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Neurontin® is a trade name for gabapentin, an anticonvulsant drug which was initially developed to control seizures in epileptics. There are a number of applications for this drug, although there is some controversy over off-label uses for which the drug has not been approved. Generic versions of gabapentin which are supposed to be pharmaceutically identical are available at many pharmacies, and unless a doctor specifies Neurontin®, a pharmacist may fill a prescription with a generic.
Originally, Neurontin® was meant to be used to manage epilepsy. The drug was designed to reduce the severity of seizures. Further research on the drug suggested that it could also be used for pain, specifically postherpetic neuralgia, a form of nerve pain associated with herpes. In addition to being used to treat these specific conditions, the drug is sometimes used more generally to manage nerve pain caused by a variety of conditions, although these uses have not been fully studied.
Mental health providers also utilize Neurontin® for people with some psychiatric conditions. The drug can sometimes reduce the side effects associated with certain psychiatric medications, and some people have found it useful in the management of conditions like bipolar disorder. These uses are strictly off-label, and they have not been researched by the drug manufacturer or approved by government agencies. Off-label use is not illegal, but it can be dangerous for patients in some situations.
The most common side effects linked with Neurontin® are dizziness, drowsiness, and loss of balance, known as ataxia. Some patients also experience edema or swelling in their extremities. In people with liver, heart, and kidney disease, the dosage level may need to be adjusted.
Tablets, capsules, and an oral solution of this drug are available. When a prescription is written, patients should disclose any allergies they have, as certain formulations may contain allergens. Patients should also list all of the medications they are using, so that the doctor and pharmacist can check for any drug interactions which could cause side effects.
In cases where dosages are adjusted and patients are forced to snap tablets in half, they should use the half tablets with the next dose, and they should avoid keeping a half tablet around. After several days have elapsed, partial tablets should be discarded, as they may no longer be effective. It is also important to taper the dosage of this drug to wean a patient off when the use of the drug is to be discontinued, rather than taking a patient off abruptly.