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What To Know About Gabapentin Addiction

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Gabapentin Addiction

Gabapentin is ideal because it is a less addictive alternative to opioids. However, that does not mean the painkiller is not prone to being abused by some users. Gabapentin abuse and addiction still occur in many patients.

Navigation: Gabapentin Overview, Gabapentin Abuse and Effects, Gabapentin Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Effects, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


Although Gabapentin is less addictive than opioids, this prescription painkiller can still be abused, and an addiction can still develop. In fact, it is also possible to overdose on Gabapentin. This is why it is important to take a closer look at what this drug really is, what it does, and what happens when a person abuses it.


Gabapentin Overview

Gabapentin is more commonly known by the brand name Neurontin. This prescription painkiller belongs to its own drug class, Gabapentinoids. This drug is considered an anti-convulsant, and is often used to treat restless leg syndrome, hot flashes, epilepsy, and neuropathic pain.

The chemical structure of Gabapentin is similar to Gamma-aminobutyric or GABA acid. This is the brain chemical that affects the body’s nervous system. It can produce feelings of calmness and relaxation, which helps patients with anxiety, nerve pain, and sleeping difficulties. Gabapentin can also be prescribed to treat alcohol withdrawal, cocaine withdrawal, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, and seizures.

Gabapentin is ideal because it is a less addictive alternative to opioids. However, that does not mean the painkiller is not prone to being abused by some users. Gabapentin abuse and addiction still occur in many patients.

The drug’s known street names are “gabbies” or “johnnies.”


Gabapentin Abuse and Effects

The risk of Gabapentin abuse is significantly higher in people who already have an addiction to opioids and other drugs. This painkiller gives users an intoxicating experience that has been described as similar to marijuana. The calming and euphoric high is what gets people hooked on the drug and motivates them to keep taking it outside of their prescribed dosage.

Not only can Gabapentin abuse lead to addiction, it can also cause suicidal thoughts, mood swings, and abrupt changes in a user’s behavior. Continued use can cause elevated blood pressure, fever, sleep problems, changes in appetite, and chest pain.

A Kentucky study conducted in 2013 found that of the 503 participants reporting illegal drug use, 15 percent reported using Gabapentin in addition to other drugs to get high in the previous six months.

Another study used a sample of participants meant to represent the national population. They found that almost a quarter of patients with co-prescriptions of opioids and Gabapentin were getting more than three times their prescribed amount to supply their addiction.

Due to the drug’s legal status, it is difficult to address the problem of people using it without a prescription. States where Gabapentin abuse is becoming more common are starting to classify the drug as a more strictly controlled substance.

Gabapentin is one of the most popular prescription medications in the US as of 2019, mainly because of its unique ability to address multiple ailments. Despite its somewhat low abuse potential, its ability to be used in conjunction with other drugs is a cause for concern.

Gabapentin Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Effects

Excessive use of Gabapentin may lead to drowsiness, dizziness, tremors, coordination problems, depression, changes in mood and behavior, suicidal thoughts, forgetfulness, anxiety, difficulty speaking, and inability to feel pleasure.

There are other signs to look out for if you think a loved one is abusing their Gabapentin prescription. Red flags include an abundance of pill bottles, and “doctor shopping”—which is the act of visiting multiple doctors in an attempt to get the same prescription for Gabapentin repeatedly.

They may lie or exaggerate symptoms to doctors to get prescribed with a higher dosage. If their original doctor refuses to continue prescribing the medication, the person abusing Gabapentin may try to switch doctors.

Long term abuse of any prescription medication is detrimental to one’s health, livelihood, and overall safety. Loved ones may notice changes in the person’s social habits. Addicted individuals tend to neglect their responsibilities in favor of abusing their drug of choice. They will be constantly preoccupied with the drug. If Gabapentin is unavailable, the person will feel uneasy.

Overall there will be noticeable changes in their personal hygiene, appearance, grooming habits, clothing, and behavior. The most obvious sign of addiction is refusing to quit even when they are already experiencing the negative effects and struggling with the consequences. They may attempt to quit and fail repeatedly.

Many Gabapentin users in early recovery use it at high doses—usually 800mg or more—so that they can experience the euphoric-high that it gives. Gabapentin abusers typically take the drug along with other opioids to produce their desired high. Taking Gabapentin in combination with any other drug can lead to a fatal overdose.

Unfortunately, there is currently no antidote that can be administered to someone in the case of a Gabapentin overdose, as there is with opioid overdoses. Signs of an overdose include drowsiness, muscle weakness, lethargy, drooping eyelids, diarrhea, and sedation. If a person taking Gabapentin exhibits these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

If someone in the family is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it is important to seek help. A combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy can go a long way in the fight against substance abuse. But because every individual is affected by addiction differently, a comprehensive program tailored to their specific needs is necessary. Look for a nearby addiction treatment facility today and find out how drug treatment programs work.


Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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