This is the final part of a series called "Gambling On Life", my experiences in the US healthcare system. Read part 4 here.
Gambling on Life: Quitting Gabapentin & Withdrawal Symptoms
Let me start by saying thanks to everybody who has supported me in this journey. It has been difficult; each medication came with its own issues, and Gabapentin had some that could've cost me much more. Gambling on Life as a series may be done, but I'm not.
Why did I experience Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms? Easy. I had to make another choice.
This time, I had to choose between work and pain relief.
I am one of those individuals who reads manuals. This includes the employee handbook at my place of employment.
The section regarding medication, work safety and work effectiveness is something I never expected to apply to me when I first came to the office. Why would I take anything that could negatively impact my employment?
It was brought to my attention the Gabapentin's side effects (dizziness, chiefly) made my continued employment an understandable risk, so I had to do something.. and fast. I should've known better, but I was so over-the-moon with pain relief I never stopped to consider the potential problems.
So, I called my doctor, and they gave me a titration schedule for Gabapentin.
How do you titrate off Gabapentin?
This varies for everybody; how long you've been on it, your dosage, and more. I haven't been on it too long; a few months. As well, my dosage at 600mg twice a day isn't particularly high compared to other pain sufferers.
Still, for me to titrate off Gabapentin fast enough to return to work safely was.. A challenge.
Thursday at 5 PM, I got my schedule. Friday, Saturday and Sunday I'll take half my dose (300mg) morning and night. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I'll only take my evening 300mg dose.
What were the symptoms of Gabapentin Withdrawal for me?
Gabapentin withdrawal was.. Rough. Weakness, anxiety, depression, shakes, lack of appetite, the sweats, sensitivity to light & sound (on top of my existing hearing sensitivity) and a few others were some of the milder symptoms experienced.
I also experienced, on top of my pain returning, one really heavy side effect.. Periods of, for lack of a better way to describe it, inability to move fully. I was conscious, and able to talk (somewhat - It was like I was completely drunk off my rocker), but for 15-20 minutes I would lay there and be unable to move most, or even all of my limbs. They didn't feel heavy, or weak.. Just.. not connected to my brain.
I was able to return to work no worse for wear, though, aside from being reminded just how much pain I was in before I went to pain management.
Friday, however, I had to leave early.
At first, I thought it was food poisoning or something to that effect. I was having hot flashes, felt weak, and more. I came home, and for the entire weekend I felt absolutely wrecked. I barely slept. My hearing sensitivity was through the roof. I couldn't even stand to be outside in the sun, because it felt like my entire body was on fire.
This evening I've finally felt well enough to share this all with you.
What's next after Gabapentin?
Well, I can't afford to keep going to pain management. Each new visit, each new drug costs money. So, I asked my pain management doc for a prescription for Prednisone that I could take as-needed for my worst pain days.
Prednisone has worked well for me, with limited problems on my general functions day-to-day. It isn't without risks, of course, especially in the longer term. I've been given enough, with a refill, to allow me to take 1 dose a week for the next 6 months, which is when I will switch over to a rheumatologist for treatment.
Once again, I want to thank you all for your support. Here in the near future I will be updating the homepage to include all the articles from the Gambling on Life series so you can share them conveniently.