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Is Gabapentin Addictive? (All You Need to Know)

Nearly every prescription drug has side effects. However, some prescriptions also carry a risk of addiction. While the risk is low, the drug gabapentin is addictive—especially when it is abused to enhance the effects of other drugs.

Buckhead Behavioral Health provides substance abuse treatment programs for prescription and illicit drugs. Visit our admissions page today to learn more.

Is Gabapentin an Addictive Drug?

Yes, gabapentin is addictive. However, the risk of addiction is relatively low.

Any prescription drug carries the risk of abuse. Abusing a prescription drug means:

  • Taking it for reasons other than its intended use (i.e., for euphoric effects, relaxation/sedation, or to get high)
  • Using gabapentin in higher doses/more frequently than prescribed
  • Buying or using another person’s prescription gabapentin to abuse recreationally

Why Do People Abuse Gabapentin?

People abuse gabapentin to enhance the effects of opioids.

Although gabapentin itself carries a low risk of addiction, it contributes to opioid use disorder and the opioid epidemic. Still, gabapentin is not a controlled substance on the federal level. As a result, some states are reclassifying and monitoring gabapentin use, according to Risk Management and Healthcare Policy.

Signs of Gabapentin Abuse

The following are signs of gabapentin abuse:

  • Buying or stealing other people’s prescription gabapentin
  • Feigning or exaggerating symptoms to get a higher dosage
  • Using gabapentin in a way that deviates from instructions
  • “Doctor shopping”—visiting multiple healthcare providers to get additional scripts
  • Needing more gabapentin for the same effects (developing a tolerance)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms or adverse effects when you stop taking the drug
  • Combining gabapentin with other drugs or alcohol

What Is Gabapentin (And What Does It Treat)?

Gabapentin is a prescription medication that reduces the activity of nerve cells in the brain.

It mimics the effects of a naturally occurring brain chemical (neurotransmitter) called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). [Hence the name “gabapentin”]. GABA helps control hyperactivity in nerve cells associated with fear, stress, and anxiety. It works by blocking signals from these hyperactive cells.

By mimicking the effects of GABA, gabapentin treats seizures, nerve pain from shingles, and restless leg syndrome.

Gabapentin is classified as an anticonvulsant—also known as antiseizure—medication. It blocks signals from a hyperactive central nervous system (CNS), calming and slowing the activity in the brain. For this reason, it helps with medical conditions caused by hyperactivity in the CNS, like seizures and restless leg syndrome.

What Are the Side Effects of Gabapentin?

Similar to the neurotransmitter GABA, gabapentin also produces a calming effect that can relieve anxiety, reduce stress, and sedate users.

However, this calming effect is more of a side effect and not an intended effect. Still, some people abuse gabapentin specifically for this side effect—especially in combination with other sedative drugs like opioids.

Additional side effects of gabapentin include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Dizziness, nausea, and vomiting
  • Impaired coordination
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Memory loss
  • Tremors
  • Unusual eye movements/double vision
  • Weight gain

Combining gabapentin with other drugs, like opioids, antidepressants, antianxiety medications, and antihistamines can cause harmful drug interactions and the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Bluish lips, fingers, or toes

If you experience any of the serious side effects mentioned above, seek medical treatment immediately.

How Is Gabapentin Addiction Treated?

Gabapentin addiction is treated with a combination of therapies, medical interventions, and holistic practices.

Since gabapentin is commonly abused with opioids, you’ll need to treat both addictions at the same time. Polysubstance abuse—or mixing more than one drug—complicates treatment because you’ll have withdrawal symptoms from all substances of abuse.

The following are the steps to treating gabapentin addiction:

  • Drug Detox: Detox is the first step to treating any addiction. When you stop taking addictive drugs, like gabapentin or opioids, you’ll have withdrawal symptoms. During drug detox, addiction specialists will help you manage withdrawal symptoms so your body can readjust to a pre-substance abuse state.
  • Residential Treatment: After you detox from gabapentin and other drugs of abuse, you’ll be ready to attend a residential treatment program. Also called inpatient rehab, this type of treatment will address any lingering withdrawal symptoms. You’ll also start to learn the underlying causes of your addiction, healthy coping skills, and relapse prevention strategies.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program: A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is the next step in recovery after residential treatment. PHP is an outpatient treatment program, meaning that you’ll be able to live at home or in a sober living program throughout treatment.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program: After PHP, you can step down to an intensive outpatient program (IOP). This level of care is similar to PHP, except that you’ll have less time in your program so that you can transition back to everyday life.

More on Gabapentin and Opioid Abuse (Treating Polysubstance Abuse)

If gabapentin abuse accompanies an opioid addiction, you’ll need to consider additional treatment services.

Opioid addiction, with or without abusing addictive gabapentin, is a potentially deadly substance use disorder (SUD).

Therefore, it’s important to be upfront about any polysubstance abuse. That way, you can create a treatment plan to address both addictions. This is critical because opioid withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and even deadly.

Fortunately, there are FDA-approved medications to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) in a practice called medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

At Buckhead Behavioral Health, we use the following medications to reduce the severity of opioid withdrawal and prevent overdose:

Start Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment Now

Under certain circumstances, gabapentin is addictive and the risk increases when you mix it with opioids. However, with professional treatment, you can overcome your addiction. Buckhead Behavioral Health offers prescription drug treatment programs in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Contact us today for prescription drug addiction treatment.

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