Gabapentin Addiction: Signs, Withdrawals, and Treatment

picture of Joe Gilmore
Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

August 29, 2023

Table of Contents

Gabapentin, a prescription painkiller, can be a valuable alternative to opioids due to its lower addictive potential. Nevertheless, addiction and abuse of the medication can still occur, and there is also a risk of gabapentin overdose.

Today’s guide explores issues that include:

heart icon that is 2 hands holding

Need help getting addiction treatment?

  • Is gabapentin habit-forming?
  • Is gabapentin addicting?
  • Can you get high on gabapentin?
  • What are the most common gabapentin side effects?
  • Is gabapentin a controlled substance?
  • What is gabapentin withdrawal?

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin, marketed and sold under the brand names Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant, is an anticonvulsant medication commonly prescribed to manage seizures in individuals with epilepsy. Additionally, Gabapentin is indicated for treating nerve pain caused by conditions like shingles or diabetes, as well as addressing RLS (restless legs syndrome).

Gabapentin influences the activity of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers within the brain and nervous system. In epilepsy treatment, the medication is believed to reduce abnormal electrical activity in the brain, helping to prevent seizures. For nerve pain relief, gabapentin changes how pain messages travel through the brain and spinal cord, effectively blocking pain sensations.

Gabapentin comes in several forms, including oral capsules, tablets, and a 250 mg/5 mL oral solution. Gabapentin tablets are available in different dosage strengths, including:

  • 100 mg
  • 300 mg
  • 400 mg
  • 600 mg
  • 800 mg 

Extended-release tablets like Horizant are used to treat RLS.

Gabapentin is taken orally several times daily, either with or without food. Side effects are generally mild, with some individuals experiencing drowsiness, fatigue, and dizziness. It usually takes a few weeks for gabapentin to show its full effect. Importantly, when discontinuing the use of this medication, gradual reduction of the dosage is recommended to avoid withdrawal symptoms – this is known as tapering.

Gabapentin Abuse

Gabapentin abuse refers to the misuse of the prescription medication for non-medical purposes. Although it is not a federally controlled substance, gabapentin may be abused for various reasons, including:

  • Attempting to achieve a gabapentin high
  • Self-medicating different conditions
  • Intensifying the effects of other substances
  • Managing withdrawal symptoms from other drugs of abuse
  • Intentional self-harm

Individuals may resort to various routes of administration, such as crushing and snorting the pills or may take higher doses than prescribed. Any abuse of gabapentin can trigger adverse outcomes, including the potential for dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and various negative side effects. Misusing gabapentin may also increase the risk of overdose and dangerous interactions with other substances.  

Reports have indicated an increase in emergency room visits involving nonmedical use of gabapentin, and its misuse has become a target of concern, especially in areas dealing with opioid addiction issues

Despite its potential for misuse, gabapentin still has legitimate medical uses. The medication should only be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

a woman is sitting on a dock looking out at the lake to represent the question is gabapentin addicting in california.

Signs of Gabapentin Addiction

According to DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th revised Edition), substance use disorder, including addiction to gabapentin, is characterized by a set of criteria. These criteria help identify when an individual’s use of a substance has escalated to a problematic level.

The following are the DSM-5 criteria for gabapentin addiction:

  1. Taking gabapentin in larger amounts or for longer than intended.
  2. Making repeated unsuccessful efforts to cut down or discontinue use.
  3. Spending excessive time obtaining, using, or recovering from gabapentin effects.
  4. Experiencing intense cravings for gabapentin.
  5. Ongoing use of the medication even though it is leading to a failure to fulfill major personal or professional obligations.
  6. Continuing to use gabapentin despite the medication triggering social or interpersonal issues.
  7. Giving up or reducing important activities due to gabapentin use.
  8. Using gabapentin in situations where it is physically dangerous.
  9. Taking the medication even though it is causing or inflaming a health condition, whether physical or mental.
  10. Developing tolerance so that larger amounts of gabapentin are required to achieve the desired effects or a diminished effect with continued use of the same amount.
  11. Withdrawal symptoms manifesting when gabapentin use is reduced or stopped.

Gabapentin addiction can have serious health implications, but with appropriate support and treatment, recovery is possible.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms

Gabapentin can lead to the presentation of withdrawal symptoms when its use is discontinued. These symptoms may arise due to physical dependence on the drug and can vary in intensity based on factors such as dosage and duration of use.

Withdrawal symptoms associated with gabapentin can begin as soon as 12 hours after discontinuation and may persist for up to 10 days or even longer. Common withdrawal symptoms include

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

In cases of more severe dependence, individuals might experience tremors, a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and difficulty sleeping.

The risk of encountering withdrawal symptoms is greater for those who have been using gabapentin for an extended period, have developed a physical dependence, or have been misusing the drug. 

To mitigate the potential severity of withdrawal symptoms, a safe approach is to discontinue gabapentin under the supervision of a healthcare provider. Gradually tapering off the medication, as opposed to abrupt cessation, can help minimize the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and provide a safer way to discontinue its use

A man looks out at a beach representing gabapentin addiction

Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction

Treating gabapentin addiction involves a comprehensive approach aimed at addressing the physical, psychological, and behavioral aspects of addiction. Since gabapentin misuse and addiction can have serious consequences, seek professional help to streamline the recovery journey. Steps may include:

  • Medical detoxification: The first step in treating gabapentin addiction is often medical detoxification. This process allows individuals to safely withdraw from the drug under the supervision of medical professionals. Detox helps manage withdrawal symptoms and reduces the risks associated with abrupt cessation of the drug.
  • Behavioral therapy: Behavioral therapies are a key component of gabapentin addiction treatment. Therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and CM (contingency management) are commonly used to address the underlying factors contributing to addiction and to develop coping strategies for avoiding relapse.
  • Counseling and peer support groups: Counseling sessions and participation in support groups provide individuals with the opportunity to explore their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to addiction. Support groups offer a sense of community and shared experiences, which can be instrumental in maintaining long-term recovery.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment: Many people grappling with gabapentin addiction also have co-occurring mental health conditions. Integrated dual diagnosis treatment addresses both addiction and mental health issues simultaneously to ensure comprehensive and effective care.
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment): In some instances, healthcare professionals may use medications to support recovery from gabapentin addiction. These medications can help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms, making the recovery process more manageable.
  • Holistic interventions: Complementary therapies like yoga, mindfulness, meditation, and art therapy can aid in reducing stress, promoting relaxation, and enhancing overall well-being during recovery.
  • Aftercare planning: Transitioning from formal treatment to daily life can be challenging. Aftercare planning involves creating a strategy to maintain sobriety after completing a treatment program. This may include ongoing therapy, regular check-ins, and continued participation in support groups.
  • Family involvement: Family therapy or education can help mend relationships strained by addiction and provide a supportive environment for recovery.

FAQs

Is gabapentin addictive?

Gabapentin is generally considered to have a low potential for addiction, but misuse and dependence can occur in some cases.

Does gabapentin make you high?

Gabapentin can produce feelings of relaxation or mild euphoria at higher doses, but it is not typically used recreationally and its effects vary from person to person.

Is gabapentin a narcotic?

Gabapentin is not classified as a narcotic. It is an anticonvulsant medication used to treat seizures and nerve-related pain.

 

Renaissance Recovery rehab in Huntington Beach, California logo.

Get Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

Welcome to Renaissance Recovery Center in Southern California, where we specialize in providing comprehensive outpatient treatment for prescription drug addictions and mental health conditions. Our commitment is to offer you the support and structure you need to embark on your journey towards recovery. Choose from our diverse range of outpatient treatment programs designed to meet your unique needs:

  • PHP (partial hospitalization program): Our PHP program offers intensive support while allowing you to return home at the end of the day.
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program): IOP provides comprehensive treatment with flexible scheduling to accommodate your daily responsibilities.
  • OP (outpatient program): OP offers ongoing support as you continue to manage your daily life.

At Renaissance, our treatment programs are anchored in evidence-based and holistic interventions. These therapies include:

Begin your long-term recovery from gabapentin addiction today by calling admissions at 866.330.9449.

SHARE THIS POST

THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE

At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

Check My Insurance Coverage

  • Max File size 20 MB


Text a Recovery Expert

Text our team to get the help you need ASAP.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.