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Taking gabapentin for depression is more likely to relieve symptoms in individuals who have been diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders. High amounts of the medication may need to be taken in order to see noticeable results. Although it is often prescribed as an anti-seizure medicine, gabapentin is effective at treating cases of bipolar depression that have not responded to antidepressants. Available in most countries by prescription only, the drug does carry some risks, including dependence, dizziness, and an increase in body weight.
Cases of bipolar depression that have failed to benefit from mood regulating medications have shown some promise when treated with gabapentin. When doctors and psychiatrists decide to prescribe gabapentin for depression, they are more likely to recommend it to patients who have quick and short-lived mood swings. Sometimes referred to as "unipolar" disorder, these patients tend to experience a shorter time period between high and low moods. In most cases, patients with this type of bipolar depression have not responded well to other prescriptions, such as lithium or serotonin regulators.
Individuals who suffer from anxiety mood disorders can also benefit from using gabapentin for depression. In the majority of cases, patients with anxiety and depression are usually not given the drug unless they are unresponsive to more traditional treatments. Very high dosages may be needed for gabapentin to have a positive effect and the medication may need to be taken more often than other forms of antidepressants. Besides creating a risk of dependency, patients may need to continue to increase their daily gabapentin dose.
There is a risk that patients will not see any benefits from using gabapentin. As each person's system responds to medications and dosages differently, even very high amounts of the drug may not relieve all of the symptoms associated with depression. Mild to moderate forms of depression that are not accompanied by high levels of anxiety or mania may respond better to serotonin regulators. Long-term effectiveness of the drug to treat depression has not been proven.
Using gabapentin for depression is somewhat controversial since too few studies have been conducted to prove its effectiveness. Side effects such as dependency withdrawal symptoms, daytime sleepiness, and dizziness have been observed with changes in dosage amounts. Fatigue and nausea are side effects that are sometimes severe enough to cause a small percentage of patients to stop taking gabapentin. The use of the drug may also increase the occurrence of manic episodes in patients with bipolar disorder.