- What is gabapentin (Neurontin), and how does it work (mechanism of action)
- What are the FDA and non-FDA approved uses for gabapentin (Neurontin)?
- What are the side effects of gabapentin (Neurontin)?
- What is the dosage for gabapentin (Neurontin)? How should I take it?
- Is gabapentin (Neurontin) an opioid narcotic? Is it addictive?
- Which drugs or supplements interact with this drug?
- Is gabapentin (Neurontin) safe to use if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
- What else should I know about this drug?
What is gabapentin (Neurontin), and how does it work (mechanism of action)
Doctors do not know how gabapentin works (the mechanism of action). Gabapentin structurally resembles the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). (Neurotransmitters are drugs that nerves use to communicate with one another.) It is possible that this similarity is related to gabapentin's mechanism of action. In animal models used for testing the anticonvulsant and analgesic (anti-pain) activities of drugs, gabapentin prevents seizures and reduces pain-related responses.
Is gabapentin (Neurontin) available as a generic drug?
Yes, this drug is available in generic form.
Do I need a prescription for this drug?
Yes, you need a prescription from your doctor or other medical health care professional for gabapentin.
What are the FDA and non-FDA approved uses for gabapentin (Neurontin)?
- Gabapentin is approved for treating seizure disorders and nerve damage from herpes zoster (shingles, postherpetic neuralgia).
- There are many non FDA-approved uses for gabapentin. These include
IMAGESBrowse our medical image collection to see examples of MRI brain scans, PET scans, and other imaging techniques used to diagnose and treat brain disorders See Images
What are the side effects of gabapentin (Neurontin)?
The most common side effects of gabapentin are:
- Fluid retention (edema)
- Difficulty speaking
- Jerky movements
- Unusual eye movements
- Double vision
- Memory loss
Other adverse effects and serious side effects associated with gabapentin include:
Antiepileptic medications have been associated with an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior. Anyone considering the use of antiepileptic drugs must balance this risk of suicide with the clinical need. Patients who are started on therapy should be closely observed for clinical worsening, suicidal thoughts, or unusual changes in behavior.
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What is the dosage for gabapentin (Neurontin)? How should I take it?
Gabapentin is available as:
- Capsules: 100, 300, and 400 mg.
- Tablets: 100, 300, 400, 600, and 800 mg.
- Solution: 250 mg/5 ml
Dosage for postherpetic neuralgia and seizures.
- The recommended dose for postherpetic neuralgia is 1800 mg daily in 3 divided doses (Neurontin) or 1800 mg once daily (Gralise). Gralise is not interchangeable with other gabapentin products.
- Seizures are treated with 900-1800 mg/daily in 3 divided doses (Neurontin). Withdrawal of treatment should occur slowly over a week.
Gabapentin may be taken with or without food.
Is gabapentin (Neurontin) an opioid narcotic? Is it addictive?
Gabapentin is not an opioid narcotic, and it is not classified as a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). However, this medication does share signs and symptoms associated with drug misuse, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms of opioids like:
There have been reports of patients abusing this drug.
Which drugs or supplements interact with this drug?
- Antacids reduce the concentration of gabapentin in blood. Therefore, gabapentin should be administered 2 hours or more after taking antacids.
- Morphine significantly increases blood concentrations of gabapentin and may increase central nervous system-related adverse events associated with gabapentin.
Is gabapentin (Neurontin) safe to use if I'm pregnant or breastfeeding?
What else should I know about this drug?
How should I keep gabapentin stored?
- Tablets and capsules should be stored between 15 C and 30 C (59 F to 86 F).
- Gabapentin solution should be refrigerated between 2 C and 8 C (36 F to 46 F).
When was gabapentin approved by the FDA?
- The FDA approved gabapentin in December 1993.
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Gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant, Fanatrex FusePag) is a drug prescribed for the treatment of seizure disorders, nerve damage from shingles and postherptic neuralgia. Off label uses of gabapentin include treatment for:
- Substance abuse withdrawal
- RLS (restless legs syndrome)
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Hot flashes
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Related Disease Conditions
Headaches can be divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches are considered primary headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by disease. Headache symptoms vary with the headache type. Over-the-counter pain relievers provide short-term relief for most headaches.
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Other shingles symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, and body aches. Treatment focuses on pain management and shortening the duration of the illness with antiviral medications.
Cancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
What Happens During Menopause?
Menopause is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods permanently stop, also called the "change of life." Menopause symptoms and signs include hot flashes, night sweats, irregular vaginal bleeding, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence, weight gain, and emotional symptoms such as mood swings. Treatment of menopausal symptoms varies, and should be discussed with your physician.
Drug addiction is a chronic disease that causes drug-seeking behavior and drug use despite negative consequences to the user and those around him. Though the initial decision to use drugs is voluntary, changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse can affect a person's self-control and ability to make the right decisions and increase the urge to take drugs. Drug abuse and addiction are preventable.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a common cause for painful legs that typically eases with motion, and becomes worse and more noticeable at rest. This characteristic nighttime worsening can frequently lead to insomnia. Treatment of the symptoms of restless leg syndrome is generally with medication as well as treating any underlying condition causing restless leg syndrome.
Migraine headache is a type of headache associated with a sensitivity to light, smells, or sounds, eye pain, severe pounding on one side of the head, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. The exact cause of migraine headaches is not known. Triggers for migraine headaches include certain foods, stress, hormonal changes, strong stimuli (loud noises), and oversleeping. Treatment guidelines for migraines include medicine, pain management, diet changes, avoiding foods that trigger migraines, staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep, and exercising regularly. Prevention of migraine triggers include getting regular exercise, drinking water daily, reducing stress, and avoiding trigger foods.
A pinched nerve causes pain, numbness, or tingling in the affected area due to pressure on a nerve. Carpal tunnel and sciatica are two examples of conditions caused by a pinched nerve. A pinched nerve is diagnosed by taking a patient history and performing a physical examination. Electromyography may be performed. Treatment for a pinched nerve depends on the underlying cause.
Hot flashes (or flushing) is the most common symptom experienced by a woman prior to and during the early stages of menopause, and often is described as the feeling of warmth that spreads over the body, often starting at the head accompanied by sweating. Symptoms of hot flashes include flushing, excessive sweating, anxiety, and palpitations.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and tender points. Stress reduction, exercise, and medication are the standard treatments for fibromyalgia.
Pain management and treatment can be simple or complex, according to its cause. There are two basic types of pain, nociceptive pain and neuropathic pain. Some causes of neuropathic pain include: complex regional pain syndrome, interstitial cystitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. There are a variety of methods to treat chronic pain, which are dependant on the type of pain experienced.
Seizures Symptoms and Types
Seizures are divided into two categories: generalized and partial. Generalized seizures are produced by electrical impulses from throughout the brain, while partial seizures are produced by electrical impulses in a small part of the brain. Seizure symptoms include unconsciousness, convulsions, and muscle rigidity.
Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It can cause myriad health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, heart disease, stroke, psychological problems, and dementia. Counseling and a few medications can be effective for alcoholism treatment.
Pain that originates in the face is referred to as trigeminal neuralgia. This pain may be caused by: an injury, an infection in the face, a nerve disorder, or it can occur for no known reason. Trigeminal neuralgia can be treated with antiseizure medications. Some antidepressant drugs also have significant pain relieving effects.
Types of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Medications
Traumatic brain injury and related conditions, may require diuretics, anticonvulsants, sedatives, antidepressants, muscle relaxers, pain relievers, and stimulants to treat deficits in cognitive functions such as attention, memory, learning and language.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which the person has seizures. There are two kinds of seizures, focal and generalized. There are many causes of epilepsy. Treatment of epilepsy (seizures) depends upon the cause and type of seizures experienced.
Interstitial Cystitis (IC) and Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS)
Interstitial cystitis (IC)/painful bladder syndrome (PBS) is an inflammatory disease of the bladder that can cause ulceration and bleeding of the bladder's lining and can lead to scarring and stiffening of the bladder. Symptoms of interstitial cystitis may vary among individuals and may even vary with time in the same individual.
Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a painful complication of shingles. Symptoms include severe pain, itchy skin, and possible weakness or paralysis of the area. There is no treatment for postherpetic neuralgia that is effective for all patients.
Excessive Sweating (Hyperhidrosis)
Hyperhidrosis is excessive sweating of the underarms, palms, or soles of the feet. Treatment may involve over-the-counter antiperspirants, prescription antiperspirants, iontophoresis, medications, surgery, and Botox.
What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy a condition in which nerve damage has occurred as a complication of diabetes. The pain from the nerve damage can be severe with tingling or numbness in the part of the body affected. Diabetic neuropathy can occur anywhere in the body. Diabetic neuropathy can cause symptoms like intense pain, numbness, burning, or tingling in the part of the body affected by the condition. There are four types of neuropathy include peripheral, autonomic, proximal and focal. Natural therapies and medications may help relieve the pain and other symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
Neuropathic pain is a chronic condition that leads to ongoing pain symptoms. Patients can be predisposed to developing neuropathic pain who have conditions such as diabetes, cancer, stroke, HIV, vitamin deficiencies, shingles, and multiple sclerosis. Patient history and nerve testing are used to diagnose neuropathic pain. Antidepressants, antiseizure medications, and other types of medications are used to treat neuropathic pain. Many people with neuropathic pain are able to attain some level of relief.
Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are experienced by many women, especially at night. However, not all women undergoing menopause experience hot flashes. What causes hot flashes? A hot flash is a feeling of warmth that spreads over the body. Treatment for hot flashes include hormone replacement therapy and alternative prescription medications such as: SSRIs (Effexor, Paxil, Prozac), clonidine (Catapres), megestrol (Megace), and gabapentin (Neurontin). Few natural remedies for hot flashes (for example phytoestrogens - isoflavones, black cohosh, and vitamin E) have been scientifically studied.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar stenosis can be caused by degenerative arthritis (the most common cause), tumor, infection, or metabolic disorders (Paget's disease of the bone). Symptoms include low back pain, weakness, pain, numbness, and loss of sensation in the legs. Other conditions may cause similar symptoms of lumbar stenosis, including diabetic neuropathy, claudication, and peripheral vascular disease. Lumbar stenosis may be treated with medication or surgery.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Symptoms and Treatments
Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms vary from person to person, and can last for days to months without periods of remission. Symptoms of MS include sexual problems and problems with the bowel, bladder, eyes, muscles, speech, swallowing, brain, and nervous system. The early symptoms and signs of multiple sclerosis usually start between age 20 and 40. MS in children, teens, and those over age 40 is rare. Treatment options for multiple sclerosis vary depending on the type and severity of symptoms. Medications may be prescribed to manage MS symptoms.
Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer is cancer of the oral cavity, salivary glands, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, or lymph nodes in the upper part of the neck. These cancers account for 3% to 5% of cancers in the U.S. Tobacco and alcohol use are important risk factors. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.
Pain Management: Musculoskeletal Pain
Natural menopause is the permanent ending of menstruation that is not brought on by any type of medical treatment. For women undergoing natural menopause, the process is described in three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. However, not all women undergo natural menopause. Some women experience induced menopause as a result of surgery or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy.
Stiff-Person syndrome is a neurological disorder associated with features of an autoimmune disease. Signs and symptoms of Stiff-Person syndrome include a heightened sensitivity to stimuli (noise, touch, emotional distress) and fluctuating muscle rigidity of the trunk and limbs. Conditions associated with Stiff-Person syndrome include thyroiditis, vitiligo, pernicious anemia, and diabetes. Treatment for Stiff-Person syndrome is generally medication to control symptoms.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Complex regional pain syndrome is a chronic pain condition in which high levels of nerve impulses are sent to an affected site is called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). CRPS is most common in people aged 20-35. The syndrome also can occur in children; it affect women more often than men.
Nightmares are dreams that cause high anxiety or terror. Nightmares may be a part of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and they usually occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. There are several different treatment options for nightmares, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medications.
Alternative Treatment for MS (CAM for MS)
The term alternative therapy, in general, is used to describe any medical treatment or intervention that has not been scientifically documented or identified as safe or effective for a specific condition. Alternative therapy encompasses a variety of disciplines that range from diet and exercise to mental conditioning to lifestyle changes.
Cancer pain results from the tumor pressing on nerves or invading bones or organs. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery can also cause pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medications, radiation, biofeedback, and relaxation techniques are just some treatments for cancer pain.
Treatment & Diagnosis
- Buttock Pain
- Numbness Toes
- Hand and Finger Numbness
- Hot Flashes
- Loss of Temperature Sensation
- Seizure (Epilepsy)
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Panic Attack
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Meralgia Paresthetica
- Doctor: Checklist to Take To Your Doctor's Appointment
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
- Stiff-Person Syndrome
- Postherpetic Neuralgia
- Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
- Fabry Disease
- Shingles (Herpes Zoster) FAQs
- Alcohol FAQs
- Fibromyalgia FAQs
- Epilepsy and Seizures FAQs
- Back Pain FAQs
- Pain FAQs
- Restless Leg Syndrome RLS FAQs
- Sweating Perspiration FAQs
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Prevention & Wellness
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- FDA Approves Horizant for Post-Shingles Pain
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- Study: Low Birth Defect Risk From Newer Epilepsy Drugs
- FDA Approves New Restless Legs Syndrome Drug Horizant
- Seizure and Pain Drug May Treat Hot Flashes
- Study: No Proof of Epilepsy Drug Suicide Risk
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Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
FDA Prescribing Information.
Melton, ST., PharmD. "Has Gabapentin Become a Drug of Abuse?" Updated: June 17, 2014.