Gabapentin & Memory Loss: Permanent or Reversible?

Medically Reviewed

Nerve pain and seizures are chronic conditions that are still being studied. However, medication such as gabapentin can go a long way in helping people live a more normal life if they have a health condition that causes these things.

Gabapentin has been used as a safer alternative to opioid medication.

Specifics of Use

Gabapentin is sold as a liquid, tablet, or capsule, according to MedlinePlus. It must be taken with food, and its doses should be spaced evenly throughout the day so it can be effective.

The medication is only available with a prescription.

Though gabapentin is approved for certain conditions, some doctors also prescribe it to people who are undergoing treatment for cancer or women who are experiencing menopause.

However, like any medication, there are several side effects patients should be aware of as they go about making it part of their treatment regimen.

Side Effects

If you are taking gabapentin, your physician has determined that the benefits of this medication are outweighed by potential side effects.

Known Side Effects of Gabapentin Are:

  • Tremors or shaking
  • A feeling of weakness
  • Symptoms resembling a cold
  • Swollen feet, hands, or legs

These side effects are uncomfortable, but they should not disturb you too much. Below are some side effects that require you to seek help immediately, according to Medical News Today:

  • Eye movements you cannot control
  • Lack of coordination

Mayo Clinic says people who use gabapentin may also gain weight. In addition, it may cause a person to have thoughts of self-harm or to become suicidal under its influence.

Research is still being conducted on whether or not this increases the risk of these thoughts in people who may already present them or if they cause these thoughts and behaviors to begin with. Talk to your doctor if you start to have these thoughts when taking gabapentin.

If used for long periods, gabapentin can cause other side effects, such as weakness in the muscles, difficulty breathing, and even memory loss.

Can Gabapentin Cause Memory Loss?

On June 2015, AARP reported that all medications that prevent seizures could cause problems with memory. They do this because the drugs control seizures by decreasing brain activity that allows it to communicate with your central nervous system (CNS).

Some Common Signs of Memory Loss, According to the Mayo Clinic, Are:

  • Mixing up common words and terms, such as car and bicycle
  • Putting things in the wrong place, such as the remote control in the kitchen or bathroom
  • Moodiness that you cannot explain or has no cause
  • Taking longer to do things you are familiar with
  • Getting lost in a place you know very well
  • Asking the same questions

Is Memory Loss From Gabapentin Reversible?

Generally, memory loss caused by medications is considered reversible. However, patients of different ages may be affected differently, and other factors may also be affecting your memory loss.

Once you express your concerns to a doctor, they may ask you questions about other factors, such as:

SLEEPING PATTERNS

Even in teenagers and young adults, not sleeping enough is known to shrink areas of your brain. This could cause memory loss and impairments. It could also affect your judgment.

DELIRIUM

Older adults may become delirious if they get certain infections, such as pneumonia or even a urinary tract infection. Memory loss often appears as confusion in these cases.

PSEUDODEMENTIA (DEPRESSION)

In some people, depression causes memory loss or apparent memory loss by making it hard to focus and retain information.

INTERACTIONS

Taking gabapentin with another medication could worsen gabapentin’s side effects. Multiple drugs may be necessary depending on your medical history. But if you are concerned about memory loss, it is a good idea to revisit everything you are taking, including supplements and over-the-counter medications that could be adding to this problem.

If you notice your ability to retain information changes while you take gabapentin, talk to your doctor about alternatives or ways to prevent further decline.

Stopping Use

AARP reports that some patients may be able to use other non-opioid pain medications that have less of an impact on your memory to control seizures. Some common alternatives to gabapentin are Dilantin for people with seizures or Effexin for people who use gabapentin for nerve pain.

If you become concerned about how gabapentin is affecting your memory, you should not quit on your own. Your doctor may provide additional advice as you deal with side effects, such as memory loss or drowsiness.

If you decide to quit using this medication, they will show you the safest way to taper and help you decide if you will remain free of medication, switch to something else, or come up with a different solution that works for you.

Side effects that get in the way of your quality of life deserve to be dealt with, but suddenly quitting to take gabapentin could result in unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal or the return of symptoms it is meant to treat.

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