Risks of Mixing Gabapentin and Alcohol | Wellness Retreat

Risks of Mixing Gabapentin and Alcohol

Starting a new prescription medication often comes with additional risks that can affect the user in different ways. Gabapentin is no different. This prescription drug is used to treat nerve pain from seizures or shingles.

As of writing this post, gabapentin is not classified as a controlled substance. But the drug continues to find its way into many substance abuse cases. Many abusers of the drug use it alone or in combination with opioids. However, more people use gabapentin with alcohol, sometimes accidentally, at other times on purpose.

At Wellness Retreat Recovery, drug and alcohol addiction treatment in Northern California are core parts of our treatment and rehabilitation process. Our holistic therapeutic methods and evidence-based treatments provide the tools to offer customized rehabilitation treatment to individual patients.

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin) is an anticonvulsant medication used to treat shingles, nerve pain management, restless leg syndrome, and seizures caused by epilepsy. Studies also show gabapentin helps manage a calming neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Patients who experience nerve pain can especially benefit from controlled gabapentin use. Balancing GABA production can significantly decrease or eliminate common symptoms associated with nerve pain.

While this prescription drug has a specific medical purpose, some people have resorted to using it outside its prescribed guidelines. But doing this can be dangerous and result in a substance use disorder. This is especially true when combined with other substances like alcohol.

Side Effects of Gabapentin

Even when used alone, gabapentin can cause different side effects, depending on its user. Some side effects of using gabapentin are more common than others and are more likely to occur. But some less common side effects may also occur, and patients may not know they result from gabapentin usage. 

They include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Bodily tremors or shaking
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Increased hostile behavior
  • Lack of physical coordination
  • Depressive behaviors
  • Suicidal thoughts

Gabapentin users who have experienced the above symptoms from the prescription drug should talk to their doctor about their experience. Depending on each person’s specific needs and healthcare plan, gabapentin may not be the best prescription drug. The doctor will likely switch the prescription to another drug with a similar outcome.

Common Gabapentin Side Effects 

These may include:

  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Restlessness
  • Blurry vision
  • Unusual eye activity

Severe Gabapentin Side Effects

In more severe cases, the patient may experience the following adverse side effects:

  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Yellow eyes or skin
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Severe weakness
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and throat
  • Difficulty breathing

A combination of gabapentin and alcohol is also more likely to have certain side effects on their users. It is essential to notify the doctor if this is the case to help them find the best solution. Anyone experiencing one or more of the symptoms mentioned above should seek immediate medical attention.

Risks of Mixing Gabapentin and Alcohol

A study by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that mixing medications with alcohol can harm patients. There are two main reasons healthcare providers warn patients not to combine alcohol consumption with other medicines. 

These reasons are as follows:

  • Alcohol can lessen the effectiveness of some prescription drugs by interfering with how the body absorbs them
  • Alcohol can increase the concentration levels of certain medications in the patient’s blood to toxic levels

Studies also suggest the side effects of prescription drugs can worsen with alcohol consumption. In some cases, they may cause new symptoms that are more difficult to predict.

Gabapentin and alcohol consumption impact the user’s body and mind simultaneously and can significantly increase the side effects of both substances. Mixing alcohol and gabapentin can raise adverse side effects to a dangerous level. This is because their effects are already detrimental without combining medications.

Some common side effects patients who mix gabapentin and alcohol may experience include:

  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Eye and speech-response delays
  • Dizziness, fatigue, and drowsiness
  • Respiratory distress
  • Worsening depression
  • Mood and behavioral changes
  • A decreased state of consciousness
  • Impairment in bodily functions
  • Suicidal thoughts

When patients first start taking gabapentin, its side effects are often quite mild and shouldn’t be cause for concern. However, using alcohol in any capacity in combination with gabapentin will change this quickly and possibly create a dangerous situation.

While not common, death may also be possible when mixing gabapentin and alcohol. Both substances slow down the user’s breathing. Ingesting enough of these substances together may have detrimental effects. 

Alcohol and gabapentin can dramatically affect mood, behaviors, and thoughts. People who combine gabapentin and alcohol may display erratic behaviors and make bad decisions that result in injury or death.

Are There Any Anticonvulsants (Like Gabapentin) That Can Be Taken Safely with Alcohol?

Unfortunately, the answer is no, and the National Center for Biotechnology Information warns patients against taking anticonvulsants with alcohol. Lyrica (pregabalin) is another popular anticonvulsant that helps control seizures and shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol.

Other medications similar to gabapentin include:

  • Benzodiazepines (Valium)
  • Depakote (divalproex sodium)
  • Dilantin (phenytoin)
  • Keppra (levetiracetam)
  • Lamictal (lamotrigine)
  • Phenobarbital 
  • Tegretol (carbamazepine)
  • Topamax (topiramate)
  • Trileptal (oxcarbazepine)

Individuals taking these anticonvulsants should not drink alcohol while taking these prescriptions. We recommend consulting a qualified medical health professional before taking alcohol or other supplements with anticonvulsants. Doing so may result in severe complications that can be extremely dangerous.

Medical professionals can help one determine what medication is right for their needs. If someone is unable to stop drinking alcohol or has an alcohol use disorder, treatment options are available. It is essential that one does not combine alcohol and gabapentin with the intent of abusing these substances.

Get Help at Wellness Retreat Recovery

Wellness Retreat Recovery is a fully accredited addiction treatment center in California that provides cutting-edge clinical and holistic treatments and intensive one-on-one therapy with comfortable amenities. We understand everyone’s addiction experience is unique and create individualized treatment plans for each patient’s needs.

Other services we provide include:

  • Alcohol detox program
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Drug education
  • Family therapy
  • Continued patient care

Get in touch to learn more about dangerous drug interactions and our treatment programs. Visit our home to check out our peaceful, serene, and healing environment and comfortable amenities, including private and semi-private rooms.