Is Gabapentin Addictive? 4 Signs You Need Help for Gabapentin Abuse

signs of gabapentin abuse and addiction
Published in Drug Addiction

What is Gabapentin (Neurontin)?

Gabapentin is the generic name for Neurontin, an anticonvulsant and sedative medication that is prescribed to treat a range of health conditions including restless leg syndrome, nerve pain from shingles, and partial seizures. It may also be used off-label to treat neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia.

Gabapentin use has become more popular in recent years as physicians try to move away from prescribing opioid medications and are looking for safer alternatives. In fact, in 2021 gabapentin was the 6th most commonly prescribed drug, and up to 95% of the prescriptions written for it are for off-label uses.

Besides Neurontin, other brand names for gabapentin include Horizant and Gralise. Gabapentin is not considered a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, however, it does have misuse potential. Many people who abuse gabapentin develop physical dependence and withdrawal.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Even though gabapentin isn’t a controlled substance federally, some states have taken steps to label it a Schedule V controlled substance due to evidence of abuse and addiction. Although it doesn’t have as high of abuse potential as narcotics like oxycodone or illegal drugs like meth or heroin, there is a possibility that people who abuse gabapentin will get addicted to it.

People who abuse gabapentin typically do so because excess doses of the drug can produce certain effects, including:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Calmness
  • Pain relief
  • Improved mood
  • Feelings of intoxication
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Increased sociability
  • Dissociation
  • Drowsiness

Gabapentin is commonly abused along with other substances. It is often mixed with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids to further enhance the desirable effects. Abusing gabapentin in any manner can be addictive.

4 Signs You are Addicted to Gabapentin

It can be difficult to identify a gabapentin addiction for several reasons. The primary reason is that gabapentin is widely prescribed, so people may justify their use because the drug is given to them by a doctor. One study found that up to 40% of people who were prescribed gabapentin were taking a higher dose than they were prescribed.

The earlier an addiction is identified and treated, the easier recovery becomes. Four common signs of gabapentin addiction are:

1. You’ve developed tolerance and dependence

Two symptoms of gabapentin addiction are tolerance and dependence. Tolerance happens as your body gets used to gabapentin and becomes less sensitive to the effects of the drug. As your tolerance builds, you may notice yourself having to take higher doses or take a dose more frequently to feel the same effects as before.

Dependence occurs when your body relies on gabapentin to function normally. Many people don’t realize they are dependent on gabapentin until they try to stop using it and experience withdrawal. Symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Body aches
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Seizures
  • Sweating

These symptoms are best managed at a drug detox center.

2. Exhibiting physical signs of gabapentin abuse

If you’re looking to see if a loved one is addicted to gabapentin, it can be helpful to know what gabapentin intoxication looks like. People who are high on gabapentin may exhibit certain physical symptoms, including:

  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Regular fatigue
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty focusing or multitasking
  • Trembling in the arms
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Drunk-like state

3. Doctor shopping and worrying about running out

Someone who is addicted to gabapentin may worry excessively about running out of their medication. Because they are taking higher doses than prescribed, they are bound to run out of their prescription early. Some people engage in an act called “doctor shopping.” Doctor shopping is when you visit multiple doctors, sometimes across state lines, in an attempt to get multiple prescriptions written for you.

When doctor shopping fails, people may begin buying gabapentin illegally on the streets. Even if they have to steal money or engage in dangerous behaviors, they will do anything necessary to make sure their stash doesn’t run dry.

4. Behavioral and mood-related changes

Gabapentin addiction may be characterized by a variety of behavioral, emotional, and mood-related changes. Common behavioral signs of gabapentin addiction include:

  • Lying to loved ones and doctors
  • Having regular mood swings
  • Spending too much money on medication
  • Making getting and using gabapentin a top priority
  • Spending time with other people who use drugs
  • Continuing to use gabapentin even if it is causing depression or anxiety
  • Having a mental obsession with gabapentin and strong cravings for it

Treatment for Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction

Gabapentin addiction affects your mental, physical, and emotional health, so it’s important to seek comprehensive treatment. Treatment typically happens in three stages:

  1. Detox – Sheer Recovery’s residential detox program will monitor you throughout gabapentin withdrawal to ensure your safety. Symptom-specific medications may be administered along with a balanced diet and holistic support.
  2. Rehab – After detox, you’ll transition to an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. Rehab involves behavioral therapies, psychiatric support, and peer groups. The goal is to address any mental health issues, help you process difficult emotions, and learn the coping skills and relapse prevention strategies you need to use to stay sober.
  3. Aftercare – Recovery doesn’t stop with detox and rehab; it is an ongoing journey. Aftercare outlines the things you will do in your recovery to stay sober and may include continued counseling, alumni groups, support group meetings, sober living, and more.

Find Help Today

Sheer Recovery provides clients with an exclusive and upscale treatment setting, equipped with licensed counselors and addiction specialists, five-star amenities, and evidence-based treatments tailored to their needs. To learn more about how gabapentin addiction is treated or to find help for yourself or a loved one, please reach out today.


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