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Gabapentin (Neurontin): How it's Used for Depression and Anxiety

There are several drugs that may be prescribed for anxiety that are not commonly in use. One such drug is Neurontin. Neurontin - also known as Gabapentin - is a drug that is rarely prescribed to those whose sole mental health issue is anxiety. But it is occasionally prescribed to those that are struggling with bipolar disorder as a way of relieving anxiety symptoms.

This article explores the usage of Neurontin, as well as the benefits, weaknesses, and side effects for those looking for a new anxiety medication.

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Neurontin Drug Usage Information

Neurontin is not your traditional anxiety drug. It's a drug primarily described to those with bipolar disorder, not anxiety. Those that are dealing with just anxiety are going to need something different. Try my free 7 minute anxiety test to learn more about the best treatment options.

Doctors that prescribe Neurontin do so only if the patient has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Neurontin is not a bipolar disorder treatment. Rather it is a supplementary drug for those that are being treated for depression but need an additional treatment to overcome some of the anxiety associated with that depression.

That's a much smaller section of the population, indicating that this is not a drug that many anxiety sufferers will ever use.

Drug Origins

What's especially interesting about this type of medication is that it wasn't originally prescribed for anxiety at all. It was originally used to prevent seizures as an anti-epilepsy drug. It wasn't until years later that doctors realized it had the potential to reduce anxiety in patients with bipolar disorder.

The drug mimics the chemical structure of GABA, but its mechanism of action isn't entirely known, and it doesn't appear to affect GABA receptors. Its use for bipolar disorder is considered "off label," meaning that it is not FDA approved for this use.

How Effective is Neurontin?

There is no such thing as an anxiety drug that cures anxiety. Anxiety is a coping ability, meaning that all a drug can do is make it easier to live with anxiety now, but will have no effect on anxiety in the future. That's why you should _always _**pair any prescription anxiety medication with some type of therapy or strategy to cure anxiety. While anxiety drugs like Neurontin have their place for helping cope with anxiety now, they're not something that you should generally solely rely on.

As for Neurontin itself, the results are fairly mixed. It is used for such a specific purpose (reducing anxiety in bipolar patients) that it can be hard to differentiate between the anxiety reduction qualities of an antidepressant and the anxiety reduction qualities of Neurontin. It appears that Neurontin is effective enough for that subsection of the anxiety population.

The best thing to do is take Neurontin if your doctor prescribes it.

Side Effects of Neurontin

Neurontin does have a host of side effects and issues, and several of these side effects were powerful enough to cause lawsuits to be filed against the manufacturers. As with many powerful medications, it comes with all of the standard side effects, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weight Gain
  • Drowsiness

These side effects appeared more common in the elderly. Withdrawal is one of the biggest problems with Neurontin. Neurontin causes dependency, and withdrawal symptoms if the medicine is stopped cold turkey are likened to other types of withdrawal, like alcohol dependency.

Suicide may also be an issue with those taking Neurontin. Research has found an increased suicide risk. That's why Neurontin should never be taken without a strict doctor's supervision, to ensure that patients are not experiencing any increase in suicidal ideation.

Taking Neurontin for Anxiety

Bipolar disorder is a complicated mental health problem. That's why anyone that has been prescribed Neurontin should strongly consider taking it, despite the side effects above and questions about its effectiveness. Bipolar disorder is not something that should be left to chance.

But those without bipolar disorder should talk to their doctor about other medications. In addition, never take Neurontin or any other medication alone. Make sure that you're always partnering it up with some type of anti-anxiety strategy, to ensure that you can stop taking the medication someday and still live free of anxiety.

I've helped many people suffering with anxiety on medications like Neurontin. A great place to start is my free anxiety test. This test will examine your symptoms and provide you with information about non-medicinal treatments.

Start the test here.


De-Paris, F., et al. The anticonvulsant compound gabapentin possesses anxiolytic but not amnesic effects in rats. Behavioural pharmacology 11.2 (2000): 169-173.

Pande, Atul C., et al. Placebo-controlled study of gabapentin treatment of panic disorder. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 20.4 (2000): 467.

Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Aug 07, 2018.

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