Mixing Gabapentin and Alcohol: Is It Safe?

Last Updated: November 1, 2023

Drinking while taking gabapentin can increase your risk of potentially dangerous side effects

Alcohol is one of the most common recreational substances in the United States. However, many people also take medications, some of which may have negative interactions with alcohol. Gabapentin is a common medication that can cause dangerous side effects when paired with alcohol or other depressants. If your doctor has prescribed gabapentin, it is important to understand the risks of mixing it with alcohol.

What Is Gabapentin? 

Gabapentin was originally FDA approved in 1993 as an epilepsy medication. For this reason, it is classified as an anti-epileptic drug. Although experts aren’t sure how gabapentin works, it is now most often prescribed for other conditions like:

  • Nerve pain, including diabetic nerve pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Itching
  • Hiccups
  • Mild alcohol withdrawal syndrome
  • Social anxiety disorder

Some people misuse the drug for recreational use, combining it with depressants like alcohol to try to enhance alcohol’s effects. However, the side effect risks of doing so are problematic.

Gabapentin Side Effects

Like all drugs, gabapentin has some side effects. Its most common side effects in adults are:

  • Sleepiness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Coordination problems
  • Eye movement problems
  • Swelling, especially in the lower legs and feet

More rarely, serious side effects can occur, including:

  • Multiorgan sensitivity
  • Allergic reaction
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or face
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Slowed breathing
  • New or worsening tumors

Risks of Combining Gabapentin and Alcohol

Like alcohol, gabapentin is a central nervous system depressant. For this reason, their side effects can be worsened if taken together, and it is best to avoid drinking while on gabapentin. Taking them together can lead to an increased risk of:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Concentration problems
  • Impaired thinking
  • Problems with judgment
  • Impaired motor skills and coordination

Unfortunately, some people misuse gabapentin by mixing it with alcohol to increase alcohol’s effects. But this can lead to serious side effects. A gabapentin overdose is possible when you take the drug with other depressants like alcohol. Just under 10% of all overdose deaths between 2019 and 2020 involved gabapentin, which is likely a factor in more than half of those overdoses. Gabapentin overdose symptoms include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness 
  • Movement problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure

Alcohol and Gabapentin Addiction Treatment

If you struggle to stop drinking and are misusing gabapentin, help is available. Quitting more than one substance (polysubstance use) can be difficult without support. At the Orlando Recovery Center, we are experts in helping people recover from gabapentin and alcohol addiction. From our medical detox helping you wean off substances to rehab helping keep you off them for good, we are with you every step of the way. Don’t wait: contact a Recovery Advocate today.

Sources

Peckham, Alyssa M.; Evoy, Kirk E.; Ochs, Leslie; & Covvey, Jordan R. “Gabapentin for Off-Label Use: Evidence-Based or Cause for Concern?” Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, September 23, 2018. Accessed April 14, 2023.

Mattson, Christine L.; Chowdhury, Farnaz; & Gilson, Thomas P. “Notes from the Field: Trends in Gabapentin Detection and Involvement in Drug Overdose Deaths — 23 States and the District of Columbia, 2019–2020.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 13, 2022. Accessed April 14, 2023.

Klein-Schwartz, Wendy; Shepherd, J. Greene; Gorman, Susan; & Dahl, Brad. “Characterization of gabapentin overdose using a poison center case series.” Journal of Toxicology, Clinical Toxicology, 2003. Accessed April 14, 2023.

Drugs.com. “Drug Interaction Report: ethanol, gabapentin.” Accessed April 14, 2023.

Drugs.com. “Gabapentin Monograph for Professionals.” November 23, 2022. Accessed April 14, 2023.

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