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Updated on September 13, 2023
4 min read

Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Gabapentin?

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant. Common brand names for this drug include Gralise®, Horizant®, and Neurontin®.4

Gabapentin

Gabapentin is a popular anticonvulsant medication that can treat certain seizures and help people with epilepsy. Doctors may also prescribe this drug to treat nerve pain and various medical conditions, such as:2 

  • Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Hot flashes (caused by breast cancer treatments or menopause)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Nerve pain associated with diabetic neuropathy

How Does Gabapentin Work?

Gabapentin affects the central nervous system, specifically the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog. GABA reduces the excitability of neurons in the brain, which affects seizures and pain signals.2,3

Gabapentin mimics the effects of GABA, calming neurons down. This reduces the intensity of seizures, convulsions, and pain.2,3

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Side Effects of Gabapentin

Using gabapentin can cause different side effects, including:2

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Memory difficulties
  • Strange thoughts or slow thought processes
  • Changes in mental health, such as anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Impotence
  • Stronger appetite
  • Weight gain

Rarer but more serious side effects of the drug include:2

  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Respiratory problems (breathing or swallowing)
  • Seizures
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, or eyes
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Yes, gabapentin can be addictive. Although it is less addictive than opioids, you can still develop a tolerance and a physical dependence on the drug.4,6

If you suddenly stop taking the medication after prolonged use, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms include:6

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sweating
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Pain

Quitting gabapentin all at once can result in more frequent seizures. Doctors may taper your dose over a week or more to minimize the risk of such symptoms.6

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Is Gabapentin an Effective Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal?

Studies suggest that gabapentin may be effective in treating alcohol withdrawal and promoting alcohol abstinence.1,5 In a randomized clinical trial by a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, 41% of gabapentin participants reached total abstinence.1

However, more studies are needed, especially for people who have psychiatric and health conditions like:1

Also, the study reports that some participants received supportive counseling or attended Alcoholics Anonymous. This may have influenced the results of the study.1

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Can I Drink Alcohol While Taking Gabapentin?

No, you shouldn't mix gabapentin and alcohol. Both gabapentin and alcohol are CNS depressants. Mixing them can increase the risk of harmful side effects.6

Mixing gabapentin and alcohol can worsen existing side effects and increase their severity. It also increases the risk of overdose or death.6

Generally, you should avoid any medication that can cause dizziness while taking gabapentin. Gabapentin can also interact with other drugs, including:6

Can Gabapentin Interact with Other Drugs?

Gabapentin can interact with other central nervous system depressants, creating stronger side effects. It can also increase the risk of experiencing gabapentin's side effects.6,7

These interactions include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Antianxiety medications such as benzodiazepine and alprazolam
  • Antidepressants such as amitriptyline, fluoxetine, and sertraline
  • Seizure medications such as phenobarbital and primidone
  • Antacids
  • Narcotic pain medicines

Side Effects of Mixing Gabapentin with Other Substances

Mixing gabapentin with alcohol or other medications can lead to dangerous drug interactions. Seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know experiences:6

  • Dizziness
  • Breathing problems or respiratory depression
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Confusion
  • Bluish-colored skin, especially on the lips, fingers, or toes
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Overdose
  • Death

The risk of gabapentin-alcohol interactions is higher in women and the elderly. Both women and the elderly cannot metabolize alcohol efficiently.

Because of this, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider when taking gabapentin or any new prescription medication. Your healthcare provider can offer guidance on managing medications while minimizing the risk of interactions or overdose.

Symptoms of a Gabapentin Overdose

Mixing alcohol and gabapentin can worsen the symptoms of a gabapentin overdose. These symptoms include:2

  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Diarrhea
  • Ataxia (lack of muscle control or coordination)
  • Drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Irritability

Treatment Options for Substance Abuse & Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or alcohol addiction, seek medical attention. A healthcare provider or addiction specialist can help you explore different treatment options that may cater to your needs.

Available treatment options include:

Summary

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant used to treat nerve pain, seizures, and other medical conditions. It's known under the brand names Gralise®, Horizant®, and Neurontin®.

If you misuse gabapentin, you can experience uncomfortable side effects. You can also develop an addiction to gabapentin and experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop using it.

If you mix gabapentin and alcohol or other prescription drugs, you can experience dangerous side effects. The interaction between these substances can be life-threatening.

Updated on September 13, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on September 13, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Anton et al. Efficacy of Gabapentin for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder in Patients With Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med, 2020.
  2.  “Gabapentin: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2020.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "PubChem Compound Summary for CID 3446, Gabapentin" PubChem, 2023.
  4. "NEURONTIN (Gabapentin)." Food and Drug Administration, 2017.
  5. Bates et al. "Retrospective Analysis of Gabapentin for Alcohol Withdrawal in the Hospital Setting: The Mayo Clinic Experience." Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes, 2020.
  6. Quintero GC. "Review about gabapentin misuse, interactions, contraindications and side effects." J Exp Pharmacol, 2017.
  7. "Gabapentin." go.drugbank.com.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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