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How Long Can I Take Gabapentin For Nerve Pain?

How Long Can I Take Gabapentin For Nerve Pain?

Neurontin, generically known as gabapentin, is a prescription painkiller and belongs to a class of medications called anticonvulsants. Neurontin was introduced in 1993 and its generic version (gabapentin) was introduced in 2004. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of gabapentin for the treatment of epileptic disorders and neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain as explained by the Brain and Spine Foundation “is caused by damage or injury to the nerves that transfer information between the brain and spinal cord from the skin, muscles and other parts of the body.” Gabapentin is also used as a treatment for other ailments including restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia, seizures, and/ or hot flashes. 

Gabapentin works by interacting with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and “altering electrical activity in the brain and influencing the activity of chemicals called neurotransmitters, which send messages between nerve cells.” GABA reduces “the excitability of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain, which play a role in seizures and the transmission of pain signals.” As a gamma-aminobutyric acid analog, gabapentin essentially works by mirroring the effects of GABA, calming excited neurons. 

Gabapentin is available in 100 mg, 300 mg, or 400 mg capsules, in 600 mg and 800 mg tablets, and as a liquid (250 mg/5mL). It is typically started at a low dose and increased gradually to minimize any side effects. Arriving at the proper dosage of gabapentin for an individual may take some time and will depend on several contributing factors (e.g., one’s age, weight, overall health history, etc.). The average half-life, meaning the length of time the substance will remain in one’s system until the concentration in one’s blood has been reduced by half, of gabapentin is around seven hours

Gabapentin is intended to manage long-term, chronic pain, and is not used for routine pain caused by minor injuries or arthritis. Studies show that pain relief may start within one week and reach a maximum effect in about 4 weeks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the efficacy and safety of gabapentin have not been examined in clinical studies for treatment periods longer than five months.” However, gabapentin can be taken longer than five months, should a treating physician deem it necessary, provided the patient does not experience any adverse side effects, and the medication continues to be helpful.

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