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Gabapentin is a drug with many different medical uses. It was initially developed to treat postherpetic neuralgia and partial seizures. While gabapentin is not a controlled substance, some evidence suggests the drug can be abused. Gabapentin is commonly misused with alcohol because the drugs have similar mechanisms.
Gabapentin and alcohol target the same receptors in the brain and amplify the effects of the other. Abusing gabapentin and alcohol together is extremely dangerous and vastly increases the risk of side effects and overdose.
Gabapentin is originally an antiepileptic drug used for the treatment of seizures. Over many years of use, prescribers have expanded gabapentin to treat many off-label uses, including neuropathic pain, restless legs syndrome, bipolar disorder, migraines and drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Gabapentin works by slowing down nerve transmission in the central nervous system (CNS). It works by increasing the effects of GABA, a neurotransmitter that dampens signals in the brain. This effect contributes to its anti-pain and anti-neuroleptic properties.
People often abuse gabapentin and alcohol together because they work similarly and amplify the effects of the other. Like gabapentin, alcohol increases the effects of GABA in the CNS. Both drugs are depressants and slow down different body functions.
When taken together, the risk of side effects and overdose from alcohol greatly increases. Gabapentin alone is usually not associated with overdose, but the risk increases when taken with alcohol.
When someone enters treatment, they may need medication to help them get through withdrawal symptoms. Gabapentin is a popular drug for alcohol withdrawal because it is not a controlled substance like other options and, therefore, has less risk of abuse and addiction.
Drinking alcohol while taking gabapentin is not recommended. Gabapentin can significantly enhance the side effects and overdose risk of alcohol. Driving and other activities requiring coordination can be greatly impaired when mixing the two substances.
Gabapentin and alcohol interactions are mainly related to each drug’s depressant effect. They have “additive” effects that slow down thinking, coordination and other body processes.
Gabapentin’s half-life is about five to seven hours, which is how long it takes the body to remove half of the drug. The body eliminates most drugs in five half-lives; therefore, gabapentin will be removed in roughly 25–35 hours. It’s best to wait at least this long after your last dose of gabapentin before drinking any alcohol.
When combining two depressants, their side effects amplify each other. Common side effects may include:
If you suspect that you or someone you know is overdosing on alcohol and gabapentin, call 911 immediately. An overdose is potentially life-threatening.
Gabapentin and alcohol can impair memory formation. It is not well-known why these substances can impact memory. However, GABA appears to be related to memory formation, and both drugs can cause “blackouts.”
Gabapentin is thought to increase the risk of alcohol overdose; however, few good studies support this. That said, mixing the two is extremely dangerous. Gabapentin can increase impairment in heavy drinkers without changing the subjective feeling of impairment.
Yes, each drug can cause a fatal overdose. Generally, alcohol is the more dangerous of the two drugs. While gabapentin can increase the risk of overdose from alcohol, it is also implicated in overdose deaths from opioids. You should never combine these drugs unless specifically instructed by your doctor.
Gabapentin is commonly used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. If a person enters treatment, they may take gabapentin to treat the following:
Gabapentin and other drugs are often given short-term to help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Once alcohol withdrawal subsides, gabapentin is stopped. Alcohol withdrawal usually lasts from 2–10 days after stopping the drug.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or gabapentin addiction, we can help. Our staff at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake in Colorado is trained in the latest evidence-based medicine for the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD).
We treat many substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our facilities are comfortable and include a heated swimming pool, walking trails, basketball courts and yoga therapy. Call us to speak with our caring and supportive staff today.
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The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.
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