Gabapentin capsules, tablets, and oral solution are used along with other medications to help control certain types of seizures in people who have epilepsy. Gabapentin capsules, tablets, and oral solution are also used to relieve the pain of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN; the burning, stabbing pain or aches that may last for months or years after an attack of shingles).
Gabapentin extended-release tablets (Horizant) are used to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS; a condition that causes discomfort in the legs and a strong urge to move the legs, especially at night and when sitting or lying down). Gabapentin is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants.
Gabapentin treats seizures by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain. Gabapentin relieves the pain of PHN by changing the way the body senses pain. It is not known exactly how gabapentin works to treat restless legs syndrome.
It can take several weeks for gabapentin to reach its full effect, but this depends on the condition being treated. Gabapentin is approved to treat:
- Nerve pain
- Some types of seizures
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
It also depends on your individual response to the drug. The time gabapentin takes to work is not the same for everyone.
The effective dose of gabapentin is also very different for each person. It may vary from 300 mg per day to up to 3,000 mg per day.
Another reason gabapentin takes time to work is that the dose is usually started low and gradually increased over time to reach an effective dose. For example, when used to relieve nerve pain, the initial dose may be started at 300 mg and increased by 300 mg daily over several days, gradually reaching up to 600 mg three times per day. Studies for nerve pain treatment show that pain relief may begin within 1 week, with the maximum effect reached after about 4 weeks.
Gabapentin is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants. It is not completely known how this drug works. When used to treat a type of seizure disorder, called a partial onset seizure, gabapentin decreases the abnormal activity in the brain that causes the seizures. When used to treat nerve pain, or neuralgia, following a herpes zoster (shingles) infection, gabapentin may reduce the response to painful stimuli. It is unknown how gabapentin relieves symptoms of restless legs syndrome.
Even though it may take up to 4 weeks to get the full effects of gabapentin, it is important not to stop taking it suddenly. That could cause withdrawal symptoms such as:
If you are taking gabapentin to control seizures, stopping suddenly may increase your risk of a seizure.
Talk to your doctor if gabapentin is not working or causing side effects.