By: Zinnia Healing Editorial Staff | Edited By: Rebecca Hill
Getting Help for Gabapentin Addiction
Gabapentin, sold under the brand name Neurontin, is primarily used to treat seizures and nerve pain. For patients who take prescribed gabapentin, this medication can be life-changing, as the symptoms it treats are often debilitating. However, there are concerns about potential misuse. Clinical research suggests gabapentin is now prevalent as a drug of abuse, with effects varying based on dosage, psychiatric history, the user, and expectations.
If you or your loved one are struggling with a gabapentin addiction, Zinnia Healing can help. You deserve a happier, healthier life, and we can help you achieve it. Check out our substance use treatment options today.
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is primarily prescribed to prevent partial seizures and relieve pain associated with specific nervous system conditions, such as shingles and restless leg syndrome. This anticonvulsant medication was first developed in the 1970s but was not FDA-approved until 1993. The off-label uses range from treating bipolar disorder and PTSD to painful diabetic neuropathy.
How Does Gabapentin Work?
The way gabapentin interacts with GABA, a brain chemical that offers calming properties, is unknown. While gabapentin has a similar structure to GABA, it does not bind to its receptors. Instead, it releases chemicals that “excite” nerve cells, causing them to fire messages. These messages are how brain cells communicate, resulting in specific effects. There is also evidence that gabapentin increases serotonin levels in healthy study participants. This chemical influences your mood and sleep patterns.
More research is required to fully understand how this drug works within the brain and spine. However, it is believed to alter the way nerves send messages. By calming nerve activity, seizure intensity is reduced, and pain is blocked.
The elimination half-life of gabapentin is 5 to 7 hours, and it takes approximately two days for the body to eliminate the drug.
Is Gabapentin Commonly Abused?
Federally, gabapentin is not listed as a controlled drug and is considered non-addictive. However, there are now growing concerns about its potential for misuse. Several states have moved this drug to the Schedule V controlled substance category. This category includes substances with a lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV, III, II, and I substances. These substances contain limited quantities of certain narcotics. However, the potential for abuse is well-known.
As reports of gabapentin abuse continue to increase, more research is being conducted on its effects. For example, gabapentin misuse can produce euphoria similar to opioid misuse. When combined with other central nervous system depressants, respiratory depression can result. Data shows that as many as 40% to 65% of people prescribed gabapentin misuse it, and around 15% to 22% of people with opioid use disorder also reported misusing it.
The goal is to increase clinician awareness so they can exercise caution among individuals with a history of substance use disorders.
Are you someone struggling with gabapentin abuse? If so, Zinnia Healing offers comprehensive, evidence-based support. Helping is standing by 24/7, so do not hesitate to call (855) 430-9439. Today could be the day you begin your new life.
What Happens If You Suddenly Stop Taking Gabapentin?
Several severe reactions are associated with gabapentin, including withdrawal seizures and withdrawal symptoms if discontinued abruptly. In most cases, withdrawal symptoms surface 1-2 days after sudden gabapentin discontinuation. These symptoms develop following chronic use and often mimic alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal.
There are unique case reports that showcase the effects of gabapentin withdrawal, including one involving a geriatric patient with a 5-year history of gabapentin use. She was treated for enhanced bipolar and was tapered off the drug over one week. This patient experienced debilitating symptoms, including flu-like symptoms, severe chest pain, and mental changes. This example shows the importance of detoxifying in a controlled, clinical environment, especially when dealing with a dual diagnosis. This diagnosis is given to patients struggling with two mental health disorders, two substance abuse problems, or a combination. This diagnosis can complicate the treatment process, as symptoms are experienced simultaneously.
Another case report by Hellwig and Hammerquist in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy highlighted the range of gabapentin withdrawal symptoms experienced by a 53-year-old woman. The patient had pre-existing health conditions, including depression. When she stopped taking gabapentin, she developed a wide range of symptoms, including agitation, anxiety, confusion, restlessness, and disorientation.
No two patients experience the same symptoms, which is why you need to seek the support of a medical team — especially if you have other medical conditions that could worsen in response to detoxification.
Gabapentin Detoxification and Withdrawal Timeline
While gabapentin is often used to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, it too can create withdrawal effects during the detoxification process. One of the most concerning symptoms is the possibility of increasing seizure frequency. For patients who are epileptic, detoxification should be completed under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
Research shows that symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal occur between 12 hours and seven days of discontinuation. However, most patients experience gabapentin withdrawal symptoms between 24 and 72 hours. The most common symptom is agitation, followed by confusion, excessive sweating, gastrointestinal symptoms, tremors, faster heart rate, and insomnia.
Each individual experience is unique and may also involve the development of seizures, severe restlessness, and catatonia — a group of symptoms often involving a lack of movement and communication. When you seek the assistance of a professional treatment center, you will gain access to a tapering plan to reduce the severity of side effects. High doses of gabapentin will be slowly reduced over a set period based on your taper schedule. During the detox process, you will be monitored to ensure your needs are met.
The Link Between Gabapentin and Depression
Antiepileptic drugs, including gabapentin, can worsen symptoms of depression or lead to unusual changes in mood and behavior. This consideration is particularly important among those living with a pre-existing depressive disorder. The greatest concern is the potential risk of suicidal thoughts and worsening depression. These symptoms can begin as early as one week after starting drug treatment with gabapentin. If this is the case, a dual-diagnosis program can be a life-changing experience.
Seeking Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction
Starting addiction treatment can be daunting, but with the support of Zinnia Healing, it can be one of the best steps you take. If you have tried quitting cold turkey unsuccessfully or have a co-occurring mental health disorder, you must receive the help you need to help you achieve a healthier, happier future.
At Zinnia Healing, we specialize in substance abuse and mental health treatment, providing evidence-based options through inpatient and outpatient programs. Whether you are struggling with gabapentin withdrawal syndrome, alcohol use disorder, or have developed a physical dependence on any other substance of abuse, we’re here to help.
Zinnia Healing is available and waiting to help you quit gabapentin. Ready to start healing? Contact our caring team today.