Gabapentin for Anxiety: Case Study You’ll Never Forget

Are you suffering from anxiety? or a panic disorder? Well, interestingly enough, there’s an anti-seizure medication can help you out! Gabapentin for anxiety is a drug that’s been used to treat all sorts of nerve pain and seizures. But, recently, this drug has become widely used when it comes to treating psychiatric disorders such as anxiety. Are you curious to learn more about how Gabapentin can help you? Read on to learn more about this amazing drug.

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin for anxiety may more commonly be known as Neurontin. Gabapentin is a type of prescription drug that is mainly used to treat conditions involving seizures and nerve damage, so it is known as an anticonvulsant or antiepileptic drug. More recently, however, Neurontin has become increasingly popular when it comes to treating mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder

Gabapentin can come in the form of an oral medication, this may be more commonly sold under the name Gabapentin Enacarbil. The major difference between Gabapentin and Gabapentin Encarbil is that the Gabapentin Encarbil drug is a prodrug of Gabapentin. This means that the medication is broken down and converted to Gabapentin when ingested, making it a lot more bioavailable to the body.

Gabapentin: How Does It Work?

Gabapentin-Neurontin is a class of drug that has analgesic effects, this simply means that this drug reduces pain. The mechanism to how Gabapentin works and metabolizes in our body can be quite complicated. But, if you’re really interested in learning more about the pharmacology of this drug, we’ll keep things simple.

First, it’s important to know that Gabapentin is an analog of the neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid  (GABA). The term analog simply means that the Gabapentin molecules will structurally look very similar to the GABA neurotransmitter. Now, in order for our bodies to release a specific neurotransmitter, there has to be an influx of calcium through the cell membranes. The influx of calcium occurs as a result of channels called “voltage-gated calcium channels”.

Now, you might be wondering, why are these calcium channels important? what do they do? and how do they affect Gabapentin?

Voltage-gated calcium channels play an important role in mainting intracellular function. Two of their major functions often involve the contraction of the muscles and normal brain functioning.  if we want to get more into the physiology, then another important point to consider is the fact that Gabapentin seems to have an effect on these channels, inhibiting the threshold for a sub-unit of voltage-gated calcium channels. This subunit is believed to play a role in the attenuation of pain and the neurons associated with it.

Gabapentin Vs Pregabalin

Gabapentin and Pregabalin are drugs that are often mistaken as synonymous with each other. However, pregabalin is a lot different from Gabapentin. Here we have listed the common similarities between the two drugs:

  • They both are considered antiepileptic drugs
  • They both are used to treat nerve pain
  • Both Gabapentin and Pregabalin are used to treat nerve pain associated with post-herpetic neuralgia
  • The major difference between both drugs is that Pregabalin is often given in lower doses, thus decreasing the risk of  adverse reactions
  • Pregabalin also seems to have a more potent effect when it comes to treating disorders such as post-herpetic neuralgia and other pain-related disorders

What is Gabapentin used for?

Over the last 10 years, scientist and mental health practitioners have been using Neurontin to treat different forms of mental illness. These include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Preoperative anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Gabapentin for Anxiety

Whether or not Neurontin can be used to treat anxiety disorders, has become a subject of much debate. To date, numerous studies show that Neurotonin has the potential to treat anxiety disorders. For example, Neurotonin can be beneficial to women’s health such that it can be used to treat anxiety in breast cancer survivors.

More commonly, a double-blind placebo-controlled study, done in 1999 discovered that Neurotonin demonstrated that it had the potential to treat patients who had social phobia. Conversely, other similar placebo-based study discovered that Neurotonin was able to effectively treat anxiety disorders such as panic attacks,  agoraphobia, perisurgical anxiety, and decrease the risk of hot flashes.

Gabapentin Dosage

The dose of gabapentin for anxiety may be variable depending on a multitude of factors, such as patient’s mental health, medical history, and age. Thus, it is highly recommended that individuals seeking Gabapentin consult their mental health practitioner. Nevertheless, a 2017 case report concluded that the dosage for these anti-anxiety drugs can be estimated at:

  • <600 mg/day for severe anxiety
  • >≥ 900 mg/day for mild anxiety

Gabapentin Side Effects

According to the FDA one of the major side-effects of Neurotonin includes an increased risk in suicidal thoughts, This side effect is particularly important in patients who have been diagnosed with psychiatric dysfunctions such as generalized anxiety disorder. Studies demonstrated that a medication classed as an antiepileptic drug result in a risk of suicidal thoughts one week after the medication has been administered.

Other common side effects associated with Neurontin include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Increased risk of viral infections
  • Double vision
  • Fever
  • Patients may have a hard time speaking
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Tremors
  • Changes in mood
  • Swelling of the feet, hands, or ankles
  • Depression

If you experience severe symptom,s such as an inability to swallow, shallow breathing, or if you notice symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, rashes, swelling around the tongue, face, and throat, then contact your physician or the emergency hospital as soon as possible, as these symptoms are indicative of a serious allergic reaction.

Gabapentin Withdrawal

Gabapentin is a type of anti-anxiety drugs, that when used as a form of long-term treatment, can result in severe withdrawal symptoms. This medication is often quite abused by patients, and when taken away, the medication causes physiological dependence.

Physiological dependence simply means that the overuse of the medication results in the neurons adapting to the chemical. Therefore, the neuron now relies on the drug in order to maintain normal functioning. When the medication is taken away from the patient, then the neurons and chemicals of the brain become dysregulated—this is the primary cause of Neurontin gabapentin withdrawal symptoms.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms

In general, people may experience the effects of gabapentin withdrawal symptoms 12 to 48 hours post medication withdrawal. During the first 24 hours, a person will experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • severe anxiety
  • headaches
  • perspiration
  • hand and body tremors

By the third day, a person experiencing gabapentin withdrawal will start to feel restless and disoriented. Hallucinations, confusion, increased heart rate, agitation, fever, and trembling are all symptoms associated with withdrawal. Unfortunately, a person may experience withdrawal symptoms for up to 10 or more days.

Should you continue to experience symptoms of withdrawals for more than 30 days, then it’s important to contact your psychiatrist and/or physician in order to discuss your condition.

5 Facts You Need To Know About Gabapentin for Anxiety!

  1. Gabapentin is the analog of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid GABA. The GABA neurotransmitter is actually unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, but the Gabapentin medication is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Scientists believe that this can be clinically beneficial to patients suffering from partial epilepsy.
  2. Some studies show that people who take Gabapentin may develop a fatal condition known as paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria, which is a disease that results in the destruction of the red blood cells.
  3. The drug known as benzodiazepines has been commonly used to treat anxiety disorders. Some studies suggest that Gabapentin can be used to treat patients who suffer from the withdrawal of the benzodiazepines drug.
  4. Gabapentin is also used to treat a condition called Restless Legs Syndrome.
  5. Gabapentin can also be used as an “off-label” prescription. This means that it can commonly be used to treat conditions like alcohol withdrawal, Neuropathic nerve pain, Fibromyalgia, and Trigeminal neuralgia

Gabapentin—Like Any Drug, You’ll Need To Be Careful

Drugs have their pros and cons. Generally, they will effectively treat the ailments they are designed to heal. However, like any medication, drugs like Gabapentin, do have the potential to cause mild to severe side-effects. If you’re interested in trying this medication out to treat your anxiety, then talk to a mental health profession.


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author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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