Does Gabapentin Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Also known by brand names like Horizant, Gralise, and Neurontin, gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication prescribed to people who suffer from seizures and seizure disorders like epilepsy. It alters electrical activity in the brain by influencing the activity of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals used by nerve cells to communicate with each other. Many men have claimed to have experienced impotence while on gabapentin. But does gabapentin cause erectile dysfunction? If so, is it permanent?
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication used to treat people with epilepsy, as well as conditions like restless leg syndrome (RLS). Specifically, it decreases abnormal excitement in the brain by stimulating the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
GABA is an inhibitory chemical messenger that, when released in the central nervous system, blocks brain signals to reduce overactivity. It also activates the release of another chemical called serotonin, which plays a role in stabilizing mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness.
As a result, someone taking gabapentin may experience side effects like drowsiness, tiredness, headache, dizziness, and blurred vision, as well as euphoria. Gabapentin also has the potential for abuse and addiction.
Due to its impact on the central nervous system, many people abuse the drug for the sedative and mildly pleasurable high it produces. This may include crushing pills, snorting them, or taking them with other drugs or alcohol.
Misusing prescription drugs in any fashion is dangerous, however, as it increases your risk of addiction and overdose. If you’re struggling with a similar habit, prescription drug addiction treatment is recommended for physical recovery.
What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition in which a man may find it difficult to get or maintain an erection firm enough to have sex. ED can vary in severity.
Although having erection trouble from time to time isn’t necessarily a major cause for concern, if it’s a constant issue, it can cause stress, affect your self-confidence, and cause relationship problems. Problems getting or keeping an erection can also indicate underlying health issues.
While some men can get an erection with ED, others may find it difficult to do so at all. Those who can manage this may not even have one firm enough for sexual intercourse.
Men with severe ED may not be able to get an erection at all, which can significantly impact their relationships and sex life. Although erectile dysfunction can affect men of all ages and backgrounds, some common risk factors for ED include:
- Certain health conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), or chronic kidney disease
- Physical injuries like nerve damage and inhibited blood flow, especially in the penis or surrounding area
- Emotional and behavioral health problems like sexual performance anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, or stress
- Certain medications, such as blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and tranquilizers
- Smoking tobacco, illicit drug use, and heavy alcohol consumption
Can Gabapentin Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Research on gabapentin sexual side effects is ongoing, but the research that has been done shows that the drug may produce different symptoms in men and women. One specific study conducted by Rutgers University found that gabapentin can actually reduce painful sex during intercourse and increase sexual desire in women.1
Women in the study were diagnosed with provoked vulvodynia, which is a chronic pain syndrome characterized by stinging, burning, irritation, or itching during penetrative sex. The pain usually occurs with contact in the vagina, such as from a tampon insertion or intercourse, which can contribute to sexual dysfunction.
Results showed that the 230 women in the study experienced less pain and improved sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction after taking gabapentin.1 However, the same can’t be said for men.
Gabapentin can cause erectile dysfunction in men. Research on the use of gabapentin and ED in men is extensive, with various studies showing that the use of this medication can affect male users’ ability to get and keep an erection as well as experience an orgasm.
One study found that gabapentin-induced erectile dysfunction occurred in patients who took only 300 milligrams (mg) of gabapentin daily. Before this, the proposed minimum dose of gabapentin that could cause erectile dysfunction was 900 mg.2
Can Gabapentin Cause Permanent Erectile Dysfunction?
Although many people experience erectile dysfunction with gabapentin, the condition usually isn’t permanent. Sexual dysfunction caused by gabapentin can also occur in both men and women.
Studies on gabapentin’s sexual side effects have shown that sexual dysfunction caused by this medication in both men and women was resolved when their doses were reduced or when their medications were changed.
One 52-year old man experienced ED while taking 900 to 1,500 mg of gabapentin. The condition lasted for two months but went away when gabapentin was replaced with an antiarrhythmic called mexiletine.3
Another study found that a 25-year-old man who took 900 mg of gabapentin regularly reported anorgasmia, or the inability to experience an orgasm.3 When his medication was switched to valproate, his symptoms were resolved within 12 days.
Additionally, gabapentin-induced anorgasmia and reduced libido were also reported in two women who were both taking 900 to 1,800 mg of gabapentin. In one case, symptoms disappeared with dose reduction, but in the other, the drug had to be stopped altogether.3
Abusing Your Prescription Drugs?
If you notice that you’re struggling to get or keep an erection, or are unable to experience an orgasm, call your doctor immediately. They may be able to switch your medication or reduce your dose of gabapentin to alleviate these symptoms.
Additionally, keep in mind that not only does gabapentin cause erectile dysfunction, but abuse or misuse of this drug can also lead to physical dependence, addiction, and even memory loss. Physical dependence can even occur in people who take potentially habit-forming medications as directed.
Mixing gabapentin with alcohol or taking it with other depressants like opioids can also increase the risk of addiction as well as overdose. If your use of gabapentin or other prescription medications has gotten out of control, our rehab in Boston can help.
Banyan Treatment Centers offers partial hospitalization treatment and outpatient services for drug and alcohol addiction. Our trained specialists work with our patients daily to help them physically, mentally, and socially recover from their substance use disorders.
Can You Take Gabapentin with Oxycodone?
- Rutgers - Painful Intercourse in Women Improved with Fibromyalgia Drug, Rutgers Study Says
- NIH - Gabapentin-induced sexual dysfunction
ScienceDirect - Gabapentin