Gabapentin (e.g., Neurontin) is a popular prescription anti-convulsant medication commonly used to treat nerve pain related to shingles and seizures. Gabapentin and alcohol should not be used in conjunction.
Pfizer, the maker of Neurontin, Pfizer, states in a black box warning for the drug: “Do not drink alcohol or take other medicines that make you sleepy or dizzy while taking Neurontin without first talking with your healthcare provider. Taking Neurontin with alcohol or drugs that cause sleepiness or dizziness may make your sleepiness or dizziness worse.”
Gabapentin is not currently classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a controlled substance. However, this medication is frequently used as a drug of abuse, both independently and in combination with opioids, alcohol, or benzodiazepines, to get high. Gabapentin is a very popular medication, by government estimates being prescribed more than than 46 million times in the U.S. in 2017.
Gabapentin and alcohol are depressants, meaning that they cause central nervous system (CNS) depression. Combining alcohol and gabapentin can amplify the effects of each substance, resulting in drowsiness and dizziness. Also, there is an increased risk of cognitive and motor skill impairments, falls, accidents, and seizures.
Respiratory depression is an effect that occurs when a person does not receive enough oxygen and breathing slows to an unsafe level or stops altogether. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned in 2019 that gabapentin could increase the risk for respiratory depression when the following factors were also present:
- Older age
- Respiratory conditions (e.g., COPD)
- Use of other medications (such as opioids) or substances (such as alcohol) that depress the CNS
Gabapentin and Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol dependence is a common condition that is now commonly recognized as a long-term disease. Individuals with an alcohol dependence are at risk of developing alcohol withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop consuming alcohol. For this reason, healthcare providers will prescribe certain medications, such as gabapentin or a benzodiazepine, for several days until most adverse symptoms have subsided.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include agitation, tremors, nausea, sweating, vomiting, hallucinations, insomnia, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and seizures.
Is It Safe to Take Any Anti-Convulsants With Alcohol?
If you have been prescribed gabapentin or another anti-convulsant, it’s essential to understand that any alcohol consumption is contraindicated. The same effects described above regarding CNS depression have the potential to occur. The 2019 FDA warning about gabapentin also included another common anti-consultant known as Lyrica (pregabalin). Other drugs used to control seizures that too should not be mixed with alcohol include the following:
- Depakote (divalproex sodium)
- Dilantin (phenytoin)
- Tegretol (carbamazepine)
- Lamictal (lamotrigine)
- Topamax (topiramate)
- Trokendi XR (topiramate)
- Trileptal (oxcarbazepine)
- Keppra (levetiracetam)
Side Effects of Gabapentin
Even those who do not consume alcohol are at some risk of experiencing side effects related to gabapentin. You should consult your doctor for medical advice about managing them, applicable. You could experience:
- Gastrointestinal (GI) issues, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, dry mouth
- Nervous system effects, such as dizziness, fatigue, sleepiness, impaired coordination, tremors, involuntary eye movements
- Metabolic effects, such as edema (swelling) in the extremities and weight gain
Also, serious side effects associated with gabapentin may include the following:
- Worsening depression
- Suicidal ideations or behavior
- Impaired driving
Gabapentin treatment should not be stopped suddenly or “cold turkey” because of the increased risk of seizures. Abrupt cessation of gabapentin use can also cause anxiety, pain, insomnia, pain, and sweating.
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol is a toxin that can cause a wide variety of adverse effects to an individual as well as others around them. Depending on how much is consumed and the physical condition of the individual, alcohol may be associated with the following acute effects:
- Slurred speech
- Upset stomach
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breathing difficulties
- Distorted vision and hearing
- Impaired judgment
- Decreased perception
- Impaired coordination
- Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
- Blackouts, impaired memory
- Alcohol poisoning/overdose
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol
Binge drinking and chronic alcohol use in large amounts are associated with many health conditions, including the following:
- Unintentional injuries such as falls, burns, auto accidents, drowning
- Intentional injuries such as those involving firearms, sexual assault, domestic violence
- Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
- Increased family problems, broken relationships
- Hypertension, stroke, and other cardiac diseases
- Liver disease
- Nerve damage
- Sexual problems
- Irreversible brain damage
- Vitamin B1 deficiency
- Cancers of the mouth, throat, breast, and esophagus
Getting Treatment for Substance Abuse
If you have been abusing gabapentin, other drugs, or alcohol, we urge you to contact Just Believe Detox or Just Believe Recovery today! We offer comprehensive programs custom-tailored to the individual, including clinically-proven services and activities vital for the addiction recovery process!
We are dedicated to ensuring that those we treat are given all the resources and support they need to sustain long-lasting sobriety and wellness!