Can gabapentin cause sudden death? (A disturbing consequence)

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In this blog post, we are going to talk about the possibility of sudden death following the use of gabapentin. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog. 

Gabapentin mimics the actions of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This blog will also cover what researchers have to say about the sudden death caused by the use of gabapentin. 

Can gabapentin cause sudden death?

Gabapentin may cause sudden death or disturbing side effects that can eventually lead to death. However, it depends on how this medication is used and the possible underlying diseases that may interact negatively with the medication. 

Many researchers have observed such dreadful effects of gabapentin and there are some people who have come forward to tell how they have lost their loved ones because of this medication. 

A 2019 forensic study that reviewed around 100+ cases revealed that gabapentin was responsible for death in all of those cases. The same study indicated that gabapentin is directly involved in the death of around 47% of the fatality cases. 

A pharmacist working in America called gabapentin ‘one of the most dangerous medications in America’. I’m sure he wasn’t just bluffing and gabapentin has somehow earned this title. 

At first it was believed that overdose of gabapentin is one of the major reasons of death caused by this medication and that it will not cause any such dreadful event when taken carefully and in doses determined by the healthcare provider. 

This is not entirely wrong, however, many cases of gabapentin induced that were reported with no sign of overuse. The autopsy reports show the normal prescribed concentration of the drug in bodies of the deceased people. 

This can indicate that gabapentin can be deadly for some people even when it is not misused. Several experts believe that the use of alcohol or other illicit substances can increase the risk of horrible side effects or sudden death. 

However, a mother from California explained how her daughter took nothing other than her prescription meds. She stated:

“My daughter was put on gabapentin for her neuropathic pain and it took her away from us in less than a year. First, she suffered from terrible side effects and gained weight every week. Her mood changes and fits took her. She started hallucinating and her panic attacks got worse.”

She further stated:

“Her doctors put her on 4800 mg per day and she gained weight and started being disable with no dietary changes. This continued until one day, she passed away in her sleep. Her doctors were shocked and did not comprehend how this happened. It’s been almost 8 months but I’m still not sure how we’ll ever recover from this pain.”

This is indeed upsetting as the girl had no history of any kind of abuse and was simply taking the dose that was prescribed to her. Gabapentin took her life irrespective of all the facts. 

Make sure you use this medication carefully and do not combine it with any other medication unless your doctor recommends, as it is still not completely revealed how gabapentin can induce a sudden death.

What are the side effects associated with the use of gabapentin? 

Gabapentin is associated with some disturbing side effects that can ruin the quality of your life. These 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. 

The muscle and joint pain in some people get so bad that it ends up affecting their normal life activities. 

Some people get severely affected and develop some of the serious, rare and disturbing side effects that can linger around for much longer even after the discontinuation of your treatment. 

Why is gabapentin prescribed by the healthcare providers? 

Gabapentin is used in the treatment of 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. 

How to ensure the proper use of gabapentin? 

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. 

Inform your doctor if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive. It is extremely important to ensure safety of your meds during your pregnancy. Some meds can cross placenta and are capable of causing unwanted side effects in the growing fetus. 

Inform your doctor if you’re a breastfeeding mother. Gabapentin may be capable of passing into the breastmilk and may cause side effects in newborns. 

Do not stop gabapentin abruptly. If it’s time for you to stop this med, your doctor will simply recommend a taper schedule for you, which should be followed vigilantly if you wish to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. 

Make sure you use this medication or any other medication only when your doctor has advised it. Using medications which can affect your brain is not something ideal and should not be encouraged unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. 

Make sure you discuss everything in detail with your healthcare provider and ask if you’re at the best possible dose of gabapentin. Also inform your doctor if you’re taking any other 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. 

Conclusion 

In this blog post, we have discussed the possibility of sudden death following the use of gabapentin. Gabapentin is a gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog. Gabapentin mimics the actions of GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. 

It may cause sudden death or disturbing side effects that can eventually lead to death. However, it depends on how this medication is used and the possible underlying diseases that may interact negatively with the medication. 

Many researchers have observed such dreadful effects of gabapentin and there are some people who have come forward to tell how they have lost their loved ones because of this medication. 

Make sure you use this medication carefully and do not combine it with any other medication unless your doctor recommends. 

FAQs: gabapentin sudden death

What happens if you accidentally take too much gabapentin?

If you take too much of gabapentin, you may suffer from terrible side effects. The misuse can lead to coma and sudden death. Make sure you use this medication carefully and do not combine it with any other medication unless your doctor recommends. 

How much is too much gabapentin a day?

Gabapentin is usually started with 300mg per day and the dose is later escalated according to how well you can tolerate the drug. However, the dose should not exceed 1800mg or 1.8grams per day. 

What are signs of gabapentin toxicity?

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. 

Can gabapentin cause sudden death? 

Gabapentin may cause sudden death or disturbing side effects that can eventually lead to death. However, it depends on how this medication is used and the possible underlying diseases that may interact negatively with the medication. 

What should I avoid while taking gabapentin?

  • Narcotic analgesics: Both narcotic opioid analgesics and gabapentin decrease the amount of excitatory neurotransmitters in your brain. This can slow down your physiological functions including breathing rate. 
  • Alcohol can also act as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. The synergistic effects of alcohol and gabapentin can cause severe depression and suicidal behavior.
  • Certain diabetic agents may react with gabapentin and cause increased water retention, which results in swelling or edema in upper and lower extremities, or any other part of the body.

Can you take gabapentin forever?

The duration of your treatment with gabapentin depends on the severity of your condition and how well you can tolerate this medication. Some people can not stand the long-term treatment because of the disturbing side effects, whereas others can function really well with this medication and they can use it for years. 

References

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