Neurontin Abuse Signs, Symptoms, Side Effects, and Addiction Treatment
What Is Neurontin/Gabapentin?
Neurontin is the brand name for gabapentin. Neurontin is an anticonvulsant medication. Its intended use is to treat epilepsy with partial onset seizures and nerve pain related to shingles. However, the drug is frequently prescribed for off-label use for acute substance withdrawal-related pain, such as that associated with alcohol and heroin withdrawal.1 Neurontin has been increasingly misused in recent years.
Side Effects of Neurontin Abuse
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Neurontin use may be associated with suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Other Neurontin side effects include:2
- Panic attacks.
- New or worsening anxiety and/or depression.
- Changes in mood or behavior.
- Aggressive or violent behavior.
Combining Neurontin With Other Drugs
Mixing Neurontin with drugs or alcohol can be dangerous. According to case reports, Neurontin is often abused with other substances. For example, it is sometimes taken with quetiapine (an antipsychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression) for a sedating, euphoric high. In fact, abuse of both of these drugs has been a problem at several prisons.3
Neurontin is also sometimes combined with methadone to enhance the opioid effects of this drug. In an article published by National Public Radio (NPR), patients taking methadone revealed that they regularly followed methadone use with a drug cocktail of Neurontin combined with Klonopin, clonidine, and over-the-counter allergy medicine.4
While combining Neurontin with other drugs can provide a better high, it also increases the chances of overdose.3
Is It Possible to Overdose on Neurontin?
According to the FDA, there are reports of acute overdoses on Neurontin from oral doses as high as 49 grams (the maximum recommended daily dose is less than 4 grams). In these cases, people experienced drowsiness, diarrhea, double vision, and slurred speech.2
Neurontin overdose in animals produced symptoms such as ataxia (uncontrollable body movements), trouble breathing, sedation, and excitation.
In order to prevent an overdose, you should not take non-prescribed amounts of Neurontin or combine it with other drugs. If you think that someone you know has overdosed on the drug:5
- Call 911 immediately.
- Make sure the individual is breathing. If the situation calls for it and you are trained to do so, begin CPR.
- Try to keep the individual calm.
- Monitor their pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure.
- Stay calm.
- Stay with the person until help has arrived.
Who’s Abusing It?
In a study performed using data collected by 6 substance abuse treatment clinics, researchers found that 22% of survey respondents admitted to abusing gabapentin and pregabalin (collectively referred to as gabapentinoids), along with methadone.6
Another study found that rates of Neurontin misuse vary depending on the population. For instance, the prevalence of Neurontin misuse in the general population is 1%. However, among people who abuse opioids, it is 22%, and among people with Neurontin prescriptions, it is as high as 40% to 65%.7
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the number of visits to the emergency room in metropolitan cities for medical problems involving Neurontin use increased by roughly 5 times over a period of 3 years. Samples from pain and rehabilitation clinics in IN, AZ, and MA showed that, of those taking Neurontin recreationally, more than half combined it with an opioid like methadone, while about a quarter of illicit users combined it with both an opioid and a muscle relaxant or anxiety medication such as Xanax.10
There are also some more recent reports that Neurontin is abused alongside kratom. While there is a lack of published studies on this combination, online forums provide anecdotal evidence of users taking these drugs together to achieve a high similar to that of heroin.
Due to high rates of misuse among inmates, Neurontin was removed from several prison formularies. 5 inmates who reported inhaling the powder from Neurontin capsules reported that the Neurontin high was similar to that of cocaine. All 5 inmates had a history of cocaine abuse and received Neurontin for pain or a psychiatric diagnosis.8
Neurontin Abuse Treatment Types
Withdrawal can occur among people who use Neurontin for as little as 3 weeks and symptoms can begin within 12 hours to 2 days after the last use.9 The effects of Neurontin withdrawal are similar to the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal and may include sweating, anxiety, and irregular heartbeat.9
Abruptly stopping use of Neurontin can increase your risk of seizures, so attempting to detox alone may be dangerous. You can safely manage your symptoms by seeking out professional care with a medically assisted detox treatment program, which may be a standalone facility or the first part of a more comprehensive inpatient drug rehab program.
If you are struggling with a Neurontin abuse disorder alongside the use of other drugs such as opioids or alcohol, withdrawal may be even more complicated and dangerous, so it is extremely important not to try to detox alone at home.
Once your body is clear of Neurontin and any other substances, treatment for addiction may begin. Options include:
- Inpatient treatment programs: Inpatient treatment centers offer the most intensive form of care while you learn a new set of skills that enable you to live without drugs. While you are in inpatient treatment, you will live at the facility and be under 24-hour supervision while you focus completely on sobriety.
- Outpatient treatment programs: In an outpatient program, you will live in the comfort of your own home and travel to and from the outpatient treatment facility for services such as group therapy and aftercare planning. If your addiction is less severe, outpatient programs can help you stay involved in treatment while you also take care of your other responsibilities, such as childcare or school.
- Support groups—e.g. 12-step programs: Support groups are always available for you to access. You can search for a local support group in your area to help you move forward in treatment. These may also be incorporated into inpatient and outpatient programs.
- Aftercare: It is important that you prepare for your transition out of treatment and into your daily routine by creating an aftercare plan. This can include moving into a sober living facility, becoming an active alumnus of your treatment center, and/or regularly seeing a therapist.
Find Neurontin Addiction Treatment Programs
Professional addiction treatment can start anyone battling a substance use problem on the path to a happier and healthier life. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Find Treatment tool to search for facilities. Many state government websites will provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.
American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading treatment provider and has trusted rehab programs across the country. For help with drug abuse or addiction, please contact AAC free at . You can also contact free drug abuse and narcotics hotline numbers.