Gabapentin, also known as Neurontin, is a medication that is prescribed to control and prevent seizures and treat shingles-induced nerve pain. Recently, it has also been used as a treatment for severe depression, anxiety, and mood swings.

The truth is, many people don’t think about how their medication is going to interact with alcohol, so it’s pretty common for people to have a drink or two while taking gabapentin. Unfortunately, this is one of the medications that should not be combined with alcohol.  When you do combine them, the side effects of both are intensified.

While it may not seem like such a bad thing for you to be drunk after just a drink or two, the risks involved are just not worth it, as other effects are intensified as well. Mixing alcohol and gabapentin can lead to some very uncomfortable side effects. From difficulty breathing to confusion to seizures, there are a lot of things that can go wrong when you combine gabapentin and alcohol. Let’s take a closer look at what can happen.

Side-Effects of Gabapentin

The main use of gabapentin is as a way to control and stop epileptic seizures. It reduces the brain activity that is generally associated with seizures in epileptic patients. It also helps reduce the pain, tingling, and discomfort that often follows shingles. As with any medication, there are possible side effects that can happen even when taking gabapentin as prescribed by your physician. It may even help with restless leg syndrome.

Before beginning gabapentin, ensure your doctor is aware of any medication allergies you have, current medications you take, and your substance use habits. Knowing this information can ensure your doctor prescribes a medication that will be relatively safe for you to use. Gabapentin is available in several forms and can be used as a treatment for a few different conditions, so your doctor will want to ensure you aren’t taking more than one medication that contains gabapentin.

There are several side effects that are possible when taking gabapentin, some of them mild and others more severe. Most of these effects are temporary, but others may be long lasting. These side effects include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea (with or without vomiting)
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Memory issues
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever
  • Swelling in the hands, lower legs, ankles, or feet

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These side effects are normal and should ease over time. If any of them become severe or last a long time, call your doctor.

Some of the less common long-lasting and more severe side effects should be taken seriously. Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Seizures
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Hoarseness
  • Swelling of the face, lips, eyes, throat, or tongue
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Bluish tinged lips, skin, or fingernails
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Confusion

If you are unfortunate enough to experience one of the severe side effects associated with gabapentin, you or your doctor should reach out to the FDA and report the experience to the Food and Drug Administration’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. You can do this online or by phone.

Why Mixing Gabapentin and Alcohol is Dangerous

When taking gabapentin the directions from the manufacturer indicate that you should not combine alcohol with the drug in any capacity. The reason behind this is that it creates a number of potentially hazardous health risks and medical complications. These potential dangers begin by elevating the possibility of much more severe side effects occurring. It can even result in you driving while you are dangerously tired and nodding off. 

Gabapentin is well-known for the changes that it produces in the mood and cognition of the user. This is something that alcohol is also famous for, and combining the two can exacerbate things to the point of no return. Symptoms such as fatigue and drowsiness, anxiety, sudden confusion or the development of other mental issues, severe nausea that will often be accompanied by vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, and dizziness. There is even the possibility of death due to respiratory depression.

When taken separately, even though the two substances present many of the same effects, they are both relatively easily managed. Even if the worst of the side effects are noticed, they will often be relatively short-lived, and mild in severity. However, when combined even in small amounts, the synergistic effect of the substances can make an incredibly dangerous combination.

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How to Get Help if Addicted to Mixing Gabapentin and Alcohol

If you or someone you love is struggling with potential substance abuse, including mixing gabapentin and alcohol, one of the most important things you can do to help their recovery be as successful as possible is to talk to them and agree to reach out to  recovery professionals to give them the best chance at a full recovery. They will pay close attention to the needs of the individual, and can help build a customized treatment plan that works for them, whether it is an inpatient program or intensive outpatient program. 

While compassionately addressing each individual’s requirements for recovery, they can begin receiving treatment for their substance abuse. In some cases this may even involve a medically supervised detox. This can be particularly beneficial for an individual wishing to have peace of mind that all health issues will be monitored during a detox process. By detoxing with medical supervision, the possibility for potentially dangerous symptoms or complications is reduced significantly.

Following the safe detox regimen, the individual will have the opportunity to meet and work with substance abuse counselors to help them find out what exactly triggers them to use, and how to better cope with those triggers. This can provide the tools they need to successfully recover, and avoid situations or events that may cause a potential relapse. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to gabapentin or alcohol, or a combination of both, the best chance for sustained, long-term recovery is to reach out to a premier rehab facility that can guide the individual toward a safe and effective recovery.