Why I’m Stopping My Gabapentin

I’ve been slacking lately with my posting. I had originally planned at least one post a day, but life has had other plans. Anyway, today’s post is about gabapentin and how I realized it was going to cost me my job.

I have Attention Deficit Disorder (my husband used to get so mad at me for interrupting him until he saw me interrupt myself a few times…). I’ve had it all my life, but I was only diagnosed about five or so years ago. I was once on Adderall, which helped me immensely but I lost my insurance and therefore had to stop taking it.

All of that is to say that over the last year or so I thought my symptoms were getting worse because I was having a hard time remembering things and concentrating – more trouble than usual, that is. Turns out, it’s not my ADD; it’s the gabapentin.

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin, or Neurontin, is an anti-convulsant medication that is used for multiple purposes. Although it is only approved for long-term use in people with seizure disorders, it is also prescribed for nerve pain, restless leg syndrome and even depression.

*Update: After a very educational comment from Vicki and some further research, I have learned some more about how it works in the brain. According to NCBI, gabapentin interferes with synaptogenesis and has been shown to increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a chemical in the central nervous system which decreases the firing of neurons and is implicated in multiple neuropsychiatric conditions. It is not known, however, if long-term use of gabapentin produces the same result.

Either way, there is not much evidence that shows that it is effective for any disorder other than a seizure disorder. Still, it is prescribed off-label for multiple other health issues.

The Beginning

So, in November 2013 I had my first shoulder surgery. I was then placed into an immobilizer for about a month and a half. In that time, the nerves in my elbow and wrist were damaged on that side. In September 2014 I underwent another shoulder surgery, along with a carpal tunnel release. I was left in chronic pain after both procedures.

When, a few months later, I told my doctor about the sharp pains in my forearm and wrist he prescribed me 300mg of gabapentin to be taken twice a day.

I am usually very good about researching things before taking them, and I know I looked up this medication, too. I either didn’t see some of the side effects or I just assumed they wouldn’t affect me because they were considered “less serious” or even rare. Either way, I screwed up.

Three Years Later

Now I have found out the hard way that I am affected by these side effects. As I said earlier, I really just thought that my ADD was getting worse because I was making dumb mistakes at work. Like, mistakes I would never make. I was completely forgetting things and couldn’t concentrate for the life of me.

Just recently I was debating on trying to get back on Adderall. That was until I saw someone make a comment about gabapentin that caught my attention.

Side Effects

Let’s look at some of the side effects, like I should have done a long time ago, shall we?

  • Unsteadiness
  • Memory loss
  • Lack of coordination
  • “Jerky” movements

There are more, but those are the ones I want to talk about. Let me say this, first: I am and have always been a bit air-headed and clumsy. It’s like a running joke in my family. I am known as “Goldie Hawn” to some people. So, like, I don’t need any help in that department, yet look at those side effects!

I fall more than anyone my age should. The other day while trying to put a lid on a large container of pork fat (my husband cooked pork – I’m not a weirdo, I swear!) I knocked it over, spilling it all over my kitchen floor. My dog was pretty happy about that, but I wasn’t since I had to stop everything and mop the floor (silver lining: That needed to happen a long time ago). I also noticed an increase in twitching, but I’ve always had problems with being shaky, so I assumed it was just a part of that.

Then there’s the memory loss. Let me tell you about something that almost got me into a lot of trouble at work the other day. I handle our insurance contracts and I had received correspondence that one of the insurance companies needed updated information. It was due in a month. I put it in a file thinking I would deal with it later that day. Ha! I remembered it when someone called a day after it was due (a month later!) asking where it was. I was able to fix the situation, thankfully, but we almost lost one of our biggest insurance contracts due to my memory loss.

If you go onto a forum and look up gabapentin, you’ll find plenty of people discussing the same symptoms I was experiencing.

Final Thoughts

Every medication has side effects, and I am sure that there are people who can take this medication without dealing with any effects. It probably helps a lot of patients, too, but I have decided that it is not worth losing my job (the only reason I’m still sane, btw) over. It may be helping me, but I’m also on three other medications, as well.

I’ve already started weaning myself off of it, and I’m preparing myself for any withdrawals I might experience. However, I have quit anti-depressants cold turkey (awful, awful experience!) and opioids, so I’m hoping it won’t be as bad as those were. We shall see.

Do you have a story about gabapentin? Does it work for you or did you find yourself in a situation similar to mine? Let us know in the comments!