Gabapentin Abuse Symptoms, Side Effects, Overdose, & Treatment
What Is Gabapentin Neurontin?
Gabapentin Neurontin is an anticonvulsant that comes in a capsule, tablet, and oral solution. It is used to manage certain seizure disorders, as well as the neuropathic pain phenomenon known as post-herpetic neuralgia (lasting nerve and skin pain caused by an attack of shingles).2,9 An extended-release formulation of gabapentin (Horizant) is used to treat restless leg syndrome (RLS).9
Concerns have arisen in recent years over increasing instances of gabapentin abuse.4 According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the number of emergency room visits involving nonmedical use of gabapentin has increased by 90% in the United States since 2008.6
On the street, gabapentin is sold under various nicknames, including “gabbies.”4 One study found that gabapentin is used as a cutting agent in street heroin, increasing the potential for abuse and the development of dangerous health effects.4
Nonmedical use of gabapentin may be fueled by:4
- The fact that gabapentin is not currently scheduled as a controlled substance.
- The fact that escalating doses are recommended.
- The potential for euphoria when gabapentin is combined with opioids like hydrocodone.
Off-Label Gabapentin Use
There are numerous reports of off-label and unapproved uses of gabapentin.1 This is partly because the manufacturers of gabapentin promoted the drug for the treatment of at least 10 off-label medical conditions, including:1
- Bipolar disorder.
- Neuropathic pain.
- Diabetic neuropathy.
- Complex regional pain syndrome.
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- The onset of seizures caused by alcohol withdrawal during the detox process.
In 2001, gabapentin sales totaled $1.77 billion, which was a 57% increase from 2000, when the drug sold $1.13 billion. The drug’s manufacturer acknowledged that more than 78% of these gabapentin sales came from prescriptions written for unapproved use. That is, the company promoted the drug’s sales without reported safety and effectiveness of gabapentin for off-label use.10
What Are the Side Effects of Using Gabapentin?
Gabapentin use can result in a number of physical and psychological effects, including suicidal thoughts and behaviors. If you or a loved one is using gabapentin, be aware of warning signs of suicide, such as:7
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Talking about having no reason to live.
- Talking about killing themselves.
- Using more drugs and alcohol.
- Acting recklessly.
- Calling people to say goodbye.
- Withdrawing from activities.
Other Gabapentin Side Effects
Other gabapentin side effects—which may intensify when you take too much or take it when you don’t need it—include:2
- Difficulty speaking.
- Lack of coordination.
- Temporary loss of memory (amnesia).
- Coordination problems.
- Double vision.
- Unusual eye movement.
- Jerky movements.
- New or worsening irritability or anxiety.
- Panic attacks.
- Acting on dangerous impulses.
- Aggressive, violent, or angry behavior.
Can You Get High on Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is not a controlled substance. When gabapentin is taken alone and as prescribed, there is little potential for abuse or addiction. However, when a person takes gabapentin with other medications—such as muscle relaxants, opioids, or anxiety medications—it can produce a high.
The effects of gabapentin intoxication have been variously described as:4
- Relaxation/sense of calm.
- High similar to that of marijuana.
A study of illicit gabapentin users found that:3
- 56% were taking it with an opioid.
- 27% were taking it with an opioid, muscle relaxant, or anxiety medication.
- 8.6% were using it with other illicit substances.
The FDA warns that mixing gabapentin with alcohol or other drugs can make you sleepy or dizzy, or increase the above symptoms.2
Can You Overdose on Gabapentin?
Like with opiates, you can fatally overdose on gabapentin.4 However, unlike with opiates, there is no antidote that you can administer in the case of a gabapentin overdose. Because of the drug’s long half-life, immediate medical attention is necessary to manage the complications associated with a toxic amount of this drug.4
Although most overdoses occur as a result of combining gabapentin with other substances, a study published in 2011 found that an individual committed suicide by intentionally overdosing on gabapentin.5
Overdoses involving 49 grams or more of gabapentin have been reported by the FDA. Gabapentin overdose symptoms include:2
- Ataxia (decreased muscle coordination).
- Labored breathing.
- Ptosis (drooping upper eyelid).
- Double vision.
- Marked sedation.
- Slurred speech.
If a person has overdosed on gabapentin, the drug can be removed from their system in the emergency room through a process of hemodialysis (kidney dialysis).2
Gabapentin Detox and Treatment
Abruptly stopping gabapentin use can increase the likelihood of seizures, so it’s important to seek help when looking to quit using this drug.4 If you are getting treatment for a gabapentin abuse problem, you will likely start with detox so that you can slowly eliminate the drug from your body in a controlled manner. After completing detox, you will need medical clearance before transitioning into an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. There are a number of gabapentin addiction treatment options available, including:
- Detox: After long-term or heavy use of gabapentin, the body becomes dependent on the drug and needs it in its system to function and avoid a potentially perilous withdrawal syndrome. Getting medical detox helps you to slowly wean off gabapentin while under medical supervision.
- Inpatient treatment: If your gabapentin addiction is severe or you have co-occurring mental health or medical issues, an inpatient program can provide you with intensive care. Inpatient treatment requires that you live at the facility for the entire duration of treatment. These programs provide a high level of structure and a safe environment that minimizes triggers to use gabapentin. Before you begin treatment, medical professionals will assess your situation and your addiction in order to create a tailored treatment plan. This may include individual and group therapy, family counseling, relapse prevention classes, support groups, and aftercare planning.
- Residential treatment: A residential program can provide a high level of care, a structured environment, and 24/7 medical monitoring while you treat your gabapentin addiction. If you require a longer stay and intensive services, a residential facility is a great option. There is a wide range of residential programs available, including facilities that offer dual diagnosis treatment, nutritional counseling, family therapy, and aftercare treatment options.
- Outpatient programs: After completing detox and/or inpatient treatment, you may move on to outpatient treatment. You might also start in an outpatient program if your addiction hasn’t progressed to the point of requiring intense inpatient care. When you seek treatment on an outpatient basis, you will live at home and visit the facility for a set number of hours per week to work with a therapist and engage in group therapy.
- 12-Step support groups: Before, during, or after treatment, you may attend 12-Step meetings like AA/NA or other support groups. When you go to a support group, you will be welcomed by people who know what you’ve been through because they’ve gone through it too. Feeling accepted can make a huge difference in your recovery because you will create a new support network of sober individuals and learn from people who have been abstinent from drugs for a longer period of time.
- Aftercare: In rehab, you will prepare for your transition out of treatment by creating an aftercare plan. This will look different for every person and may include transitioning into a sober living facility, locating a counselor or therapist outside of treatment, and regularly attending 12-Step meetings or other support groups. After you leave treatment, it is important that you stay involved with some sort of care in order to prevent relapse.
Find Gabapentin Addiction Treatment Programs
If you or a loved one is addicted to gabapentin, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional treatment can start anyone battling a substance use problem on the path to a healthier and happier life.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. You can contact us free at to learn more about treatment options. There are also free drug abuse hotline numbers you can call.
American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly using the form below if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.
Check Your Insurance Coverage for Gabapentin Treatment
Find out if your health insurance coverage includes gabapentin addiction rehab and treatment by visiting the links below:
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