Gabapentin And Alcohol: The Dangers of Prescription Drugs
You don’t have to be taking an illegal drug to end up in serious danger or even a life-threatening situation. Sometimes, even a pill that was prescribed to you for a good reason can lead to something truly scary or life-changing.
Like gabapentin, for example. If it’s a prescription you need then you might not be thinking about the ways it could go wrong. Your doctor tells you a lot of that stuff, obviously, and the prescription bottle will have directions on the label.
But what if you’re out one night and you don’t have the bottle with you? Or what if you forget? If a friend wants to celebrate your new promotion or birthday, so they hand you a beer, and you aren’t aware of how dangerous it is to mix gabapentin and alcohol, what could actually happen?
You need to know how to stay safe and healthy when taking gabapentin.
Why You Should Not Mix Gabapentin With Alcohol
Gabapentin and alcohol are strong substances that can be risky by themselves. If a person combines these two drugs, they may have dangerous effects including dependence, addiction, and overdose. Gabapentin and alcohol addiction may require the help of professional treatment.
Alcohol is one of the most-used drugs in the United States, and gabapentin is well-known for its effectiveness in treating certain medical conditions. Both substances suppress and slow down the nervous system. When used together, gabapentin and alcohol interactions can be life-threatening.
Gabapentin and alcohol both have a high potential for misuse. This means people can easily become addicted to these substances. If a person stops using gabapentin or alcohol suddenly, they may have acute withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol and Gabapentin
To better understand addiction to gabapentin and alcohol, it’s helpful to look at the purpose and history behind them.
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication and is mainly prescribed for patients with seizures caused by epilepsy or for other things like nerve pain from shingles. It’s an amino acid that works as a chemical messenger inside the brain to decrease activity related to seizures or pain levels.
Gabapentin is also known by the brand names Gabarone, Gralise, Neuraptine, and Neurontin. It’s taken as a pill by capsule or tablet, or in liquid form as a suspension or solution.
Alcohol is created when yeast (single-cell fungi found in nature) from fruits or grains is denied a source of oxygen. The break-down time is called fermentation, and it varies depending on the type of alcohol someone is trying to produce.
Beers, wines, and distilled spirits all have different recipes based on these timelines and other ingredients added. This is the science behind why a 12-ounce beer has the same alcohol content as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor or a 5-ounce glass of wine.
The fact that alcohol is centuries old is well-known, but there are multiple claims on where it originated, possibly ancient Greece or India. This mead (fermented honey and water) was referred to as the nectar of the gods. This possibly was because of the reactions people experienced when drinking.
Time passed and some cultures pursued alcohol production while others were wary and opposed drinking. In the United States, alcohol sales revenue for 2020 totaled $238 billion across the liquor, beer, and wine industries. Alcohol clearly found its way west.
Effects Of Gabapentin And Alcohol On The Body
Gabapentin generally has mild and short-term side effects, but there is a risk for serious side effects. Alcohol also can have serious physical side effects, and mixing these drugs can increase these possibilities.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and can impact a person’s balance, reflexes, and ability to reason. Over time, more severe physical issues can occur.
Alcohol’s physical side effects:
- slowed breathing
- unconsciousness (passing out)
- high blood pressure
- cirrhosis of the liver
- liver disease
- certain cancers
- heart disease
Gabapentin’s physical side effects:
- abnormal eye movements that are continuous, uncontrolled, back-and-forth, or rolling
- clumsiness or unsteadiness
- difficulty speaking
- drowsiness or tiredness
- dry mouth
Get treatment when
and how you need it.
Effects Of Each Drug On The Brain
Both gabapentin and alcohol are considered mood-changing substances. This means people may feel a sense of whirling, referred to as a “buzz,” that makes them feel silly. This feeling can be relatively short-lived.
Alcohol is a depressant that will eventually cause the body’s mental state to slow. High amounts of alcohol can lead to memory loss and blackouts. The time between sobriety and passing out can include feelings of happiness, sadness, and anger — one bouncing to the next and back again.
These moods are similar and typically more intense with gabapentin.
- slow thinking
- compulsive behavior
- self-destructive behavior
- mental confusion and reduced understanding of surroundings
- “wet brain,” a term created to describe the effects of alcohol liquid on the brain’s performance. It’s often used interchangeably with, but more commonly than, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), which is a lack of vitamin B1. If untreated, WKS can lead to a state of psychosis (insanity), with confusion and hallucinations that are permanent.
Gabapentin’s mental side effects:
- violent behavior, aggressiveness, or anger
- anxiousness or restlessness
- anxiety that is new or worse
- panic attacks
- suicidal thoughts or behavior
Dangers Of Mixing Gabapentin With Alcohol
Someone with the above symptoms may have more intense combinations of side effects when combining alcohol and gabapentin. This could result in behaviors they would not do otherwise and emergency medical conditions as the body’s systems struggle physically.
When taken as prescribed, gabapentin does not have a high risk of overdose. It’s also not as addictive as opioids. Similarly, when someone drinks alcohol in moderate amounts, it’s not likely they will have alcohol-related health problems.
Overdose, Suicide Possible When Combined
However, if alcohol and gabapentin are taken together, a person’s risk for life-threatening conditions increases. This is due to the physical and/or mental side effects of each drug individually and combined.
Overdose is one serious risk a person faces if they take more than one substance. Suicidal behavior is another danger that can be chemically induced with high levels of alcohol and anti-seizure medications.
- Physically, gabapentin and alcohol separately could cause someone’s breathing to slow. Taken in combination, this could push respiration rates even lower.
- Mentally, both substances are individually known to have the potential to impact someone’s mood. This can be heightened when they’re taken together and can cause depression or suicidal thoughts.
Many of the symptoms of alcohol overdose and prescription pain medication overdose are the same, including unconsciousness, clammy skin, and slowed or stopped breathing. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of gabapentin and alcohol overdose because they can be deadly.
Mental, Physical Damage
Alcohol use disorder is also linked to several serious health concerns, including liver disease and stroke. Once a person is dependent on alcohol, they begin to use it more often. As their body builds up a tolerance to alcohol, it takes a higher quantity to feel the same pleasant sensation they had in earlier stages of drinking. Over time, regular use in high amounts can result in damage to the body and mind.
It is possible to recover from many of these conditions if a person stops taking these substances. If you or someone you love wants to quit gabapentin and alcohol, speak with your doctor about how to safely get off these drugs.
Signs Of Gabapentin And Alcohol Dependence
It can be awful to realize someone close to you is battling an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. Remember that you are not alone – nearly 20 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder, and many others struggle with gabapentin addiction.
One Michigan study on blood drawn from people who suffered fatal opioid overdoses examined other drugs present. Gabapentin was one of the top five substances present, which also included caffeine, marijuana, morphine, and the anxiety prescription medication benzodiazepine.
If you are concerned that someone you love is suffering from addiction, you have probably noticed a change in their behavior. It can be helpful to learn the signs of gabapentin and alcohol use disorders.
Someone struggling with addiction may show signs that include:
- memory blackouts (short-term memory loss)
- changes in mood
- becoming isolated from friends or family
- hiding prescription bottles or drinks
- financial problems
- lying about how much alcohol or drugs they have consumed
- doctor shopping (seeing several providers to get more gabapentin prescriptions)
- unable to cut back or stop taking the substances
If a person is dependent on gabapentin and alcohol and stops taking these drugs suddenly, within hours they will show signs of physical withdrawal. This can include symptoms like insomnia (can’t sleep), chills, anxiety, nausea, and sweating.
Addiction Treatment Options For Gabapentin And Alcohol Recovery
People who are dependent on prescription pain meds and alcohol may need help to get off the drugs permanently — especially if they are experiencing withdrawal. Medical detox programs can be a helpful solution for those who are struggling with withdrawal symptoms.
In a medical detox program, patients get support and medical care to ensure a safe and more comfortable withdrawal. Once a person has successfully detoxed, they are ready to engage in the next level of addiction treatment.
For many, this means an alcohol treatment center. Inpatient rehab centers typically offer counseling, recovery therapies, and medication-assisted treatment. For those who suffer from co-occurring disorders, like a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, there are dual-diagnosis treatment programs that address each condition.
Addiction to prescription pain meds and alcohol affects many families across the country. Fortunately, there are effective treatment programs for gabapentin that can be customized to the unique needs of your loved one.
Learn More About Recovery From Addiction
For more information on the effects and dangers of gabapentin and alcohol dependence, or to explore treatment options near you, contact us today at (888) 341-4325.
Can you drink alcohol with gabapentin?
Both can have harmful physical and mental side effects if they are combined and should not be taken together.
Does alcohol reduce the effectiveness of gabapentin?
Drug interactions can have numerous possible effects and should be discussed with a doctor.
What should I avoid while taking gabapentin?
Alcohol and antacids should not be taken when using gabapentin. Antacids interfere with the body’s ability to absorb gabapentin for maximum effectiveness.