Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication commonly used to control epileptic seizures and treat a painful nerve condition called postherpetic neuralgia. It can also be used off-label for migraines and chronic pain. While it is not considered a controlled substance or narcotic, gabapentin is available by prescription only. A popular brand name for gabapentin is Neurontin.
When you think of addictive substances, gabapentin may not be the first drug that comes to mind. Nonetheless, gabapentin addiction is possible. For some, gabapentin is seen as an alternative to opioids. In fact, the medication is known as an “opioid potentiate” because it can increase the high felt with opioids, including fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and heroin.
Why Is Gabapentin Abused?
Although gabapentin is generally believed to be less addictive than opioids, it is still a product of potential abuse and addiction. In a study examining drug abuse, 15% of individuals reported using gabapentin with other drugs to get high. 1
This medication is usually abused for its ability to:
Another reason for abuse is the surplus number of prescriptions written. In 2019, doctors wrote over forty-seven million prescriptions of gabapentin, a twenty-nine million increase from 2004 (the first year it became available). 2
Common side effects of gabapentin addiction include:
More serious side effects of Neurontin addiction include rashes, swelling of the face, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and seizures.
The biggest concern with gabapentin abuse is the risk of a gabapentin overdose. While it can be difficult to overdose on this drug, many overdoses caused by gabapentin combined with other drugs have been documented. The signs and symptoms of a gabapentin overdose include:
If you suspect you or someone you know has overdosed on gabapentin, call 911 as soon as possible.
Combining gabapentin and alcohol can be extremely dangerous because both substances are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, meaning they slow down bodily functions like heart rate and breathing. In 2019, the FDA issued a statement warning that gabapentin could increase the risk of respiratory depression, which is a condition that prevents normal, effective breathing and can be fatal. 3
In addition to lowered heart rate and breathing, CNS depressants slow brain activity and cause drowsiness and dizziness. Thus, when alcohol is taken with gabapentin, these effects can worsen and lead to serious consequences like injury, unresponsiveness, and trouble breathing.
It’s not always easy to spot the signs of addiction. However, there are some common signs and symptoms of Neurontin addiction to look out for.
Physical signs of gabapentin abuse include:
Psychological signs of gabapentin abuse include:
Behavioral signs of gabapentin addiction include:
Since gabapentin can be addictive, withdrawal symptoms can be experienced when someone quits using the substance.
Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms include:
Most people notice withdrawal symptoms within twenty-four to forty-eight hours of taking their last dose. Gabapentin addiction withdrawal symptoms are reported to peak three days after the last dose, and the symptoms can be improved by taking a normal (prescribed) dose of the medication.
Many options for gabapentin (Neurontin) addiction and abuse treatment are available.
A good first step is gabapentin detox. Although it is possible to detox at home or under a doctor’s supervision, many facilities offer intensive drug detox programs that monitor gabapentin withdrawal symptoms more closely. The gabapentin withdrawal timeline (how quickly or slowly people should stop taking the drug) and symptoms depend on the duration, frequency, and amount of gabapentin taken and their overall health. 4
For those who use a high dose of gabapentin, pair gabapentin with other substances, or have other medical conditions, detoxing in a medical facility is the best and safest option. Genesis Recovery offers medically assisted detox that provides around-the-clock support and care to ensure you are safe and comfortable.
Residential rehab programs give people the chance to heal and recover from gabapentin abuse while staying at a treatment facility. Residential treatment at Genesis Recovery offers compassionate, one-on-one care in a peaceful setting where your treatment plan is tailored to your exact needs.
People can also opt for outpatient gabapentin rehab programs, which involve attending the facility a few days per week. Genesis Recovery offers in-depth outpatient care that accommodates your schedule to ensure you can recover in a way that best suits you.
Additionally, the healing journey doesn’t end once you’ve completed inpatient or outpatient care—Genesis provides continuing care programs to ensure you always have support to maintain a healthy and addiction-free life successfully.