Know Your Pain Medicines Pt 3
Gabapentin is used to treat many types of chronic pain. It is especially good for nerve pain, such as burning, shooting or stabbing pain. Gabapentin belongs to a group of medicines called anticonvulsants which are also used to treat epilepsy. Gabapentin works by changing the amount of specific nerve transmitters in the nervous system, reducing pain messages arriving in the brain.
When should I take it?
Normally, the starting dose is small and may be taken between one and three times a day, but the dose will be gradually increased. Normally a minimum dose of gabapentin 300mg three times per day is needed to get any benefit and the dose may need to be increased to 1200 mg three times per day. You will be told how much to start taking and how to increase the dose.
If you are taking antacid medication, it is best to wait for two hours after taking it, before taking gabapentin.
How long will it take to work?
Every patient is different. You may notice some initial benefit within a few days, however, it may take up to 2 months for a full effect. You will need to increase the dose for gabapentin to be effective.
Gabapentin does not work for everyone. If you do not feel any improvement in your pain after 6 – 8 weeks, do not suddenly stop taking the tablets but speak to your doctor to discuss reducing and stopping the medication.
What are the possible side effects?
Most side effects are mild and it is expected that they will reduce after several days. Generally, side effects are worse after starting taking gabapentin or increasing the dose. It is important to persist in taking gabapentin as these side effects usually wear off.
Common side effects include; drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue and muscle tremor. If you have these side effects and they are severe contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice. • Less common side effects include vision disturbances, indigestion, weight gain, leg swelling, memory loss, euphoria, mood changes or hallucinations and a rash. If any of these side effects occur contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Some people develop severe anxiety if they miss a dose and some take more than prescribed to help their symptoms. Gabapentin can be addictive. If you are worried this is happening to you, discuss it with your doctor.
What if I want to stop taking gabapentin?
If you stop taking gabapentin suddenly, you might experience withdrawal symptoms. Speak to your healthcare professional (doctor, nurse, pharmacist) who will be able to supervise a gradual reduction.
* This information is not intended to replace your doctor’s advice. We advise you to read the manufacturer’s information for patients, which will be supplied by your pharmacist when your medicine is dispensed.
** Source: Faculty of Pain Medicine: Patient information leaflets, British National Formulary