Can You Mix Gabapentin and Tramadol?
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Francine Mends, MD on May 6, 2020
Gabapentin and tramadol are among the most common drugs in the United States. It makes sense: they’re both used to treat chronic pain, which is one of the most common health problems.
Over 64 million prescriptions for gabapentin were dispensed in 2016.
Tramadol trails just behind: Doctors prescribed tramadol 43.7 million times in 2017.
Both drugs are used to treat people living with chronic pain and nerve pain. And both of those conditions affect millions of Americans nationwide, owing to the drugs’ popularity.
Gabapentin is an anti-epileptic drug, also called an anticonvulsant. It’s used to treat:
- Nerve pain
- Restless leg syndrome
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Cocaine withdrawal
Gabapentin is also widely prescribed to treat migraines, insomnia, and mood disorders.
Tramadol is an opioid drug. Doctors use it to treat:
- Moderate pain
- More severe pain
- Pain after surgery
Tramadol can be addictive. Gabapentin is less so. Still, gabapentin can increase the effects of other drugs. Even if it’s not addictive itself, mixing gabapentin with an addictive drug like tramadol can have adverse effects.
In some cases, doctors prescribe gabapentin and tramadol together. That’s not recommended unless the benefit outweighs the risk.
There’s a moderate interaction between the drugs, meaning the effects can be serious. Ask your doctor if taking gabapentin and tramadol is really the best course for you. Most people should not take both drugs.
Here’s what you should know before taking either of them:
How Does Gabapentin Work?
Gabapentin works by changing the messages our nerves send to our brains.
Our nervous system helps us move, think, and feel. That includes feeling pain. Nerve pain results when the brain receives false messages from the nervous system.
Gabapentin helps control pain by changing the way your nerves respond. This also explains why it’s effective for treating epilepsy.
Patients often notice that their pain begins to improve after 1 to 2 weeks of taking gabapentin.
Common side effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Mood changes
Some patients experience suicidal thoughts when taking gabapentin. Your doctor should check your progress at regular visits. Call your doctor right away if you experience suicidal thoughts on gabapentin.
How Does Tramadol Work?
Like gabapentin, tramadol changes the pain signals sent to the brain. As an opioid pain medication, it alters the way you feel pain. It also raises the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Depression and anxiety medications do the same.
Common side effects include:
More serious side effects are rare, and include:
- Allergic reaction
- Difficulty breathing
- Shallow breathing
- Trouble urinating
Never drink alcohol while taking tramadol. This can cause seizures and other serious side effects.
It’s possible to become addicted to tramadol. Physical dependence can set in within a few days of beginning to take the drug.
How Does Gabapentin Interact With Tramadol?
Gabapentin and tramadol have a major interaction. That means that the risks almost always outweigh the benefits of using them together.
Tramadol and gabapentin both work on the central nervous system, or the CNS. When you take them together, they slow the CNS more than either drug would alone.
The result can be:
- Slowed breathing
Avoid combining tramadol and gabapentin. This combination can be life-threatening. It also increases the risk of overdosing on tramadol.
What Are the Signs of an Interaction?
Mixing tramadol and gabapentin causes an interaction that can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
In severe cases, the interaction causes respiratory depression.
This leads to coma and eventually death.
Call 911 right away if you think you’re having a gabapentin and tramadol interaction. This can be a medical emergency.
How to Recognize a Prescription Drug Overdose
A prescription drug overdose happens when you take more than the recommended dose. It can be life-threatening and require immediate emergency care.
You should call emergency care immediately if someone:
- Has black or blue lips
- Has black or blue fingers
- Starts vomiting or gurgling
- is pale
- Is clammy
- Can’t speak
- Doesn’t wake up
- Has a slow heartbeat
- Has no heartbeat
These are the signs of a medical emergency. Call 911 right away if you think someone is overdosing on prescription drugs.
Get Help for Prescription Drug Abuse Today
If you’re worrying about gabapentin or tramadol abuse, there are ways to get help.
The best treatment centers use evidence-based treatment to help you recover.
Some examples of treatment include:
- Therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy help you learn to manage your behavior.
- 12-Step programs can be useful for social support. These programs are based on Alcoholics Anonymous, but there are many spin-offs for people recovering from other substances.
- Medications can help treat long-term withdrawal, especially for opioids or alcohol.
Help is just a phone call away. If you’re unsure or don’t know where to call, search through our directory for listings of quality treatment centers in your area or call us today.
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