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Gabapentin (Neurontin) is characterized as an anticonvulsant or antiepileptic. It is used to treat the symptoms of seizures among other things. But it is important to know about the contraindications and side-effects of using this drug.

What is Gabapentin? How does it Work?

Gabapentin is a drug that is used independently or along with other drugs to treat the characteristic partial seizures of epilepsy. It does so by reducing the abnormal and localized electrical activity that takes place in the brain during a seizure. The exact mechanism is unknown though.

Gabapentin is also prescribed for treating neuropathic pain (long-term pain caused by nerve damage), which may be caused by diabetes or shingles.

Other less common uses of this drug are for the treatment and prevention of migraines and hot flashes. The latter is especially for women who have undergone breast cancer treatment or are experiencing menopause. However, it is advised to consult your doctor in such cases.

Who Should Not Take Gabapentin?

If you are suffering from any of the following conditions, Gabapentin should be taken with care or avoided altogether. Be sure to tell your doctor early on:

  • Pregnant
  • Breastfeeding (the medicine can pass into the breast milk)
  • Diabetes
  • Psychosis
  • Kidney disease
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Mood swings

What Side-effects can Gabapentin Cause?

Gabapentin can cause some very serious side-effects. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Dryness of the mouth
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Increase in appetite
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Seizures
  • Unfocused excitement
  • Anxiety
  • Unsteadiness
  • Memory problems
  • Unusual or unsettling thoughts
  • Swelling of some part of the body (feet, ankles, hands, face, throat)

Children and older adults may be more prone to these side-effects at lower drug dosages.

Gabapentin and Alcohol

Consuming alcohol with any medicine that targets the nervous system can have serious side-effects.

These may include dizziness, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating and even mild psychosis.

It is best to limit the use of alcohol, or to avoid it altogether, especially at higher concentrations of Gabapentin.

What Special Precautions Should be Taken?

Be sure to tell your doctor beforehand of any allergies that you may have, especially to any of the inactive ingredients in the medication.

Notify your doctor of any health problems or mental ailments that you may have or have been treated for. These include kidney disease, depression, mood disorders, drug abuse, etc.

It is better to avoid any strenuous activity while taking this medication. The dizziness and drowsiness may cause hindrances in driving, using machinery, or other activities that require focus.

Tell your doctor about any prescription or non-prescription medication, that you may be using. Also notify him of any vitamins, supplements, herbal products, etc. that you may be on. In case of any medication that may interact adversely with Gabapentin, your doctor may prescribe an alternative or adjust the dosage.

Antacids should be taken at least 2 hours before taking Gabapentin.

Be sure to contact your doctor immediately if you start experiencing any mental health changes. These may include suicidal thoughts and behavior. These changes may appear within a week of taking Gabapentin, and are common in children.

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