Over the past few years, a growing number of people have successfully used gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal. Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication that is available only by prescription.
Gabapentin is very similar in structure to GABA, which is a brain chemical associated with feelings of calm and mental stability. Many of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are caused by low levels of GABA.
Gabapentin is a generic drug, and the most common brand name is called Neurontin. An extended release version of gabapentin is prescribed under the brand Horizant. Gabapentin has been traditionally prescribed to treat:
- Nerve pain
- Restless leg syndrome
Gabapentin has also recently been used to treat anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and a range of chemical addictions including cocaine, opiates, and alcohol.
Overview of Gabapentin
Gabapentin has shown to be effective at alleviating or preventing the following symptoms:
- Heart Palpitations
- Panic attacks
Gabapentin works by increasing the production of GABA in the brain, essentially aiding brain cells that are too damaged to perform this crucial function.
It does this by modulating the action of two enzymes – one involved in the production of GABA, and the other involved in the production of glutamate, which is a stress chemical.
To understand the science behind using gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal, we will briefly review the causes of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol is a depressant that mimics GABA, and alcohol addiction causes the brain to decrease its long-term GABA production because it has learned to rely on alcohol for the same effect.
Because alcohol suppresses glutamate (the aforementioned stress chemical and “excitatory” neurotransmitter), the alcoholic brain ramps up its production of glutamate. In the absence of alcohol to calm down the brain, the alcoholic feels hyperactive, hypersensitive, and panicked.
When an alcoholic stops drinking suddenly, two important things happen:
- Glutamate rebounds to high levels within 3-8 hours
- GABA does not return to normal levels (this can take weeks)
Many of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are caused by a lack of GABA and an excess of glutamate.
While some people have used gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal and then tapered off, others have taken long-term gabapentin for alcohol cravings.
Continuing to use gabapentin after alcohol detox has helped many alcoholics reduce the chance of relapse. The trade-off is that long-term use of gabapentin can cause dependence.
Gabapentin Dosage Information
The following dosage information may be useful if you are considering taking gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal:
- Since gabapentin is a generic drug, dosage amount may vary depending on the brand and different brand name tablets are not interchangeable.
- 600-1800 mg per day of gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal is typically effective to mitigate symptoms.
- Studies of gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal have used 1200 mg tapering to 800 mg or 900 mg tapering to 600 mg. (source)
- Larger doses of gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal (over 900 mg) are typically divided throughout the day.
- To avoid dependence, only take gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal as long as it is needed to manage symptoms – typically less than a week.
- There is no standard dosage of gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal; only a doctor can determine this depending on your situation.
- Only take gabapentin under the supervision of a doctor.
Before taking gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal, make sure to review the following:
While gabapentin is not yet an FDA-approved treatment for alcoholism, a number of studies support the use of gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal and cravings:
- In a 12-day study of alcoholics detoxifying with either gabapentin or lorazepam (a benzodiazepine prescribed with the brand name Ativan), the gabapentin group was less likely to drink – and had less craving, anxiety, and sedation (source)
- In a 12-week study of 150 alcoholics receiving either gabapentin or a placebo, the gabapentin group had significantly less insomnia, dysphoria, and alcohol craving (source)
- Gabapentin reduced alcohol intake for alcoholic rats but not for non-alcoholic rats, demonstrating its effectiveness for alcohol cravings by acting as a substitute source of GABA (source)
- Gabapentin is comparable to clonazepam in its effectiveness for treating insomnia in depressed patients (source)
Alternatives To Gabapentin
Not everyone can obtain gabapentin, since it must be prescribed by a doctor. It can sometimes be difficult to find a doctor who is open to prescribing gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal.
Besides benzodiazepines, which are the most commonly prescribed drugs for alcohol detox, there are a few other alternatives to gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal.
Baclofen is another prescription drug that is structurally similar to GABA. Like gabapentin, baclofen can be used to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Long-term, high-dose baclofen has also been used by a growing number of people to achieve a state of indifference toward alcohol. To learn more, check out my article on the interesting baclofen alcohol relationship.
Phenibut is a legal supplement that is remarkably similar in structure to both baclofen and gabapentin (and GABA). It is known to:
- Calm the nervous system
- Aid in sleep
- Boost mood
- Alleviate social anxiety
If you cannot obtain either gabapentin or baclofen, you can use phenibut to ease mild to moderate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal at home.
For a full description of how this might be done including dosage information, see my article on using phenibut for alcohol withdrawal.
Before I explain how Calm Support works, let me make one thing clear…
Nearly a year after I quit drinking, I finally understood that the majority of my post-acute withdrawal symptoms were caused by nutrient deficiencies caused by prolonged alcohol exposure.
I finally ended my post-acute withdrawal symptoms (including alcohol cravings) by doing a lot of research and spending a lot of money on herbs, vitamins, and minerals.
Calm Support is an ingenious collection of high quality nutrients and herbs that are very effective for alcohol withdrawal. These ingredients cost a lot of money when purchased separately. Many of my clients have been able to quit drinking using Calm Support along with external support and basic lifestyle improvements.
Gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal is a little-known but highly effective treatment that our medical establishment has all but hidden from patients.
While not everyone responds well to gabapentin, I believe that greater awareness of the use of gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal can improve recovery odds for many people.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for alcohol detox and recovery.
When I quit drinking, I had no idea what my alternatives for detox and recovery were. A doctor simply prescribed a course of benzodiazepines. I was not enlightened about nutrient repair, other pharmacological options, or holistic strategies for improving my quality of life.
My goal in writing articles such as this one is to empower you to have a much better grasp on your situation, and your options, than I did when I quit drinking.
If you have any questions about using gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal, please leave them in the comment box below.