Neurontin, aka Gabapentin (per Wiki) is a drug designed for the treatment of epilepsy (specifically seizures), and for relief of neuropathic pain and hot flashes It has given significant efficacy to people seeking relief from fibromyalgia symptoms, and the neuropathic pain that is a symptom of cancer.
It was also advertised as a treatment for migraines and bipolar disorders, but the research on the effect of the medication on these conditions is far from conclusive. There are concerns about its limited use for epilepsy as well. (see also topiramate side effects)
In the areas of Neurontin’s doubtful usefulness, the studies have not been sufficient to justify its labeling as a treatment for bipolar disorders or migraines, or for generalized epilepsy. In the latter condition, it is effective for partial and mixed seizures; however, the Neurontin side effects are also a source of concern to researchers and medical professionals.
Most Common Neurontin Side Effects
Neurontin side effects include dizziness, disorientation, drowsiness and peripheral edema (swelling of the limbs). More problematic is its effect on epileptic children ages 3-12, who suffered hostility events, mood swings, hyperactivity and trouble in concentrating.
Most telling of all, Neurontin side effects includes the possibility of increasing suicidal tendencies, (read about Keppra Side Effects) as it was found to do so in a limited number of patients studied.
The numbers in the studies, despite limitations, run above 1.7, which is statistically significant, so much so that that the FDA mandated Pfizer, the drug’s parent company, in 2009, to add an insert into their warnings, telling of the increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts observable in patients taking the medication.
In addition, Neurontin/Gabapentin has shown little efficacy in the alleviation of mental health symptoms (seeming, as the studies indicate, to exacerbate them). No lasting benefit has come from its use on symptoms of bipolar disorder (it is far less effective than lithium, for example), and only limited effectiveness in treating social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
More problematic still is the FDA warning that Neurontin/Gabapentin should not be discontinued without a physician’s care and direction, as it produces a withdrawal syndrome with severe side effects, including insomnia, anxiety, chest pain, flu-like symptoms, headaches and palpitations.
Finally, there are legal actions currently pending against Pfizer for fraudulent marketing of Neurontin without sufficient research completion, in which they advised the “off-label” use of the drug for purposes other than those for which it was intended, specifically the mental health issues previously mentioned. (read about class action drug lawsuits)
If you are a patient taking Neurontin/Gabapentin and wish more information or wish to begin a withdrawal program, contact your health professional at once.