Gabapentin and Alcohol

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

May 17, 2023

Table of Contents

Gabapentin, a prescription medication most commonly used for the treatment and prevention of seizures under the branded name Neurontin, and alcohol do not mix well. If you are worried about these dangers, please reach out to our Orange County alcohol rehab today.

Beyond this, gabapentin has other applications as an anticonvulsant and antiepileptic medication.

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The medication shows promise for treatment-resistant depression, and there is some evidence to show gabapentin could help minimize cravings and alcohol withdrawal symptoms experienced during detox.

By calming impulses that occur in the CNS (central nervous system), gabapentin can soothe nerve pain and prevent seizures.

Gabapentin shares a similar molecular structure to GABA receptors. GABA receptors are neurotransmitters found in the membrane of the CNS. These receptors play a part in the regulation of fear circuits in the amygdala, an area of the brain that governs emotions.

Taking gabapentin heightens the activity of these receptors, resultantly calming the CNS. This induces a relaxing effect, while enhancing well-being and tamping down feelings of anxiety.

Alcohol acts on the CNS in much the same way as gabapentin. Other compounds like barbiturates and benzodiazepines have a similar mechanism of action, increasing the activity of GABA receptors.

Like most prescription medications, gabapentin is typically safe when used as directed and not in combination with other substances. However, when mixed with alcohol it can lead to serious problems.

How about the interaction between gabapentin and alcohol, then?

mixing gabapentin and alcohol can be dangerous

Mixing Gabapentin and Alcohol

Gabapentin and alcohol both carry the risk of certain serious side effects, and these substances increase the potency of each other when mixed.

Gabapentin and Alcohol Side Effects

Just like all prescription medications, gabapentin comes with the risk of a range of side effects. These are the most common:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vision problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea

You should find all of these side effects are temporary, subsiding after you become accustomed to the medication.

Gabapentin can induce more severe side effects, including:

  • Blurred vision
  • Joint pain
  • Motion sickness
  • Viral infection

You should seek immediate medical assistance if you experience any of these severe side effects when taking gabapentin.

Some people taking gabapentin report experiencing mood swings and suicidal thoughts. Speak with your healthcare provider immediately if gabapentin starts impacting your mental health.

Drinking alcohol while taking gabapentin leads to the effects of each substance being increased exponentially.

The most common consequences of drinking alcohol when taking medication like gabapentin are as follows:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Problems concentrating and focusing
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety

Gabapentin will magnify the intoxicating effects of alcohol as well as the way it induces sleepiness. This means you will get drunk more rapidly while feeling calm, sociable, and euphoric.

While more research is needed in this area, it is believed those who drink heavily may experience more severe side effects from mixing alcohol and gabapentin, including:

  • Memory loss
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination

Another possible complication of mixing alcohol and gabapentin is the increased risk of injury from falling due to the way the combination of these substances impairs motor activity and coordination.

Can gabapentin and alcohol use be fatal, then?

a stethoscope representing the dangers of mixing alcohol and gabapentin

Can Gabapentin and Alcohol Kill You?

Fortunately, while mixing alcohol and gabapentin can trigger some unpleasant side effects, doing so is rarely fatal.

That said, if enough of the substances are consumed in combination, breathing can be slowed to such a rate it can be deadly.

Aside from this slight possibility of death from alcohol and gabapentin overdose, there is a more significant chance of the mixture of these substances altering your mood dramatically and leading to erratic behavior or poor decisions resulting in a deadly accident.

Gabapentin and Alcohol Withdrawal & Detox

How about gabapentin and alcohol detox?

Well, if you are planning to detox from alcohol and you are taking gabapentin, you should discuss this with your healthcare provider and your treatment team.

While there has been some research into gabapentin’s efficacy for reducing the cravings experienced during alcohol withdrawal, there are already three FDA-approved medications commonly used during alcohol detox:

  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate
  • Disulfiram

These medications are available in oral and injectable forms, and they can help reduce the severity of cravings, while at the same time minimizing the discomfort of alcohol withdrawal.

If you have severe alcohol use disorder, withdrawal in a medical detox center is typically recommended. You will have access to the above medications to streamline withdrawal, and you have supervision on hand to intervene in the event of any complications – mixing gabapentin and alcohol, for instance.

Fortunately, while alcohol detox is unpleasant, most people find withdrawal symptoms last for no more than five days.

With detox out of the way, how can you kickstart your recovery from alcohol use disorder?

Renaissance Recovery can help you if you mix alcohol and gabapentin

Get Help Today at Renaissance Recovery

Whether you need help with addiction to prescription medication or help to combat alcohol use disorder, we’re here to help at Renaissance Recovery’s California rehab.

If you’ve been putting off getting the help you need for fear of the cost of residential rehab, our outpatient treatment programs give you access to the same services you get in inpatient rehab, but without needing to head to a treatment center for a month or more.

Our highly personalized programs offer you evidence-based treatments including MAT (medication-assisted treatment) to help minimize the intensity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

MAT is most effective when delivered alongside counseling and psychotherapy like CBT or DBT. Here at Renaissance, we also offer a variety of holistic rehab and vocational development programs to deliver a whole-body approach to recovery.

Crucially, we ensure you have the aftercare you need in place to minimize your chances of relapse and guide you toward sustained sobriety.

All you need to do is take the first vital step by calling our addiction hotline at 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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