Gabapentin is a prescription drug that’s often sold under the brand name Neurontin. It’s an anticonvulsant used to control seizures caused by epilepsy. It can also treat postherpetic neuralgia (nerve pain caused by shingles) and restless legs syndrome.
If you have recently started taking gabapentin, you may wonder if you can still drink alcohol.
Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol On Gabapentin?
It’s not safe to drink alcohol while taking gabapentin.
That’s because both alcohol and gabapentin are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. This means they slow down your brain activity. When your brain activity slows down, you may feel relaxed and happy.
However, you may also experience unpleasant side effects, such as:
- lowered inhibitions
- poor decision-making
- trouble concentrating
- slurred speech
- coordination problems
- memory impairment
- blurry or double vision
- dry mouth
- nausea and vomiting
Mixing alcohol and gabapentin can make these side effects worse. It can also worsen gabapentin’s other side effects, which may include:
- unwanted eye movements
- uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
- back, joint, or ear pain
- swollen face, eyes, lips, tongue, throat, hands, lower legs, ankles, or feet
- itchy and/or red eyes
- flu-like symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, and runny nose
- trouble swallowing
- suicidal thoughts
In addition, people who mix alcohol and gabapentin face a high risk of overdose.
Alcohol & Gabapentin Overdose
An alcohol and gabapentin overdose occurs when the substances slow down your brain activity to a life-threatening degree. Common symptoms of overdose include:
- extreme drowsiness
- nausea and vomiting
- bluish skin, lips, or fingernails
- respiratory depression (slow, ineffective breathing)
- low body temperature
- loss of consciousness
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, call 911 right away. When left untreated, an alcohol and gabapentin overdose can be life-threatening.
Other Risks Of Mixing Alcohol & Gabapentin
If you regularly drink alcohol while taking gabapentin, you may face a higher risk of alcohol-related health problems, such as:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- weakened immune system, which makes you more likely to get sick
- cancer of the breast, voice box, esophagus, mouth and throat, colon and rectum, or liver
Also, mixing alcohol and gabapentin can raise your risk of burns, falls, drownings, and other accidents. That’s because both substances can lower your inhibitions and impair your coordination.
Similarly, because both substances can hinder your decision-making skills, they may make you more likely to have unsafe sex. This behavior can lead to sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy.
Can You Drink Any Alcohol While Taking Gabapentin?
Some people assume it’s safe to mix gabapentin with a small amount of alcohol. However, to avoid the above risks, you should not drink alcohol at all while taking gabapentin.
If you feel unable to stop drinking alcohol, you may have alcohol addiction (also called alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence). The most common symptoms of this disease are tolerance and physical dependence.
Tolerance means your body gets used to alcohol over time. Physical dependence means your body starts relying on alcohol to function. If you stop using it, you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, shaking, and sweating.
In addition to tolerance and physical dependence, other symptoms of alcohol addiction may include:
- frequent cravings for alcohol
- feeling unable to control your alcohol consumption even if you want to
- mood swings
- trouble focusing at work or school
- loss of motivation
- loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- avoidance of family and friends
Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options
If you or a loved one shows symptoms of alcohol addiction, seek help at a substance abuse treatment program.
Some of these programs are inpatient, meaning you live at the treatment center. Other programs are outpatient, meaning you live at home and regularly visit the treatment center. Your healthcare provider can help you determine which option is right for you.
Both inpatient and outpatient programs offer treatments such as:
- medical detox, in which medical professionals help you manage withdrawal symptoms as you stop drinking alcohol
- mental health counseling, in which a therapist helps you manage alcohol cravings and any mental health concerns that may have led you to abuse alcohol in the first place
- medication-assisted treatment, in which doctors prescribe FDA-approved medications such as acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone to ease alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms
- support groups, in which you can discuss your experiences with other people recovering from addiction
To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment options, please reach out to a Recovering Champions specialist. Our treatment programs offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one stay healthy.