Gabapentin (Generic Neurontin ) is used to help control partial seizures (convulsions) in the treatment of epilepsy. This medicine cannot cure epilepsy and will only work to control seizures for as long as you continue to take it.
Gabapentin (Generic Neurontin ) is also used to manage a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is pain that occurs after shingles. It’s also taken for nerve pain. Nerve pain can be caused by different illnesses, including diabetes and shingles, or it can happen after an injury.
Gabapentin (Generic Neurontin ) works in the brain to prevent seizures and relieve pain for certain conditions in the nervous system. It is not used for routine pain caused by minor injuries or arthritis. Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant.
Occasionally, gabapentin (Generic Neurontin ) is used to prevent migraine headaches. Gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica) are anticonvulsants and nerve pain medicines which have structural similarities to the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.
Gabapentin (Generic Neurontin ) is available only with your doctor’s prescription.
Gabapentin (Generic Neurontin ) is available in the following dosage forms:
Tablet, Extended Release, 24 HR
Gabapentin (Generic Neurontin ) was developed in 1993 and has indications for shingles (‘postherpetic neuralgia’) and partial-onset seizures. It has had a growing popularity in off-label uses for fibromyalgia, pain from a variety of causes, migraine, cocaine withdrawal, anxiety, and insomnia. A related compound, gabapentin encarbil (Horizant), is approved for shingles and restless leg syndrome. Pregabalin was developed in 2004 and is approved for nerve pain from diabetes and spinal cord injuries, fibromyalgia, and adjunctive treatment of partial-onset seizures. Although prescribed off-label for anxiety in the U.S., it is approved for this purpose in the U.K., where it is sometimes called the ‘new Valium’.
It affects chemicals and nerves in the body that are involved in the cause of seizures and some types of pain. Gabapentin is used in adults to treat nerve pain caused by herpes virus or shingles (herpes zoster).
The Horizant brand of gabapentin is also used to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS).The Neurontin brand of gabapentin is also used to treatseizures in adults and children who are at least 3 years old.
Gabapentin is also be used to treat following health conditions:
- Alcohol Withdrawal
- Benign Essential Tremor
- Bipolar Disorder
- Burning Mouth Syndrome
- Cluster-Tic Syndrome
- Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy
- Hot Flashes
- Lhermitte’s Sign
- Nausea/Vomiting, Chemotherapy Induced
- Neuropathic Pain
- Occipital Neuralgia
- Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Postherpetic Neuralgia
- Postmenopausal Symptoms
- Pudendal Neuralgia
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
- Restless Legs Syndrome
- Small Fiber Neuropathy
- Transverse Myelitis
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
One of Gabapentin “off-label” usage is for migraine prevention and treatment, including migraines with or without aura, vestibular migraines. It can reduce the frequency of headaches, pain intensity, and the use of symptomatic medications. Gabapentin is a good preventive therapy for migraines refractory to standard medications.
The chemical structure of gabapentin is related that of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is a neurotransmitter in the brain. The exact mechanism as to how gabapentin controls epilepsy and relieves pain is unknown, but it probably acts like the neurotransmitter GABA.
The effective dose of gabapentin varies greatly. Some persons need only 200-300 mg a day whereas others may need 3000 mg or more a day. It may take several weeks to become effective, so it is important to stay on it for an adequate length of time.
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Gabapentin is a commonly used drug
Gabapentin remains a widespread and popular drug.
In 2016, it was the 10th most prescribed medication in the United States, with 64 million prescriptions.
As use of a drug grows, so does the unpredictability of side effects and potential for misuse.
“Once released as an approved drug, the number of people being prescribed the drug jumps substantially (tens of thousands to millions), and there is much more variability in the patient population and less control on how the drug is actually being taken,” said Bilsky.
A study from 2016 found that gabapentin misuse was low among the general population at just 1 percent. But that jumped to between 15 and 22 percent among people who misuse opioids.
“With decreasing availability of commonly abused prescription opioids, it has been suggested that nonmedical users of prescription opioids are substituting other licit and illicit drugs for abuse,” wrote the authors of a 2015 article on gabapentin misuse.
Gabapentin isn’t the only “safe” pain medication to show up on the radar of doctors and lawmakers in recent months, either.
As Healthline previously reported, Imodium — an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal drug — has also seen a surge in misuse. So much so that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a plan to help cut down on its misuse potential.
Neither gabapentin nor Imodium is particularly good at getting someone high, so reasons for misuse are likely associated with cost and availability.
“It is hard to say what drives the person who suffers from a substance use disorder to switch between drugs and drug classes,” said Bilsky. “The current misuse of gabapentin may be another version of combining drugs to try and maximize the high.”
Editor’s note: This article was originally reported by Gigen Mammoser on April 9, 2018. Its current publication date reflects an update, which includes a medical review by Zara Risoldi Cochrane, PharmD, MS, FASCP.