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Gabapentin Addiction, Withdrawal, and Treatment

gabapentin pills

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug that acts as a mild tranquilizer and is only legally available with a prescription. It is frequently used to treat seizures and pain from nerve damage. It may also be used for medical treatment during alcohol or cocaine withdrawal, for diabetic neuropathy, restless leg syndrome, or anxiety.

The generic version of gabapentin was first introduced in 2004, so it’s still a new drug and experts aren’t exactly sure how it works. However, they do know that it affects the brain and the nervous system.

Gabapentin comes in the form of capsules, tablets, or an oral solution, and people who abuse it may crush the pills and snort the powder or take the pills with opioid drugs and benzodiazepines to enhance its effects and experience a pleasurable high. Abusing alcohol with gabapentin can cause serious dizziness or sleepiness.

Gabapentin is a commonly prescribed prescription drug and it may be abused for recreational purposes. It is not a federally controlled substance, but recreational abuse can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Gabapentin is sold under the following brand names:

  • Neurontin
  • Gralise
  • Gaborone
  • Fanatrex

Street Names for Gabapentin

  • Gabbies
  • Morontin

Gabapentin Addiction and Abuse in the U.S.

Since gabapentin is not a controlled substance in the U.S., it is relatively easy to obtain a prescription for it. It creates feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and calmness in the user, so some people may begin abusing the drug for recreational purposes. Many gabapentin abusers even say the effects are similar to those of marijuana.

 

People who have had previous substance abuse problems with alcohol, opioids, cocaine, and other drugs also tend to abuse gabapentin. In fact, it is much more likely. According to the medical journal, The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, the rate of gabapentin misuse among the general population was only 1.1 percent while the rate of misuse in addiction treatment centers was 22 percent.

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 0.4 million Americans misused prescription sedatives like gabapentin in the past month. Although the first report of gabapentin took place in 2004, the FDA reports that in recent years, law enforcement has encountered it more regularly, it has been documented in national crime lab reports, reported to poison control centers, and diverted for illegal use. Reports from law enforcement also indicate that it is being used as a cutting agent in heroin.

Side Effects of Gabapentin Abuse

It’s often difficult to distinguish the side effects of regular gabapentin use from abuse, but these side effects may be more common and intense among those who are abusing the drug, instead of using it as prescribed by a doctor.

Common side effects of gabapentin abuse may include:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Jerky movements
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle tremors

Signs and symptoms of gabapentin overdose may include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Double vision
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme drowsiness

Signs and Symptoms of Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction

If you think a loved one is addicted to gabapentin or is abusing it for recreational purposes, he or she may display some of the following signs and symptoms of gabapentin abuse:

  • Taking extremely high doses of gabapentin.
  • Using gabapentin with other drugs (especially opioids) or alcohol.
  • Faking symptoms to get gabapentin prescriptions.
  • Doctor shopping (seeing multiple doctors to get gabapentin prescriptions).
  • Being preoccupied with using and/or obtaining gabapentin.
  • Displaying sudden changes in appearance, hygiene, or social habits.
  • Refusing to stop using gabapentin, despite financial problems, relationship issues, or legal problems.

Gabapentin Detox and Withdrawal

Despite its low addictive potential, gabapentin can cause withdrawal symptoms if it is abused. A person may become tolerant and when they stop using it, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. Common gabapentin withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Sweating
  • Flulike symptoms
  • Rebound pain
  • Cravings
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors

If a person is dependent on gabapentin or addicted to it, he or she may need help quitting. Due to the potentially serious withdrawal symptoms, a medical detox program may be the safest and most effective way to detox from gabapentin and any other drug(s) that the person has abused simultaneously.

Since gabapentin abusers often use other drugs to enhance the effects of gabapentin, detox and withdrawal may produce unpredictable effects. As a result, it’s always safest to complete gabapentin detox under the supervision of a trained medical doctor. Medical detox can also reduce the likelihood of relapse and overdose.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline

It is difficult to anticipate what the timeline for gabapentin withdrawal will look like because it will vary greatly depending on several different factors, such as:

  • Whether the gabapentin use was recreational or for medical purposes
  • How much gabapentin was consumed
  • If any other drugs were abused simultaneously
  • Individual factors like age, overall health, lifestyle, mental health, genetics, etc.

All these factors will determine the length and severity of gabapentin drug withdrawal.

Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction

Since most gabapentin abusers use other drugs to enhance its effects to achieve a recreational high, people addicted to gabapentin will most likely be addicted to other substances like opioids or cocaine.

Therefore, treatment for gabapentin addiction should address polydrug abuse as well as the physical, mental, and social effects that come with it.

After completing gabapentin detox, continuing your addiction treatment by enrolling in a rehab program is an essential part of maintaining your sobriety and preventing relapse. In rehab, you’ll learn the essential life skills to sustain sobriety and address the social, behavioral, and psychological issues associated with addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term addiction treatment of at least 90 days is most effective for people who want to sustain their sobriety for good. Anything less is of limited effectiveness. A 90-day drug rehab program is considered a “long-term program” and is typically comprised of the following things:

Inpatient Drug Rehab vs. Outpatient Drug Rehab

As you start researching your options for drug rehab, you’ll find that inpatient residential rehab and outpatient rehab are two of the most common options. Before you make a decision, it’s important to recognize the differences between the two.

Residential drug rehab programs require that you live at the rehab center throughout the duration of your program. You and the other residents will all follow a structured daily schedule to establish consistency on a daily basis. This schedule will consist of individual and group counseling, process groups, educational lectures, meditation, meal and fitness times, and personal free time. Residential rehab may be ideal for someone who struggles with chronic relapse or who needs more structure to succeed in sobriety.
Outpatient drug rehab programs provide the flexibility to live at home while attending rehab. If you’re enrolled in IOP, you’ll be required to attend regularly-scheduled group meetings several times each week. These meetings will be facilitated by an addiction treatment professional and will consist of the same important treatment methods and principles provided in residential rehab. IOP may be ideal for someone who requires less structure or needs to live at home to care for children and/or attend school or work.

The cost of inpatient or outpatient drug rehab will vary based on the type of program, the location of the rehab center, the amenities, and the services offered. However, clients have several different payment options to pay for drug rehab, including:

Continued Care Options for Gabapentin Addiction Treatment

After rehab, the work isn’t over. Overcoming any addiction, not just gabapentin addiction, will take continuous work and effort. It’s ideal to continue your addiction treatment as long as possible because the longer you’re in treatment, the less likely you are to relapse.

Two common types of continued care programs for people in recovery are sober living programs and aftercare programs.

Sober Living Programs

A sober living program offers transitional housing for men and women in recovery. Sober living homes provide safe, sober group housing for people who have recently completed a rehab program or who struggle with chronic relapse.

Sober living programs are designed to help people in recovery achieve sustained sobriety by providing the following services:

  • Regular drug testing
  • Tiered recovery programs
  • Structured living
  • Education/employment/volunteer assistance
  • Personal monitoring
  • Family support

Although the types of services and amenities may vary depending on the sober living home, transitional housing programs are excellent resources for sober individuals who are transitioning from rehab to an independent sober lifestyle.

Sober living costs will vary based on the location of the home, the types of rooms and amenities available, and the recovery support services that are provided.

Aftercare Programs

Aftercare programs are specifically designed to meet the recovery needs of drug and alcohol rehab alumni. In aftercare, clients meet with their peers in recovery weekly and participate in group sessions that can serve as weekly check-ins.

Recovering men and women in aftercare programs use these meetings as a place to share their struggles, success, and relevant discoveries with peers in recovery, as they continually learn how to live a sober life. As a result, these programs promote personal growth, relationship-building skills, and continued sobriety.

If you or a loved one is struggling with gabapentin addiction and abuse, please contact Nova Recovery Center today. We are here to help.

 

References:

  1. https://www.drugs.com/ingredient/gabapentin.html
  2. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/020235s064_020882s047_021129s046lbl.pdf
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24192603
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404313/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24192603
  6. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2017-nsduh-annual-national-report
  7. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/ghb.asp
  8. https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/gabapentin.pdf
  9. https://www.talktofrank.com/drug/gabapentin

 

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