There are many drugs used to treat anxiety. New studies are now showing that Gabapentin has been a successful treatment for individuals who suffer from anxiety. However, there are no randomized controlled trials on the effectiveness of this medication in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and there are only a few case reports.
People with GAD who take Gabapentin have shown to be less irritable, reduce the use of alcohol as self-medication, have fewer depression symptoms, feel less anxious anticipating the future, improve in phobic avoidance (going out in public more and experiencing a significant decrease in panic disorder and reduction of panic attacks).
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug that is primarily used to treat seizures and the pain that follows after an episode of shingles. Gabapentin is considered an off-brand drug used to treat anxiety. Neurontin is the most common brand name for Gabapentin, as well as Horizant and Gralise. Gabapentin has shown to help people with sleeping better, as insomnia is a symptom of anxiety.
How Gabapentin Is Used to Treat Anxiety Mood Disorders Like Depression
Gabapentin isn’t usually used to treat anxiety alone. More often, it’s given to ease anxiety symptoms for someone who also has depression or bipolar disorder. (Anxiety is common comorbid with depression and bipolar.) The reason is that it may not be effective for just anxiety. A close look comparing seven different clinical trials on how successful gabapentin is for anxiety shows that gabapentin may be better than a placebo to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but not much better. Results may be slightly more promising for social anxiety disorder.
The clinical trials for treating depression with gabapentin are also pretty lackluster. To date, there are no scientific studies showing it’s effective—either on its own or as part of some other therapy. Still, there is some anecdotal evidence that it’s helpful, especially with patients who don’t seem to improve with more standard antidepressants.
How Gabapentin Is Used to Treat Mixed Bipolar States
More specifically, can it prevent future episodes of mania and depression? Right now, there is no good evidence that gabapentin can be used for treating people with bipolar disorder. High-quality, randomized controlled studies found that gabapentin was not effective.1,2
Gabapentin and Alcohol Use Disorder
Gabapentin may be helpful in treating alcohol use disorder and withdrawal. Between 2004 and 2010, The Veterans Affairs Department conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized dose-ranging trial of 150 men and women over 18, struggling with alcohol dependence.3 The results of the study showed that gabapentin (particularly the 1800 mg dosage) was effective in safely treating alcohol dependence and relapse-related symptoms including insomnia, dysphoria, and cravings.
Side Effects of Gabapentin
Like all medications, there are several side effects to taking Gabapentin. Side effects that you experience are relative to your personal reaction to the drug. Everyone is different, so you may not experience side effects that others do or don’t. Some side effects can be nausea, vomiting, tremors, dizziness, sleepiness, double vision, loss of control of bodily movements, fluid retention, difficulty speaking, jerky movements, unusual eye movements, double vision, and unsteadiness.
If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor immediately. Get emergency help if you suspect you are having an allergic reaction like; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat, hives, and difficulty breathing. If you notice that your symptoms are worsening, contact your doctor immediately. You may not notice symptoms until weeks after taking Gabapentin.
Gabapentin Dosage for Anxiety
When you are prescribed Gabapentin to treat your anxiety, your doctor will determine the correct dosage necessary for you. Additionally, doctors will usually start with a lower dose of Gabapentin and gradually increase to the dosage that will become their full intake. Gabapentin comes in capsules of 100, 300, and 400 mg. Gabapentin tablets are available in 100, 300, 400, 600, and 800 mg. Do not change your dosage or stop taking your medications without talking to your doctor first. According to MedicineNet, the starting dose for treating anxiety is 0.25-0.5 mg 3 to 4 times daily using immediate-release tablets. The dose may be increased every 3-4 days to a maximum dose of 4 mg daily. The starting dose for treating panic attacks is 0.5 mg 3 times daily.
How Long Does Gabapentin Take to Work for Anxiety
The effectiveness of Gabapentin is different for everyone, again also depending on the severity of your anxiety amongst other factors. The average timeline for effectiveness is about 3 weeks, but it could be sooner or later. It is important to remember that while Gabapentin may be helpful for some, it may not be helpful for you. If you want to consider using Gabapentin, consult your doctor and together you can make the best decisions regarding treating your anxiety.