Can gabapentin cause brain zaps?

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Page last updated: 23/09/2022

In this blog post, we are going to answer the question, “Can gabapentin cause brain zaps?”. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog and is used for a number of conditions. 

However, this medicine can cause a number of side effects including brain zaps. This blog will cover what brain zaps feel like and how you can get rid of them. 

Can gabapentin cause brain zaps? 

Yes, gabapentin may cause brain zaps as the medication tends to alter the amount of neurotransmitters in your brain. However, it is not considered a common side effect and it mostly occurs in people who don’t seem to tolerate gabapentin well. 

Brain zaps usually feel like electric shocks in your brain. They can range from mild to severe. Some people may get away with minor discomfort, while others get so disturbed that they start behaving erratically. 

It can also happen when you’re trying to withdraw gabapentin and can affect some people more than the others. Brain zaps are not life threatening, but as stated earlier, they can significantly reduce the quality of your life. Make sure you inform your healthcare provider right away if you continue to feel brain zaps. 

What to do if you suffer from gabapentin induced brain zaps? 

The first thing’s first, talk to your healthcare provider. Excessive brain zaps may indicate that you are not doing too well with gabapentin in your system and you may need to discontinue the treatment with this medication.

If you’re already on your way to stop using gabapentin, and the brain zaps occur as a withdrawal symptom, you may need to talk to your doctor in order to ensure the safe withdrawal of the medication. 

It is also very important to rule out any drug interaction that might occur between your gabapentin and any other prescription medication. Drug interactions should be an important consideration before taking two or more medicines together. 

Yes, drugs in combination are often used to achieve better therapeutic response but this is not the case with every interaction. Some drugs are highly incompatible with one another. 

They often cancel out each other’s effects or antagonise them. Some drugs are so incompatible that they end up changing the entire chemical composition of one another. 

Some interfere with metabolism or bioavailability (the rate and extent at which the active drug moiety enters systemic circulation/blood). This can lead to drug accumulation in different parts of the body. 

It is always advised to inform your healthcare provider of any medicine you take before getting a new prescription. Your doctor will make sure not to prescribe any such drug which might interfere with those you are already taking. 

Can gabapentin cause brain zaps?

What are the additional side effects of gabapentin? 

The additional side effects of gabapentin include:

  • Xerostomia or dry mouth 
  • Weight gain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Somnolence
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Headache
  • Vision problems 
  • Cloudy mind
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors 
  • Confusion
  • Joint pain 
  • Difficulty in remembering things
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Unsteadiness
  • Muscle twitching 
  • Constipation 
  • Back pain
  • Increased appetite 
  • Fever

Gabapentin can cause some serious side effects. These include:

  • Suicidal behavior 
  • Impaired motor coordination 
  • Thrombocytopenia or decreased levels of platelets
  • Water retention
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a condition associated with abnormal breakdown of muscles
  • Convulsions 
  • Swelling or tenderness in different parts of the body.
  • Allergic reaction associated with symptoms like redness of skin, itching, burning sensation, blisters, blue-purple patches, tightness of chest, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, hoarseness etc. 

These side effects can vary from person to person. It is impossible to predict how your body will react once it is exposed to this medication. Some people get away with mild side effects, while others suffer terribly. 

How to ensure safe withdrawal of gabapentin? 

The best way to stop using gabapentin is to taper the dose gradually. Abrupt withdrawal can lead to the symptoms which can become too hard to bear. Make sure you talk to your doctor and follow the taper schedule properly in order for safe withdrawal. 

Pfizer, the company which manufactures gabapentin, advises to stop using this medication over a period of one week minimum. The exact schedule is determined according to the conditions of the patient and the duration of his or her treatment. 

The current dose of the drug also plays a major role. If someone is on higher doses, he or she will have to go for different tapered doses in order to achieve the lowest effective dose, after which the drug is discontinued. 

Age and underlying health conditions can also make a huge difference. If the condition for which gabapentin has been prescribed is not getting any better then the treatment should not be discontinued, unless you suffer from an allergic reaction or unusual side effects. 

Unnecessary withdrawal can lead to exacerbation of your condition. Age is a factor because the process of withdrawal should proceed slowly in  elderly patients who can be affected when the dose is reduced as their bodies are much more sensitive to the concentration of medications. 

If you are taking gabapentin and you wish to stop using it, ask your healthcare provider. Do not stop this medication on your own. If you have been misusing gabapentin and want to stop doing so, ask your healthcare provider. 

You can also get help from rehabilitation, where you can safely taper off gabapentin and learn new lifestyle changes to help you deal with your addictions. 

Why is gabapentin prescribed by the healthcare professionals? 

Gabapentin can be used for the treatment and management of the following health conditions:

Convulsions 

Gabapentin is used for the prevention and treatment of partial seizures. It can also be used in children above 3 years of age and in elderly patients as well. It may not suit some people, but overall it is considered a very good medication in order to relieve some epileptic symptoms. 

Nerve pain associated with shingles

Shingles is associated with terrible nerve pain that can be controlled by gabapentin. It is caused by the chickenpox virus that can stay dormant in you for a long, long time. 

This virus remains inactivated, but becomes active either because of compromised immunity or excess stress. This is indeed a very painful condition and some experts have related this pain to the pain that is caused by an actual heart attack. 

Restless Leg syndrome 

Gabapentin can also be used for the treatment, prevention and management of Restless leg syndrome. It manages the excessive and involuntary movements associated with this condition by controlling the excessive neuronal activity in your brain. 

Anxiety

Gabapentin is also used to treat anxiety because of its inhibitory mechanism of action. It is a GABA analog, as stated earlier, and can mimic the actions of this inhibitory neurotransmitter. 

Anxiety occurs because of the excessive neuronal firing in your brain. Gabapentin controls this excessive neuronal activity and helps to tone down the symptoms of anxiety. 

Sciatica 

Gabapentin is also used for the pain associated with sciatica. Sciatica is the throbbing pain that originates from your sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve starts from your lower back and its branches run along the length of your legs and your buttocks. 

Sciatic pain is known to be so severe that it can easily affect your everyday life activities. Gabapentin can take up to 2-4 weeks to help relieve the pain associated with sciatica. 

Fibromyalgia 

Gabapentin can also be used for the treatment and management of fibromyalgia. It is characterised with the unbearable pain that affects your entire body. 

It can get so bad that most patients are unable to fall asleep or perform their everyday life activities normally. This persistent pain can give rise to depression and erratic behaviour. 

Conclusion 

In this blog post, we have discussed gabapentin induced brain zaps. However, it is not considered a common side effect and it mostly occurs in people who don’t seem to tolerate gabapentin well. Brain zaps usually feel like electric shocks in your brain. 

They can range from mild to severe. Some people may get away with minor discomfort, while others get so disturbed that they start behaving erratically. 

Immediately talk to your healthcare provider if you experience unusual side effects while taking gabapentin. Do not recommend this drug to someone else and use it as long as your doctor has advised. 

FAQs: gabapentin brain zaps

Does gabapentin mess with your brain?

Yes, gabapentin can mess with your brain. The med can make you angry and agitated. It can cause significant mood swings without a valid reason. It can also cause depression, sadness and suicidal behavior. These mood fluctuations are most probably linked to the mechanism of action of gabapentin. 

What medication causes brain zaps?

  • Antidepressants 
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anticonvulsants 
  • Certain antibiotics 
  • Controlled substances 
  • Narcotic analgesics 
  • Gabapentin 
  • Central nervous system stimulants 

What are the most serious side effects of gabapentin?

  • Suicidal behavior 
  • Impaired motor coordination 
  • Thrombocytopenia or decreased levels of platelets
  • Water retention
  • Rhabdomyolysis, a condition associated with abnormal breakdown of muscles
  • Convulsions 
  • Swelling or tenderness in different parts of the body.
  • Allergic reaction associated with symptoms like redness of skin, itching, burning sensation, blisters, blue-purple patches, tightness of chest, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, hoarseness etc. 

Are brain zaps serious?

Brain zaps usually feel like electric shocks in your brain. They can range from mild to severe. Some people may get away with minor discomfort, while others get so disturbed that they start behaving erratically. It can also happen when you’re trying to withdraw gabapentin and can affect some people more than the others. 

Brain zaps are not life threatening, but as stated earlier, they can significantly reduce the quality of your life. Make sure you inform your healthcare provider right away if you continue to feel brain zaps. 

Is gabapentin psychotic?

Gabapentin may induce the symptoms of psychosis. Several surveys have revealed that gabapentin can make people behave angrily and erratically. When you take gabapentin, it starts acting like GABA and the inhibitory effects increase in your body. Any drug that can alter the amounts of neurotransmitters in your brain can make behavioural changes in you.

What does gabapentin do to a person?

Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog. Gabapentin mimics the actions of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA works by inhibiting the excessive neuronal firing in the brain which reduces the frequency of epileptic seizures. 

Gabapentin is also used to reduce the intensity of neuropathic pain by inhibiting nociceptors (pain receptors). This medication is a prescription medication and should be taken only at doses determined by your healthcare professional. 

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