Gabapentin and Alcohol Substance Abuse
By: Zinnia Healing Editorial Staff | Edited By: Rebecca Hill
Mixing Alcohol With Gabapentin: What Are the Dangers?
Like most prescription medications, you should avoid alcohol when taking gabapentin because the two substances can enhance each other’s effects, leading to intense intoxication and an increased risk of overdose. Keep reading to learn more about these two substances, how they interact with one another in the body to produce severe side effects, and the dangers of mixing them.
If you’re looking for a treatment program to help you overcome a prescription drug addiction or alcohol addiction, Zinnia Healing can help. Call us today at (855) 430-9439 to learn more about our treatment options.
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication that’s prescribed by healthcare providers to treat seizure disorders and epilepsy. It’s often sold under the brand name Neurontin.
It can also be used to treat:
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
- Postherpetic neuralgia (the burning pain and aches that occur after a shingles outbreak)
- Depression, mood swings, and anxiety (these uses are not yet approved and are currently being studied)
Although researchers are still not sure exactly how gabapentin works, its structure is similar to GABA, a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It is known to interfere with the brain’s electrical activity to slow it down, which works to control seizures.
Although gabapentin is not as addictive as other well-known prescription drugs, like Xanax, Valium, and hydrocodone, it can still cause physical dependence and lead to overdose.
Abusing gabapentin can lead to:
- Physical dependence
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Psychoactive effects
Side Effects of Gabapentin
The most common side effects people report when taking gabapentin are:
- Loss of coordination
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Unusual eye movements
- Weight gain
- Joint pain
- Involuntary shaking
- Memory issues
- Swollen legs, feet, ankles, and hands
In rare or aggravated cases, like when combined with alcohol, the side effects are more severe. You should contact your doctor if you start to experience any of the following symptoms:
- Panic attacks
- Violent behavior
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin rash
- Swollen glands
- Severe body weakness
- Unusual bruising
- Pain in the upper stomach
- Yellow eyes and/or skin
Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Gabapentin?
No. Gabapentin and alcohol should not be mixed. In fact, gabapentin’s manufacturer, Pfizer, has a disclaimer on gabapentin bottles that states:
“Do not drink alcohol or take other medicines that make you sleepy or dizzy while taking [gabapentin] without first talking with your healthcare provider. Taking [gabapentin] with alcohol or drugs that cause sleepiness or dizziness may make your sleepiness or dizziness worse.”
How Long After Taking Gabapentin Can You Drink?
If you have recently started taking gabapentin, you should avoid alcohol for the foreseeable future as your body adjusts to the new medication.
Once your body becomes used to gabapentin and you are on a stable, regular dose, you can drink alcohol in moderation. For example, one glass of wine with dinner or one beer after work. But, it’s important to remember that even light drinking can cause severe drowsiness while taking gabapentin, and you should never exceed one to two drinks. Make sure you speak with your doctor before mixing any alcohol and medications.
The Dangers of Mixing Gabapentin and Alcohol
Drinking alcohol and taking gabapentin is not advised because of the severe side effects that are associated with this kind of polydrug use, such as:
- Respiratory distress
- Impaired judgment
- Eye and speech response delays
- Loss of coordination
- Worsening depression
- Suicidal ideation
- Drowsiness and sleepiness
- Mood and behavioral changes
- Impaired bodily functions
- Stomach pain
- Digestive issues
- Dry mouth
- Swollen hands, legs, ankles, and/or feet
What Happens If You Drink Alcohol and Take Gabapentin?
Both substances cause central nervous system (CNS) and respiratory depression, meaning that combining alcohol and gabapentin can drastically worsen these effects. Respiratory depression happens when your body stops getting enough oxygen, causing the breathing to become shallower or even stop.
The FDA issued a recent warning about gabapentin’s increased risk of respiratory depression when it’s combined with other risk factors like:
- Increased age
- Pre-existing respiratory conditions, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- History of opioid use
- History of substance abuse
Drinking alcohol in excessive amounts while on gabapentin has also been linked to an increased risk of seizures.
Gabapentin Withdrawal and Alcohol Detox
People undergoing treatment for an alcohol use disorder typically start their treatment program with medically supervised detox to help them deal with the harsh and uncomfortable alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
These detox programs provide a comfortable and safe environment to withdraw from alcohol and drugs without temptation. These alcohol addiction treatment centers often use medication to help mitigate the worst withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- Acamprosate calcium: This medication helps minimize the physical and mental stress associated with the detoxification process.
- Naltrexone: This medication helps prevent relapse by blocking alcohol’s euphoric effects.
Treatment for Alcohol Dependence and Drug Use
Detox is the first step of recovery, but it’s definitely not the last. After detox, you will have the choice to enter an inpatient rehab facility to receive around-the-clock care, monitoring, supervision, treatment, and counseling. You can also attend outpatient rehab, where you’ll have access to treatment programs and therapy that work with your schedule. In both treatment settings, you’ll take part in behavioral therapy such as:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Aversion therapy
- Adventure, wilderness, art, and music therapy
Learn more about treatment options at Zinnia Healing here.
Zinnia Healing Can Help
Zinnia Healing is a leading treatment provider for substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorders and gabapentin treatment. Our clinicians are compassionate, skilled and dedicated to helping our clients succeed. Contact us today to learn more.