Otherwise called anticonvulsant, gabapentin happens to be an anti-epileptic drug. According to experts, this drug affects chemicals as well as nerves in the body that are often times involved in the cause of seizures as well as some type of pain. This drug is in most cases used on adults to treat nerve pain that is either caused by shingles or herpes virus.
Unknown to most people, this drug is sold in the United States under the name “Neurontin”. Some of the other health conditions this drug is used to treat include; restless legs syndrome, neuropathic pain, and hot flashes. Interestingly, it has been recommended as one of the first-line medication that is used to treat neuropathic pain that is often times caused by neuropathy, diabetic, and postherpetic neuralgia, and also central neuropathic pain. Studies have shown that over 15% of those given gabapentin for postherpetic neuralgia have experienced significant health benefit.
This drug along with others is used to manage partial seizures with or without having to generalize. This drug should be taken by those above the age of 12. Unknown to most people, this drug can also be used to treat children that are between the ages of about three to12. Aside from these uses mentioned, there are other legal but unlabeled uses of the drug which have not been approved by the USFDA (United States Food & Drug Administration). These uses are; it can be used to severe pain that is caused by nerve damage. While it has not been verified, dozens of studies have shown that it can be used to treat individuals with bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders. Others are of the opinion that this medication can be used to treat migraines and other health conditions.
This drug happens to be chemically related to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter. The main function of this drug when consumed is that of controlling seizures. Most experts are of the opinion that the reports stating that this drug can be used to treat pain have not proven.
While this drug has been in existence for a long time, it was not until 1993 that it was approved for use in the United States. In 2000, the USFDA approved not just the liquid formulations of this drug but also the use of this drug by children that are between the ages of three to twelve. This drug is currently available in 400, 300, and 100 mg capsules. It is also available in 600 to 800mg tablets as well as in liquid solutions that contain 250mg per 5 millimeters.
Medical Use Of Gabapentin
This medication has been approved by the USFDA to treat neuropathic pain and seizures. This drug is administered through the mouth. Often times, this drug is recommended for use in many off-label cases such as the treatment of insomnia, anxiety disorders, and even bipolar disorder. According to a study that was conducted, it was discovered that over 90% of the main use of this drug is for these unlabeled uses that have not been approved by the USFDA. Some of the proven uses of this drug include;
- Seizures; this drug has been approved for the treatment of mixed and focal seizures.
- Neuropathic pain; according to a 2010 report that was published by the EFNS (European Federation of Neurological Societies), gabapentin is one of the recommended first-line treatment for central pain or postherpetic neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy. The report further stated that there is enough evidence to prove that the combination of gabapentin and oxycodone or morphine produced far better results than using either of them alone.
- Anxiety disorders; often times, this drug has been used off label to treat patients with anxiety disorder. Although it has not been approved by the USFDA.
How Gabapentin Is Used
It is advised that you go through the medication guide (if that is available) and the patient information leaflet that would be provided by your pharmacist. Also, each time you get a refill of this drug, it is important that you go through the leaflet once again. If there are things you do not understand, it is of great importance that you discuss them with your pharmacist before you take the drug.
Gabapentin is taken through the mouth and it could be taken with or without food as recommended by your doctor. The exact dosage to take will depend on your medical condition and also your response to treatment. If the drug is to be taken by children between the ages of three to twelve, then, the dosage will depend on the weight of the child. Often times, you may be advised by your doctor to split one tablet into half, ensure that you take the other half when it is time for your next dose. To ensure that you are safe, it is advised that you get rid of half-split tablets if they are not used in a couple of days. Those taking the capsule are advised to swallow with enough water. This would help the drug digest properly.
It is of great importance that you follow the dosing instructions of your doctor exactly as it is written. Do not attempt to do things your own way. Stick to the dosing schedule set by the doctor.
Most times, during the very first days of taking this drug, your doctor may advise you to take more to ensure that your body adjusts to the medication. To enable you to minimize the side effects of taking more of this drug, it is advised that the very first dose be taken during bedtime. To get the most out of this medication, it is of great importance that you take them regularly, do not skip days. According to the manufacturers, this drug happens to work efficiently if the consumption level is kept at a constant level. You need to take the medication at the same time(s) each day.
Those taking this medication to stop partial seizure are advised to not let 12-hour pass before taking the next dose as the seizure may return within that time. Do not try to increase your dose without consulting your doctor. While most people would feel that taking more of this drug would make it work faster, it is important that you bear in mind that it does not in any way make it work faster. Also, taking more dose than required would increase the risks of side effects. Do not abruptly stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor, this is because most times, when you stop taking this drug, the condition may return and this time it may be severe. If your condition is improving, your doctor may decide to reduce your dosage but would never ask you to completely stop taking the medication suddenly.
If you are combining this drug with antacids, it is advised that you take gabapentin two hours after you must have taken antacid this is because antacids contain magnesium which may disrupt or interfere with the absorption of this medication. Bear in mind that there are tons of gabapentin that are absorbed into the body in different ways, do not switch to one without first consulting your doctor.
If after taking this medication for a couple of weeks and there is no significant improvement, it is advised that you discuss with your doctor. If, on the other hand, your condition worsens after you begin taking this medication, then you should also discuss with your doctor.
Breastfeeding mothers and those with decreased kidney-functioning would have to discuss the risks as well as benefits of taking this medication with their doctors before taking it. Young women who are either pregnant or who wish to become pregnant in the next couple of months would also have to discuss with their doctors the benefits and risks of taking this medication. As mentioned earlier, patients are advised to not stop taking this medication as it could result in increased seizures. If there’s a need to discontinue the medication, the dosage should be gradually reduced in a week’s time.
If you do not understand the effects of taking this medication, it is advised that you do not drive, or take part in any hazardous activity, or even operate dangerous or heavy-duty machinery. While taking gabapentin, it is advised that you avoid the intake of alcohol.
Side Effects Of Gabapentin
While taking this medication, if you experience any of these side effects, then it is important that you discuss them with your doctor. Some of the common side effects of gabapentin intake include;
- Uncontrollable eye movement
- Swelling of certain parts of the body
Some of the less common side effects patients may experience include;
- Mood changes
- Changes in thinking
- Decreased memory
Children that are under the ages of 12 that experience any of the common side effects should also consult their doctor. Some of the side effects children who take gabapentin may experience include; lack of concentration, change in behavior, irritability, anxiety, mood swing, depression, hyperactivity, paranoia etc. During the first few days of taking this medication, patients tend to experience multiple side effects, but most of them go away during the next couple of days. If your side effects are particularly troublesome or last for a long period of time, then it is important that you see your doctor.
Some of the side effects you may experience when you start taking this medication include; increased weakness, swollen feet, hands, or legs, trembling, blurred vision, muscle pain or weakness etc. If these side effects persist after taking this medication a couple of times, then it is advised that you consult your doctor.
Another less common side effect that has been reported after taking gabapentin is suicide. In 2009, a report was released by the USFDA that there’s an increased risk of suicidal thoughts as well as behaviors in patients taking this medication. Further, reports have revealed that there’s an increasing number of patients with bipolar disorder taking gabapentin having suicidal thoughts and behaviors. If you are experiencing this side effect, it is of utmost importance of that you discuss with your doctor.
What You Have To Discuss With Your Doctor Before Taking Gabapentin
Before taking this medication, it is advised that you discuss with your doctor. Also, do well to go through the leaflet or medications guide before taking this medication. To ensure that you do not experience worse side effects, it is advised that you discuss with your doctor if you have the following health conditions;
- Kidney problem
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Also, if you work at night and sleep during the day, it is advised that you discuss with your doctor
As mentioned earlier, most people have suicidal thoughts when taking this medication that is why it is advised that doctors regularly check the progress of each patient taking gabapentin. Also, caregivers and loved ones should keep an eye on patients in order to report any mood change.
Gabapentin Interaction With Other Drugs
While taking gabapentin, it is advised that you do not take drugs that make you sleepy as they could worsen the case. If you need sleeping pills to sleep, ask your doctor if it is fine to do so while taking gabapentin. Antacids should not be taken closely after or before taking gabapentin. Antacids should be taken at least about two to three hours before gabapentin is taken. This is because antacids are capable of interfering and often times disrupting the absorption of this medication.
Herbal product, medicine, and vitamins may also interact with this drug. While taking gabapentin, it is advised that you tell your doctor which herbal product or medicine you are currently taking.
This drug can be used for veterinary uses. It can be administered to cats as it helps reduce stress before they are taken to the vets. Also, this medication can be used to treat other animals but has proven to be toxic when administered to dogs.