Gabapentin Addiction

Although gabapentin is a prescription drug commonly used to treat epilepsy, it’s increasingly gained popularity as an addiction treatment. Ironically, despite its helpfulness in reducing withdrawal symptoms, gabapentin has its own risks of developing dependency, often resulting in gabapentin addiction.

Since gabapentin addiction typically develops alongside simultaneous substance abuse, gabapentin withdrawal and addiction treatment are often complex. At Next Step Recovery in Asheville, NC, we offer patients physically and psychologically dependent on gabapentin the treatment and resources they need to conquer their addiction.

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a relatively new controlled substance that works as an anticonvulsant drug and mild tranquilizer.

Typically used to treat seizure disorders, hot flashes, and neuropathic conditions, such as restless legs syndrome and nerve pain, gabapentin often serves as a less addictive alternative to prescription opioids. Unfortunately, however, many patients still develop a gabapentin addiction.

Gabapentin is biochemically similar to the neurotransmitter that affects the central nervous system, Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). As GABA is the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter, it slows down the brain and controls hyperactivity in the nerve cells connected to stress, anxiety, and fear.

As a result, GABA induces calmness and relaxation and fosters sleep. Gabapentin offers similar results to the neurotransmitter by decreasing high levels of excitement in the brain and altering the chemical messages sent by the nerves to change how the body senses pain.

The most common brand names for gabapentin are Neurontin, Gralise, Gaborone, and Fanatrex.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Compared with a more strictly controlled substance, the likelihood of gabapentin abuse is considered low. However, Neurontin and other gabapentin prescriptions create a physical dependence that can produce withdrawal symptoms. 

In addition, those who use the drug to treat conditions such as anxiety are highly likely to develop a Neurontin addiction.

What Leads to Gabapentin Abuse?

Gabapentin received FDA approval to treat multiple ailments, including partial seizures, neuropathic pain, restless leg syndrome, and fibromyalgia.

However, since gabapentin is not listed as a federally controlled substance, the National Library of Medicine reports that up to 95% of gabapentin prescriptions are for off-label use, treating chronic pain conditions and anxiety.

Doctors frequently prescribe gabapentin as a response to the opioid epidemic and limitations in prescribing a strictly controlled substance for pain. Unfortunately, while it’s less common for patients to become addicted to gabapentin than other opioids, those who struggle with previous drug abuse are more likely to abuse gabapentin.

The potential for gabapentin misuse among those who already struggle with addiction to other substances is particularly concerning, as gabapentin is often used as an addiction medicine to treat severe withdrawal symptoms associated with detoxing from alcohol or cocaine.

Symptoms of Gabapentin Abuse

Although it’s rare for patients to develop a gabapentin addiction, those who seek out Neurontin without a prescription can develop a dependence on the drug.

Common symptoms of abusing gabapentin include:

  • Memory loss
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Jerky movements
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Unexplainable fever
  • Sudden change in lifestyle

Since gabapentin is so widely prescribed, those who develop a dependence on the drug may become obsessive about it. They may engage in doctor shopping, which requires seeing multiple doctors to obtain a prescription, take high doses of the drug, and refuse to quit despite negative consequences.

Gabapentin Withdrawal

Patients prescribed gabapentin to treat approved conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy and seizures, should not experience any withdrawal symptoms when stopping use under a doctor’s care.

However, while many doctors don’t consider gabapentin addictive, when used off-label or abused without a prescription, users may become tolerant and experience physical or psychological dependence on the drug.

Common gabapentin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Pain
  • Flulike symptoms
  • Cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Since those addicted to gabapentin may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, patients seeking to detox from the drug should do so under medical care.

Gabapentin Addiction Treatment

Since many gabapentin abusers also abuse other drugs to enhance gabapentin’s effects, the likelihood of relapse and gabapentin overdose increases during and after detox. Therefore, working with a rehab program that supports patients as they overcome addiction to gabapentin and other drugs is critical to long-term recovery.

At Next Steps Recovery, we offer those struggling with addiction several treatment options to receive the skills and resources needed to overcome their addiction. Our outpatient programs serve as the next step for those completing detox or leaving an inpatient treatment center and set users up for success as they prevail over addiction.

Next Step Recovery’s 12-week intensive outpatient program (IOP) offers patients recently discharged from a residential program or medical detox the skills and support needed to rebuild their lives without addiction. In addition, IOP gives patients the flexibility to choose a three- or five-day-a-week program, depending on their needs.

IOP takes a multifaceted approach that includes group therapy, individual counseling, and our 12-step immersion program to provide our patients with the foundation they need for long-term recovery.

In addition, after completing IOP, clients using our transitional living program can receive continued support through our other services.

The substance abuse comprehensive outpatient treatment (SACOT) program with Next Step Recovery is a fully immersive program that supports patients struggling with drug abuse and mental health concerns.

While SACOT offers an inpatient program’s comprehensive and immersive support, it also allows patients to return home daily. SACOT meets five days a week.

As one of our most intensive programs for treating addiction, patients receive various therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, music and art therapy, 12-step immersion, and individual and group therapies.

Choose the Best Treatment for Your Gabapentin Addiction

Next Steps Recovery knows that addiction to gabapentin and other drugs requires individualized treatment that targets your specific needs. Our expert team helps identify which treatment is right for you, considering your addiction history, drug of choice, the severity of your drug use, and mental health challenges.

If you’re ready to live a life without addiction, fill out our online contact form, so you can begin working with an addiction treatment specialist to create your treatment plan today.

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Sandy Stader

Medically Reviewed By Susan Stader MS, LCMH, LCAS, CCS

Susan Stader is the founder and director of Next Step Recovery and NSR of Asheville, an Intensive Outpatient Program and a Long-term Extended Care program in Asheville, NC. She received her Master’s in Community Counseling in 2004 at Western Carolina University and went on to get her licensure in addictions and mental health counseling. Susan believes that treatment should be gender-specific and offered in a small setting. Small recovery communities, such as hers, are more intimate and effective in overall client satisfaction and care.

Reach Out Today

Recovery is a lifelong journey, but you don’t need to take it alone. At Next Step Recovery, we give you the tools and support you need to get through early sobriety and find lasting healing. It is our goal to empower our patients to be their best selves and live the life they deserve.

If you have any questions about our programs, methods, insurance, or anything else, reach out to us today. We look forward to helping you to get started along the road to recovery!

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