Gabapentin (Neurontin®) is a frequently prescribed medication that was initially studied and marketed to treat epilepsy. Over time, however, it was illegally marketed for unapproved uses leading to a proliferation of prescriptions for a dizzying number of medical conditions.
Here are 21 reasons why you could be prescribed gabapentin. Since the drug seems to be used for so many medical conditions, you should maintain a healthy skepticism about its potential benefits.
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Neuropathic pain
- Chronic cough
- Post-operative pain adjunct
- Post-amputation phantom limb pain
- Post-herpetic neuralgia
- Hot flashes
- Restless legs syndrome
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Uremic pruritis
- Migraine prevention
- Insomnia in setting of alcohol abuse recovery
- Essential tremor
- Alcohol use disorder
- Bipolar disorder
Now these are probably not the only uses of gabapentin, but it is a fairly exhaustive list that I’ve quickly compiled based on drug and medical references.
Why Am I Taking Gabapentin?
Gabapentin can be used for so many medical conditions —most of which are related to pain or mental health conditions— therefore it is vital to understand why you are taking gabapentin. You should also realize that the scientific data to support gabapentin may not be robust and may be skewed.
What Symptoms Can I Expect to Improve and When?
This will depend on the reason you are using gabapentin. Many patients on gabapentin must be trialed on an adequate dose to determine whether the drug will help them. Keep in mind: some people will not benefit from gabapentin and may just experience the side effects.
Gabapentin can be helpful to reduce burning and shooting sensation associated with nerve pain. It has a wide dosage range that can vary between 300 mg to 3600 mg per day. Discuss with your health professional what is an appropriate starting dose and how to gradually increase your dose. You should also know when to have the gabapentin reevaluated.
What Are The Side Effects?
The primary side effects of gabapentin are drowsiness, lack of coordination, weight gain, foot and ankle swelling, and fatigue. This is why you typically start taking a low dose at bedtime. Over time these side effects can often go away, but if they are overly bothersome or impact your ability to drive or function, you’ll want to speak with your health professional immediately and discuss your options.
Medication Efficacy: Keep a diary or take notes on how gabapentin is or is not improving your symptoms. Ensure you share your notes with your health professional.
Medication Safety: You will likely require a baseline measurement of your kidney function (serum creatinine) since gabapentin is cleared from your body through your kidneys. Take note of any bothersome or persistent side effects and report these to your health professional.
Gabapentin can be a useful drug if it is prescribed judiciously and when it is monitored closely by a clinical pharmacist. Contact me if you have more questions about your gabapentin prescription.