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Can You Take Gabapentin for Anxiety?

Can You Take Gabapentin for Anxiety? | Just Believe Detox

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If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Detox Center at (877) 497-6180. Our specialists can assess your individual needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

Gabapentin is a prescription medication used to treat a variety of psychological and physical conditions. Its primary use is for treating central nervous system disorders, reducing the risk of seizure, and alleviating nerve pain associated with shingles. The most common brand name for gabapentin is Neurontin.

Gabapentin is also practical in an assortment of off-label uses, such as for treating anxiety disorders, impulse control disorders, panic disorders, ADHD, diabetic neuropathy, restless leg syndrome, and more. The FDA first approved gabapentin in 1993. Statistics show that around 83% of gabapentin prescriptions are for off-label use, meaning it is a highly versatile drug.

Recently, studies indicate that individuals taking gabapentin may receive relief from symptoms of several anxiety disorders. Neurological data suggest that individuals with anxiety disorders display differences in the function of their autonomic nervous system. In particular, it appears that anxiety-related symptoms are correlated with an understimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system and an overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system.

Gabapentin seems to reduce anxiety symptoms by altering the behavior of these two autonomic nervous system pathways. Still, anxiety disorders are highly complex psychological conditions that almost always require the concomitant use of medications and psychotherapy to achieve desired outcomes.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent mental health conditions in the world and often co-occur with other disorders, such as depressive disorders and substance use disorders. Statistics indicate that roughly 31% of adults in the US will experience an anxiety disorder at some point throughout their life. Furthermore, anxiety disorders are more common in women (23.4%) than men (14.3%).

Anxiety, understood more broadly, is a sensation or emotion that all humans experience at one time or another. For individuals with a diagnosable anxiety disorder, these feelings occur much more often, at times without any adequate stimulus, and they are usually much more debilitating. These disorders can cause irrational thoughts and fears, depressive states, avoidance, isolation, and paranoia and significantly impact the individual’s quality of life.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V) outlines a variety of different anxiety disorders to help psychiatric professionals diagnose and treat these conditions.

Common anxiety disorders include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder

Therapy for Anxiety

As noted, a combination of medication and therapy typically produces the best results when treating anxiety disorders. Nonetheless, some patients prefer to avoid pharmaceutical drugs. Non-medication modalities for addressing anxiety disorders include outpatient therapies, such as the following:

  • Acceptance-Commitment Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Traditional Psychotherapy

Medications for Anxiety

Medication has been proven to be remarkably useful and effective in treating anxiety, especially moderate to severe forms. For an individual with a severe anxiety disorder, learning the skills required by psychotherapeutic approaches may be difficult. Medications, often benzodiazepines, when prescribed correctly, can provide the psychological boost the individual needs to derive benefit from psychotherapy.

Some benzodiazepines prescribed to treat anxiety disorders include the following:

  • Ativan
  • Klonopin
  • Librium
  • Serax
  • Valium
  • Xanax

As with many other psychoactive medications, the potential for abuse is high for benzodiazepines, and they aren’t generally recommended for long-term use because the withdrawal symptoms are very problematic. The pros and cons of the use of such medications should be weighed, caution should be observed, and medical supervision is absolutely essential.

The Use of Gabapentin for Anxiety

Currently, the FDA has not yet approved gabapentin for the treatment of anxiety because its use for this purpose is relatively novel. Still, if they feel benefits outweigh risks, a doctor can prescribe gabapentin for anxiety, and research shows that it can indeed help lessen anxiety-related symptoms. What’s more, gabapentin seems to work especially well in treating anxiety associated with alcohol withdrawal.

As with most substances, gabapentin use is not without its drawbacks. One risk associated with gabapentin use may be an increase in suicidal thoughts. As such, it is recommended that gabapentin be used in conjunction with psychotherapy to treat anxiety.

Can You Take Gabapentin for Anxiety? | Just Believe Detox

Other side effects of gabapentin prescribed to treat anxiety include:

  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Fluid retention
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea and vomiting

Be aware that gabapentin can interact with other medications. The combined use of gabapentin with benzodiazepines, opioids, or other central nervous system depressants increases the risk of overdose for all substances involved.

Is Gabapentin for Anxiety Worth the Risk?

As said, gabapentin has been shown useful in helping to manage anxiety. The use of this drug should always be done by prescription under the supervision of a licensed medical professional who can monitor the drug’s effectiveness and prevent short- and long-term complications.

When used alone or recreationally, gabapentin’s potential for abuse is high. Indeed, gabapentin’s ability to produce feelings of euphoria and relief from mental or physical pain when taken in excess has made it an increasingly common target for substance abusers.

Short- and long-term complications of gabapentin use include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Impaired motor control
  • Memory loss
  • Runny nose
  • Shakiness
  • Weakened muscles
  • Swelling in extremities
  • Physical dependence
  • Psychological dependence
  • Unsteady gait

Treatment for Anxiety and Gabapentin Abuse

Substance abuse and anxiety are potentially devastating conditions that often co-occur together. Individuals suffering from substance abuse or anxiety are urged to seek professional treatment as soon as they can. Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer comprehensive programs tailored to benefit individuals in residential and intensive outpatient formats.

Our treatment approach includes several therapeutic, evidence-based services, such as the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medical detox
  • Individual counseling
  • Family counseling
  • 12-step group support
  • Substance abuse education
  • Health and wellness education
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Art and music therapy
  • Relapse prevention
  • Aftercare planning
  • Alumni events

We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please contact Just Believe Detox Center at (877) 497-6180. Our specialists can assess your individual needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

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