Is Gabapentin Addictive? What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a prescription drug that is gaining popularity and is increasingly being used in the United States for the treatment of many conditions. In 2018, the number of prescriptions for gabapentin reached over 45 million prescriptions making it the Top 11th most prescribed drug in the United States.
With so many people taking the drug, the question of whether or not gabapentin is addictive has been asked a lot of times. If you are already taking the drug or still considering taking it, you’re probably wondering if there is a risk of getting addicted. Is Gabapentin Addictive? In this article, we will talk about what gabapentin is and whether this drug can be addictive or not.
Is Gabapentin Addictive? What does Gabapentin Do?
Gabapentin is a drug that is mainly used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and to stop seizures. Many doctors will prescribe gabapentin to treat nerve pain in the body because it can help reduce your symptoms such as tingling sensations, numbness, and burning sensations. Gabapentin is also prescribed for many off-label uses such as diabetic neuropathy, bipolar disorder, anxiety, ADHD, restless leg syndrome, and complex regional pain syndrome, among others.
Gabapentin is not an opioid as many people might think, instead, it is a type of anticonvulsant; it also has properties that can be considered an anxiolytic. Gabapentin affects the brain and interferes with how certain chemicals are released, which in turn modifies activity in different parts of the body such as those associated with anxiety or seizures. It belongs to the sedative class of drugs which means that it slows down brain activity to produce sleepiness or tranquil feelings.
Is Gabapentin Addictive?
It is possible to get addicted to gabapentin. While gabapentin has a lower risk for abuse, it is still possible to get addicted to the drug. Gabapentin addiction can occur from getting hooked on its effects without seeking out medical help. Abuse of the medication can lead you to gabapentin addiction, which is dangerous for your overall health and well-being.
A lot of people take gabapentin not realizing that it could be addictive. That’s because gabapentin is widely considered a non-addictive drug so it’s being used as an off-label drug for many different conditions including pain and anxiety. For the most part, people can use it without becoming addicted if they follow their legitimate prescriptions and they will not have withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing use of the drug. However, some individuals become highly dependent on gabapentin and use it for a long time.
In the past, gabapentin was rarely used as a recreational drug because many people do not believe that they can get addicted to the drug. However, as other prescription drugs like opioids and anti-anxiety drugs became more difficult to acquire, some users turn to gabapentin to satisfy their drug cravings. In fact, due to the rapid increase of gabapentin use in the United States, there are some states including Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and Michigan that reclassified the drug as a controlled substance.
Is Gabapentin Addictive? Effects of Abuse
The use of gabapentin should be closely monitored by a doctor, to monitor side effects. Some people experience a rush of euphoria or “high” when using this drug, which can lead them to use it in higher doses or in ways other than how it was prescribed. Abusing this medication can lead to more severe side effects and increases the risk of overdose and physical dependence.
A study published by The Annals of Pharmacotherapy reported that addiction to and abuse of gabapentin were most likely to occur in individuals who had a history of addiction to other substances, including alcohol, cocaine, and opioids. Rates of gabapentin misuse were 1.1 percent in the general population and 22 percent in drug abuse treatment centers. People who abuse gabapentin often take extremely high doses of the drug or combine it with illicit substances to enhance its effects.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) lists the following side effects of gabapentin:
- Shaking in one part of the body
- Blurry or doubled vision
- Difficulty with memory
- Strange or unusual thoughts
- Uncontrolled eye movement
- Red, itchy eyes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Swelling in the extremities
- Back or joint pain
- Ear pain
Other more serious side effects include rash, itching, swelling of the face or mouth, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and seizures. These side effects indicate a serious reaction to the drug and require immediate medical attention.
Is Gabapentin Addictive? Signs of Overdose
Symptoms of overdose according to NLM include:
- Double vision
- Slurred speech
If too much gabapentin is taken accidentally, or if the drug is abused, it is possible to overdose and experience adverse effects. The risk of overdose increases after withdrawal, if the individual returns to gabapentin use and does not increase the dosage gradually. Dosages of gabapentin should always be increased and decreased by small amounts over at least several days. An overdose of any substance requires immediate medical attention. Overdose can cause lasting damage to internal organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Is Gabapentin Addictive? Symptoms of Withdrawal
Gabapentin withdrawal occurs when stopping the use of the drug after becoming physically dependent on it. It is possible to become physically dependent on gabapentin even when using the medication only as prescribed, particularly if it is used on a long-term basis.
NLM lists the following symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal:
- Difficulty sleeping
Symptoms of withdrawal typically begin within 12 hours of the last drug use and may last up to a week. If gabapentin is being used to treat a seizure disorder, stopping the use of the drug too suddenly can cause the frequency of seizures to increase.
Gabapentin can cause mood changes and may trigger depressive episodes, as well as compulsive thoughts. Withdrawal can also trigger mood episodes and other mental health problems, including anxiety and suicidal ideation. This is more likely in young adults and children. These symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal can last longer than acute physical symptoms, sometimes lasting weeks or months.
There are currently no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of gabapentin withdrawal. Some withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and pain, may be treated with medications specifically for those symptoms. The main treatment for gabapentin withdrawal is supportive medical care and behavioral interventions. If addiction is present, withdrawal may be the first step in the recovery process from a substance use disorder.
Is Gabapentin Addictive? Treatment
Frequent and excessive use of Gabapentin can lead to a physical and psychological dependence on the drug. This is when someone becomes so accustomed to taking a drug that they need it to feel and function normally. Quitting a drug like Gabapentin cold turkey can be dangerous and induce several withdrawal symptoms of varying severity. These include anxiety, insomnia, nausea, pain, and sweating.
Quitting also increases one’s likelihood of having a seizure which can lead to personal injury or the development of medical problems and life-threatening emergencies. Trying to quit should be done at a rehab facility or with the guidance and supervision of a professional during medical detox.
Is Gabapentin Addictive? Reclaim Your Life From Gabapentin Addiction
Gabapentin Addiction is a condition that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition and give you clarity about questions such as Is Gabapentin Addictive? by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 Taylor CP, Gee NS, Su TZ, Kocsis JD, Welty DF, Brown JP, Dooley DJ, Boden P, Singh L. A summary of mechanistic hypotheses of gabapentin pharmacology. Epilepsy Res. 1998 Feb;29(3):233-49. doi: 10.1016/s0920-1211(97)00084-3. PMID: 9551785.