Neurontin, known generically as gabapentin, is a GABA analogue. It is used for quite varied purposes: to treat epilepsy, to relieve pain, and to manage major depressive disorder and other mental health conditions. It is most effective when used to manage nerve pain and seizures.
Neurontin/Gabapentin Mimics GABA Neurotransmitter
As its name suggests, gabapentin was synthesized to mimic the structure of GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid and is thought to halt the production of new synapses. It’s because GABA is such a common neurotransmitter that gabapentin or Nerontin has so many varied applications. However, it does not bind to all of the same receptors that GABA does.
FDA Approval for Neurontin
The FDA first approved Neurontin in 1994 for use as an adjunct to other anti-seizure medications. In 2002, the drug was also approved for the treatment of neuropathic and nerve-related pain. Gabapentin is also administered to help treat addictions to methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol. It reportedly reduces cravings in methamphetamine patients and can also reduce withdrawal symptoms in drugs users who are physically addicted to opioids such as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone as well as benzodiazepine.
Off-Label Uses for Neurontin
Neurontin is used off-label to treat a number of conditions. As a pain reliever, it has been helpful to people with migraine headaches, post-operative pain, and other types of nerve pain. As an anti-epilepsy treatment, it’s also been found to treat pathologic nystagmus (involuntary eye movements).
Neurontin has also been prescribed for mental health patients. However, studies suggest that it is not effective at stabilizing mood in bipolar patients, and it also seems to be ineffective at treating depression, insomnia, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other anxiety disorders.
Use of Neurontin should not be abruptly discontinued. After long-term use, abrupt withdrawal could mimic the withdrawal syndrome seen in alcohol addicts. It’s recommended that users gradually wean themselves from the drug over several weeks or months.
Signs of overdose include drowsiness, blurred vision, slurred speech, and even coma.
Adverse Effects of Gabapentin
For adults, the most common side effects of Neurontin include dizziness, drowsiness, swollen limbs, and weight gain. These side effects usually only occur when the drug is taken at high doses and by elderly patients. Children have experienced side effects including mood swings, hostility, hyperactivity, and distractibility. Hepatoxicity and renal impairment have also been reported.
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