Gabapentin Addiction

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Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant prescribed to control seizures in people with epilepsy.

Some types of gabapentin can also treat nerve pain and RLS (restless legs syndrome).

Less frequently, gabapentin is prescribed to treat anxiety in individuals with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorders. Gabapentin for anxiety alone is typically ineffective.

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What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is available in both branded and generic forms. An anticonvulsant, gabapentin is prescribed for the prevention and management of seizures. Physicians also prescribe gabapentin for nerve pain after an outbreak of shingles.

The various brands of gabapentin are approved for the FDA for the treatment of different conditions and are not interchangeable:

  • Gralise: prescribed only for postherpetic nerve pain (pain after a shingles diagnosis).
  • Neurontin: prescribed for the treatment of partial-onset seizures and for postherpetic nerve pain.
  • Horizant: prescribed in extended-release form as supplementary therapy for partial-onset seizures and for postherpetic nerve pain.

What is gabapentin used for, then?

What is it Used For?

The primary use for gabapentin is to prevent or manage seizures. The medication calms nerve activity and reduces the intensity and occurrence of seizures.

The branded version of gabapentin called Neurontin can treat one type of epilepsy in children aged 3 and above.

Some adults and children take other medications in combination with gabapentin to manage the symptoms of epilepsy.

Gabapentin can reduce complications of shingles like post-herpetic neuralgia.

The extended-release gabapentin tablets marketed as Horizant can be used to treat RLS.

Research indicates that gabapentin combined with oxycontin (an opioid) could improve quality of life and reduce pain in those with severe cancer-related pain. The medication is not widely prescribed for this purpose.

Gabapentin Side Effects

Like most prescription medications, there is a risk of side effects when taking gabapentin. These include any of the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Tremors

Less common side effects of this anticonvulsant include:

  • Mood changes
  • Depressive episodes
  • Suicidal thoughts

Gabapentin Addiction

Using gabapentin long-term can bring about physical dependence. If you subsequently discontinue use of the medication, you will experience adverse withdrawal symptoms like confusion, anxiety, and possibly seizures.

Those who abuse gabapentin often combine the medication with opioids. This can heighten the risk of overdose.

While taking gabapentin does not often lead to addiction, look out for the following red flags:

  • Lying about symptoms to obtain more gabapentin.
  • Seeing more than one doctor to get more gabapentin.
  • Switching doctors if the physician refuses to prescribe more of the medication.
  • Changes in social habits.
  • Unease or anxiety if gabapentin is unavailable
  • Inability to quit despite financial, social, or legal ramifications.
  • Failed attempts to moderate or discontinue use.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Gabapentin may cause physical dependence, but the medication does not have a strong potential for addiction.

Addiction to gabapentin almost exclusively occurs in those with existing opioid use disorders or other substance use disorders.

Gabapentin and Alcohol

Taking the prescription medication gabapentin and alcohol in combination can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and problems with concentration and focus. 

If your physician prescribes you gabapentin as an anticonvulsant, you should limit your alcohol consumption. If possible, avoid alcohol completely while taking this medication.

Using alcohol and gabapentin together will increase the likelihood of experiencing adverse side effects from the medication.

If you mix gabapentin and alcohol, this can trigger the following serious side effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Mood changes
  • Behavioral changes
  • Worsening depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Impaired bodily functions
  • Respiratory distress
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Using gabapentin long-term can also bring about physical dependence. If you subsequently discontinue use of the medication, you will experience adverse withdrawal symptoms like confusion, anxiety, and possibly seizures.

While the side effects triggered by gabapentin are typically mild and fleeting, they can become much more pronounced when you combine the medication with alcohol.

Gabapentin Overdose

Using either gabapentin or alcohol in isolation can cause depression of the CNS (central nervous system), as well as respiratory depression. Combining the substances can inflame either or both of these depressive effects.

CNS depressants slow down activity in the brain. These medications also frequently cause dizziness and drowsiness. Since both alcohol and gabapentin are depressants of the central nervous system, combining the substances can increase dizziness and drowsiness, increasing your risk of experiencing impairments or accidents. Using alcohol and gabapentin together also heightens the chance of seizures.

If combining alcohol and gabapentin triggers respiratory depression, your breathing could become so slow and shallow that it stops completely. A 2019 FDA Drug Safety Communication reports that the risk of respiratory depression is increased when gabapentin is used in combination with other CNS depressants, leading to potentially fatal overdose.

You should never abruptly stop using gabapentin, though, due to the heightened risk for seizures.

Gabapentin Withdrawal

Even if you take gabapentin as directed, it is possible to develop physical dependence. If you misuse or abuse this medication, you might experience significant dependence and intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Research indicates that taking daily gabapentin doses of 400mg to 8,000mg for three weeks can trigger withdrawal symptoms.

Studies show that gabapentin withdrawal is similar in presentation to alcohol withdrawal and benzodiazepine withdrawal. All of these substances act on GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) in the brain.

Withdrawal typically occurs from 12 hours to 7 days after the last use of gabapentin.

There is no clear documentation of a standard withdrawal timeline for this medication. Anecdotal evidence suggests that symptoms could last for up to 10 days. 

A tapered reduction of dosage is the best way to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. The taper takes place over one week or so. Dose should be reduced by no more than 300mg every 4 days.

Symptoms

These are the most common gabapentin withdrawal symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Irregular heartbeat

Addiction Treatment at California Detox

Whether you are addicted to prescription medications, alcohol, or illicit drugs, we have a variety of treatment programs here at California Detox to help you kickstart your recovery. 

If you have a more severe addiction, a co-occurring mental health disorder, or an unstable home environment, our luxury inpatient rehab provides a secure environment free of distractions or triggers.

Those with mild or moderate addictions might find outpatient treatment offers sufficient structure and support. In addition to OPs (traditional outpatient programs), you can also access IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) or PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) at our beachside treatment facility. 

Before engaging with therapy, you must first detox from drink or drugs. Our supervised medical detox program can help reduce the intensity of both cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

You can access the following evidence-based therapies at California Detox:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

Take advantage of inpatient or outpatient rehab at our luxury Huntington Beach facility and move from active to addiction into ongoing recovery. Call admissions right now for immediate assistance.

FAQs

Gabapentin is not a controlled substance in most states. Gabapentin is a controlled substance in Kentucky with the drug implicated in almost one-third of 2016 overdose deaths in the state.

Although Gabapentin may cause weight gain, it is not a common side effect. If weight gain occurs, expect to gain up to five pounds after taking the medication for six weeks.

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