Introduction to Gabapentin: Uses and Risks

Gabapentin is a pain-relieving anticonvulsant medication that has been FDA-approved to treat epilepsy and nerve pain due to shingles and is also prescribed to treat restless leg syndrome. Some brand names for this medicine include Fanatrex, Gabarone, Gralise, Horizant, Neurontin, and Fuse Paq. Gabapentin may be used off-label to treat diabetic neuropathy and opioid withdrawal symptoms.

While Gabapentin is not considered a controlled substance by the federal government, some states do classify it as a Schedule V controlled substance, with other medications that have less than 200mg of codeine in them. Like other pain medications and prescription drugs, there is potential for developing physical dependence, and you should never mix Gabapentin and alcohol or any opioid drugs, due to the risk of respiratory sedation.

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The Risks of Combining Gabapentin with Alcohol

When starting a new medication, it is always a good idea to ask your trusted doctor or pharmacist about contraindications with other medications you are taking. For most medications and drugs, this is easy to remember, but some may forget to ask about alcohol, especially when the medication is not classified as a narcotic in their state. If you are used to having a glass of wine or two with dinner, it may feel like second nature to pour one for yourself, but this can be dangerous when you are taking Gabapentin.

The risks of combining Gabapentin with alcohol include:

  • Impairment that can lead to accidents and injuries
  • Depression leading to suicidal thoughts
  • Potential of developing a substance use disorder
  • Severe intoxication and blackouts, with memory loss
  • Poor judgment with a lack of coordination
  • Unconsciousness, leading to coma or even death

Why Mixing Gabapentin and Alcohol is Harmful

Taking Gabapentin recreationally and mixing it with alcohol can be deadly. These two drugs interact within the body and the mind, raising adverse side effects to dangerous levels. One of the biggest dangers is slowed breathing which can lead to death if not medically treated. Even at low doses, users may display erratic, dangerous behaviors, poor decision-making, mood and behavioral changes, dizziness, and drowsiness.

Can You Drink While Taking Gabapentin? Debunking Myths

gabapentin with alcohol

Some of the most common internet searches about Gabapentin includeCan you drink with Gabapentin?” and “Can you drink on Gabapentin?” Some people believe that taking Gabapentin will positively increase alcohol’s effects, or that it will make them feel more relaxed, while others simply trust that because alcohol is a legal substance and Gabapentin is a prescribed medication, they must be inherently safe to use together.

In reality, Gabapentin and alcohol are not safe to use together. As a rule, one should never mix their prescription medications with other drugs, alcohol, or other prescriptions, without double checking with their pharmacist or doctor. Each medication alters the chemistry within the body and can interact in dangerous ways.

Understanding the Side Effects of Alcohol and Gabapentin

Common side effects of taking Gabapentin include sleepiness, fatigue, dizziness, coordination problems, and swelling of the legs and feet. It is a depressant drug that slows the nervous system and relaxes the body, slowing response times, making a person feel sleepy, and slowing breathing down.

Alcohol is also considered a depressant. It slows movement and reaction time, affects brain functions, and causes breathing to slow, which is why some people believe having a drink “relaxes” them. You cannot combine two depressant drugs like alcohol and Gabapentin without a risk of overdosing. This can lead to dangerously low blood pressure, blackouts, memory loss, unconsciousness, shallow breathing, coma, and death.

Warning Signs of Gabapentin and Alcohol Abuse

We all know the potential for addiction that alcohol has, but did you know that Gabapentin also has addictive qualities to it? This medication can cause chemical changes in the brain that lead to a substance use disorder, especially if you are taking it in ways not prescribed by your doctor. Even those who use this medication as prescribed are advised to be careful and report to their physician if they notice signs of addiction like drug cravings, tolerance with the urge to use more, or wanting to take the drug more often than they have been prescribed.

Common signs of Gabapentin and alcohol abuse include:

  • Becoming severely intoxicated after one or two drinks
  • Cognitive issues like confusion, lightheadedness, and coordination problems
  • Vomiting or erratic behavior when drinking
  • “Passing out”, unconsciousness, and blacking out
  • Experiencing signs of withdrawal when not using these substances (flu-like symptoms, headache, sweating, insomnia, mood swings, and nausea)

Safe Practices: Gabapentin Usage and Alcohol Consumption

If you have a prescription for Gabapentin, it is always best to use this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor, and if you have any questions regarding your dose, contraindications, or side effects, be sure to ask a medical professional immediately. Do not stop taking this medication without a doctor’s supervision, especially if you are using it to control seizures, as this can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, including a worsening of seizure issues that can be dangerous to your health.

Do not use Gabapentin and alcohol together, and do not pair Gabapentin with other depressants, opioids, or certain other medications. Side effects from mixing this prescription medication with other drugs can be deadly.

Treatment Options for Gabapentin and Alcohol Misuse

There are several options to consider when it comes to Gabapentin and alcohol use disorder. For most people, treatment will begin with a detox period, which may last anywhere from a few days to two weeks, depending on how much of each substance you were using, how long you have been using it, and the frequency of use.

Detoxing should always take place in a medically supervised location, especially when detoxing from alcohol, opioid drugs, or benzodiazepines, as these drugs can produce severe and sometimes deadly withdrawal symptoms in serious cases. Detoxing under a doctor’s care will ensure that medical intervention is available if needed, and you may also receive prescription medications that can relieve some of the discomfort, nausea, and pain as your body recalibrates and resets after substance abuse.

In a professional drug-abuse treatment program, like those offered at WhiteSands, you will undergo a full assessment, including a medical and psychological evaluation to determine which types of treatment will be best for your individual needs. For some, spending time in inpatient rehab after detoxing will give them the best chance at staying healthy and overcoming the disease of addiction while others may need a customized outpatient treatment plan that gives them the guidance and support that they need once they return home.

Treatment for Gabapentin and alcohol use disorders will require a comprehensive care plan that integrates options like therapy, medical treatments, individual and group counseling, life skills and relapse prevention programs, case management, social support, family therapy, healthy living, and more.

In a holistic treatment program that looks at your life as a whole, you will be better supported, with help dealing with practical issues, emotional pain, mental health disorders, and behavioral issues along with the physical and mental aspects of addiction. At WhiteSands, we collaborate with our patients to build an appropriate, actionable plan that will lead through detox, rehab, and beyond, with full support as long as necessary.

How WhiteSands Treatment Can Help with Gabapentin and Alcohol Addiction

If you are considering quitting Gabapentin and alcohol, do not do so cold turkey without speaking to a doctor, as this could cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms. WhiteSands makes it easier to taper off your Gabapentin use safely, stop drinking alcohol, and work through the underlying causes of addiction with a focus on building a healthier future for yourself. Our team of caring, professional doctors, nurses, psychologists, counselors, and other addiction experts will guide you through the process from the moment you step through our doors. We will stay at your side to ensure you are comfortable, safe, and healthy while you recover.

Gabapentin and alcohol can be a deadly combination, so if you or somebody you know is misusing these substances, please call WhiteSands at (877) 640-7820. Our experts can help you decide the best course of action for you.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.