Is Gabapentin Addictive? And Other Important Facts

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication widely prescribed for seizure management, but is the drug addictive?

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a prescription medication used to treat seizure disorders and specific types of nerve pain. Gabapentin or Neurontin is an anticonvulsant, meaning it reduces convulsion or seizure activity. Research has yet to pinpoint precisely how Gabapentin works. Some studies suggest that it may alter calcium levels in seizure patients, reducing susceptibility to seizure activity. For nerve pain, it may reduce or inhibit pain sensitivity.

Is Gabapentin Addictive


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How Does Gabapentin Work?

Gabapentin is used in pain management as a less addictive alternative to opioid medications; however, addiction to Gabapentin can and does occur. Often, those who abuse or misuse Gabapentin mix it with other substances. Unlike opioids, Gabapentin does not interact with the opioid receptors in the brain and is therefore not considered as addictive as opioids. However, it does interact with other receptors on the brain (GABA neurotransmitters), which are responsible for feelings of relaxation and pleasure. Therefore, it is possible to develop a psychological dependence on the effects of the drug.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Gabapentin has been prescribed as an alternative to opioids for several years since it was deemed less risky by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, this may change soon as several states examine addiction and overdose statistics.3

How Common is Gabapentin Addiction?

When used as directed, Gabapentin itself is not highly addictive. However, in recent years, the number of emergency room admissions involving Gabapentin used for “off-label” purposes has piqued the concern of medical professionals.

One report by the Drug Abuse Warning Network suggests ER visits in the United States involving nonmedical Gabapentin use have increased by 90% since 2008. A report released by the National Institutes of Health indicated that in 2019, a study on 250 former inmates with substance use disorders found that 16% reported Gabapentin misuse. It is also used to cut—or dilute–heroin, further increasing abuse risk.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Gabapentin Addiction?

Recognizing the signs of potential Gabapentin abuse can help allow you to know when a friend or loved one is in need of help. Signs of Gabapentin substance abuse can include:

  • Changes in social habits and/or circles.
  • Failed attempts to quit.
  • Unease at the thought of the drug not being available.
  • Changes in personal hygiene and grooming habits.
  • Lying about or exaggerating symptoms to doctors.
  • Refusal to quit regardless of known social, financial, or legal consequences.
  • Seeking out multiple doctors to get additional prescriptions for the drug.

Symptoms of Gabapentin Overdose and Withdrawal

Many are aware of the ever present risks posed by opiates, with regard to addiction and overdose. However, antidotes one can administer to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose do exist; unlike Gabapentin, which does not have an overdose antidote.
While it is possible to fatally overdose on Gabapentin, at this time there is no antidote to counteract the effects. Because of Gabapentin’s long-half life, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention to manage complications and risks associated with an overdose. Drugs with long half-lives take more time to leave the body and may continue to be absorbed into the bloodstream far after initially being taken.

Signs of Gabapentin Overdose

Recognizing the signs of a potential Gabapentin overdose can help save a loved one from fatal consequences. Symptoms of Gabapentin overdose may include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Notable sedation
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Lethargy

Symptoms of Gabapentin Withdrawal

Because Gabapentin is not classified as a narcotic or addictive substance, many people do not consider the potential dangers of Gabapentin abuse. It is possible to develop a physical dependence on the effects of Gabapentin medication and experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug stops being used. Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within the first week after the last dose and can even occur as fast as the first 12 hours. Symptoms typically last up to ten days. The most common symptoms associated with Gabapentin withdrawal include:
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Body aches and pains
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping

Factors that Influence Severity and Duration of Gabapentin Withdrawal

As previously noted, most withdrawal symptoms begin within a week of your last dose. In some cases, they may begin in as few as 12 hours, lasting no longer than ten days. Factors that contribute to the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Whether Gabapentin was used for recreational or medical purposes.
  • Frequency of use and the dosages taken.
  • If any other drugs were abused simultaneously.
  • Individual factors like age, overall health, lifestyle, mental health, genetics, etc.

Detox and Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction

If you are ready to quit Gabapentin, seeking help at a qualified addiction treatment program is essential. If Gabapentin was prescribed for seizures, abruptly stopping can increase the risk of seizures which can be life-threatening. Most treatment programs will begin with detox. Gabapentin detox allows you to slowly wean off the medication while under medical supervision and support to reduce the risks of potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction

Concise Recovery: A Pivotal Step in Your Recovery Journey

If you struggle with addiction or a co-occurring disorder, consider residential treatment at an inpatient center like Concise Recovery. Inpatient treatment provides support on a continual, 24-hour-a-day basis. During treatment you will participate in therapy programs to help you learn about your addiction and how to maintain lasting sobriety after treatment.

During and after treatment you may attend peer support groups such as 12-step support group meetings. Support groups are a vital part of lasting recovery. By helping you to develop and maintain a network of sober, like-minded peers to learn from and lean on when you need extra help or are faced with powerful relapse triggers, support groups can play a crucial role in sustained sobriety.

Pursue Wellness Today

Contacting a qualified treatment center, like Concise Recovery, to learn more about detox and addiction therapy is an effective first step towards addiction recovery. Let our experienced and caring staff help you begin your journey towards sobriety. Contact our admissions team today for more information.