MIxing Alcohol & Gabapentin (Neurontin)

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What will happen if you drink alcohol while taking gabapentin? Gabapentin, also known by its brand name Neurontin, was prescribed 69 million times (1) in 2019. This makes it the 7th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States. This often helpful medication is considered safe when used as prescribed. However, there are a multitude of potentially dangerous side effects when it is mixed with alcohol.

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What Is Gabapentin & Why Is It Prescribed?

Gabapentin (2) belongs to a classification of drugs known as anticonvulsants. These medications are commonly prescribed for the treatment of seizures. Gabapentin works by calming or “dampening” sudden dramatic spikes in brain activity. It is also prescribed for the treatment of extended pain related to shingles as well as a treatment for moderate to severe restless leg syndrome (RLS).

What Are Common Side Effects of Gabapentin & Anticonvulsant Use?

Though it is considered safe when used as prescribed, gabapentin does carry some potential side effects. These include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems
  • Strange or unusual thoughts
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Runny nose, sneezing, cough, sore throat, or flu-like symptoms
  • Ear pain

Alcohol May Worsen Side Effects or Influence Effectiveness of Medications

Medications like gabapentin are designed to work within specific areas of the brain and body. When alcohol is consumed, it begins to impact the systems of the body. Because of this, medications may be processed differently. Alcohol can alter or diminish the effectiveness or potency of medications. Alcohol can also cause added stress to some organs on the body responsible for filtering like the liver and kidneys.

Does Alcohol Counteract the Effects of Anticonvulsants?

Though alcohol has not been shown to decrease the effectiveness of anticonvulsants like gabapentin, it can increase the risk of potentially dangerous side effects.

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What Happens if You Drink Alcohol With Gabapentin?

Some physicians consider small amounts of alcohol safe while taking gabapentin. However, it does have the potential to increase the risk or severity of some side effects. Both alcohol and anticonvulsants can depress, or slow down, respirations. If these substances are mixed their effect can multiply. Suppressed breathing will cause the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream to lower to dangerous levels. This lack of oxygen can cause loss of consciousness or even death.

How Gabapentin & Alcohol Interact in the Brain & Body

Gabapentin belongs to a classification of medications known as anticonvulsants. These prescription drugs are designed to mitigate sudden spikes in brain activity (3). They do this by altering the way in which nerves in the brain communicate with each other. By limiting these sharp increases in brain activity, they are able to prevent seizures and specific types of pain. It is also for this reason that they can potentially cause suppression of other functions of the brain and body like breathing.

Alcohol is a depressant belonging to the category of sedative-hypnotics. These chemical compounds are responsible for depressing the central nervous system. They are often used for their calming effects both as prescription medications and as recreational drugs. They are often prescribed to patients who are dealing with symptoms of anxiety, panic, or insomnia. With their depression of the central nervous system, they can also cause suppression of important functions like breathing, balance, and basic motor skills.

Can Drinking Alcohol While Taking Gabapentin Cause Adverse Side Effects?

Both alcohol and gabapentin (4) are known to cause depression of some primary bodily functions. The most prominent of these is respiration. In moderate doses the body is still able to function properly with the amount of breathing suppression. However, when used in excess or when combined, these sedating compounds can lead to a multitude of side effects. The worst of these effects includes loss of consciousness or death.

Can Mixing Alcohol With Gabapentin Be Dangerous?

Mixing substances like gabapentin and alcohol can cause a compounding effect. Many accidental overdoses occur due to combining multiple substances. This synergistic interaction will cause many users to unknowingly take a potentially harmful dose.

As high amounts of alcohol and gabapentin are combined, users may begin to feel a higher suppression of their central nervous system than normal. The central nervous system is the body’s method of communication. If this system is disrupted dramatically, it can impact primary functions necessary for survival. Potentially life threatening effects of mixing alcohol with a substance like gabapentin are lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, unconsciousness, or loss of motor function. If left untreated, these overdose symptoms can cause permanent damage or death.

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If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, help is available. Guardian Recovery is a national network of substance use treatment facilities committed to the highest standards of care. We are committed to ensure each of our clients have the tools necessary for a lifestyle of recovery. Call today to speak with a treatment advisor. They will be able to review your treatment options and answer any questions you may have. They are also able to conduct a free insurance check with no obligation to you. Call Guardian Recovery today to begin your journey to recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7119a3.htm#:~:text=*%2C%E2%80%A0%20Gabapentin%20is%20commonly%20used,most%20commonly%20prescribed%20medication%20nationally.
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a694007.html
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24429755/
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/gabapentin/common-questions-about-gabapentin/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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