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Even prescription medication can lead to addiction, which can result in and subsequent withdrawal symptoms and the need for treatment. Whether your doctor recommended gabapentin for a medical condition or you’ve been using the substance without a prescription, it’s important to know how to handle stopping the medication.

First: What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin, or “Gabbies” as it is commonly known, is a medication proven to effectively treat various conditions. As an anticonvulsant and antiepileptic[1], Gabapentin is used to treat seizures, neuropathic pain, restless leg syndrome, and anxiety disorders.

The medication works by binding to calcium channels in the brain, which helps to reduce the incidence of seizures and nerve-related pain.

However, while Gabapentin can be a safe and effective treatment for nerve pain and other conditions, in some cases, there can be unintended misuse of the medication when not taken as prescribed, and it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks associated with its long-term use.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Gabapentin is often considered a harmless medication because the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) doesn’t consider it a controlled substance. However, it’s essential to understand that this doesn’t mean it’s not addictive.

Without the same regulations as other substances, gabapentin abuse can quickly go undetected. Therefore, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential for addiction and abuse and be cautious when using this medication.

Gabapentin can be addictive[2] due to its ability to produce a euphoric high in large doses. Some individuals may exceed their prescribed dosage to achieve these effects, resulting in tolerance and dependence over time.

Mixing gabapentin with opioids or alcohol is very dangerous. Doing so increases the risk of overdose and can be fatal. Gabapentin also interacts with other central nervous system depressants, so it’s essential to use caution and avoid risky combinations. Always consult with your doctor or pharmacist before taking gabapentin with other substances.

If you’re taking gabapentin and are concerned about the potential for addiction, it’s essential to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you understand the risks and benefits of the medication and create a safe and effective treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Signs and Symptoms of Gabapentin Withdrawal

Gabapentin withdrawal can occur in several ways, including abruptly stopping the drug, missing a few doses, or rapidly lowering the amount. This is because the brain becomes accustomed to the effects of the medication and can cause physical and psychological symptoms when suddenly withdrawn.

The range and severity of symptoms vary depending on individual tolerance, dosage, and duration of use. The physical symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal can be mild to severe and can last for several weeks.

Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue

Although rare, some individuals may also experience rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, fever, and seizures.

Gabapentin withdrawal can also cause a range of psychological symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations

Withdrawal symptoms from gabapentin can last weeks to months, depending on how long a person has taken it. However, it is crucial to recognize that some psychological symptoms may indicate a more severe condition and require evaluation by a medical professional.

Treatment Options for Gabapentin Addiction

person in recovery, seeking Treatment Options for Gabapentin Addiction

If you or your loved one is dealing with an addiction to Gabapentin, seeking professional help is crucial. There are various treatment methods available to safely and effectively manage this addiction. Consider some of these options:

Medical Detoxification

Detoxification is an essential first step in the treatment of gabapentin addiction. It involves the removal of drug remnants from the body. At the same time, ensuring the safety and comfort of the patient undergoing detoxification is crucial. As such, gabapentin detoxification is typically done under medical supervision.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective talk therapy commonly used to treat addiction. Rather than simply addressing symptoms, CBT helps patients identify and alter negative thinking patterns that may be contributing to their addiction.

Through learning techniques to recognize triggers and develop healthy coping strategies, patients are empowered to take control of their addictive behaviors and lead happier, healthier lives.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is an effective counseling option that promotes healing from addiction. In group therapy, individuals can openly discuss their addiction journey with a supportive community of peers who understand the challenges of addiction.

This collaborative approach helps patients gain valuable insight and tools and fosters a sense of accountability that is key to long-term success. Joining a group can make all the difference in someone’s recovery journey.

Outpatient Rehabilitation

Outpatient rehabilitation is an effective and convenient option for patients struggling with mild to moderate addiction. This treatment allows patients to continue their daily activities while receiving therapy sessions for a few hours a week.

Unlike inpatient rehab programs, outpatient rehab provides more flexibility and is suitable for patients with a stable home environment. In addition, it’s an excellent option for those who want to maintain their work, school, or family obligations while addressing their addiction.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Inpatient rehabilitation provides an immersive treatment experience for those struggling with severe addiction or an unstable home environment. Patients reside in a recovery center from several weeks to several months, receiving therapeutic support around the clock.

With close medical supervision and 24/7 care, patients can achieve sobriety through this residential treatment program.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gabapentin

How Does Gabapentin Work?

Gabapentin's precise mode of action is not entirely clear, but it's believed to impact the neurotransmitter release in the brain, which affects the perception of pain and seizures. Specifically, Gabapentin targets the alpha-2-delta subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels, reducing the feeling of pain.

What are the Most Common Side Effects of Gabapentin?

While most people may experience common side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, and drowsiness, these typically disappear as your body adjusts to the medication. Your doctor can help manage these side effects by adjusting your dose or suggesting a different time of day to take the medicine. However, if you experience more severe side effects like suicidal thoughts, allergic reactions, or seizures, it's crucial to seek medical attention immediately. These side effects are rare, but staying vigilant and communicating concerns with your doctor is important.

Who Shouldn't Take Gabapentin?

Gabapentin can cause problems for people with kidney or liver issues or who are allergic to the medication. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should talk to their doctors before taking Gabapentin, as it might harm the developing fetus or nursing infant. Also, because Gabapentin can interact with other drugs, it's important to inform your doctor of any medicines you're taking.

Learn More About Gabapentin Treatment Options

Don’t suffer from withdrawal symptoms and the struggle of maintaining sobriety alone. Call and speak with a member of the Ascendant NY team today to learn about our prescription drug addiction treatment programs.

 

Sources:

[1] Perloff, M. D., & Berlin, R. K. (2016, January). Gabapentin in Headache Disorders: What Is the Evidence? Oxford Academic. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/17/1/162/1752969 on April 27, 2023

[2] Yasaei, R. (n.d.). Gabapentin. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493228/ April 27, 2023

[3] Peckham, A. M., Evoy, K. E., Ochs, L., & Covvey, J. R. (2018, September 23). Gabapentin for off-label use: Evidence-based or cause for concern? Substance abuse: research and treatment. Retrieved  from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6153543/ on April 27, 2023

Medical Content Writer

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being a mother to two beautiful children.

Last medically reviewed April 17, 2023