Understanding the Benefits of Gabapentin

Published: 25th January 2010
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Gabapentin is a drug used to help control various kinds of seizures associated with epilepsy. It cannot cure epilepsy, but helps control it and will only work as long as its use is continued. It is also used to treat the pain that occurs after a bout with shingles. Being an anticonvulsant, gabapentin increases a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Therefore, conditions within the central nervous system that cause pain can be treated with gabapentin. Generally, less serious pain from minor injuries or arthritis are not treated with this drug.

There are some things to consider before taking gabapentin. If you have any type of an allergic reaction to this drug or any similar drug, you need to let your doctor know. Gabapentin is usually given to people over the age of twelve, although it has been given to younger children for treating partial seizures. Its safety for children under the age of three has not been established, however. There does not seem to be a problem for older patients, unless there are already age- problems with the kidneys. In these cases, an adjustment may need to be made in the amount prescribed. There have not been adequate studies done for women who are pregnant or nursing in regards to this drug, so serious risks should be considered.

People considering this drug should also be aware of drug interactions that may occur. Using gabapentin when taking certain medications or supplements can cause the side effects to be increased. A few drugs or ingredients that should be taken cautiously with gabapentin are supplements containing magnesium, aluminum, and magaldrate. Care should also be taken if you plan to take this drug with alcohol or tobacco. If you have any other serious medical problems such as cancer, depression, mental illness or kidney disease, your doctor should know, as gabapentin may make your conditions worse.

Gabapentin comes in three forms - capsule, tablet and liquid - and should only be taken with a full glass of water, usually three times per day. Food is not imperative, although it may help if the medicine upsets your stomach. It is best to take the medication at the same times each day, no longer than twelve hours between doses. Often, doctors will start patients on a low dose to see how they do and slowly increase the amount as needed.

Because this drug works with the chemicals in the brain, the medication should not be stopped right away unless you have a doctor's permission. Otherwise, you could experience serious side effects as your body withdraws from the drug. Even if you experience some side effects, do not make any changes to your schedule until ordered by the doctor. Generally, over a week's time, you will gradually decrease the amount taken to avoid any withdrawals.

Gabapentin, as an off-label drug, has also been used to treat patients with different drug and alcohol addictions. It has been useful for treating migraine headaches, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, menopausal symptoms, tinnitus, restless leg syndrome and chronic pain due to a variety of operations. Many physicians, however, will hesitate to distribute them because the drug is not yet specified to treat some of these conditions. Gabapentin has also proved to be helpful to patients suffering from the numbness and tingling caused by nerve damage due to diabetes, diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Gabapentin is a powerful drug, so if you are having any surgeries, it is important to let your doctor know beforehand. To avoid any interactions between medication, be sure to let your doctor and pharmacist know if you add any new prescriptions, supplements, herbs, vitamins or medications to your diet. If you forget to take a dose, just take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time to take the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular scheduled dose. You should never double up on your doses.

As with most medications, there are side effects that might occur. Being aware of this will help you to understand what is happening in case you do experience any of these symptoms. The most common side effects of gabapentin are: problems with memory, headache, drowsiness, anxiety, dizziness, and blurred vision. There are other side effects and all of these concerns need to be discussed with your physician and pharmacist.

Gabapentin has truly been a blessing to many people who have suffered with pain, seizures, and other medical conditions. Understanding as much as possible about all medications that you take is very important, so that the drug will truly be able to help you. As more is learned about gabapentin, its side effects and abilities, it will hopefully be able to be approved for treatment of more conditions. In the meantime, it is good to know that a drug has been approved to treat some very serious conditions and help people to live with less pain and illness in their lives.


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