When it was formulated, Gabapentin was used only to control epileptic seizures. Years after it had been approved by FDA to treat epilepsy, it was realized that it can also reduce anxiety in patients with depression or bipolar disorder.
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Why is Gabapentin Prescribed for Anxiety?
Gabapentin has a chemical structure that resembles that of gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.
Its function is to reduce neuronal excitability in the nervous system. With its similar structure, Gabapentin works to reduce anxiety.
Gabapentin is typically not prescribed to treat anxiety only but mostly to ease anxiety in patients who also have depression or bipolar disorder.
It is prescribed under the brand name Neurontin.
Clinical trials have shown that Gabapentin can be used to treat:
For use to control seizures, it works as an anticonvulsant that works on the nerves and chemicals that cause seizures. It is administered along with other drugs to control them.
Apart from epileptic convulsions, Gabapentin is also used to treat the nerve pain that is caused by the herpes virus or shingles in adults.
Which Patients Get Which Gabapentin Prescription?
It is important to note that there are different brands of Gabapentin.
It is used to treat:
- Bipolar disorder
Another brand is Gralise. This one is administered for the management of neuropathic pain only and not for controlling epileptic seizures.
There is also Horizant that is used to treat:
- Nerve pain
- Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
It is important to get the exact brand that is prescribed by a doctor. All brands of Gabapentin are prescribed to children aged three and above and adults.
Who Can Prescribe Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is not available over the counter. It can only be purchased with a prescription from a licensed doctor.
It is not classified as a controlled substance and can be prescribed online in 45 out of 50 states.
However, because it has potential for abuse, it is considered a controlled substance in:
- West Virginia
In these five states, a patient has to be seen by a doctor in person to get a prescription.
Gabapentin Mode of Action
There are different forms of Gabapentin and the body reacts to them in different ways:
- Immediate release
- Sustained release
- Enacarbil sustained-release
It is important to stick with the form that your doctor ordered. This is because the different forms are absorbed in the body differently.
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Switching from one form to another could cause side effects that were not being experienced before. It can also cause seizures to increase because the body is not absorbing the new form well.
Side Effects of Gabapentin
When you are just getting started with Gabapentin, your doctor may give you a low dose that is increased gradually as your body adjusts to it.
You will also be advised to take the very first dose at bedtime so you are rested rather than moving around and perhaps driving or handling machinery.
If the side effects are mild, you can wait for them to pass.
It is not uncommon for those who are just starting to experience side effects like:
These tend to reduce in intensity or go away completely as the body becomes accustomed to the drug.
Gabapentin is known to cause breathing problems that are potentially fatal. This is especially for those who have a breathing disorder and are using other medication for it that causes drowsiness and slows breathing.
Developing slowed breathing after taking Gabapentin should be treated as a life-threatening symptom and emergency medical care should be sought.
The following conditions should be reported:
- Swollen face, tongue, throat, or lips
- Swelling of the hands, ankles, and feet
The following symptoms should be taken seriously:
- A very itchy rash
- Aching muscles
- Swollen glands
- Pain in the upper stomach
- Unusual bruising
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
The health care provider should also be notified about psychological changes.
- A change in moods and behavior
- Sleeping too much or very little
- Suicidal thoughts
Another known side effect of Gabapentin is developing suicidal thoughts. It is important to look out for changes in moods in a user. This can be the user becoming quiet, withdrawn, or loud and aggressive.
New users should avoid mechanical activity like driving or operating machinery until the side effects they experience are known.
This will prevent a user from falling or getting into an accident because they have become dizzy or drowsy.
If any side effects are experienced or even if none are, the use of Gabapentin should not be stopped immediately without consulting your doctor.
Precautions When Using Gabapentin
This drug should also not be used by those who are allergic to it.
Your doctor can determine if you may be allergic to it if you:
- Have respiratory problems or lung disease such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Have kidney disease or dialysis
- Have diabetes
- Have a mood disorder, depression, or feeling suicidal
- Are addicted to any drug
- Experience seizures
- Have liver disease
- Have any heart disease
- Have a job that has you working nights and sleeping during the day if you have RLS
- Are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive
If you do become pregnant while taking Gabapentin, let your doctor know right away but don’t stop taking it.
Getting Gabapentin Dosage Right
To get the most out of Gabapentin, it should be taken regularly. It works best when it is in your body at a constant level. It should therefore be taken at evenly spaced intervals.
The duration in between doses should not exceed 12 hours. If it does, the symptoms it is being used to treat may worsen.
Neither should the medication be taken more often than prescribed or the dosage increased unless the doctor says to do so. Overdosing does not work faster or better and it can cause potentially fatal reactions.
Neurontin can be taken with or without food while Gralise and Horizant should be taken with food. If you have to break a Neurontin tablet and take half of it, ensure you use the other half for the next dose.
This is true for all types of broken tablets. If a tablet or capsule is to be swallowed whole, it should be chewed, crushed, opened, or broken.
If you are administering the liquid form of it, measure it carefully using the dosing syringe provided.
Alternately, the measuring can be done with a device made for measuring liquid medicine but never a kitchen spoon.
Pills and capsules should be stored at room temperature where there is no direct light or moisture. These can degrade their quality. The liquid form of it should be stored in a refrigerator but not in the freezer.
Interaction with Other Drugs
Using Gabapentin with other drugs can cause or worsen side effects. Let your doctor know if you are using any other drugs.
This includes over-the-counter medications like:
- Herbal products
- Muscle relaxers
Other drugs can interact with Gabapentin to cause a reaction that can be life-threatening. It can also interfere with its absorption in the body.
If a user takes an antacid, they should wait for at least two hours before taking Gabapentin.
This is because the aluminum or magnesium in it can make it harder for the body to absorb Gabapentin. Drinking alcohol should be avoided completely.
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Get Your Gabapentin Prescription at EZCare Clinic
EZCare is a medical clinic in San Francisco offering walk-in care and online health care services to patients who need immediate medical attention.
The staff of licensed doctors with different specializations provides patients with long-term health care.
Depression is one of the conditions that is diagnosed and treated at EZCare Clinic. People are tested, diagnosed, and treated by an in-house pediatrician and adults by a psychiatrist.
Gabapentin will be prescribed if it is believed to be the best drug for a patient who is found to have anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. It may also be prescribed for an adult to ease the severe nerve pain caused by shingles.
Contact EZCare Clinic or walk in and be seen by one of our doctors. An accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment to control your condition if not cure it is a promise. You can go to the website and schedule your appointment.