What Is Gabapentin Withdrawal?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Gabapentin withdrawal refers to mild to severe symptoms that may develop when people stop taking gabapentin, a drug used to treat some types of seizures and pain. The most severe of these could be rapid heart rate, catatonia, and seizures, and the least are symptoms like tiredness. Medical experts have compared gabapentin withdrawal to the very grave withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol or benzodiazepine dependence. When first released, gabapentin was thought to be non-habit forming and a very benign medication. With further research, however, doctors are increasingly advising patients to slowly taper off the drug because abrupt discontinuation from it creates the most risk for withdrawal.

Symptoms associated with gabapentin withdrawal may include nausea.
Symptoms associated with gabapentin withdrawal may include nausea.

The principal symptoms associated with withdrawal include things like nausea, sleepiness and dizziness. Some individuals exhibit difficulty with gross motor coordination and complain of fatigue. Agitation, anxiety and confusion have also resulted.

Symptoms associated with gabapentin withdrawal in children may include irritability.
Symptoms associated with gabapentin withdrawal in children may include irritability.

Gabapentin has been used in children to treat seizures or nerve pain. It appears children may experience gabapentin withdrawal differently than adults. The most common symptoms in the pediatric population include quick changes in mood and irritability. Children are at risk for the more serious expressions of withdrawal, too.

Fatigue is often associated with gabapentin withdrawal.
Fatigue is often associated with gabapentin withdrawal.

For both adults and children, the greatest risk in gabapentin withdrawal is the development of convulsions. People who were using the drug to treat seizures are most likely to develop these. There is still some likelihood that anyone taking this medication may manifest convulsions upon abrupt discontinuation.

When people stop taking gabapentin they may experience seizures.
When people stop taking gabapentin they may experience seizures.

Another concern is the possibility of developing fast heart rhythms or tachycardia. Catatonia, which can cause people to remain in a rigid, unmoving state for days or weeks, has been observed as a potential sign of withdrawal from this drug. Extreme nausea and intestinal bleeding are other symptoms reported by clinicians.

Severe gabapentin withdrawal may cause an individual to experience an abnormally fast heartbeat.
Severe gabapentin withdrawal may cause an individual to experience an abnormally fast heartbeat.

One matter at issue is determining exactly how long it takes to develop tolerance that might lead to gabapentin withdrawal. The medical community is not fully agreed on this point. There are single case histories of patients experiencing a high number of serious withdrawal symptoms after using the medication for only a few days. In many other instances, patients are unlikely to develop these symptoms until they've used gabapentin for at least four weeks. This is approximately the same time it would take to develop benzodiazepine tolerance.

Gabapentin can be a useful drug, and has been especially helpful in treating nerve pain. Patients using it should coordinate with their doctors to plan successful discontinuation of the medication. Long-term use should never be simply discontinued without medical guidance. Even with tapering of the drug, a few people will experience mild withdrawal symptoms. Most patients respond well to tapered dose reduction and experience few to no negative symptoms.

Some mental health professionals prescribe gabapentin as a mood stabilizer for patients who have bipolar disorder.
Some mental health professionals prescribe gabapentin as a mood stabilizer for patients who have bipolar disorder.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I've been on gaba for going on four years. After researching all of my meds and gathering information, I've decided to change to Lyrica. Wouldn't you know it my doc told me their is no tapering off needed. Now I'm epileptic, very sick, and my panic disorder is worse than ever. In fact I'm almost too sick to keep appointments let alone go back to work. Mixing meds is so hard to deal with without properly educated doctors. Good luck to all who experience similar problems.


I hadn't read that I might have withdrawal symptoms. I have been off of Gabapentin for about 10 days and so far, no symptoms.


I was taking 300mg. of Gaba three times a day for six weeks for a C7 disc. bulge that was causing severe pain in my neck, shoulder and all the way down my R. arm to fingertips. I've had 2 epidural injections. They helped some but there was still considerable pain. I am allergic to opiate drugs so I was very limited on what I could take for pain. My pain management doctor gave me a prescription for Gaba. After about 3 or 4 days on it I started noticing good pain relief which allowed me to get up out of the bed and be half way normal.

Although the gaba does help, I want to be off of this stuff because it is not good for your liver or kidneys to be on it for a long time. Actually, I do not like to take any drugs period. I have been tapering for about 10 days now and I am down to 300mgs. per day divided into three doses. I plan to continue dropping 50mgs. every two or three days. I am not feeling well, am having some difficulty sleeping, I get hot and then cold, a little nauseated, loss of appetite, and some pain has returned but not like before. I also have a sore throat and flu like feelings, and some increased hypertension. I am just hoping I can come off this stuff completely but do not want to have the pain level I had before return because it completely keeps me in bed, which also is not good for you! So I am taking it one day at a time, eating well, taking vitamins including magnesium and extra B vitamins. Here's wishing everyone good luck and just keep the faith.


I tapered the drug really slowly and had no problems. I took magnesium as well for withdrawal symptoms, which worked well.


I took gabapentin for a year and a half, the lowest dose, one tablet a day for nerve pain and RLS. I tapered off in a three week period per my doctor, although at first he told me to quit cold as I was not on a high enough dose to matter.

It has been terrible. I've gone days without sleep, had confusion, anger, agitation, stomach and joint pain and of course the RLS is back. My neurologist told me it was non-habit forming and he gave it to his mother. This is the fourth week I have been off of it and still no relief in sight. Praying quite a bit.


I had it for pain relief to a hernia and was told to drop it every five days, and every time I dropped the second tablet, I had a seizure. Now I'm epileptic, have lost my license and am not allowed to work. I do roof repairs for a living, but you try telling a neurologist this and they prescribe something different. I'm now on lamictal and the withdrawal for that is even worse.


@burcinc-- Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms can be bad. I think it depends on the individual. Did you withdraw slowly or cold-turkey? I wish you had spoken to your doctor about your withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, a doctor will prescribe another medication temporarily to ease symptoms as your body adjusts to the change.

I took gabapentin a very long time ago but I remember that I had to take something else for a few weeks after I quit.


I had severe anxiety, mood swings and insomnia when I quit gabapentin. It was so tough and the symptoms lasted longer than a week. I have no idea why this medication was thought to be mild and non-habit forming. It's absolutely not true. Gabapentin withdrawal side effects are quite bad.


I don't think that there are many drugs out there that don't require tapering off. Almost all of them do. Otherwise, there will be withdrawal symptoms with most drugs.

Our bodies are quite amazing. They adjust to medications quickly. If a medication is taken regularly for a certain amount of time, our body gets used to it. Sometimes, our body can adjust the production of natural hormones and chemicals in our body according to the medication. All of these lead to withdrawal symptoms that can be severe if the medication is stopped suddenly.

It's always a good idea to taper off of a drug slowly. I have always benefited from doing this, including with gabapentin medication.

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