Gabapentin is specifically a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog, which means that it establishes and maintains the balance between nerve cell excitation and nerve cell inhibition. While it’s an effective medication, there’s a lot of debate about its long-term effects. Our drug rehabilitation center found that research on this drug is mainly centered on this question: “Does gabapentin affect memory?”
Similar to depressants like benzodiazepines, gabapentin works by mimicking the effects of an inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA and reduces electrical activity and the activity of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. GABA itself is an inhibitory neurotransmitter because it can reduce nerve activity in the central nervous system (CNS). GABA analogs, like gabapentin, have a similar structure to GABA but act differently. Specifically, GABA analogs act by binding to calcium channels within nerve cells to improve their response to GABA itself or facilitate its release.
When we have a problem with GABA levels in our brain, our nerve cells fire more than they should, which puts the brain in an excitatory state. This state can lead to feelings of anxiety and panic, stress, restlessness, irritability, increased sensitivity to pain, and more. GABA analogs like gabapentin were designed to help people with GABA problems because it’s difficult to administer the chemical itself.
Additionally, while gabapentin is considered a safer alternative to opioids, it is addictive. Gabapentin addiction is possible with misuse and long-term abuse, which can lead to other problems. People with this condition may require treatment such as medical detox to physically recover.
Memory loss is one of the greatest concerns when it comes to taking long-term CNS-affecting drugs like Gabapentin. There has been an ongoing debate on whether gabapentin and memory loss are linked. However, it seems that Gabapentin alone cannot cause memory loss, but when combined with similar drugs like baclofen, it can.
One study found that long-term administrations of Gabapentin alone did not cause memory loss or memory impairment. Patients can, however, experience brain fog or slight confusion upon taking this medication, but nothing as severe as dementia. Additionally, the study also found that taking other drugs like Baclofen with Gabapentin can cause significant memory loss and impairment because of their addictive effects on the inhibition of excitatory neurotransmitters.1
Even so, it's important to point out that this study focused on safe and regulated administrations of Gabapentin. This study found that not only can Gabapentin cause memory loss when abused, but it can also lead to other cognitive problems that can contribute to memory impairment. Also, Gabapentin's long-term use side effects present other dangers, such as weakened muscles, fatal toxicity, and respiratory failure. While this drug is relatively safe when taken if and as prescribed by a doctor, when abused, it can be life-threatening.
If you're taking this medication, then it's normal to ask yourself, "does Gabapentin affect memory?" When prescribed a new medication that you don't know much about, ask your doctor for as much information as possible to help to reduce your risk of misusing this drug, experiencing any undesirable side effects, and the need for prescription drug treatment.
Although Gabapentin does not produce the same high that benzos or opioids do, it can still produce feelings of relaxation. If you or someone you know is battling drug or alcohol addiction, one of our several drug rehab facilities can help. Call Banyan Treatment Centers now at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our drug treatment programs.