Did you know that epilepsy affects about 50 million people worldwide? What's more, five million more new cases of the disease occur each year. That makes it one of the most widespread neurological diseases in the world.
Fortunately, there are antiepileptic medications (AEDs) that can help manage seizures. These drugs are effective in completely controlling such symptoms in 70% of patients.
Neurontin is one of the most popular AEDs available today. In the US, it has been an approved drug for epilepsy since 1993.
However, some people also buy Neurontin for off-label uses, especially for pain-related conditions.
To that end, we created this guide discussing the most important facts you need to know about this drug. Read on to learn what it is, what science has to say about its off-label uses, and why you should consider using it.
What Exactly Is Neurontin?
Neurontin belongs to the AED class of drugs, also known as anticonvulsants. Its primary active ingredient is gabapentin, which is also the generic form of the drug. However, Neurontin was the original branded form of gabapentin.
What Solutions or Forms Is Neurontin Available In?
Neurontin is available in capsules, tablets, and oral solutions.
You can buy Neurontin capsules that contain 100 mg, 300 mg, or 400 mg of gabapentin. If you go with tablets, you can choose between 600 mg and 800 mg. The oral solution comes with a 250 mg gabapentin concentration per 5 milliliters.
What Are the Approved Uses of Neurontin in the US?
The US Food and Drug Administration first approved Neurontin in 1993. The FDA approved its use back then as an adjunctive treatment for partial seizures. Then, in 2002, the agency also approved its use for postherpetic neuralgia.
How Does It Help With Epileptic Seizures?
Normal brain cells fire or work at a specific rate so that they can function properly. However, epilepsy causes the brain to develop abnormal activity and behavior. This disorder causes electrical malfunctions in the brain cells, which then causes seizures.
So, during an epileptic seizure, the brain cells fire at a more rapid rate.
In people with epilepsy, Neurontin works by reducing abnormal excitement in the brain. Its active ingredient, gabapentin, helps keep the brain cells from firing too fast. In doing so, it helps stop or prevent seizures.
What About Postherpetic Neuralgia?
Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is the most common complication of shingles. It's a painful condition that occurs when shingles damage the skin and skin nerves. Experts say that one in five people who get shingles also develop this complication.
PHN causes severe pain that can last for many months. It causes burning, stabbing pains long after shingle blisters and rashes disappear.
Neurontin can provide pain relief for PHN symptoms by changing how the body senses pain. It's in this way that it helps ease the burning and stabbing pains of this shingles complication.
What Off-Label Uses Do People Buy Neurontin For?
Researchers say that up to 95% of gabapentin prescribed today is for off-label uses. In fact, its prescription rate rose by 64% over a period of five years, from 2012 to 2016.
Pain relief tops the list of Neurontin's (or gabapentin's) off-label uses. Some people also use it to help ease symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
Post-operative (post-op) pain is any type of pain felt after minor or major surgery. The pain can spread to areas outside of the surgical site. It can even happen to patients who undergo simple surgeries, like a dental extraction.
Post-op pain relief is one of the off-label uses of Neurontin and generic gabapentin.
A review of studies found that gabapentin provided pain relief in post-op patients. A single 250 mg dose of the drug resulted in 50% pain relief for 6 hours in 15% of the patients.
As such, the researchers concluded that the drug could help ease the pain. However, they also noted that it might not be that useful if used as a stand-alone pain reliever.
Chronic Neuropathic Pain
Scientists say that about 7% to 10% of the population live with neuropathic pain. It includes PHN, post-op nerve pain, and post-traumatic nerve pain. As with PHN-related pain, nerve pain is often a burning or stabbing sensation.
Neurontin's approved use for PHN has led to its off-label use as a nerve pain reliever.
A review of studies had favorable conclusions for this off-label Neurontin use. After all, the researchers found that the drug can reduce pain intensity by at least 50%. The patients also reported other benefits like improved sleep and less fatigue.
Do note that those results only apply to high daily doses of 1,800 to 3,600 mg of gabapentin, though. Please be sure to consult with your doctor first before you take such high doses of Neurontin.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease. As the term suggests, it leaves people with an irresistible urge to move their legs. More than that, it causes uncomfortable or even painful sensations in the legs.
Relief from RLS-related pain is one of the main reasons people use Neurontin. However, researchers also found evidence that gabapentin may help improve motor symptoms too. They found that the drug may also have therapeutic effects on sleep issues caused by RLS.
Consider Using Neurontin Under Your Doc's Supervision
As such, the most important thing is to seek your doctor's advice before you use Neurontin. This way, your physician can determine if it's safe and, if so, how much of it you should use.
Interested in more tidbits of wisdom to improve your health? Then please feel free to check out other informative guides and blog posts!