Gabapentin is a prescription medication developed to treat seizures. It is approved for treating pain caused by diabetic neuropathy and pain occurring after shingles. However, you might benefit from one of gabapentin's many off-label uses.
When a medication is used off-label, it is being prescribed to treat a condition for which the Federal Drug Administration has not approved. This may mean that there hasn’t been enough research to document effectiveness. There are many reasons pharmaceutical companies do not finance research for all uses of a medication. How off-label uses develop is probably by case reports and small studies.
Gabapentin is used off-label for Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), anxiety disorder, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and insomnia. Researchers found that gabapentin helps people fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and increases deep sleep.
Gabapentin changes the calcium channels found in nerves. It is the opening and closing of channels within the nerve that generate signals passed from one nerve to another and to the brain. Gabapentin modulates signals sent to your brain.
It takes about a week for gabapentin to reach a therapeutic level. How long your doctor will want you to take gabapentin depends on what is being treated.
Common side effects include dizziness, feeling tired, unsteady gate and visual problems. Less commonly, gabapentin is thought to increase the risk of suicide and in the USA the medication is labeled with this precaution.
In animal models, gabapentin caused adenocarcinoma and pancreatic tumors.
Reference Lo HS, Yang CM, Lo HG, Lee CY, Ting H, Tzang BS. (2010) Clin Neuropharmacol Mar-Apr;33(2):84-90