Why is Gabapentin prescribed?
Gabapentin capsules, tablets, and oral solution are used to help control certain types of seizures in people who have epilepsy. Gabapentin capsules, tablets, and oral solution are also used to relieve the pain of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN; the burning, stabbing pain or aches that may last for months or years after an attack of shingles). Gabapentin extended-release tablets (Horizant) are used to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS; a condition that causes discomfort in the legs and a strong urge to move the legs, especially at night and when sitting or lying down). Gabapentin is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants.
Gabapentin treats seizures by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain. Gabapentin relieves the pain of PHN by changing the way the body senses pain. It is not known exactly how gabapentin works to treat restless legs syndrome.
How should Gabapentin be used?
Gabapentin comes as a capsule, a tablet, an extended-release (long-acting) tablet, and an oral solution (liquid) to take by mouth. Gabapentin capsules, tablets, and oral solution are usually taken with a full glass of water (8 ounces [240 milliliters]), with or without food, three times a day.
These medications should be taken at evenly spaced times throughout the day and night; no more than 12 hours should pass between doses. The extended-release tablet (Horizant) is taken with food once daily at about 5 PM. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take gabapentin exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Gabapentin extended-release tablets cannot be substituted for another type of gabapentin product. Be sure that you receive only the type of gabapentin that was prescribed by your doctor. Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions about the type of gabapentin you were given.
Swallow the extended-release tablets whole; do not cut, chew, or crush them.
If your doctor tells you to take one-half of a regular tablet as part of your dose, carefully split the tablet along the score mark. Use the other half-tablet as part of your next dose. Properly throw away any half-tablets that you have not used within several days of breaking them.
If you are taking gabapentin to control seizures or PHN, your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of gabapentin and gradually increase your dose as needed to treat your condition. If you are taking gabapentin to treat PHN, tell your doctor if your symptoms do not improve during your treatment.
Gabapentin may help to control your condition but will not cure it. Continue to take gabapentin even if you feel well. Do not stop taking gabapentin without talking to your doctor, even if you experience side effects such as unusual changes in behavior or mood.
If you suddenly stop taking gabapentin tablets, capsules, or oral solution, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, nausea, pain, and sweating. If you are taking gabapentin to treat seizures and you suddenly stop taking the medication, you may experience seizures more often. Your doctor may decrease your dose gradually over at least a week.
Your doctor or pharmacist will give you the manufacturer’s patient information sheet (Medication Guide) when you begin treatment with gabapentin and each time you refill your prescription. Read the information carefully and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. You can also visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs) or the manufacturer’s website to obtain the Medication Guide.
Other uses for Gabapentin
Gabapentin is also sometimes used to relieve the pain of diabetic neuropathy (numbness or tingling due to nerve damage in people who have diabetes), and to treat and prevent hot flashes (sudden strong feelings of heat and sweating) in women who are being treated for breast cancer or who have experienced menopause (”change of life”, the end of monthly menstrual periods). Talk to your doctor about the risks of using this medication for your condition.
This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking gabapentin,
tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to gabapentin, any other medications, or any of the inactive ingredients in the type of gabapentin you plan to take. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the inactive ingredients.
you should know that gabapentin is available in different forms that may be prescribed for different uses. Ask your doctor to be sure that you are not taking more than one product that contains gabapentin.
tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: hydrocodone (in Hydrocet, in Vicodin, others), medications that make you feel dizzy or drowsy, morphine (Avinza, Kadian, MSIR, others), and naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn, others). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects.
if you are taking antacids such as Maalox or Mylanta, take them at least 2 hours before you take gabapentin tablets, capsules, or solution.
tell your doctor if you have or have ever had kidney disease. If you will be taking the extended-release tablets, also tell your doctor if you need to sleep during the day and stay awake at night.
tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking gabapentin, call your doctor.
if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are taking gabapentin.
you should know that this medication may make you drowsy or dizzy, may slow your thinking, and may cause loss of coordination. Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you, and your doctor agrees that it is safe for you to begin these activities.
if you are giving gabapentin to your child, you should know that your child’s behavior and mental abilities may change while he or she is taking gabapentin. Your child may have sudden changes in mood, become hostile or hyperactive, have difficulty concentrating or paying attention, or be drowsy or clumsy. Have your child avoid activities that could be dangerous, such as riding a bicycle, until you know how gabapentin affects him or her.
remember that alcohol can add to the drowsiness caused by this medication.
you should know that your mental health may change in unexpected ways and you may become suicidal (thinking about harming or killing yourself or planning or trying to do so) while you are taking gabapentin for the treatment of epilepsy, mental illness, or other conditions. A small number of adults and children 5 years of age and older (about 1 in 500 people) who took anticonvulsants such as gabapentin to treat various conditions during clinical studies became suicidal during their treatment. Some of these people developed suicidal thoughts and behavior as early as one week after they started taking the medication.
There is a risk that you may experience changes in your mental health if you take an anticonvulsant medication such as gabapentin, but there may also be a risk that you will experience changes in your mental health if your condition is not treated. You and your doctor will decide whether the risks of taking an anticonvulsant medication are greater than the risks of not taking the medication. You, your family, or your caregiver should call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms: panic attacks; agitation or restlessness; new or worsening irritability, anxiety, or depression; acting on dangerous impulses; difficulty falling or staying asleep; aggressive, angry, or violent behavior; mania (frenzied, abnormally excited mood); talking or thinking about wanting to hurt yourself or end your life; withdrawing from friends and family; preoccupation with death and dying; giving away prized possessions; or any other unusual changes in behavior or mood. Be sure that your family or caregiver knows which symptoms may be serious so they can call the doctor if you are unable to seek treatment on your own.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
If you forget to take gabapentin capsules, tablets, or oral solution, take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose or if you forget to take gabapentin extended-release tablets, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
What side effects can Gabapentin cause?
Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention.
Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:
- Clumsiness or unsteadiness
- continuous, uncontrolled, back-and-forth, or rolling eye movements
More common in children
- Aggressive behavior or other behavior problems
- concentration problems and change in school performance
- false sense of well-being
- hyperactivity or increase in body movements
- rapidly changing moods
- reacting too quickly, too emotional, or overreacting
- suspiciousness or distrust
- Black, tarry stools
- chest pain
- depression, irritability, or other mood or mental changes
- loss of memory
- pain or swelling in the arms or legs
- painful or difficult urination
- shortness of breath
- sore throat
- sores, ulcers, or white spots on the lips or in the mouth
- swollen glands
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness
Incidence not known
- Abdominal or stomach pain
- blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
- clay-colored stools
- dark urine
- decreased urine output
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- increased thirst
- itching or skin rash
- joint pain
- large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet, or sex organs
- loss of appetite
- muscle ache or pain
- red skin lesions, often with a purple center
- red, irritated eyes
- unpleasant breath odor
- vomiting of blood
- yellow eyes or skin
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:
- Blurred vision
- cold or flu-like symptoms
- lack or loss of strength
- lower back or side pain
- swelling of the hands, feet, or lower legs
- trembling or shaking
Less common or rare
- Accidental injury
- appetite increased
- back pain
- bloated or full feeling
- body aches or pain
- burning, dry, or itching eyes
- change in vision
- change in walking and balance
- clumsiness or unsteadiness
- cough producing mucus
- decrease in sexual desire or ability
- difficulty with breathing
- dryness of the mouth or throat
- excess air or gas in the stomach or intestines
- excessive tearing
- eye discharge
- feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheadedness
- feeling of warmth or heat
- flushed, dry skin
- flushing or redness of the skin, especially on the face and neck
- frequent urination
- fruit-like breath odor
- impaired vision
- increased hunger
- increased sensitivity to pain
- increased sensitivity to touch
- increased thirst
- noise in the ears
- pain, redness, rash, swelling, or bleeding where the skin is rubbed off
- passing gas
- redness or swelling in the ear
- redness, pain, swelling of the eye, eyelid, or inner lining of the eyelid
- runny nose
- tender, swollen glands in the neck
- tightness in the chest
- tingling in the hands and feet
- trouble sleeping
- trouble swallowing
- trouble thinking
- unexplained weight loss
- voice changes
- weakness or loss of strength
- weight gain
Other side effects not listed may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your healthcare professional.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?
Keep Gabapentin in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store the tablets, extended-release tablets, and capsules at room temperature, away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Store the oral solution in the refrigerator. Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
Symptoms of overdose may include the following:
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor.
Before having any laboratory test, tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are taking gabapentin.
If you use a dipstick to test your urine for protein, ask your doctor which product you should use while taking this medication.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
Fioricet contains a combination of acetaminophen, butalbital, and caffeine Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer. Butalbital is in a group of drugs called barbiturates. It relaxes muscle contractions involved in a tension headache. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. It relaxes muscle contractions in blood vessels to improve blood flow.
Fioricet is a prescription medicine given to people who suffer from tension headaches and migraines. It is a combination of three primary ingredients which are butalbital, acetaminophen, and caffeine. Butalbital is the component of the drug that can cause a Fioricet high, as it’s a barbiturate. Barbiturates act as a central nervous system depressant, much like drugs like opioids and other muscle relaxants.
The acetaminophen works to relieve pain in a different way for the butalbital, and the caffeine is included to help improve blood flow that can reduce the symptoms of migraines and headaches.
While in general Fioricet is thought of as a headache medicine, regarding FDA approval, it’s intended for three specific types of headaches. These are muscle contraction, tension, and post-dural puncture headaches. The FDA does not necessarily approve it as a treatment for migraines, but many doctors do prescribe it for this.
While there are risks and an abuse potential with Fioricet, people who suffer from headaches can find tremendous relief in the use of this drug.
Gabapentin is used to help control partial seizures (convulsions) in the treatment of epilepsy. This medicine cannot cure epilepsy and will only work to control seizures for as long as you continue to take it.
Gabapentin is also used in adults to manage a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is pain that occurs after shingles.
Gabapentin works in the brain to prevent seizures and relieve pain for certain conditions in the nervous system. It is not used for routine pain caused by minor injuries or arthritis. Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant.
This medicine is available only with your doctor’s prescription.
This product is available in the following dosage forms:
The chemical structure of gabapentin is related that of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is a neurotransmitter in the brain. The exact mechanism as to how gabapentin controls epilepsy and relieves pain is unknown, but it probably acts like the neurotransmitter GABA.
Animal studies show that gabapentin prevents the development of allodynia (a normally non painful stimulus which is perceived as painful) and hyperalgesia (an exaggerated response to a painful stimulus).
Gabapentin can be very helpful in controlling the pain of trigeminal neuralgia (tic doloreaux), post herpetic neuralgia (the lingering pain after a bout of shingles), the pain of diabetic neuropathy and other neuritic pains such as pain from nerve irritation due spinal arthritis or disc disease and occipital neuralgia. Occasionally it seems to be helpful in controlling migraine and other headaches. It has also been reported to be helpful in controlling the pain of fibromyalgia.
International and domestic studies that have evaluated Neurontin for migraine prevention suggest that it is effective. In a study of 63 patients with migraine (with or without aura), gabapentin significantly reduced migraine frequency and intensity among 30 patients who received it. In this study, adverse events were mild to moderate in severity.
Similarly, in a large study, 143 people with migraine received daily doses of Neurontin or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of 12 weeks, the migraine rate had declined from 4.2 migraines before treatment to 2.7 migraines after treatment in those who received this drug.
This decrease was significantly greater than the decrease from 4.1 migraines to 3.5 migraines among those who received placebo. Of the 56 gabapentin recipients, 46% had at least a 50% reduction in the four-week migraine rate. Drug-related adverse events (sleepiness and dizziness) led to drug withdrawal in 13% of patients in the gabapentin group compared with 7% in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that this medication is an effective and well-tolerated preventive for migraine.
Gabapentin is an effective prophylactic agent for patients with migraine. In addition, gabapentin appears generally well tolerated with mild to moderate somnolence and dizziness.