occur. Benzodiazepine drugs like Ativan and Librium are used to help treat these symptoms. However, gabapentin has emerged as an excellent alternative. This drug can help treat the symptoms, but it will also help diminish cravings and improve the patient’s chances of quitting alcohol.
2. Social Phobia
Suffering from a persistent fear of performance in social situations can be very exhausting. Luckily, gabapentin seems to help patients with social phobia since it acts a lot like GABA, the natural neurotransmitter that controls anxiety in people. Many patients have shown significant improvement with their social phobia after using gabapentin.
3. Menopause Nighttime Hot Flashes
Gabapentin drugs can help women in menopause who have been experiencing hot flashes at night. The initial dose of gabapentin 300mg at night should be enough, but your doctor might change it if it doesn’t have the desired effects on you.
The right dosage of the nerve drug gabapentin depends on several factors, including:
- type and severity of the condition you’re treating
- your age
- the form and brand of gabapentin you take
- any other medical conditions you suffer from
Usually, your doctor will start the therapy with a low dosage and adjust it over time to reach the dosage suitable for you. Doctors usually prescribe the lowest dosage possible that provides the desired effect.
Both generic and brand oral capsules come in the same dosages: gabapentin 100mg, 300mg, and 400mg. Your doctor will provide you with all details regarding the frequency of use, should you take gabapentin before or after a meal, etc.
Side Effects of Gabapentin
There are several gabapentin warnings and side effects that you need to know of. Breastfeeding and pregnant women shouldn’t use this drug since it hasn’t been tested during pregnancy. Moreover, gabapentin may pass into breast milk and cause severe side effects in a child.
Gabapentin oral capsules can cause either mild or severe side effects. Mild, or standard, side effects include the following:
- viral infection
- jerky movements
- trouble speaking
- nausea and vomiting
These mild side effects will usually diminish within a few days or up to two weeks. Severe side effects can last much longer, and it’s of vital importance to ask for medical help in any of these symptoms occur:
- suicidal or dying thoughts
- violent or aggressive behavior
- unusual changes in mood or behavior
- panic attacks
- trouble sleeping
- anxiety, etc.