Basically an anti seizure medicine, gabapentin is known by the brand name, ‘Neurontin’ in the US. Apart from seizures, this off-label drug is used for treating bipolar disorder and migraine.
Gabapentin was synthesized with the idea of producing a drug similar to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States of America approved gabapentin for the treatment of partial-seizures in 1994. This drug is derived from GABA, by adding to it the cyclohexyl group. Different brand names used for distribution of this drug are as follows: Gabarone, Fanatrex, Nupentin, Neurontin and Gralise. The mechanism of action of gabapentin is not clearly understood as yet. However, there are many applications of this drug.
Uses of Gabapentin
- The drug is mostly used for the treatment of different types of Neuralgia. Neuropathic pain or neuralgia is a condition in which patients suffer from pain resulting from alteration of neurological structure or functioning. Generally, pain is known to originate from pain receptor cells. If nerves are torn or severed during an accident and they don’t fuse properly, the patients may suffer from chronic pains. This kind of chronic pain is treated with gabapentin.
- Gabapentin is also used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. In the autoimmune diseases, immune system turns overactive and acts against tissues of the body. In case of multiple sclerosis, the nervous system comes under attack. It further leads to demyelination, a condition in which myelin sheath which encloses the neurons gets damaged. Pain resulting from multiple sclerosis is reduced after being treated with gabapentin.
- Gabapentin is also prescribed as a mood stabilizer in the treatment of bipolar disorder. It exhibits very few side-effects in comparison to that by valproic acid and lithium. This drug hasn’t been that effective in the treatment of disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, insomnia or depression.
- This drug has been successful in the treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. It is a disease that causes swelling and pain in the skin.
- Use of gabapentin in the treatment associated with smoking cessation has delivered mixed results.
- Nerve pain associated with spinal injuries is also treated with this drug.
Working: The mode of action or working of gabapentin hasn’t been clearly understood. There is one theory about how it works in the treatment of seizure. Gabapentin is said to affect calcium channels in the brain which in turn prevents seizures.
Intake: Gabapentin oral solutions, tablets and capsules are taken with 240 ml water thrice a day. The drug can be taken with or without food.
There have been controversies in the past over the usage of gabapentin. Studies conducted in the ’90s termed this drug as suitable for the treatment of bipolar disorder. However, studies and research conducted in recent times have deemed them ineffective for treating the disease. Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company admitted the fact that FDA guidelines and rules were violated by off-label usage of gabapentin in the ‘Franklin vs Pfizer’ case. Dr. David Franklin had filed a lawsuit against the Pfizer company accusing them of promoting the gabapentin drug illegally for unapproved uses. However, the controversy didn’t stop psychiatrists from prescribing the medicine for off-label uses.
The most common side-effects resulting from the use of gabapentin are drowsiness, dizziness and peripheral edema. High doses of this drug are mainly responsible for the side-effects. Children treated with this medicine also exhibit adverse effects like hyperactivity, mood swings and concentration lapses. Care need be taken while using gabapentin for patients with renal impairments. Since the use of gabapentin leads to accumulation of toxins, taking the necessary precautions mentioned above becomes very important. Apart from the side-effects mentioned above, overdose of this drug also leads to slurred speech, blurred vision, and in worst cases, coma.
The drug produces psychoactive effects and is used by many for recreational purposes. The varying effects that gabapentin produces are mental & physical stimulation, euphoria, incessant talking, etc. If heavy doses of gabapentin are used for recreation, the person in question may suffer from stomach-related ailments like diarrhea.
The details presented above show that gabapentin is a multi-purpose drug that is useful in the treatment of different types of diseases and medical conditions. Therefore, the gabapentin drug has many other applications in day-to-day life.