Managing alcohol dependence requires a personalized approach. There are several medications approved to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), each addressing different aspects of recovery from alcohol dependence. For many people, a combination of gabapentin and naltrexone for alcohol dependence provides the perfect balance to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings and help them abstain from future alcohol use. You should always access treatment for AUD through a qualified provider to ensure your safety during alcohol withdrawal.

If you are struggling to decrease drinking or want to eliminate alcohol from your life, try Confidant Health’s online medication assisted-treatment for alcohol use disorder. Our team will conduct a virtual assessment to determine if naltrexone treatment may be beneficial for your recovery. Get started on your path to alcohol-free living by contacting us today.

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication used to alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Rather than a first-line treatment for alcohol dependence, gabapentin is used as a complementary medication to provide a more well-rounded approach to managing the challenges associated with alcohol withdrawal and abstinence.

Gabapentin works by decreasing glutamate production and increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) production. Alcohol misuse upsets the natural production of glutamate and GABA, making it difficult for the brain to maintain balanced levels. When GABA levels are too low, it can impact your mental health, leading to symptoms of anxiety and depression and making it difficult to sleep. The same can occur with the overproduction of glutamate. If you have alcohol dependence and stop drinking suddenly, you will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms related to this GABA and glutamate imbalance. Gabapentin can alleviate mental health symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal by helping bring back balance to GABA and glutamate levels in the brain.

Mixing Alcohol and Gabapentin

Gabapentin reduces excitability in the brain and induces a calming or sedating effect. Alcohol is a sedative drug, and when combined with another sedative like gabapentin, the sedating effects can become more powerful. 

If your provider prescribes gabapentin for alcohol use disorder, you should refrain from using alcohol or other sedative drugs. The resulting drowsiness from combining gabapentin with other sedatives can make it dangerous to drive or operate machinery. Additionally, combining sedative substances can cause your breathing to become dangerously slow. Some other potential dangers of mixing alcohol and gabapentin include:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Confusion

  • Lightheadedness

  • Loss of coordination

  • Loss of consciousness

If you experience breathing difficulties or other serious side effects in relation to taking your gabapentin prescription with other sedatives, reach out for emergency assistance immediately. 

Can Gabapentin Be Taken with Naltrexone?

Gabapentin can be taken with naltrexone to help treat alcohol dependence. In fact, studies showed that when gabapentin is taken with naltrexone, people abstained from alcohol longer and felt more control over drinking urges than if they took naltrexone alone or a placebo. This combination was also helpful for managing sleep issues that are common with alcohol dependence.

The Pros and Cons of Taking Gabapentin

The best course of treatment for alcohol dependence is one that is customized for your needs. What works for one person may be ineffective for another. Your provider will conduct an assessment to determine if gabapentin may be beneficial for your treatment. They will also consider the following pros and cons of adding gabapentin to your AUD treatment plan.\

Pros

Gabapentin can make treatment for alcohol dependence more effective when combined with other medications.

Gabapentin has been shown to increase the efficacy of AUD treatment when used in combination with other medications such as naltrexone. 

Gabapentin can minimize alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the biggest obstacles to abstinence, especially early on, are alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Shaking, nausea, sweating, and headaches can be so severe that maintaining abstinence becomes challenging, if not impossible for some. Gabapentin mitigates these symptoms, making you feel more comfortable and likely to refrain from alcohol use.

Gabapentin can help support a balanced mood.

Alcohol withdrawal can induce various mental health symptoms, including low mood, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Gabapentin helps bring GABA and glutamate levels back into balance, helping you feel calmer, more relaxed, and able to sleep better.

Cons

Gabapentin has the potential for misuse.

The risk of gabapentin misuse is low when used as directed by your provider. However, when used recreationally or at higher doses than prescribed, you can become dependent on the euphoric effects of gabapentin. 

Gabapentin may be a poor choice for people with co-occurring opioid use disorder. 

Gabapentin may be a better option for those with no history of opioid dependence. Since gabapentin can produce euphoria, there is a risk of misuse, especially for people who are dealing with a co-occurring opioid use disorder. It also increases the sedative effects of opioids, putting you at a higher risk of injury when combining gabapentin with opioids.

Gabapentin can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol.

Drinking alcohol while receiving gabapentin treatment can amplify the sedative effects of both substances. This can cause potentially serious side effects if a person cannot abstain from alcohol or other sedative drugs while taking gabapentin.

Find Online Medication-Assisted Treatment for AUD at Confidant Health 

Trying to quit drinking or reduce alcohol misuse can be challenging without the right support. If you think online medication-assisted treatment may be be the right fit to help you manage AUD, reach out to Confidant Health. Our team of professionals can set up an online assessment to determine if naltrexone treatment for alcohol use disorder is your best treatment option.