Gabapentin is sometimes prescribed as an adjunct for alcohol treatment. But, is it safe to use alcohol while taking gabapentin? Find out what the potential risks of doing so.
Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol When Taking Gabapentin?
Interactions between medications is a common problem and one that can lead to potentially serious side effects and it’s not just prescription drugs that are an issue. Some substances such as caffeine and alcohol have drug-like properties as well. For example, alcohol is sometimes classified as a psychoactive drug. As such, alcohol can interact with medications, sometimes in unpredictable ways. It’s important to know this if you take medications, including the prescription drug gabapentin.
Gabapentin and Alcohol
Gabapentin is a drug used to treat seizures. Doctors also prescribe it to treat certain types of nerve pain as well as a condition called restless legs syndrome. Some practitioners even prescribe it as an adjunct for the treatment of alcoholism. Why gabapentin? There’s some evidence that it helps with withdrawal from alcohol and may help people abstain from using alcohol. One concern, of course, is the potential for interactions between alcohol and gabapentin.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
Most medications cause side effects and the type varies based on variables such as the dose of the medication, a person’s age, health status, genetics, and other factors. Gabapentin is no exception. Plus, there’s the potential for it to interact with other medications and with substances like alcohol. Gabapentin alone can cause a variety of side effects. Some of the most common ones that people report are lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, blurred vision, tremor, clumsiness, irritability, and problems walking.
Most medications are metabolized, or broken down, by the liver. Yet, gabapentin is an exception. Since it’s not metabolized by the liver, as alcohol is, gabapentin theoretically shouldn’t interact negatively with alcohol since the two don’t compete with each other for breakdown. Yet, this doesn’t mean that it’s safe to drink alcohol while taking gabapentin. Drinking alcohol while on this drug can increase the risk of developing side effects. Plus, the side effects of gabapentin are similar to the ones people experience when they drink too much alcohol. When a person combines alcohol and gabapentin, the risk of drowsiness, lightheadedness, problems walking, dizziness, lightheadedness, and confusion goes up.
In turn, gabapentin can magnify the effects of alcohol. Because alcohol and gabapentin have similar side effects, drinking alcohol and taking gabapentin together may make the side effects more pronounced and more likely to occur. Alcohol reduces reaction time and causes drowsiness. The sedative properties of alcohol make it dangerous to drive or operate heavy machinery. Gabapentin in combination with alcohol could magnify this risk.
Older People May Be More at Risk
The risks of combining alcohol and gabapentin would likely be greater in people who consume large amounts of alcohol on gabapentin or older people since they may metabolize, or break down, gabapentin and alcohol at a slower rate. Plus, older people are at higher risk of falls anyway, and both alcohol and gabapentin can cause problems with coordination and the ability to walk. In addition, older people are more likely to experience confusion when taking gabapentin or drinking alcohol.
The Bottom Line
Alcohol and gabapentin have similar side effects. Drinking alcohol, particularly large quantities, may increase the risk of these unwanted effects occurring or make them more pronounced That’s why it’s important to limit the use of alcohol or abstain completely while taking it.
Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2007 Feb;31(2):221-7.
Pharmacy Times. “Gabapentin for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Promising Outlook”
Drugsdb.com. “Gabapentin and Alcohol”
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