Citation: Juni. "Baby Brain: An Experience with Gabapentin (exp114527)". Erowid.org. Jul 1, 2020. erowid.org/exp/114527
I was prescribed 100 mg gabapentin as an off-label treatment primarily for intractable panic attacks (they do not respond to benzos at the usual doses and my doctor deemed it would be safer to try gabapentin than to raise the amount of lorazepam I was on prior). Its also supposed to help with neuropathic pain; I have restless legs and nerve damage in my shoulder from a major bicycle accident as a teen, worsened by a subsequent decade of bad posture, and it tends to manifest as an extremely sharp burning pain over my left shoulder.
Psychoactives I took on the day of this experience (I have a lot of mental/physical health problems. leaving out the non-psychoactives because this list would be colossal otherwise):
9:00 AM - 45 mg mirtazapine
9:00 AM - 40 mg lisdexamfetamine
between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM - approx 1 gram cannabis flower, vaporized
11:00 PM - 50 mg trazodone
Around 1 AM (technically the next day) was the 100 mg gabapentin. I did not feel high or altered in any way before taking it. I am a medical cannabis patient with a very high tolerance so the amount I vaped earlier that night was a drop in the bucket. The lisdexamfetamine I take for ADHD had worn off around 8 PM.
The setting was my/my girlfriend's bedroom, my girlfriend and I were laying in bed trying to sleep. The initial mindset was not positive, I was having a panic attack! I won't get into what incited it. But it was in that early stage, when you start to feel yourself losing control, with the hyperventilating and the shaking coming on, and your entire body feeling boiling hot, and your thoughts going way too fast to keep up with. I've had some trepidation about being prescribed gabapentin and this was def a part of my mindset in the moment; I am a microbiologist/biochemist by trade and something about using a structural mimic of the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter to hack one of the most (if not the most) fundamental regulatory systems in your brain, as a means of calming you down, seems.... seems like a lot! Not necessarily bad, but a lot! But I could tell the panic attack would only go downhill from here and I really needed some sleep, so I bit the bullet and took 100 mg of the gabapentin as prescribed.
First 30 minutes or so, I felt no difference. My girlfriend held me and talked me through the panic as best as she could, and that did help a lot. I had gotten to a point where I could speak again, and then all of a sudden while we were talking, I feel a fairly rapid shift coming on; in the span of a few minutes, my tongue became very heavy and floppy in my mouth, I was slurring like I'd had 10 beers, and thoughts became ploddingly slow. My mouth dried up really quick, my chest got to feeling very heavy/tight, and I would estimate that over the course of the experience I spent about as much time trying to breathe and moisten my mouth as I did trying to construct thoughts and communicate them. I tried moving my arms and had no difficulties or delays, but I did not test moving around besides that.
The strangest and most surreal thing about the experience was the way it affected my cognition. It was mystifying and completely unexpected. It took minutes to assemble a single thought or imagine a single mental picture, and then minutes more to speak them. The thoughts themselves were inarticulate and in broken grammar, and the speech even moreso.
The thoughts themselves were inarticulate and in broken grammar, and the speech even moreso.
I sounded like a drunk toddler. In slowly, ploddingly, dimly reflecting upon this, I felt a strong itch to understand how it worked. I started talking to my girlfriend about ligand-gated ion channels and blood brain barrier passage and the mechanistic underpinnings of ligand interaction, like a stumbling drunk baby, not really leading up to any point, just doing a lot of aimless, drunken, all-over-the-place incomplete and probably incorrect infodumping. It took sooooo long to get a single sentence out that in trying to talk about this, I physically exhausted myself and had to stop. My girlfriend laughed at how I sounded trying to talk nerd stuff in this state, and I could not stop myself from laughing just because she was laughing. My laugh sounded like a baby laugh, slower and more stilted. At some points when we were trying to sleep afterward, I would laugh at nothing in particular.
What was most mystifying / surreal about the cognitive aspects was that certain things were exempt from the biochemical processor bottlenecking. Music and visual patterns. When I thought of song lyrics, they would play to the music at normal tempo and cadence in my head, but if I tried to sing along out loud it was super slow and slurred. I could very rapidly recall the checkerboard multicolor pattern of the sample type template I had used at work earlier that day when running a qPCR machine. But if I tried to construct a new mental image instead of a preexisting pattern, it just wouldn't go. I tried to think of a relaxing scene to get myself to sleep, and as far as I got with that before drifting off to slumber was, "blue...... truck".
The comedown consisted of me sleeping until 11:30 AM the next day and feeling extremely groggy all day after.
All in all I definitely didn't hate the experience. I somewhat liked it, and that scares me, considering gabapentin has some troubling side effects. It is an incredibly unusual state to inhabit, and sometime soon I would like to "test drive" it one single time without having a panic attack, so that I can better scope out what that state is like. I really want to know what watching TV or playing video games would be like on this, but I cannot allow myself to make a habit of it. I also want to try taking it when my shoulder and/or restless legs are acting up, to see if it really can quickly put a stop to the pain.
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