Gabapentin, known as Neurontin, has become a popular medication for treating epilepsy, neuropathic pain, nerve pain, and more. The CDC indicates that gabapentin is a suitable alternative to opiates for clients with chronic pain. This drug is also used to boost the effects of other medications and help control adult seizures. When gabapentin is prescribed by a medical expert and taken responsibly, it offers tremendous relief to several health conditions. It has become one of the most prescribed medicines in the U.S. due to its multiple uses, and in 2017, about 64.8 million prescriptions were dispensed, as per the DEA.
Unfortunately, not all individuals use Neurontin as prescribed. Sometimes, people take more than the prescribed dose, leading to severe outcomes and even deaths. The considerable rise in the number of people abusing this drug is due to its significant relief levels. Substance misuse of gabapentin can produce a marijuana-like high effect, a sense of calm and relaxation. It can also enhance the euphoric effects of heroin. Gabapentin is accessible and is sold for less than a dollar for each pill, which has increased the chances of potential abuse. Here are more in-depth details about the abuse of gabapentin and the treatment options available.
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an FDA-approved prescription drug usually available with the brand name Neurontin. You can get gabapentin through tablets, capsules, or an oral solution. It’s approved to relieve pain from shingles and to treat seizures by reducing the abnormal excitement of the brain’s nerve cells. The drug can also be used to relieve restless legs syndrome.
When taking Gabapentin, follow the pharmacist or doctor’s prescription to avoid under or overdosing. Although it’s recommended that individuals swallow the pills, people who abuse gabapentin may take the pills with benzodiazepines and opioid drugs to enhance the euphoric effects. Others may decide to crush the pills alone and snort the powder.
Gabapentin Abuse Potential
Medical experts have prescribed gabapentin for off-label use for years because it was presumed to have little or no abuse potential. However, this has changed, as several reports have revealed increased gabapentin abuse in recent years.
Although gabapentin isn’t a controlled substance at the state level, some states have chosen to classify it as Schedule V due to the increased misuse cases. Clients abusing this drug say it produces a euphoric feeling like using cannabis. Some main motivations for using gabapentin include self-medication, recreation, and self-harm. Also, abuse tends to occur in individuals already addicted to opioids as they seek to enhance the effects of these drugs. Others may use this drug to manage the withdrawal symptoms of misusing other drugs. However, using gabapentin simultaneously with drugs like opioids or alcohol is dangerous. It increases the risk of severe side effects, such as serious breathing problems, especially for people with respiratory-related risks.
Side Effects of Gabapentin Abuse
If you think your loved one is misusing gabapentin, it may be difficult to distinguish the side effects of abuse from regular use. Typically, clients abusing Neurontin have intense side effects, both physical and psychological, that can escalate to suicidal thoughts.
If you suspect someone is misusing gabapentin, look out for the following warning signs:
- Low Energy
- Memory Loss
- Throat Irritation
- Extreme Drowsiness
- Feelings of Hostility
- Fluid Retention in the feet, arms, and legs
- Dry Mouth
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Lack of Coordination
- Mood Changes
Can You Overdose on Gabapentin?
In a recent study by the CDC about gabapentin overdoses, up to 9.7% of 58,362 overdose deaths showed positive traces of gabapentin in 2019 and 2020. There is a high chance of an overdose if a client illegally uses gabapentin or takes more than the doctor’s prescription. Also, people who abuse this drug to get that high feeling have an elevated risk of overdose. Therefore, gabapentin overdose is either on purpose or accidental. Unfortunately, there is an increased risk of gabapentin overdose, especially when a client has an existing mental health condition like depression.
Using too much gabapentin results in more pronounced versions of the usual side effects. Since this drug is a central nervous system depressant, an overdose slows down the brain and leads to the following side effects:
- Slurred Speech
- Loss of Consciousness
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Double Vision
Also, please be aware that using gabapentin with other drugs can easily lead to an overdose and a fatal outcome.
Can You Become Physical Dependent on Gabapentin?
Continued misuse of Neurontin can make your body physically dependent on this drug. If you suddenly decrease the amount or stop taking gabapentin, you’ll experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Since Neurontin has a short half-life of about five to seven hours, clients can experience withdrawal symptoms in one to two days after discontinuing high levels of gabapentin in young to middle-aged individuals.
Signs and Symptoms of Gabapentin Addiction
If you suspect your loved one may be using this prescription medication for recreational purposes or abusing it and has become addicted to the drug, here are some additional warning signs that they can display:
- Seeking more pharmacists or doctors to get more doses.
- Changes in social circles or habits
- Refusal to quit using gabapentin despite financial, legal, and social consequences.
- Switching doctors if the original one refuses to prescribe the drug again.
- Exaggerating symptoms to the medical expert
- Taking extra doses of the medication
- Changes in grooming habits or hygiene
- Forging prescriptions
Withdrawal Symptoms of Gabapentin Addiction
The withdrawal symptoms exhibited by clients addicted to gabapentin are like those of abruptly discontinuing benzodiazepines and alcohol. A person may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Excessive sweating
- Increased heart rate
- Itchy skin
Note that the withdrawal process may vary from person to person. Below are factors affecting gabapentin withdrawal symptoms:
A person’s genes play a critical part in the likelihood of developing gabapentin dependence or the severity of the dependency, which impacts the withdrawal symptoms.
Length and Amount of Use
People who have consistently abused or misused gabapentin are more prone to drug dependency and might experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
Individuals who have taken high Neurontin doses have a higher likelihood of greater dependence, which significantly impacts the withdrawal symptoms.
Persons using Neurontin to treat medical conditions such as seizures may be highly prone to experiencing the same symptom if they abruptly stop using gabapentin.
Treatment Options for Gabapentin Addiction
People who are addicted or dependent on gabapentin should not abruptly stop taking it. Instead, they should gradually taper off it to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms. However, this may not be as simple as it seems for most people, so a detox program under medical professionals is the best option. In addition, if you are struggling with Neurontin misuse or other substance use disorders, you can receive treatment to help you recover. A rehab center enables you to learn healthy coping skills and the most effective and safest ways of avoiding a relapse. The treatment programs in these facilities include diverse types of care, as outlined below.
Trying to detox from Neurontin without proper medical support and guidance can damage your overall health and even be deadly. Still, it may be difficult to convince yourself or someone close to you to quit using this drug or seek professional assistance. However, detoxification provides the highest comfort and safety during this period.
Intake at detox centers begins with a medical assessment of the client’s mental and physical health and a treatment plan that suits their unique circumstances. In the program, clients receive around-the-clock medical support and are closely monitored and given the necessary medical treatment and psychiatric attention. This helps the client feel comfortable and safe during the acute phase of withdrawal symptoms. In addition, experienced addiction treatment specialists will help you lay a foundation for long-term recovery from SUD. Detoxification programs typically take three to 10 days to complete.
Inpatient Gabapentin Treatment
Residential treatment requires that clients stay in the rehab facility. During the entire duration of the program, clients follow a structured schedule to establish consistency daily. You have round-the-clock medical experts and supervision. You’ll also receive individual, couples, family, group, recreational, and nutritional therapy. Inpatient rehab treatment offers a safe environment away from home where you can have personal free time, meditation, and fitness time, which helps facilitate the necessary changes to overcome gabapentin addiction. The program can range from 28 days or more, depending on the severity of the addiction. Residential rehab programs may be ideal for clients who need more structure to overcome addiction or someone struggling with chronic relapse.
Outpatient Gabapentin Treatment
In outpatient rehab programs, clients can live at home and attend the program at the facility. The program has resources and treatment methods like residential rehabs and individual and group counseling sessions facilitated by a professional. However, the intensity can vary depending on your needs and includes comprehensive care for physical and mental health concerns. Outpatient treatment programs are ideal for a client who caught the addiction early and wants to address it before it significantly impacts their brain. It’s also suitable for people who require less-structured programs, need to attend work or school or care for kids.
Continued Care Options
Once you’ve gone through the medically assisted detoxification process, the work doesn’t end there. Overcoming gabapentin addiction or other substance use disorders requires continuous care and effort. The longer the treatment takes, the less likely you can experience relapse. Below are two common and effective continued care options for clients in recovery.
Sober Living Programs
A sober living program offers transitional houses for individuals recovering from SUD. These homes provide a safe and substance-free living environment for people who recently completed a detoxification program. The aim is to help those in recovery achieve sobriety and an independent sober lifestyle.
Services offered in sober living programs include:
- Structured living
- Family support
- Tiered recovery programs
- Personal monitoring
- Regular drug testing
Aftercare programs implement strategies and interventions to ensure individuals recovering from Neurontin addiction get back into society. Clients meet every week with their peers and take part in group sessions. They use these meetings to share their struggles and success as they learn how to live a drug-free life. Aftercare programs help to promote relationship-building skills, personal growth, and long-term sobriety. As a result, it ensures clients stay sober after completing treatment.
Seek Help for Gabapentin Addiction Today
Deciding to seek help may be difficult, but the first step towards overcoming SUD is accepting that you have a problem. If you are addicted to gabapentin, especially if you have been mixing it with other drugs or alcohol, you may feel like there is no way out. But with support and resources at your disposal from an experienced team in a rehab center, you can overcome Neurontin addiction. The prospect of withdrawal symptoms may seem unbearable, but with the help of professionals, you can safely and comfortably get through detox and rehab.
Whether you or a family member is struggling with gabapentin misuse, overdose, addiction, or withdrawal symptoms, Granite Recovery Centers can help. Our professionals provide the support you need to get and stay sober. Contact us today to talk about your personalized program to get well.