Gabapentin, also known as Neurontin, is medication prescribed by doctors to patients with epilepsy, known for its anticonvulsant properties which basically means it prevents and stops the convulsions that happen when epilepsy attacks occur.
When you have a seizure, the chemical reactions and nerve communication is disrupted, meaning it doesn’t carry the signals correctly, orders sent by the brain and other organs getting a little lost in translation. By taking Gabapentin, the nerves and chemicals are controlled by modifying the neurotransmitters, giving you a way to managed your condition.
Not just used to treat patients with epilepsy, Gabapentin can also be used to treat RLS or Restless Leg Syndrome, and also to treat pain coming hand in hand with herpes zoster, also known as shingles or herpes. It can also be used to help treat insomnia, and also other mental disorders such as bipolar disorder.
The use of the drug and to be more precise, the way it works within the body, is not yet fully understood but it is said to mimic the action of various transmitters.
How Long Does Gabapentin Work For?
When you take Gabapentin, the effects only last for around five to seven hours in total. The drug itself has a relatively short life span, and the half life is very small, often resulting in a higher dependancy or addiction risk. In fact, Gabapentin withdrawal is well known to be very difficult and not something that should be taken lightly.
Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms
As with many drugs that you become addicted to or tolerant on, Gabapentin withdrawal will come hand in hand with many symptoms including the following:
- Anxiety – ranging from mild to very severe
- Changes to appetite – some patients experience a complete lack of appetite while others experience more hunger pangs
- Mood swings
- Itching skin
- Heart palpitations
- Rapid heart rate
- Ear problems such as tinnitus or pain
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Fever and shivering
- Muscle aches and pains
- Seizures and fits
- Upset stomachs
- Excessive sweating
- Suicidal thoughts
How Long Does Gabapentin Withdrawal Last?
There seems to be no set pattern for how long Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms last, some patients reporting being back to normal within just a few weeks while others taking over a year before life returns to normality. The process will affect everyone slightly differently and like many other things in life, will depend on a whole host of factors including the following:
How long were you taking the drug?
Those who have been taking the drug for a long time will generally suffer from withdrawal symptoms than someone who hasn’t been taking the drug for very long at all. The shorter the length of time you were taking it, the easier and quicker it will be to come off it. This is much the same for a lot of drugs.
What dosage were you on?
If you’re consider a younger person, your doctor is likely to have prescribed you a dose of around 300mg and this should be taken three times daily. Slightly older people may be prescribed up to 1800mg in severe cases, and some doctors may even not use your age to work out your dosage at all, preferring to work with how much you weight instead. The general rule of thumb for this is around 10-15mg for every kilogram you weigh.
The dosage will change the length of time you suffer with Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms. The higher the dose, the harder you will find it to wean yourself away from the drug. The lower your dose, the quicker and less intense it will be to withdraw.
Are you prone to withdrawals?
If you were a smoker who has tried to quit but found the withdrawals virtually impossible to deal with every time, it could be that your tolerance for these withdrawal symptoms is lower than others. Sometimes your genetics have a part to play in how well you will take to a drug, and also how long it will take to completely remove the drug and it’s effects from your body.
How are you withdrawing from Gabapentin?
If you are weaning yourself away from Gabapentin, lowering your dosage over time, you may notice that the withdrawals aren’t so difficult to deal with but the length of time it will take to withdraw completely will be longer than going cold turkey.
Just as the name suggests, going cold turkey means cutting the drug out of your life completely at a set time or date. You no longer take any more. This is the quickest way to get the drug out of your system but many patients report this being the hardest way to withdraw from any drug. Going cold turkey is normally too much of an impossible task to complete.
As well as taking into consideration how hard going cold turkey will be, you should also be aware that stopping this medication completely could even cause seizures, the thing you’re trying to stop or prevent by taking the drug in the first place.
Many people attempt going cold turkey first before realising the process is very difficult and eventually weaning themselves away from it, lowering the drug over a period of weeks of months rather than stopping altogether.
You should never attempt to stop taking Gabapentin without first consulting with your doctor. You shouldn’t change your dosage without speaking with your doctor. If you think you have taken your dose incorrectly, to you have taken too many tablets, seek medical advice.
How long does it take to withdraw from Gabapentin?
The drug itself is believe to stay in your system for a maximum of 48-72 hours after you stop taking it. At this point, your body no longer has the drug it has become accustomed to and at this stage, you’ll start to suffer with the withdrawal symptoms. Your body (or mind) needs that drug and because you can’t have, the above symptoms we mentioned will start, and get more intense, before slowly dissipating. This can take days, weeks, months and in some cases, even years. Each patient and every case is different, and there are a lot of contributing factors.
What can help with Gabapentin withdrawal?
There are some reports that show taking a supplement of magnesium can help with Gabapentin withdrawal. The receptors react in similar ways to the drug and the mineral, so as you lower your dosage of Gabapentin, you should look at taking magnesium supplements.
As well as looking at magnesium, you may wish to consider speaking with your doctor about taking a daily multivitamin supplement to ensure your body is well-fed from the inside out and ready for the detox ahead. As well as ensuring your vitamin and mineral levels are right, you should look at your diet, making sure you eat healthy and well-balanced foods, don’t drink too much, and ensure you consume plenty of water.
The healthier your body is, the easier you will find it to detox or withdraw from any drug.
Exercise is another tool you have on your side and this can help in a number of ways. Exercise releases happy endorphins and hormones into the body which boost your mood and help you to feel better. The vitamin D you’ll get from stepping outside in the sun will also help to lighten the mood amongst a whole host of other things. Not only that but you will feel better about yourself for exercising and, should you want or need to, losing weight, and when you feel better about yourself, it’s hard to feel irritable from your withdrawals.
Exercise has also been shown to help regulate and promote natural sleep patterns, something many drug-withdrawing patients struggle with.
Meditation and / or counselling or therapy can help when you are feeling at your worst, and some people may even find that anonymous drug addiction groups can help. By using these groups, you will be talking to people just like you – people who are in the same boat, going through the same things, and can maybe even provide you with tips and tricks you hadn’t yet heard of to make the process a little easier.
Therapy can help by dealing with Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, stress and depression. It is also a very wise choice to tell family and friends about your current scenario so they can keep an eye on you and make sure you’re not having too much of a hard time. Withdrawing from any drug is hard but if you have been taking Gabapentin for a long period of time, you may find it very hard.
You should also advise your doctor about any mental health problems prior to taking Gabapentin.