Can Gabapentin Be Used for Anxiety?


Gabapentin is most well-known as an anti-epileptic or anticonvulsant medication. It is prescribed to treat and prevent seizures. A doctor may prescribe it off-label to treat anxiety in adults. Before you think of taking this medication to calm anxiety, learn its uses, and speak about its applicability with your doctor to avoid side effects.

How Does Gabapentin Calm Anxiety?

Primarily, Gabapentin affects neurotransmitters in the brain which provide relief for seizures and pain. The mechanism of action of Gabapentin for anxiety is not clearly understood, however, it is believed to imitate the gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) action, and balance certain chemicals in the brain resulting in sedation of nervous system activity. Gabapentin does not have proof of efficacy to treat anxiety from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so doctors may typically use it off-label when other medications are not effective.

Gabapentin is used to calm anxiety as an accompanying symptom resulting from bipolar mania or schizoaffective psychosis. Beyond that, it is believed to be effective for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). 

As per one study, Gabapentin 600mg alongside Doxepin, Sertraline, and Hydroxyzine was prescribed to a 59-year old subject with GAD symptoms All the medications have been discontinued due to side effects except for Gabapentin that was effective to improve anxiety scores. There is a lack of research to prove its highest anxiolytic effect, however, a doctor may still prescribe it as an alternative treatment protocol for patients who did not respond to other antidepressants.

Some studies also showed that Gabapentin may be effective to affect social anxiety, however, a doctor should always assess the applicability of this medication for anxiety disorders alone rather than when anxiety comes as an accompanying symptom.

Gabapentin for anxiety may be prescribed to pregnant women. There is no evidence about its potential danger in human, however, in animal studies, it has been linked to poor chondrosteosis of bones. Furthermore, this medication may excrete into human milk. A doctor should assess all the risks prior to administering this medication to treat anxiety in nursing women.

As for pediatrics use, Gabapentin’s side effects are less likely to occur when it is prescribed to treat seizures but it is not commonly prescribed medication to treat anxiety in children. Other modalities are available for this mental health condition.

Gabapentin Dosage for Anxiety 

Gabapentin for anxiety is individually prescribed based on the patient’s age, and the severity of symptoms. 

A doctor may occasionally start with the lowest dosage of 300mg 3-4 times per day and increase it until the therapeutic effect is achieved.

Take Gabapentin for anxiety as needed. The maximum benefit of this medication can be felt within 1-2 weeks.

Gabapentin may impair thinking and motor skills, so it is not recommended to take it while driving or operating heavy machinery.

Overdose incidents have been reported when taking this medication in large doses or combining it with alcohol. Abstain from alcohol and speak to the doctor about the safe dosage for your particular case. If you believe you overdosed, seek emergency help immediately (call 911).