Gabapentin is a prescription medication that has recently come under scrutiny for substance abuse and addiction. Polydrug abuse is often associated with Gabapentin addiction; it is often combined with other substances to enhance and increase the drugs’ intoxicating effects. Although it can be challenging to treat Gabapentin abuse and addiction because other medical disorders and drug dependencies often accompany it, research has provided more specialized support and care when dealing with co-occurring addictions and dual diagnoses.
Drug abuse and addiction continue to be a struggle that is causing an epidemic health crisis across the nation. Prescription drugs are one of the most misused substances among addictive drugs and are found in all walks of life. They have become more available than in the past and continue to become one of the hardest addictions to manage. Out of this crisis, research is providing education for better awareness and hope for those that struggle with addiction and for their loved ones.
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsive medication used in the treatment of epilepsy, restless leg syndrome, hot flashes, and neuropathic pain. One of the brand names of Gabapentin is Neurontin, and it was first introduced in 1993. Although this substance does not seem to affect the same receptors that are stimulated by drugs that are commonly abused, it has gained a reputation for having psychoactive effects and being misused.
Gabapentin has properties that are similar to many commonly abused prescription drugs, including opioids and benzodiazepines. It can produce a mildly sedative euphoric high that can be compared to the high felt when using cannabis. Gabapentin is believed to change the firing of electrical impulses in the brain and balance them when used as prescribed.
Addiction is a chronic, treatable disease of the brain’s reward center. Repeated use of substances modifies the way the brain is hardwired and interferes with how the neurotransmitters send, receive, and process signals. This chemical change in the brain makes it necessary to increase the amount of substance being used to reach the same effect. The brain is wired to create behaviors that increase pleasure and give instant gratification. Addiction is the repeated use of substances or behaviors despite harmful consequences because it is or was pleasurable.
Influences of Addiction
Many behavioral, environmental, and biological factors can influence drug abuse and addiction. They can include:
- Family History
- Mental Health Disorder
- Peer Pressure
- Lack of Family Involvement
- Using a Prescribed Addictive Drug
Signs of Addiction
There are some general warning signs of addiction, and they are:
- Lying or exaggerating symptoms to the doctor.
- Seeking multiple doctors for multiple prescriptions.
- Switching medical providers if they stop prescribing the drug.
- Dwelling on drugs, their effects, and how to get them.
- Worrying that the drug won’t be available.
- Refusal to quit substance regardless of social, financial, or legal consequences.
- Failed attempts at a tapering dose or stopping the medication.
Gabapentin abuse was first reported in 2004 and is commonly associated with comorbid addictions. Using this drug with other substances enhances the euphoric effects, and increases the risk of abuse and tolerance, which can lead to addiction. Gabapentin is an intoxicant that produces withdrawal symptoms when stopped or the dose is decreased, which are both essential aspects of physical drug addiction. Using drugs in a way that is not recommended or prescribed by a doctor is prescription medication abuse and creates compulsive behaviors that lead to addiction.
Signs of a Gabapentin Addiction
Some of the symptoms of addiction to Gabapentin can be caused by the usual side-effects of using the medication, but if addictive behaviors are present, this can be the time to ask for help. Some of the side-effects seen with Gabapentin addiction include:
- Memory Loss
- Jerky Movements
- Loss of Coordination
- Difficulty Speaking
- Double Vision
Treating Gabapentin Addiction
Treating Gabapentin addiction can be very challenging because it usually accompanies other addictions and dual diagnoses. It is essential to seek medical advice before stopping Gabapentin; it may cause seizures and other dangerous medical conditions. Treatment for Gabapentin drug addiction can include inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment. It is usually recommended to start recovery in an inpatient drug rehabilitation program that offers medical services for detoxing, and any other complex issues that will be part of the recovery and treatment process.
Outpatient drug rehabilitation programs allow the patient to live at home and maintain their daily responsibilities, including work. This program is often advised after successfully participating in an inpatient drug rehab program. Some of the services provided by both outpatient and inpatient drug treatment programs include:
- Individual and group therapy sessions
- CBT and DBT training
- Medication management
- Dual diagnosis and comorbid addiction treatment
Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms
Some of the symptoms associated with Gabapentin withdrawal can include:
- Anxiety, Depression, Irritability
- Changes in Appetite
- Crying Spells
- Headache, Nausea, Dizziness
- Insomnia, Restlessness, Fatigue
- Itching, Sweating
- Muscle Pain or Spasms
- Abdominal Pain
- Suicidal Ideations
How Long Does Gabapentin Stay in the System?
The length of time that Gabapentin stays in the body depends on the amount of time the drug has been taken, the dosage amount, and if any medical or psychological disorders might complicate the detoxification process.
The first signs of withdrawal usually begin between 12 and 24 hours after stopping Gabapentin. Some of the symptoms seen within this time frame can include:
- Heart Palpitations, Sweating, Hand and Body Tremors
- Headaches, Seizures
At the 3-day mark of withdrawal, symptoms can include:
- Restlessness, Confusion, Disorientation
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Trembling, Agitation, Fever
On day 4 or 5, withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Increased Confusion, Agitation, and Anxiety
- Light Sensitivity
These symptoms can occur for 10 to 12 days after stopping Gabapentin but will decrease in intensity. The safest and most recommended place for detox of Gabapentin is in a medical facility, under a doctor’s supervision.
Gabapentin and prescription drug abuse and addiction are on the rise, creating motivation and inspiration for more intense recovery programs and successful outreach programs. Research and a greater understanding of addiction have made hope and recovery more accessible than ever; please reach out help is waiting for you.