Gabapentin (Neurontin) Addiction, Side Effects & Treatment

Gabapentin also known as Neurontin is a medication that doctors prescribe for different reasons, including neuropathic pain and seizures. Despite its legitimate uses, it can also be misused. Gabapentin misuse can occur for different reasons, such as to achieve a gabapentin high, to self-medicate different conditions, or an in attempt to intentionally self-harm.1

This article will explain what Neurontin is and what gabapentin does. It will also address gabapentin side effects, withdrawal symptoms from gabapentin, gabapentin overdose, gabapentin addiction, and treatment for gabapentin or another substance misuse.

What Is Gabapentin?

Known by the brand name Neurontin, gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication.2,3 The exact mechanisms of action are unknown but it is thought to work, in part, by increasing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA.1

What Is Gabapentin Prescribed For?

Gabapentin is FDA-approved for:

  • The treatment of postherpetic neuralgia in adults.3
  • Use as an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of partial-onset seizures, with and without secondary generalization, in pediatric and adult patients with epilepsy age 3 and older.4

What is gabapentin prescribed for? In addition to its FDA-approved uses, gabapentin is often prescribed off-label (i.e., non-FDA-approved) for other purposes, such as:2

  • Neuropathic pain.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Postmenopausal hot flashes.
  • Essential tremors.
  • Anxiety.
  • Resistant depressant and mood disorders.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Alcohol withdrawal.
  • Postoperative analgesia.
  • Migraine prophylaxis.
  • Pruritus (itching).
  • Insomnia.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Gabapentin Side Effects

Gabapentin can cause some side effects. The most commonly reported side effects include:3

  • Lack of coordination.
  • Dizziness.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Fever.
  • Double vision.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Peripheral edema (leg swelling in your hands or legs).
  • Viral infection.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Yes, gabapentin has been shown to lead to dependence, withdrawal, and addiction in some people as well as in animal studies.3,4 Case reports have indicated that most people suffering from gabapentin addiction had a history of other substance misuse, including alcohol, cocaine, or opioid misuse, and were taking more than the recommended doses.3,5

Gabapentin can cause dependence, which refers to a physiological adaptation that occurs due to repeated administration of a substance, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it.1,3 People can be dependent but not addicted, although these two tendencies often occur together.6 Addiction refers to a pattern of compulsive substance misuse that often continues despite the harmful consequences.7

Withdrawal Symptoms From Gabapentin

People can experience Neurontin withdrawal symptoms when gabapentin use is abruptly stopped, especially if they have used higher than recommended doses.3 Stopping gabapentin may result in gabapentin withdrawal symptoms, such as:3

  • Agitation.
  • Disorientation.
  • Confusion.
  • Pain.
  • Sweating.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.

Gabapentin withdrawal has been reported to occur within 12 hours to 7 days of the last dose of gabapentin.5

Can You Overdose on Gabapentin?

It is possible to overdose on gabapentin.3 If someone is overdosing, you should call the toll-free poison control line at 1-800-222-1222 or dial 911.3

Overdose symptoms can include:3

  • Double vision.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Lethargy.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Coma (mainly reported in patients with chronic renal failure who received gabapentin treatment).

The risk of overdose is higher if you mix gabapentin with other substances, including prescription opioids, alcohol, fentanyl, or heroin.8,9

Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction

Stopping gabapentin use abruptly can have detrimental consequences.3A medical detox program may be advisable to help you safely stop taking gabapentin and deal with Neurontin withdrawal symptoms; it can be especially beneficial if you also use other substances, like opioids, benzodiazepines, or alcohol.3,10 If you’re struggling with gabapentin or other substance misuse, you may also benefit from a formal treatment program, such as an inpatient or outpatient rehab.10

In California, the Laguna Treatment Center, an Orange County rehab, offers different addiction treatment levels, including medical detox and intensive residential treatment to help people dealing with gabapentin and/or polysubstance misuse. If you or a loved one are struggling, please call to speak to a caring admissions navigator about your treatment options and learn more about how to start addiction treatment as well as using insurance to pay for rehab, and paying for rehab in other ways even if you don’t have insurance.

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