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!

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16 thoughts on “Why I’m Stopping My Gabapentin

  1. Gabapentin almost ruined my marriage . I was paranoid . Couldn’t remember anything . I had posted notes everywhere. My kids were getting scared. Arguments everyday. I was on 1800 mg a day, have weaned down to 600mg. I’m finally feeling like myself again. It wasn’t helping the nerve pain it was prescribed for at all.

    • I am so sorry you had to go through that! I hope things are better now!

      I also am not really sure it’s helping my nerve pain, either. I still experience it on a daily basis.

      Has it been very difficult lowering your dose? I’ve read some real horror stories about withdrawals and such.

  2. Gabapentin works by negatively impacting Synaptogenesis Gabapentin (-)s presynaptic voltage gated Ca channels and affects the fusion and release of neurotransmitter vesicles into the synaptic cleft. This is the very means used for Neurons to communicate in our body. This is called a “therapeutic” function. It is if you have a seizure disorder and need to control seizures. However, if your scripted off label for anything other that as a “adjunct” medication to a primary medication for complex partial seizures which is only the FDA guidelines state is only effective for 3 months. The other FDA approval is for post herpatic neuralgia associated with Shingles also as a “adjunct” medication to a antiviral and typically again for about 3 months. Anything other than these two reasons is off-label including Neuropathy. Gabapentin is not FDA approved for Neuropathy that the latest Cochron Review has Gabapentin at 35% over all and 38% in one stand alone study. That does not meet FDA guidelines for helping 50% of the people for this medications toxic effects to outweigh side effects in most people. Most DATA for off label usage goes down in the 35% from there. It’s even no better than a placebo for migraines yet.. it’s still scripted for these indications. Gabapentin is a seizure medications. It stops synaptogenesis that stops Synaptic repair and growth this is very important for cognitive health specifically as we age. Please research carefully and take the side effects seriously. Gabapentin also has a withdrawal syndrome that has a spread from doable to very long and difficult. This withdrawal syndrome that is caused from “Dependence” can be from taking your medications “as prescribed” and not having been abused in any way. This is clinically documented even 11% being sighted in the neuropathy study on its own, that’s not accounting for other documented accounts in other evidence. Most Doctors are not believing this and not supporting patients through this withdrawal. Honest patients are being told that this can only happen if they abuse their medication and take it outside of Doctors Orders, this is simply not true. 10% or less safe tapering guidelines following Dr. Breggins safe tapering guidelines for all I
    Psychotropic (mind altering) medication helps the smaller percent of people who get the more extreme end of the withdrawal syndrome.

    • Thank you so much for the information, Vicki! I will update the post to include this and some info I found from what you’ve said.

      I am concerned about withdrawals, as I have read some pretty terrible things, but I’m hoping that since I am on a fairly low dose it won’t be too terrible.

  3. My memory is getting worse and worse and I do fall sometimes. I’m shocked to hear that Gabapentin could be responsible for this. I am on a ton of meds and figured the memory loss might be coming from my anti-psychotic. .I am on 600mgs. of Gabapentin 3x a day. I can’t see me changing because after a horribly failed back surgery, the muscles in my legs were constantly spasming and painfully trapping the nerves inside of them. I really don’t know what to do but I will discuss it with my doctor. If stopping it and having the result be nerve pain again, I’d probably have to say no to going off of it. But the loss of memory is tragic.

    • Oh man, that’s rough, I’m sorry to hear that! I am fortunate in that I don’t think it was making much of a difference anyway, so hopefully I won’t be in that much trouble.

      If it’s causing problems you should definitely talk to your doctor about it. Maybe you can work together to find a solution. I hope it all works out for you!

  4. I have been taking 300 mg 4x a day of Gabapentin for the past 3 years. I was prescribed this for neuropathy I experience due to my M.S. In the past three years I thought I was watching my M.S. progress more rapidly with symptoms like cognitive fog, forgetfulness, confusion, balance issues, extremity jerkiness really all on the rise. It may be my M.S. or it may be this medicine?!? So yeah, I’m weaning myself of this med for the last month. I’m down to 600mg a day instead of 1200mg. My head is starting to feel clearer but I do have more pain in my legs. So Gabapentin was probably giving me some pain relief….. but I remember where I parked my car so…

    • It seems to be one of those “lesser of two evils” things, doesn’t it? I can either have nerve pain or be forgetful. I guess it just boils down to which one affects you more. In my case I think I can handle some additional pain if it means I won’t screw up my job! (Or lose my car 😉 )

  5. Gabapentin almost took my life away. It only worked for a few months then I was overcome by the negative side effects, fatigue, stomach pain, new nerve pain,blurry vision, memory problems, trouble focusing, finding words, amongst many other physical side effects. Then my family noticed personality changes, anxiety,depression, hopelessness that graduated to suicidal ideation. I never experienced these things before Gabapentin. I felt disconnected from myself. So then I tried to stop it, way too quickly & almost lost my mind and my life. Thanks to some very good FB groups I discovered the proper way to taper off this drug along with some coping skills to deal with WD. It’s been a nightmare and has halted my life. I will never get back the time and forgotten memories, experiences Gabapentin has taken from me. Ironically as I tapered the pain it was supposed to help increased to some of the worst pain of my life topped with emotional & mental turmoil. This stuff is evil & most Drs just don’t know this yet. It’s dangerously overprescribed and hopefully soon this will change. I hope you can get off this drug with minimal WD symptoms and get back to your life. I can’t wait to be off it for good & do the same.

    • Oh wow, I am so sorry to hear that you went through all of that! For me, it hasn’t changed my personality so much as it has just affected my cognitive abilities and memory. I can’t imagine emotional distress on top of that!

      I agree about the doctors. I mean, I’m in the medical field and I had no clue about it until this all started happening to me. I’m going to tell my doctor at my next visit what’s going on and see what she knows.

      Thank you, and I hope you’re able to get off of it completely soon and get back to your normal life!

  6. I must be one of the ‘lucky’ ones that gabapentin has been helping. I’ve been on 600mg 4x a day for a few years (since I’ve been seeing my pain specialist) for Fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy, and I believe that this drug is one of the main reasons I have any kind of life quality at all. If I had to give up something, it would be the narcotics first, although I realize they’re all horrible drugs. If I could change one day in my life, it would be the day I went a different way to work and I’d avoid that car accident that changed my life. However, since no one has a magic wand or the ability to time travel, I’m stuck in the here and now with narcotic pain drugs and gabapentin. Does it make the Fibro Fog worse? Probably. But I’ve been dealing with the fog and memory lapse for so long before the gabapentin that I’ve become purposeful about what I do to not forget where I park my car (Thank you Samsung smart watch!) and I write everything down on a calendar.

    My worst medication was Cymbalta, which was also prescribed for pain before it was approved for Fibromyalgia. I was suicidal and prone to anger… the years I took that poison were the worst years of our marriage. I almost lost everything, but thank God hubby chose to love me every day instead of washing his hands of the whole deal. Coming off that stuff was a nightmare, and it was very against my doctor’s recommendation, despite having told him numerous times it no longer helped.

    • I am so glad that it works for you! You aren’t alone; it actually does help some people from what I’ve heard, but we’re all different so what helps one can harm another.

      I’m sorry about your accident; that’s why I’m in constant pain, too. I agree about the magic wand. I’d love to go back to “normal”!

      I had the same reaction to Cymbalta (most anti-depressants make me suicidal) and I had to stop cold turkey because I lost my insurance. Oh. My. God. that was the worst! I had a dissociation while driving and had to remember who I was and how to drive before swerving out of the lane. Cymbalta is terrible!

      I’m glad your husband stuck by you! Mine is amazing, as well. I thank God for him every day.

      Thanks for commenting and I hope you’re well! 🙂

  7. Hello and thank you for this blog! I am a three decade pastoral counselor and retired Chiropractor focusing on the conscious and sub-conscious mind. Due to bilateral neuropathy of late I have tried gabapenta for only 5 days. Seemed to have improved neuropathy symptoms but my with negative mental capacity. Thus, I choose to be off the drug post haste! Sounds as though there is insufficient research into the short term negative effects much less what can occur in the long term. Thank you and all the best.
    John M

    • Hello, Dr. John! I apologize for the late response!

      I have heard many different patient accounts when it comes to this medication, and one thing that I have heard very often is that in the beginning the medication works wonders. I, myself, noticed a difference in my nerve pain after taking it for just a short while.

      What I’ve seen, though, is that the adverse effects come on slowly and after a while of being on it. For me, the effects didn’t become noticeable for at least a year or so.

      I’m now down to 300mg a day and I’m doing much better, but my intention is to wean down entirely eventually.

      I wish you the best and thank you for reading and commenting!

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