Gabapentin is a medication prescribed to treat seizures. It can be used alone or in combination with other medications to treat epilepsy in children age 12 or older or adults. This drug is also used to treat pain caused by shingles. It is also prescribed to treat fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome (RLS), or even to relieve hot flashes.
The drug was originally approved under the brand name Neurontin, created by the drug manufacturer Pfizer, and is now available in a generic that is made by several other drug companies. There is also an extended-release form available under the brand name Horizant.
If you are prescribed gabapentin, be sure to follow the instructions provided by your doctor. It is taken by mouth with or without food, depending on the direction from your doctor. The dosage prescribed is based upon your specific needs and also response to treatment. For children, the dosage is also based on weight.
Common side effects of Gabapentin
Sometimes doctors will gradually increase your dosage to minimize side effects. Taking the first pill at bedtime can also help to minimize side effects. The most common side include:
- Memory loss
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty speaking
- Viral infections
- Double vision
- Unusual eye movements
- Jerky movements
Serious side effects of Gabapentin
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these serious side effects:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Increased seizures
- Fever, swollen glands, body aches or other flu-like symptoms
- Skin rash, easy bruising or bleeding, severe tingling, numbness, pain, muscle weakness
- Upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, yellowing of skin or eyes (jaundice)
- Chest pain, irregular heart beat, shortness of breath
- Confusion, nausea or vomiting, swelling, rapid weight gain, urinating less than usual
- New or worsening cough, fever, trouble breathing
- Rapid back and forth movement of your eyes
Side effects in children
Some side effects are more common among children taking this medication. Call your doctor immediately if your child has any of these serious side effects:
- Changes in behavior
- Memory problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Acing restless, hostile or aggressive
Some less-serious side effects include:
- Dizziness, drowsiness, weakness, fatigue
- Nausea, diarrhea, constipation
- Blurred vision
- Breast swelling
- Dry mouth
- Loss of balance or coordination
This medication works best when kept in your body at a consistent level. Because of this, it’s very important to consistently take the pill at the same time every day. If you are taking this medication three times a day, do not go more than 12 hours between doses.
Gabapentin does have adverse affects with some medications. Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium may interfere with the absorption of it. If you need to take an antacid, wait at least two hours after taking the gabapentin.
Drinking alcohol can increase side effects of gabapentin, and is not recommended. If you drink alcohol regularly, it is important to tell your doctor. You should also tell your doctor if you are taking any opiates, which may increase drowsiness or dizziness when combined with gabapentin.
There have been reports of people abusing gabapentin because it can give users feelings of euphoria. In fact, a 2014 report found that almost 25 percent of people in drug rehabilitation clinics reported use of gabapentin.
While gabapentin can be a powerful medication in helping you to feel better, it does come with many side effects and has the potential to become addictive. Take the medication exactly as directed, and keep an open dialogue with your doctor as you progress with treatment.