GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid)

GABA—gamma-aminobutyric acid—is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that also plays a role in muscle tone.

What Does GABA Do?
GABA, like all neurotransmitters, helps to carry nerve signals across a synapse. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it weakens or slows down signals. Because of its inhibitory function, GABA plays an important role in anxiety. When nerve signals fire too quickly and carry anxiety-inducing signals, GABA acts to slow the signals down, reducing overwhelming feelings of anxiety. However, in people with anxiety disorders–including posttraumatic stress, generalized anxiety, and panic disorder–GABA may not work as it should, thus increasing anxiety.

GABA’s Role in Psychology
Different people produce GABA in different quantities, and there is no test that can reliably determine the amount of GABA a person is producing. However, when a person has an anxiety disorder, GABA deficiency is a common factor.

Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety medications such as Ativan, Xanax,and Valium. These medications work on GABA receptors, and can help GABA to slow down anxiety-producing nerve signals.

GABA can also play a role in substance abuse, particularly during the detox process. Dehydration and malnutrition can decrease a person’s GABA production. People with substance abuse often suffer from nutritional deficiencies, and the detox process itself can reduce available GABA. The result can be extreme anxiety. Many doctors prescribe patients anti-anxiety medications during detox. However, substance abuse patients must be carefully monitored when using these drugs, as benzodiazepines can quickly become addictive.


  1. American Psychological Association. APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009. Print.
  2. What is GABA. (n.d.). Novus Detox. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-7-2015

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  • Tina T.

    July 21st, 2018 at 9:39 PM

    I think the way you summarily prescribe psychotropic medications in the U.S. without proper testing. Why prescribe Lamictal to someone who’s never had a seizure at 70? Had brain surgery at 64y.o. has mild anxiety. And peripheral vision loss from damage to rhe fibers that speak to the optic nerve?
    I began this wed 7/18 today is the 21.
    25ng 1x da for1wk; then 2xda 1wk then
    2x am. Then 3x da ending in 4 times a day? All to get the glutamate ratio correct? I wasn’t tested for glutamate.
    I am getting off this after 1 week. After reading how the nerve cells adjust I probably would have a seizure!
    Also concern about double vision and rashes. I am sensitive and have drug reactions. Then reading the lawsuits on
    Lamictal I have to ask are these people nuts?
    Gabapentin irritated my nerves. Doctors just prescribe without testing?
    I’ve done further reading. Kava kava. can be used. Am not a druggie
    This is ridiculous! I’ll start meditation, yoga, I go to self talk therapy fry plantains in coconut oil sprinkled with garlic. Eat lots of broccoli, eggs. Farm raised chicken and bison green and red peppers. Cut carbs for a week drink water dance and watch classic movies from the 40’s. Your capitalist greed has ruined your culture.

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