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In February of 2020, my family and I headed up to ski for a week in Colorado as we do each year. We're accomplished skiers, at home on the slopes, no worries. This particular year, because my son was interested in snowboarding, we decided to take a snowboard lesson as a family. That decision, and a fall that should have been completely unremarkable, led to a year of surgeries, heavy medication use, and eventually in early 2021, dealing with an uncomfortable physical withdrawal from Gabapentin. (read more)
I won't bore you too much with details of how I came to be on Gabapentin for a year, but since it is prescribed for both nerve pain and depression/anxiety (there might even be more uses that I am unaware of), I want to clarify that my use stemmed from nerve pain. I fell backward while going very slowly downhill on a snowboard, thrust both of my arms behind me to catch myself, and shattered my humerus into several pieces. It was a terrible break, the kind normally reserved for people who get into car accidents and push their arms out to brace against the dashboard.
Basically my lower arm rammed into my upper arm, and that was that. Still, I managed to walk off the slope (I was at the bottom anyway) instead of getting kitted up by ski patrol, so that's a win.
I've made a video of the break so you can see it.
Here are some X-rays to showcase the damage and repair a bit better. This was just the first surgery. I ended up having two more in 2020 to try and fix the pain/mobility issues, and I would consider them a success.
As you can see from the images, the surgeon had a hard time reaching my Humerus to repair the damage, so he had to cut off the end of my elbow, lift it up (triceps attached) to my shoulder, repair my Humerus, then reattach the elbow, hence the large screw in my elbow.
What all of this meant to me is that I was in a lot of pain. The problem was that it wasn't the kind of pain I could take pain medication for. It was a constant aching buzz in my fingertips that kept me from functioning in every day life and certainly kept me from sleeping. After about six weeks of having this pain I followed up with my local surgeon and he prescribed Gabapentin.
He gave me a prescription for 300mg twice a day. I found that it made me woozy and fuzzy, so I instead took both pills at night which was when I really needed relief from the pain so I could sleep. After a few months of this, I was able to taper down to one pill at night, just 300mg once per day.
When I got to the point, about a year later, where I decided I wanted to try to stop taking Gabapentin altogether, I figured it wouldn't be too difficult. After all my dose wasn't very high.
I never considered that I would need to think about how to wean off Gabapentin, not once. So when I stopped taking it cold-turkey, I figured things would be fine.
I was very, very wrong.
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DOES GABAPENTIN HAVE WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS?
Does Gabapentin cause withdrawals? Beyond a shadow of a doubt, yes, Gabapentin withdrawal is a real thing. Depending on the dose you take, how long you've been on it, your weight, etc. Gabapentin withdrawal could look different for you than it did for me, but if you're reading this, you're dealing with it in some way, and that sucks.
Hopefully I can help you get through it by telling you what I did. So no matter what you searched for to get here, I'm hoping to get you one step closer to kicking those little pills.
Let's talk about the symptoms and the timeline.
How long do Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms last? This is a tough question for me to answer because I didn't make it through the withdrawal. I stopped taking my pills altogether instead of weaning myself off slowly, which was a mistake. The first day after I stopped was pretty much okay, but by the second day I was starting to have what I now realize were symptoms of Gabapentin withdrawal.
Does gabapentin withdrawal cause nausea/can Gabapentin withdrawal cause nausea? - Yes, this was one of my main symptoms and the biggest reason I got back on Gabapentin to instead slowly wean myself off.
Can gabapentin withdrawal cause hot flashes/can stopping Gabapentin cause hot sweats/can stopping Gabapentin cause hot flashes? - Yes. As a 43 year old woman I had convinced myself that I must be going through "the change". It wasn't until I realized I was actually having withdrawal symptoms that I put two and two together, realizing that the things happening to me were 100% related to a medication I was no longer taking.
Can stopping Gabapentin cause headaches? - Yes. The three things I've listed so far are the main symptoms of Gabapentin withdrawal I dealt with. That's not to say there can't be more withdrawal symptoms associated with it, but these three, in addition to feeling irritable and anxious, were my major complaints.
While you're searching for things like: What are gabapentin withdrawal symptoms? Does gabapentin have withdrawal? What are the signs of gabapentin withdrawal? What are the symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal? you're likely going to find a ton of symptoms that you don't have. You might also have symptoms that you're sure are related to discontinuing Gabapentin, but you can't find confirmation of in your searches.
I'm not a doctor, nothing in here is meant to diagnose you with anything. I will say that when I was suffering withdrawal from Gabapentin I basically felt like garbage. I was nauseous, my head hurt, I was hot all the time, I was irritable, I couldn't sleep, I didn't want to eat, etc. I felt alien in my own skin and could NOT figure out why.
I've never been physically addicted to anything in my entire life, with the exception of having one cup of coffee each morning (and getting a headache if I don't have it), I had no idea what to expect and couldn't believe my life was cast into such a state of upheaval over one tiny, yellow gel cap.
Once I figured out what was going on, I made the swift decision to start taking the 300mg per day again (all of the symptoms abated within an hour of this) and began the slow process of weaning myself off.
Now that I've told you my symptoms, let me tell you how I tapered my dose over a two week period to get over all this nonsense.
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HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET OVER GABAPENTIN WITHDRAWAL VIDEO
If you'd like to hear me talk about my experience, and see my awesome surgery scar, here you go!
HOW LONG DO WITHDRAWALS FROM GABAPENTIN LAST?
How long does withdrawal from Gabapentin last? If you do it like I did it, you don't really have to notice the withdrawal symptoms at all.
By the time I decided to get back on Gabapentin to wean off of it slowly, I had already been off of it entirely for about seven days. I thought for sure the symptoms would go away at that point, and I probably was close to it, but waking up in the middle of the night and retching into the toilet for fifteen minutes disabused any notion I had of continuing on the cold-turkey route.
Everything I'd read said that the Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms timeline could start anywhere from immediately, all the way to 10-12 days after discontinuing use. Since I was only seven days in and things were getting worse, not better, I'm inclined to think that it takes some time for the Gabapentin to work its way out of your system, meaning you won't feel the real effects of withdrawal for a few days at least.
I was on what my surgeon called a "maintenance dose", meaning I needed to keep taking it to keep the nerve pain at bay, but I wasn't going to feel that relief all the way until I'd built up enough of the drug in my system to do the trick. Even though my maintenance dose was small, it was enough to be a real shock to my system when I went without.
Since my medication was filled in a gel cap, it wasn't very easy to simply half the dose or whatever, especially when I needed to get down from 300mg to zero mg.
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HOW TO GET RID OF GABAPENTIN WITHDRAWAL
The first thing I did after searching for how to deal with gabapentin withdrawal, how to get over gabapentin withdrawal, and how to help gabapentin withdrawal was to give my surgeon a call, let him know that I was trying to taper off, and asking him to fill the prescription in a smaller dose.
He was happy to do so and quickly called in a prescription for 100mg gel caps.
While I waited for that prescription to be ready, I started cutting the top off of my 300mg tablets and pouring half the tablet into a cup of orange juice (the powder is foul tasting). I did that for a few days, staying around 150mg for that time period before hitting the pharmacy.
Once I had the 100mg tablets at home, I started adjusting my time frame for ingestion. I wanted to be able to take the medication at night so I could go to sleep and hopefully sleep through any symptoms that might come with lowering the dose.
There was a little nausea during the day, but not too much. Not enough to make me want to up the dose.
After three days of the 100mg dose I once again cut open the tablet and dumped half into a glass of orange juice. I followed that procedure, three days of a half dose, half it again, three days of that dose, etc.
By the time I got to the 25mg point, I couldn't be bothered to half the dose anymore so I'd just cut the top off the pill. pour a tiny amount into some orange juice, and call it done.
A week after starting the 100mg dose, I was just about finished. One night I walked into the bathroom, grabbed the bottle of Gabapentin, then shrugged and stuffed it back into the drawer.
I haven't taken any since, and I honestly hope to never again.
MY NERVE PAIN AFTER GETTING OFF GABAPENTIN
My last surgery was three months ago. The surgeon was able to remove all of the hardware. It was invasive, there was a lot of swelling, and my entire hand hurt for quite awhile. Now that I'm off Gabapentin I do have bouts of nerve pain, but it hasn't been severe enough to make me want to get back on it.
I am not the type of person who does well with "having" to do anything, so being addicted to Gabapentin was a frustrating experience, and not one I want to repeat.
If the pain gets really bad again I'll probably just call my doctor and ask him for something else, but hopefully, this far out, I'm no longer in the danger zone of shooting pain and buzzing fingertips.
GABAPENTIN FOR DEPRESSION/ANXIETY
Again, I'm not a doctor and none of this is meant to diagnose or advise, but if you're taking Gabapentin for anxiety or depression (or dealing with these things while trying to wean off), contacting your doctor can only be a good thing.
One of the reasons I was most wary about staring Gabapentin was that it said on the bottle that it could cause feelings of anger. I don't like that. I want to know that if I get angry, it's because I'm angry, not because my brain is being chemically altered into anger, if that makes sense.
Things that mess with my emotions or psychological well being are a bit scary to me, and while I could not have dealt with the pain of the past year without Gabapentin, I do not take lightly the changes in my attitude it was causing.
So, let your doctor know what you're doing. He or she will be able to help you get off with as little interruption and discomfort as possible.
I hope this helps, but if you have any questions be sure to let me know. I'm more than happy to answer, and after a year of being on this stuff, I feel like I know a little bit. :)