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Gabapentin Addiction: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

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Gabapentin Addiction Treatment Chattanooga, TN
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Dr. Mohsin Ali MD is board certified in Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Trained in Syracuse NY, he has worked in Tennessee for the last sixteen years.

Table of Contents

Gabapentin, when used as prescribed, offers significant benefits for individuals dealing with certain medical conditions, yet its misuse poses serious risks, potentially leading to harmful and even fatal consequences. This article dives into the misuse of gabapentin, exploring its long-term impacts, side effects, and withdrawal symptoms.

What is Gabapentin (Neurontin)?

Gabapentin, known commercially as Neurontin among others, is an anticonvulsant medication primarily utilized to manage seizure disorders and certain types of neuropathic pain. Classified under Gabapentinoids, its applications extend to treating conditions like epilepsy, restless leg syndrome, hot flashes, and neuropathic pain. While it’s considered a less addictive option compared to opioids, there’s still a risk of addiction and abuse in some individuals.

Gabapentin’s structure is akin to that of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that influences the nervous system, contributing to its effects on relaxation and calmness. This makes it helpful for addressing nerve pain, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

Prescribed for a range of conditions, including nerve pain, alcohol and cocaine withdrawal symptoms, restless leg syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, and seizures, Gabapentin works by modifying calcium channels to reduce seizures and alleviate nerve pain. It’s available under brand names such as Neurontin and Gralise, and its street names include “Gabbies” or “Johnnies.”

Despite its therapeutic benefits, Gabapentin misuse can lead to serious side effects like suicidal ideation, mood swings, and sudden behavioral changes. It may also cause increased blood pressure, fever, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, and chest pain, highlighting the importance of adherence to prescribed use.

How Does Gabapentin Work?

The precise way gabapentin functions remains partially unclear. It shares a structural resemblance to the brain’s neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), yet intriguingly, it does not attach itself to GABA receptors in the brain. The beneficial effects of gabapentin are believed to arise from its ability to dampen the action of excitatory neurotransmitters and alter signaling between brain cells.

Approved by the FDA for managing seizures and the neuropathic pain following shingles, gabapentin has also found widespread application in treating various other conditions off-label, such as:

  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Anxiety.
  • Sciatic back pain.
  • Diabetic neuropathy.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Headaches.
  • Migraine prevention.
  • Restless leg syndrome.
  • Hot flashes during perimenopause.
  • Mood disorders.
  • PTSD.

This versatile medication’s usage beyond its primary indications reflects its significant impact on brain chemistry and nerve pain, despite the incomplete understanding of its working mechanism.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Yes, gabapentin can be addictive. Although it is prescribed for a range of legitimate health issues, there is a risk of addiction due to misuse and the development of dependency, especially with long-term and frequent use.

The body may develop a physical dependence on gabapentin after extended exposure, coming to rely on the drug for normal operation. This dependence is a natural bodily reaction to regular consumption of any medication. When someone dependent on gabapentin attempts to stop or decrease their dosage, they might experience withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal can include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety

The intensity of gabapentin withdrawal symptoms can vary based on how quickly the dosage is reduced. To mitigate withdrawal symptoms, it is advisable to gradually decrease the dose under the guidance of a healthcare professional rather than stopping abruptly, a method often referred to as going “cold turkey,” which may exacerbate withdrawal experiences.

The risk of addiction and withdrawal with gabapentin is partly due to its influence on the brain’s neurotransmitters, notably GABA, which is essential for inhibitory signals in the nervous system. While the precise mechanism of gabapentin’s action remains somewhat unclear, its interaction with GABA pathways can lead to physical dependence over time.

Side Effects of Gabapentin Abuse

Taking gabapentin, like any medication, can lead to various side effects, impacting both your physical and mental health. Misuse of gabapentin can amplify the intensity and frequency of these side effects.

Short-Term Side Effects of Gabapentin Abuse

During the initial phase of taking gabapentin, individuals might experience several effects, including:

  • Sleepiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Blurry vision
  • Elevated temperature

The severity of these effects often correlates with the dosage and frequency of gabapentin intake.

Long-Term Side Effects of Gabapentin Abuse

Continued use of gabapentin over an extended period may result in more persistent health issues, even after discontinuing the drug. Common long-term side effects include:

  • Emotional fluctuations
  • Alterations in behavior
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Increased anxiety
  • Memory impairments
  • Muscle weakness

Serious Side Effects of Gabapentin Abuse

Long-term gabapentin use can also lead to more severe health complications, such as:

  • Shaking
  • Stomach pain
  • Vision issues
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Blood pressure variances
  • Swelling in extremities
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Temporary memory loss

Individuals with kidney issues should be cautious, as gabapentin is primarily eliminated via the kidneys, posing a risk of toxicity.

For children aged 3 to 12 years, gabapentin may cause mood swings, aggression, difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and a decline in school performance. It’s essential for those taking gabapentin or caring for someone who is, to be vigilant about these potential side effects and consult healthcare professionals for guidance and monitoring.

Signs Of A Gabapentin Addiction

Gabapentin addiction can lead to several concerning symptoms, including:

  • Persistent drowsiness
  • Issues with coordination
  • Trembling
  • Depressive episodes
  • Suicidal ideation and actions
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Dizziness
  • Memory lapses
  • Increased anxiety
  • Speech difficulties

It’s crucial to be vigilant for these signs and other indicators of abuse, such as an excessive number of prescription bottles. The consequences of gabapentin abuse can severely impact one’s health, well-being, and safety.

Individuals recovering from addiction might misuse gabapentin, particularly in high doses (800mg or above), chasing a euphoric sensation that typically goes undetected in drug screenings. Often, gabapentin is used alongside opioids to enhance the high, a combination that can be extremely risky and potentially lethal. Gabapentin overdoses, whether alone or with other substances, can be fatal. Unlike opioid overdoses, there is no specific antidote for gabapentin overdose. Symptoms of overdose, including extreme drowsiness, muscle weakness, lethargy, drooping eyelids, diarrhea, and profound sedation, necessitate immediate medical intervention. If you or your loved on are struggling with Gabapentin addiction in Chattanooga, TN, contact Iris Wellness Group at 423-919-9549 to start your drug-free life today.

Signs Of A Gabapentin Addiction

Gabapentin Addiction Signs

  • Misrepresenting or overstating symptoms to healthcare providers
  • Doctor shopping for additional prescriptions
  • Changing physicians when previous ones deny further prescriptions
  • Alterations in social behaviors and associations
  • Decline in attention to personal care and appearance
  • Anxiety over the potential unavailability of the medication
  • Persistent use despite adverse social, economic, or legal effects
  • Unsuccessful efforts to discontinue use

Gabapentin Withdrawal

Regular use of gabapentin can lead to dependency, as the brain adjusts to the drug’s neurochemical effects, making continued consumption necessary for the user to feel or operate normally. Once a significant dependency on gabapentin is established, reducing or abruptly discontinuing the drug can trigger withdrawal symptoms.

Symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal may encompass:

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Agitation
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Seizures

Symptoms of Gabapentin Overdose

Gabapentin is typically prescribed to be taken three times daily, reflecting its relatively short half-life of about 5 to 7 hours, which remains consistent regardless of dosage but may vary in elderly individuals or those with reduced kidney function. The initial recommended dose for adults is 300mg, with a daily maximum not exceeding 3600mg.

Individuals with mental health issues or depression are found to be at a heightened risk for gabapentin overdose. Overdoses may also occur if someone exceeds the advised dosage for conditions such as anxiety, neuropathy, pain, or seizures. If you or your loved on are struggling with Gabapentin addiction, contact Iris Wellness Group at 423-919-9549 to begin your Gabapentin addiction treatment in Chattanooga, TN.

Signs of a Gabapentin Overdose

Notable signs of a gabapentin overdose include:

  • Double vision
  • Impaired speech
  • Enhanced drowsiness
  • Diarrhea

These warning signs necessitate immediate medical attention to prevent severe consequences.

Combining Gabapentin With Other Drugs

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has observed a significant increase in gabapentin usage, with prescriptions doubling between 2011 and 2017. Dependence on and withdrawal from gabapentin are notably more prevalent among individuals who also consume other substances. This practice, known as polydrug use, can enhance or produce novel effects. Gabapentin is often combined with opioids or cocaine to either heighten the experience or mitigate withdrawal symptoms from cocaine.

In response to concerns, the FDA in 2019 mandated new cautionary labeling for Gabapentinoid products, which include Gabapentin (marketed as Neurontin and Gralise) and its generic forms such as Gabapentin Enacarbil and Pregabalin, highlighting the risk of respiratory depression. These actions were prompted by evidence showing that misuse of Gabapentinoids, both independently and alongside opioids, could lead to severe respiratory issues and elevate the likelihood of fatal opioid overdoses. Consequently, the FDA has instructed pharmaceutical companies to undertake clinical research to further assess the risk of abuse when Gabapentinoids are used in conjunction with opioids.

Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction

Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction

If you or someone close to you is grappling with gabapentin addiction, it’s crucial to seek expert assistance. Engaging with a healthcare provider or an addiction specialist can offer valuable insight into the treatment avenues available.

For those deeply dependent on gabapentin, undergoing a medically supervised detox might be necessary. This detox process is overseen by healthcare professionals who can effectively manage any withdrawal symptoms, ensuring the individual’s well-being and comfort throughout the detox period.

Behavioral therapies stand as a foundational element in treating gabapentin addiction. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) assist individuals in uncovering the root causes of their addiction, crafting effective coping mechanisms, and acquiring skills to avert future relapses. In addition, holistic treatments can serve as beneficial adjuncts to conventional therapies, including:

These holistic methods aim to enhance overall health and offer individuals supplementary strategies for stress and craving management.

Participation in support groups, whether face-to-face or virtual, fosters a community atmosphere of empathy and mutual support. These groups offer a venue for sharing personal stories, gaining motivation, and drawing lessons from peers navigating similar struggles.

It’s not uncommon for individuals battling gabapentin addiction to also face mental health challenges. Dual diagnosis treatments tackle both the addiction and any concurrent mental health conditions, ensuring a holistic recovery process.

Upon completing the primary phase of treatment, engaging in aftercare programs is critical for sustaining long-term recovery. Such programs might encompass continued therapy, counseling, and participation in support groups, aiding individuals in overcoming everyday obstacles and maintaining a drug-free lifestyle.

Gabapentin Addiction Treatment in Chattanooga, TN

Ready to overcome Gabapentin addiction in Chattanooga, TN? Iris Wellness Group stands by to support your journey from the initial detox to full recovery and beyond. Our outpatient rehab fosters an environment conducive to addressing the psychological facets of drug addiction. A tailored treatment plan awaits you, incorporating individual and group therapyfamily counseling, psychotherapeutic approaches, holistic practices, and medication-assisted therapy. Upon completion, you’ll be armed with effective relapse prevention strategies and continuous therapeutic support.

Recovery from gabapentin addiction, may seem daunting, but it is achievable with the right support and resources. Addiction specialists are equipped to provide comprehensive care that facilitates a safe withdrawal process and fosters long-term wellness. With professional guidance, individuals can emerge stronger, healthier, and ready to embrace a fulfilling life ahead. Ready to reclaim your life from addiction? Call Iris Wellness Group today at 423-919-9549 or fill out our online form and commit to recovery with us.

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