Gabapentin or Opioids: Which is the Problem (or both?)

Posted , 6 users are following.

Fifteen months ago I posted " Gabapentin Withdrawal Horror".

Gabapentin caused serious fluid retention (I lost 30 pounds in one month after discontinuing the drug), memory problems, lethargy and spontaneous jerking of my legs. I wondered at times if gabapentin was making my chronic pain worse.

Cut to the chase, and the last three months have been hell since discontinuing gabapentin in July 2016.

Terrible, miserable nerve pain in my legs and feet. Horrible burning pain. To be clear, I have normal blood sugar levels and am not diabetic. My eyes were painful and constantly irritated and red. I had a tough time sleeping. Some nights I would get three hours of sleep if I was lucky. The sleep was disturbed by waking up due to pain 6-7 times a night.

It had gotten to the point where I had constant internal nerve shaking and non-stop nerve firing. At first it was in my legs, but ended up in my torso and arms. In other words, the only place that didn't seem to be shaking was my head. This must be systemic!

My only medication was Percocet 5 mg up to two times a day. Not all that much. I stopped taking it about a month ago and the burning pain and shaking has decreased.

The reason for the update is to encourage other patients to review all their medications with their physician and understand that even small doses of medication could be causing problems. I did not think this small amount of opioid could cause this much misery.

I am now wondering if gabapentin caused a number of issues, but may have been masking the shaking and the burning pain caused by the opiate. The burning and shaking began the day I took my last dose of gabapentin in July 2016. I still don't trust gabapentin, but now I don't trust small doses of opiates. I have enough pain from my injury and the three subsequent surgeries, but I would rather try to go without prescription medications that have caused far more harm than good.

Good luck to everyone and hope you are doing alright.

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  • Posted

    You claimed that your pain and shaking reduced after you stopped taking Percocet 5mg. Clearly, Percocet is a suspect then in your case. Gabapentin has its side effects and withdrawal syndromes but clearly not any of what you listed.

    I will advise that you have your BP checked as well as, i.e constant monitoring of your blood pressure as the shaking at could be from so many reasons; including high blood pressure.

    I wish you all the best.

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    • Posted

      Thank you for your thoughts and suggestion. As a critical care RN, I am aware of many of the side effects and possible causes of the symptoms I have experienced. I have a negative clinical picture and HTN is not an issue.

      I am trying to point out that patients must question all medications they are taking and that multiple medications make it difficult to discern the medication or medications causing the problems. As hard as physicians work at trying to assess patients and their complaints, why is it I had to figure our the problem that was missed by three pain clinic physicians.

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  • Posted

    Thanks for posting your update! Your original story had me terrified as I just started gabapentin for my back pain. I haven't had any of the symptoms you described but was worried that I would over time. Knowing that your opioid might be culpable helps relieve my anxiety as I'm not taking anything but Tylenol (gab may be reducing my nerve pain but does nothing for my arthritis). I'll still be cautious, but not as frightented. You really did a solid!

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    • Posted

      HI USRrider69

      Glad to hear that gabapentin is helping you with your back pain. They can take a few weeks to get into your system

      they should help you with your nerve pain once they kick into your system. I am suffering also with back pain and nerve damage for a number of years. I am on gab and cocodamol together,they do give some pain relief .

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  • Posted

    When I first read your post 15 months ago, I thought really? Come on! That was before I really understood the drug and what it was doing to me. I knew I had problems with it, but your post was the one that (damn gab brain, I lost the word!) initiated (whew, that took about 15 seconds to figure out) my deeper research on the drug. I had shingles in October 2016, within 5 weeks was up to 2700 mg. I couldn't work between the pain and the gab for 6 weeks. 2017 was a blur of confusion and pain, until I had to stop working in the summer of 2017.

    So, yes, I totally agree about the problems you were having being tied to the gab, even though you were no longer taking the drug. The problems from gab and the taper can last months or years. I know of others that during that period could have serious problems recur with even OTC cold meds. The brain/CNS is still damaged by the gab, so taking other meds can continue the damage.

    US Rider, PLEASE consider carefully and slowly, (10% or less reduction over at least 4 weeks) getting off gab. I had no idea how much harm it causes. And, it does NOT help back pain. It's only approved for 3 conditions--PHN, which I have (post shingles pain), epilepsy, and small nerve diabetic neuropathy. Anything else is off label. Even those two pain conditions have minimal reduction in pain with gab. Studies prove it doesn't help with back pain, but doctors do NOT research the drug, they give it out of habit.

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    • Posted

      HI BABS99203

      Sorry to hear that the gabapentim did not help you to much. I Am on 2700 a day plus cocodamol with them they do not completely remove all my pains but they help to take the edge off them!!! Yes there are all the side affects which come with them but i have managed to live with them for now !!!!!!

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    • Posted

      JohnAk, I am trying to figure my way around the world of prescription pain meds, so take this with a grain of salt, but I heard 1800 mg of gabapentin per day is all your body can absorb. I was told taking over 1800 mg is pointless. Granted, I have been given a good deal of inaccurate information over the years by various physicians, but it may be something you may want to research.

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    • Posted

      G. Allyn and JohnAk, I've read similar information. Above about that dosage, IF, remember IF gab had a positive effect on pain management, anything over that is no more effective. It just causes more side effects. There is technically no maximum dosage so some doctors just keep increasing it. And as those doctors also don't seem to care to know about 100 mg doses, they use 300 mg doses, and keep adding by 300 mg amounts. I've heard of some on 4200! Most have trouble functioning somewhere around 2000 mg. When I got over 1500, I stopped driving, it was unsafe.

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    • Posted

      What I read in the FDA literature on it is that it actually isn't absorbed by the body. It's not metabolized. It gets flushed right out through the kidneys. I got the impression that it's a lot like the IP chemo I had. I know that sounds odd, but that's how it sounded.

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    • Posted

      In fact, when I consulted with my brother, who is a recently retired Chief of Medicine at a major NYC hospital, he told me that the max dose is 300 mg 3x daily (900 mg total). I'm a little shocked by how high the doses are that are being reported here. I'm on 300 2xdaily.

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  • Posted

    good luck!

    ive been gabapentin and codeine free now since may 2018

    its been rough as hell

    sleep still aint good 1-4 hours if im lucky

    but never again will i take that evil stuff

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