Update: October 26, 2017 – It’s been brought to my attention by multiple readers that gabapentin may come with severe risks such as respiratory depression, and much worse withdrawal symptoms than my research originally indicated. I didn’t realize that gabapentin was such a controversial medication when I published this article. Please do extensive research before using gabapentin for anxiety, and consider all of the risks involved.
No, I’m not high on gabapentin while writing this article. But, I do have a dear friend who’s prescribed gabapentin, and she’s experienced some positive results that you’ll want to hear about. That’s why I’m writing this article.
Plus, gabapentin is a prescription medication that has become wildly popular in recent years, mostly because of its potential value in treating anxiety.
So, if you’re interested in using gabapentin to manage your anxiety, this article will give you everything that you need to know.
Specifically, this article covers:
- Why you might choose to use gabapentin for anxiety
- The potential benefits of gabapentin
- The downsides of gabapentin
- Is gabapentin useful for ADHD?
- 3 helpful tips for taking gabapentin
Let’s get started…
Why you might choose to use gabapentin for anxiety
First, we should clear the air about something important.
Gabapentin is technically an anticonvulsant, which means that it was originally developed to treat epilepsy, or prevent seizures from occurring (1).
While gabapentin is still used to prevent and suppress seizures, it’s now commonly used to relieve neuropathic pain, assist with restless leg syndrome, and treat a variety of anxiety disorders.
These anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
It’s worth noting that gabapentin is prescribed off-label when it’s used to treat anxiety disorders. But don’t worry. This just means that gabapentin is commonly prescribed for reasons other than its intended use. Many drugs, like modafinil, are regularly prescribed off-label.
In terms of effects, gabapentin is often compared to a moderate benzodiazepine like Xanax. After taking gabapentin, there’s a chance that you’ll feel euphoric, calm, talkative, and clearheaded. The keyword here is clearheaded, because most people enjoy the fact that gabapentin doesn’t make you feel sluggish.
I laughed when I saw one Redditor explain that taking gabapentin feels like waking up on Christmas morning.
If taking gabapentin can make you feel like you’re celebrating Christmas, then I’m genuinely happy for you. Sometimes, you need to use an effective pharmaceutical solution that helps you cope with whatever pain you’re experiencing.
And best of all, some research shows that gabapentin is psychologically non-addictive (2). This could make gabapentin superior to benzodiazepines in terms of safety, if you have the ‘addiction gene’ like I do.
This is an effective drug that could be of great use to those suffering from severe anxiety, when nothing else seems to work.
The benefits of gabapentin
Gabapentin may be useful for managing anxiety symptoms without causing you to develop a strong dependence on the medication.
So, if you’re prone to unnatural levels of worrying, nervousness, fear, insomnia or irritability – gabapentin might be able to help you solve your anxiety-related issues over the long-term.
This is the biggest benefit of taking gabapentin. It might help you live a normal, functional lifestyle. Some people even feel motivated or energized after taking gabapentin.
If you have severe social anxiety, for example, then using gabapentin could make group interactions feel much more “natural” to you.
Another powerful benefit of gabapentin is that it’s a relatively “clean” medication.
It’s reportedly low in toxicity, meaning that most people can use gabapentin without having to worry (if used responsibly, of course).
The downsides of gabapentin
The biggest downside of gabapentin seems to involve issues with tolerance.
Some people build a tolerance to gabapentin relatively quickly, which means that gabapentin’s effectiveness could slip away over time. Of course, not everyone will experience issues with tolerance. Some people are able to use gabapentin successfully for many years.
Interestingly, you can’t just “take more gabapentin” to solve your tolerance issues, either.
It’s been reported that there is a lack of proportionality between increasing your doses of gabapentin, and experiencing stronger effects (3). In other words, any extra gabapentin that you take beyond your standard dose will likely be wasted, since you might not feel any additional effects of the drug.
So, for many people, the rapid tolerance issue is the main downside that comes with using gabapentin.
But, it’s also important to take all of the normal precautions that you would consider before using any prescription medication. For example, you shouldn’t use gabapentin in combination with alcohol or other medications (unless approved by your physician first). You shouldn’t take gabapentin while pregnant. And, you shouldn’t use gabapentin if you have renal impairment (kidney failure), due to the risk of toxicity.
I also have to mention that some people report experiencing fairly negative side effects while taking gabapentin (4). In one study of the long-term use of gabapentin (following a traumatic spinal cord injury), 22% of gabapentin users discontinued the drug due to ‘intolerable side effects’ (5). There are also many anecdotal reports of short-term memory problems, weight gain, sleepiness, and various other issues that may come from using gabapentin over the long-term (6).
So, please make sure to consider all of the potential risks involved before using gabapentin. I wish I had some hard evidence to offer in regards to the side effects of using gabapentin over the long-term. I always like to err on the side of caution whenever possible. But, there just isn’t all that much objective information available on gabapentin, since the drug has only been in circulation since 1993. You’ll have to use your best judgment here, and consult with a doctor who you trust.
Is gabapentin useful for ADHD?
If you’re a regular reader of this website, then you might get the feeling that I spend a lot of time writing about ADHD and anxiety.
This is because ADHD is often comorbid with anxiety. This means that if you have ADHD, there’s a decent chance that you have anxiety as well.
So, this should be a no-brainer, but I’ll explain it anyway:
> If you only suffer from ADHD, then gabapentin probably won’t do much for you
> If you suffer from ADHD and anxiety, there’s a chance that you’ll find value in trying gabapentin for yourself (while under the care of a physician, of course)
I’ve had a LOT of success in reducing my ADHD symptoms as a result of targeting my anxiety in general.
For example, when I feel like I have a good grip on my anxiety, I also find it easier to concentrate on improving my work output, relationships, health, and overall quality of life.
Several people report similar findings. Rather than experiencing racing thoughts, gabapentin might help you clear your mind, and feel more at ease with life.
It’s also worth noting that gabapentin and ADHD medication are sometimes prescribed together.
One study shows that gabapentin and methylphenidate (Concerta) helped a young boy with ADHD remarkably (7). The subject of this study suffered from bipolar disorder as well. But, he showed a significant improvement in his mood symptoms.
Gabapentin seems to make taking stimulant ADHD medication much more tolerable for some people. It counterbalances the edgy feeling that one might get from using amphetamine or methylphenidate.
Overall, gabapentin should be considered on a case-by-case basis if you suffer from ADHD. You would need to chat with your physician about this, because gabapentin has to be prescribed off-label for treating ADHD symptoms.
3 helpful tips for taking gabapentin
If you and your physician agree that gabapentin is a good option for managing your anxiety, then you can follow these 3 helpful tips for taking gabapentin:
> Take gabapentin with citrus
Citric acid seems to help gabapentin absorb in your stomach. You can try taking your gabapentin with a fizzy soft drink (like 7Up) and a squeeze of lime. For a healthier alternative, you can take a quick swig of apple cider vinegar mixed with water.
> Eat fatty food after taking gabapentin
Make sure to enjoy a nice, hearty meal after taking your gabapentin (when possible). This will greatly help your body absorb the gabapentin.
> Find your minimum effective dose (MED) and stick to it
Because many people build a tolerance to gabapentin, it helps to find your minimum effective dose (MED), and stick to it. Your MED is simply the smallest dose that gives you the best results. In other words, you should preferably be conservative about using gabapentin, so that you can extend its usefulness for as long as possible.
Gabapentin may be one of the most useful medications for treating anxiety, and occasionally ADHD symptoms.
If you suffer from any kind of social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), or panic disorder, then gabapentin might be one of the options that you consider.
Have you used gabapentin for your anxiety or ADHD symptoms?
Please let me know your thoughts about this drug in the comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you.