Gabapentin: A drug of many uses

by Christina Lasich, MD Health Professional

While most drugs are designed for specific uses, gabapentin (Neurontin) is a drug of many uses. Anti-biotics are used to treat infections. Hypertension is treated with blood pressure medication. Anti-emetics relieve nausea. The list goes on and on about specific drugs and what they are intended to do. Although a few, like gabapentin, are used for a multitude of problems. Gabapentin was originally designed to treat seizures. Its usefulness keeps expanding into other areas for the treatment of pain, anxiety and addiction.

For years, gabapentin has been a valuable tool for the treatment of pain, specifically neuropathic pain. This drug calms painful nerve impulses in conditions like diabetic peripheral neuropathy, phantom limb pain and sciatica. But its usefulness for the treatment of pain goes beyond the nerves.(1) Even cancer-associated pain and surgical pain respond to gabapentin. If someone does not tolerate this drug because of side effects like drowsiness or dizziness, other similar drugs like pregabalin (Lyrica) are good alternatives too. Since gabapentin is so useful for the treatment of pain, most people that experience chronic pain have experience with gabapentin too.

This drug's usefulness does not stop here. Various states of anxiety are also relieved with the use of gabapentin. A dose of it before surgery helps to calm stress and anxiety (2) without adding to sedation or memory loss. Women that have difficulty sleeping as the hormones start to change (3) might want to consider gabapentin as well. Furthermore, this versatile drug also helps to calm nervous people in social situations (4). The manner by which gabapentin is able to relieve anxiety is by blocking the stress signal in the brain, specifically corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF).

In addition to causing pathological anxiety, CRF is the primary pathway that triggers withdrawal symptoms in someone that is chemically dependent to alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and other drugs. Recent research at the Scripps Institute that was funded by the National Institute of Health, documented that gabapentin reduced odds of relapse in recovering alcoholics that typically struggles with maintaining sobriety (5).
Not only does gabapentin seem to help curb alcohol use, it also prevents mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Gabapentin's usefulness does not stop with alcohol dependency. No, gabapentin is also used to treat cannibis (6) and opioid (7) dependency too. This chemical originally designed to treat seizures is proving to be a powerful weapon against chemical abuse.

As a drug with so many uses, it's a wonder why gabapentin is not advertized on television. More people should know about its benefits for treating pain, anxiety and addiction. Plus, it's relatively cheap compared to newer drugs seen on television. Fortunately, the research is ongoing and more reasons to use gabapentin are still being discovered. If you think that gabapentin might be the right drug to cure what ails you, talk with your doctor today.


1. Clin J Pain. 2013 Nov 25

2. Ann Fr Anesth Reanim. 2012 Oct;31(10):e223-7

3. J Clin Sleep Med. 2012 Apr 15;8(2):187-9

4. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Feb;16(1):235-49

5. Mason BJ, Quello S, Goodell V, Shadan F, Kyle M, Begovic A. Gabapentin Treatment for Alcohol Dependence: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Nov 4. [Epub ahead of print]

6. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Jun;37(7):1689-98

7. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2011 Oct;31(5):593-6

Christina Lasich, MD
Meet Our Writer
Christina Lasich, MD

Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.