Gabapentin causing depression?

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I've been suffering from depression for a few weeks now. I've stopped taking Atorvastatin as it was causing peripheral neuropathy and non allergic rhinitis (among other things) so I don't know if that could be causing depression or the Gabapentin. I take 400 mg three times a day (prescribed for hot flushes) and have been on it some while, the dose was increased from 300 to 400mg a few months ago. I'm wondering if, like statins, it builds up in your body over time so side effects may not be immediate when starting the tablets. I suppose the only way I will find out is by stopping it, how can I do this safely to avoid withdrawal symptoms? Thanks for your help.

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15 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Joy,

    Sorry to hear about your dilemma.  I’ve been on the gabapentin for nerve pain for about 3 years now, in my experience it doesn’t cause depression.  Quite the opposite actually.  And yes I do think it may slowly builds up over time in the body.  Please do not go cold turkey off gabapentin, it can cause seizures (that’s another thing it was approved for).  If you go off, taper down to half dose per wk. and so on...

    The statins are tricky..they do cause lots of unwanted and lingering effects, my bet is it’s the statin you’re coming off that could be causing your depression.  Wondering; How long have you been off the statin?

    Best Regards,

    Chan

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    • Posted

      I stopped the statins about 3 weeks ago. Symptoms gradually improving. I've been researching Gabapentin online and am horrified. There are many reported cases of it causing depression, one leading to suicide! And it should never be prescribed to a patient who has had depression before, which I have. So, I will gradually reduce til I stop it all together and then see what happens I think.

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    • Posted

      Chan, you're extremely lucky. Severe depression and suicidal ideation is DEFINITELY a side effect of the medication and there are serious warnings regarding that in the list of warnings. Particularly if the person has had previous problems with anxiety and/or depression. The vast majority of doctors are unaware of the problems and dangers of gab.

      And no, it does NOT build up in your body, it's got a short half-life of  4-7 hours, which explains why some people get withdrawal after missing a dose. It's also why it's prescribed to be given 3 or even 4 times a day.

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  • Posted

    Hi again Joy,

    I researched a bit on potential side effects of gabapentin, and Yes depression can be one!

    For some people anyway, so yes if you want to taper down effectively do some research on that..since you’re on 400 three times a day=1200 mg/day.  I would split the 3 doses in half for a week, and again, then take twice a day just slow.  May take at least a month to get off..but at least you’ll know!!  Talk to your doc, if it’s not possible look it up research online (on more than one website always).  Keep us posted!  And good luck!

    Hey, by the way, did gabapentin Help you ever with hot flushes???

    Chan.

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    • Posted

      Joy, do NOT taper that fast from gab, that is dangerously quickly for some people. Groups that are aware of the problems recommend a 10% drop (or less) over 2-4 weeks. So in your case, drop a 100 mg tablet (I start with the mid-day one), which brings you to 1100 mg/day. I'd wait at least 2 weeks as the withdrawal or "discontinuation syndrome" as the drug company prefers it to be called, can show up in a few days or over several weeks. I take 4 weeks or if I've got something special coming up, I adjust it to even longer. Not everyone has problems with the taper, but many do.

      If you want more info check on benzo withdrawal or tapering, as the drug affects the brain the same way as benzoids do. Remember that gab doesn't "stop the pain", it works on the brain so the neurons don't process the pain. Unfortunately, during that process, neurons die. Yeah, good news right? So for those of us who were given the drug totally unaware of what it does and are left to sort it out ourselves, it's quite frustrating and upsetting.

      I had shingles in October 2016, took the gab which they kept increasing to 2700 mg (over 1800 mg it doesn't help more with the pain, it just increases side effects). I've been tapering since January 2017 and am down to 900 mg/day. Some withdrawals are easier than others, but it's worth it to get back my memory and personality and to lose the depression and confusion.

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    • Posted

      Thanks so much for your advice - I shall photo shot it so I can refer back to it. Depression is sometimes referred to as "the black dog" and I can relate to that!

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    • Posted

      Ah yes, I remember hearing that Winston Churchill called it that. Except for the fact that we've had two black dogs who were real sweeties, I thought it was an interesting name.  Take care and come back anytime with more questions. I've joined a FB group which has wonderful resources and links to studies about the med and similar drugs. I'm lucky that with my medical background (I was a medical secretary and always enjoyed learning and research) it makes it easier to sort through this stuff.

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  • Posted

    When I was on Gabapentin I was in and out of depression and while getting off it it continued. I'm off it now about 6 weeks. Don't go off it cold turkey. You have to be weaned off it slowly, under Dr care.

    Take care of yourself.

    Marie

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  • Posted

    Joy, isn't it tragic that we have to do this research ourselves?! YES, as you've not stated, it is a side effect, along with  suicidal ideation i.e. suddenly thoughts of suicide or how to harm yourself pop into your head. For many, it's one of the most intolerable side effects as it also includes loneliness, feelings of helplessness and isolation. One may also feel that they've always felt like this, when it fact it's just the drug.  I'm FURIOUS that doctors keep giving this off-label. It's ridiculous to give it for hot flashes. It was approved in the US for two things: seizure disorders and PHN, Post Herpetic Neuralgia i.e. nerve pain after shingles. It was then broadened to include one other type of diabetic neuropathy. That's it. Than as the manufacturer wanted to increases its sales, they encouraged doctors to prescribe for other uses. This was about 20 years ago. There was a subsequent lawsuit that they lost for that. Unfortunately with so many drugs, doctors rely on pharmacy reps and what they had once heard, so they are mis-prescribing constantly and totally unaware that the side effects for many make it worse than the original problem. Neither do they know that for other uses, it seldom helps, and if it does, it's for a relatively short time and should be kept to lower doses.

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  • Posted

    I was just telling my husband that as I taper, I'm having more hot/cold issues. I've always had that, but I've had my thyroid checked numerous times. My daughter and father have the same problem. I think it was less of an issue when I was on a higher dose. Also, it does have a slight anti-anxiety effect on me, I'm more calm generally. SO, those two rare positives are probably why doctors give it. HOWEVER, it also gives me almost every side effect listed in the warnings AND panic/anxiety issues. So 3% positive and 97% negative. No thanks.

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    • Posted

      Yes, just about everything you said in your posts I had already found during my own research. I had severe post natal depression 40 years ago and have had bouts of depression since. One of the online sites actually states that Gabapentin should not be prescribed for patients who have had depression in the past! The very reason that this drug prevents seizures is the same reason that it causes depression, the effect that Gaba has on the brain. If only I had known that before.
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    • Posted

      40 years ago? Mine was 33 years ago. It does seem that many people in the Facebook group I'm in have had depression and/or anxiety issues in the past. But as I believe it was under-reported and diagnosed in the past. I know so many who have had one or the other at some point in their life. I see you're also getting into more depth about gaba and the brain. If you're interested I can send you a PM with some more articles. Or look up benzo buddies and "what is happening in your brain?" It does help to think that the problems we have as we taper are actually our brain recovering and trying to deal with what the med did to our brains.

      Are you going to start tapering? It's important to do it carefully as it's hard to know what problems you may have slow is best to avoid problems. I mentioned that before but I can't stress it enough. Cold turkey can cause seizures and even abrupt, quick drops will cause severe withdrawal that can become intractable. I have some tough stretches but it seems my slow way is easier. However (now I'll get geeky) the bioavailability of the drug, how the body uses the drug, actually increases as you get below 1000 mg. i.e. let's say at 1000 mg the body uses 80% of the drug, at 900 mg/day the body uses 82%, at 800 it again goes up. On my FB gabapentin awareness there's more detail, but you get the idea. So for some people, as they get down to 400, 300, 200 it's REALLY hard, that's why people titrate. That's dissolving the med in water and decreasing by VERY small percentages.

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    • Posted

      Yes, I am tapering, I started yesterday. I stopped taking Atorvastatin about 3 weeks ago after researching that and am taking omega 3 and vitamin B complex. So the Gabapentin has got to go. I'm finding the depression difficult but no way am I taking any of the medication that GPs can prescribe for that. I know that modern day medicine is a wonderful thing, I had cancer 3 years ago treated with R-chop followed by radiotherapy, and I am grateful every day, also a meningioma shortly after treated with gamma knife surgery. But the pills that GPs hand out without having the time to research them properly is awful. How do I deal with this depression? Pain I can tolerate, depression I can't.

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    • Posted

      Good Morning! We seem to have many commonalities. I have that same love/hate relationship with medicine. I've seen miracles too in my 30+ years in healthcare but also some terrible, mis-handled things. Everyone of of my family members, at some point, has been harmed by medical care.

      How to deal with this depression? Here are things that I've learned. First, how much are you tapering? I hope only 100 mg/day. Next, reach out to friends and family and also find a therapist. I fought it on my own for over a year as it would come and go with each taper. This past December, I couldn't get help--wrong time to have severe depression as they're all over-booked and told me it would be a 6-8 week wait. Then in March it got bad again and a friend called during a time I was crying and couldn't stop, which was new. She called HER therapist and found she had openings. It took 10 days, but has made a tremendous difference. She's given my tools to deal with it better and support for when it's hard. Strangely, as soon as the friend said, "I'll make the call, you don't have to deal with this", it lifted for days. I couldn't take any more rejection from those I was calling to ask for help.

      Next, remember THIS IS TEMPORARY! It is the DRUG, not you. For me, when it hits, I believe that I always felt that way (not true, but I wasn't a happy--go-lucky Pollyanna before, so I could believe that I was always this joyless and lifeless. NOPE.) It will wax and wane as the taper goes on. That's why I take 4-6 weeks, to give myself breaks to stabilize. That's what the benzo groups suggest. For me, I couldn't face feeling the WD symptoms for an unrelenting stretch.  If you need to, write this down. "This too shall pass".  Get out of the house. Even if it's only a few minutes, force yourself to do something, anything, change the behavior and you can help the  mind. Any feeling of being in control or distraction will help you. I thank God that I never went on Cymbalta or anti-depressants. I believe they are helpful, but at this point in my life, I feel there'd be too much damage.

      I know you didn't start gab because of PHN (post shingles nerve damage/pain) but there are two threads that may be helpful. Go to the search window on top, look for Depression with PHN and Cognitive Behavior Therapy for People with PHN. Or just go to the Post Herpetic Neuralgia Forum and you'll see the two on top with my recent posts. Charlie is outstanding, but I didn't follow his advice regarding the meds, but I wasn't truly suicidal, I just had odd thoughts that would pop-up from the dang drug, very analytical such as "IF I wanted to, what's the most effective and rational way..." I mentioned that in a FB group and someone said that's exactly what happened to them. It wasn't during a deep, withdrawn funk. VERY odd and almost funny as both of our reactions were " say WHAT??".

      Lastly, reach out to this forum or to me in a PM. I truly believe these groups can help us all.  Take care.

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