Gabapentin: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Gabapentin, a generic for Neurontin, is frequently prescribed for fibromyalgia. This drug has been shown to reduce pain, but it does have a number of drawbacks. I’ve been on gabapentin for over two years and it does provide some relief, but I’m concerned about the side effects.

If you currently take the drug or are thinking about starting, here are a few things you should know:

The Good: For a lot of fibromyalgia warriors, this drug has been a lifesaver. It is an anticonvulsant and an antiepileptic, and the same type of drug as Lyrica. Some other uses for gabapentin include seizures, nerve pain, migraines, anxiety disorders, hot flashes, and restless legs.

Even though pain reduction is a huge plus, there are some negative side effects similar to those possible with Neurontin that you should be aware of.

The Bad: I’ve experienced a few side effects ranging from insignificant or embarrassing to distressing. Anxiety, muscle pain, sweating, dry mouth, and insomnia are just a few of the many side effects you may encounter. You may also experience loss of balance, headaches, nausea, blurred vision, swelling of the breasts, and jerky movements. I can’t forget to mention the weight gain, skin rashes, and high-blood pressure that may occur.

Recently I’ve been struggling with mouth issues. For some reason, this drug can cause you to stick out your tongue and purse your lips without you realizing you are doing it. Involuntary eye rolling is another fun reaction. My face got me into trouble at work a few weeks ago. My boss accused me of rolling my eyes and making faces at him during a meeting. I wasn’t aware I was doing either of those things. How embarrassing!

The Ugly: Gabapentin can be habit-forming. If you wish to stop taking this medication, make sure to see your doctor first. You will need to wean yourself off slowly. I tried to reduce my dosage by only one pill a day and ended up getting sicker than a dog. The withdrawal symptoms were horrible. My doctor suggested I start by reducing each dose by 100 milligrams and after two weeks, reduce by another 100 milligrams, and so on.

Another ugly truth is what this drug can do to your unborn child if you take this while you are pregnant. Studies have shown that it interferes with the formation of brain synapses, which mainly occur during gestation and the first few years of life. This 2009 study by Stanford University raises some alarming questions regarding the use of this drug. I’ve seen differing opinions regarding the formation of synapses in adults, but regardless, care should be taken when on this medication.

Risk of suicide is also listed as an adverse reaction of gabapentin. In 2008, the FDAannounced that, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced it will require the manufacturers of antiepileptic drugs to add to these products’ prescribing information, or labeling, a warning that their use increases risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (suicidality). The action includes all antiepileptic drugs including those used to treat psychiatric disorders, migraine headaches and other conditions, as well as epilepsy.”

Because of my worries regarding the many side effects and after having to explain my eye rolling and nasty expressions, I decided to end my association with this so-called therapy. I have enough issues already.

For me, the negative side effects outweigh the benefits I’ve experienced. I discussed my decision with my doctor and she agreed it was the best choice for me. You may have a different experience. Whatever you decide to do, make sure to involve your physician in the conversation.

Do you take this drug or another like it? Have you experienced any side effects? Does your physician monitor you for signs of depression or suicidal thoughts?


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