Xanax and gabapentin are both prescribed to treat anxiety, but the latter is safer for long-term use. Below we provide information on why gabapentin is safer to use than Xanax, how the drugs are comparable, and if it’s safe to use them concurrently.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax (alprazolam) is a short-acting benzodiazepine (benzo) used for the treatment of acute anxiety. Health providers generally do not like to prescribe Xanax for an extended period because it can potentially cause abuse and dependence or full-blown addiction.
Benzos work to prolong gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity, a neurochemical that transmits signals between brain cells. For those with anxiety or panic disorder, benzos have an almost immediate calming and relaxing effect. However, when ab individual abuses Xanax in excessive amounts or more frequent doses, they may experience a “high” akin to at least a moderate amount of euphoria.
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is chemically similar to GABA, but it does not increase GABA or make GABA work longer in brain cells. Gabapentin appears to cause GABA to stay in cells longer without being naturally recycled (reuptake). The end result is that GABA activity increases overall.
Differences Between Gabapentin and Xanax
Xanax mainly treats anxiety and panic disorders, and gabapentin is most often prescribed to treat nerve pain and seizures. Off-label, gabapentin is also sometimes used to reduce anxiety.
Gabapentin and Xanax work in similar but have very different abuse potentials. Xanax is habit-forming and can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms when abused, sometimes even when using it precisely as prescribed.
Persons who have used Xanax for any significant length of time should be put on a tapering schedule, one in which the person is weaned off it for a few weeks. This is because, like severe alcoholism, abrupt discontinuation of the drug can lead to seizures and death.
Gabapentin is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of anxiety. Nevertheless, many health providers utilize it because it is not as habit-forming as benzos and usually starts working right away. Gabapentin is often used for anxiety in those with a history of substance use disorders or at a high risk of developing one.
The primary difference between the two medications is that Xanax has a relatively high potential for abuse in comparison. Some evidence has shown that gabapentin may have some abuse potential, but not to the degree of Xanax, especially if it is taken independently from other habit-forming substances.
Similarities of Gabapentin and Xanax
Gabapentin and Xanax both work for treating anxiety by affecting the chemical signal of GABA in brain cells. Both drugs start working right away and are relatively safe when they are used correctly.
Both Xanax and gabapentin are not particularly easy to overdose on by themselves because people are likely to pass out or fall asleep before either drug comes anywhere near producing lethal effects.
Combining Gabapentin and Xanax
Gabapentin and Xanax, when taken in conjunction, can amplify the side effects that they both share and also produce other, less predictable ones. Using them collectively will increase the risk of side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, impaired concentration, and overdose.
Some individuals taking this combination, especially the elderly, may also experience more severe impairments in thinking, judgment, and motor coordination. Persons using these two drugs should avoid or limit the use of alcohol while being treated.
When combined, a Xanax and gabapentin high will significantly impair an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery. Combining the two or mixing them with other sedating drugs is more likely to cause an overdose. A lethal outcome of Xanax and gabapentin might be unlikely unless they are both used in extremely high doses or mixed with other intoxicating substances.
Getting Help for Substance Abuse
A dependence on Xanax may have more severe consequences than one involving only gabapentin. Still, unfortunately, many people who abuse gabapentin do so in combination with other drugs such as Xanax or opioids. A polysubstance use disorder related to both drugs may be exponentially more complicated and may be more challenging to treat. Regardless, these conditions can be addressed using one comprehensive approach that aims to conquer active addiction indefinitely.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer detox, partial hospitalization, and residential treatment programs that aim to treat all aspects of each individual’s mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being, not just addiction. We provide a wide variety of evidence-based services beneficial for the recovery process, including the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Group support
- Individual/family counseling
- Relapse prevention
- Health and wellness education
- Art and music therapy
- Adventure therapy
- Aftercare planning
- Alumni events