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Gabapentin

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EC000022
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Gabapentin

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug. It is used to treat epilepsy and peripheral neuropathic pain (nerve pain). Occasionally, Gabapentin is used to treat symptoms of restless leg syndrome for the prevention of chronic migraines.

Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage to or infection of the body’s nervous system. Neuropathic pain may be chronic, and can gradually lead to persistent pain symptoms. It can also be caused by damage to the spinal cord or brain. Gabapentin can help ease the pain caused by damage to the nervous system.

Gabapentin is commonly available as tablets or capsules for ingestion through the mouth. It is available only on prescription, or after an online assessment with one of our prescribers. It is also available from online pharmacy services. Gabapentin is available under the brand name Neurontin.

For more information about Gabapentin, please consult the patient information leaflet.

How it works

Gabapentin works by affecting electrical activity in the brain. The exact way in which it works is not fully understood, but by affecting electrical signals in the brain it is thought that it changes the way in which the body feels pain. As a result, the effects of neuropathic pain are reduced.

Gabapentin may need to take several weeks to begin working. It is available as 100 mg, 300 mg and 400 mg capsule strengths.

Before you take it

Some Gabapentin capsules or tablets may contain gelatine. As a result, it may be unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians. Contact your doctor to be sure and to discuss an alternative pain management method.

Gabapentin may contain sodium and potassium. If you are on a controlled diet whereby your intake or either sodium or potassium is monitored, or your kidneys are impaired in any way, this medicine may be unsuitable for you, and you should discuss an alternative with your doctor or pharmacist. If you are prescribed Gabapentin with a renal impairment, you need to take extra caution to make sure kidney function is not further impaired.

It has been documented that Gabapentin has been used for so called “legal highs” - prescription drugs that when taken in large quantities may produce effects similar to illegal psychoactive drugs. You should only use Gabapentin for its prescribed purpose, and you should only use it if it has been prescribed to you.

Gabapentin is not recommended during pregnancy. The safety of Gabapentin during pregnancy, including its effects on an unborn baby, have not yet been fully established. As a result, you should only use Gabapentin during pregnancy if it has been specifically prescribed to you, and your doctor feels that the benefits of taking Gabapentin outweigh the risks.

If you are already pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, you must call your doctor to discuss whether this medicine is suitable for you. You should not stop taking the medication unless your doctor specifically tells you to.

Gabapentin can be prescribed to adults and children. However it will only be prescribed to a child if your doctor deems it suitable. Do not administer this medication to a child without explicit medical advice from your doctor.

Gabapentin does not interfere with hormonal contraception. This includes the use of an intrauterine device, contraceptive pill, contraceptive implants or contraceptive patch. You are still protected from pregnancy with any of these methods of hormonal contraception while taking Gabapentin.

You should not take Gabapentin if you are breastfeeding. Gabapentin passes into breast milk, and it is likely that your baby may experience side effects and withdrawal symptoms. You should seek further advice from your doctor.

Gabapentin may cause dizziness or drowsiness. Make sure you fully understand how Gabapentin affects your body before you drive or operate heavy machinery after taking Gabapentin.

Taking Gabapentin with antacids (indigestion medication) may prevent it being absorbed into the bloodstream. You should ensure that there is a minimum of a two hour gap between taking an antacid and a dose of gabapentin.

Gabapentin is unsuitable for certain patients, and can cause drug interactions with other medication. To ensure Gabapentin is safe for you to take, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking it if any of the following apply to you:

  • You have a kidney problem of any kind
  • If you have ever misused prescription medication in the past
  • If you have ever been addicted to any medications in the past
  • If you are allergic to Gabapentin or any of the ingredients within
  • If you are taking any opioids (for example, morphine) as they can cause drug interactions
  • If you are taking Naproxen or other NSAIDs as this may cause a drug interaction
  • If you are taking medicines used for heartburn, including cimetidine, mylanta and maatox, as well as any antacids used to treat indigestion

This is not a full list of drug interactions and warnings. You must consult the patient information leaflet for a full list.

Dosage Instructions

Gabapentin should be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor. The dosage prescribed depends on the patient and the condition being treated. Your doctor will always try to prescribe Gabapentin in a way that controls your symptoms at the lowest possible dosage. This is so that pain relief is achieved while minimising the risk of side effects.

When treatment is started, it is normal to gradually increase the dosage over a period of days or weeks until pain is controlled. While every patient will respond differently to treatment, most patients experience pain relief at a total usual dose of between 300mg and 900mg daily in divided doses, usually three times per day.

You should take Gabapentin once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening.

Do not take more than three doses every 24 hours. Do not take Gabapentin for longer than it has been prescribed to you.

Swallow your Gabapentin capsules whole, with plenty of water. Do not crush, chew or suck them. Do not stop taking Gabapentin without medical advice.

If you need to stop taking Gabapentin at any point, your doctor will gradually reduce your dose over a period of time. If you stop taking Gabapentin suddenly, you may experience partial seizures.

You should store Gabapentin at room temperature. Keep Gabapentin out of the reach of children and pets.

Common Side Effects of Gabapentin

It’s possible for Gabapentin to cause a severe allergic reaction in some patients. This is rare, but an allergic reaction is an emergency, so you must immediately seek medical advice if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe skin rash, including blistering, peeling, itching or redness
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives
  • Hair loss
  • Swelling of the face

Gabapentin may also cause serious side effects. These are comparatively rare, but if you experience any of them, you must check with your doctor as it’s possible Gabapentin is unsuitable for you. These symptoms can include:

  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes - this can indicate a liver problem
  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Serious kidney problems or renal impairment
  • Bruising easily
  • Frequent infections
  • Abnormal or jerky movements
  • Hallucinations
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

Most patients will not experience any side effects when taking Gabapentin. However, it’s possible for some people to experience mild to moderate side effects. These include:

  • Feeling drowsy, dizzy or tired
  • Pneumonia or respiratory infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea (vomiting)
  • Viral infections
  • Weight gain
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Dry mouth
  • Swelling

Gabapentin has also been known to cause suicidal thoughts and depression. If you experience this, speak to your doctor immediately.

This list is not exhaustive, so if you require more information about possible side effects of Gabapentin, please consult the patient information leaflet or speak with your doctor.

Extra Support

Gabapentin is potentially addictive. You should not use Gabapentin for any purpose other than that for which it has been prescribed. If you’re struggling with an addiction to Gabapentin or any other drug, visit our addiction support page.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Gabapentin suitable for children?

Gabapentin may be prescribed to children aged 12 and over if your doctor believes it is suitable. Their total daily dose will be decided by your doctor. However, we do not prescribe any medication, including Gabapentin, to anyone under 18 years of age.

Do I need a prescription?

Yes. Gabapentin can only be sold to you after you have received a prescription from your doctor, or if you have taken our online assessment and our prescribers have decided Gabapentin is suitable for you.

I’m pregnant. Should I take Gabapentin?

Generally pregnant women should not take Gabapentin, due to the fact that its effects on an unborn baby have not yet been established. Your doctor may prescribe you Gabapentin during pregnancy if they feel the benefits of taking it outweigh the risks. You should speak with your doctor if you are concerned about this. You must visit your doctor to discuss your condition before you take Gabapentin if you are pregnant.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you miss your regular dose of Gabapentin, take it as soon as you remember. If it is nearly time to take your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue to take your next dose as scheduled. Do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.

What happens if I take too much?

It’s possible to fatally overdose on Gabapentin. Unpleasant side effects and health problems are associated with Gabapentin toxicity, including diarrhoea, muscle relaxation, slurred speech, lethargy and difficulty breathing. If you suspect that you have overdosed on Gabapentin, seek medical attention immediately. An overdose is an emergency, so you should go to your local A&E centre or hospital straight away.

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Dosage Instructions Please see medicine label for the dosage instructions.