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Gabapentin, sold under the brand names Horizant and Neurontin, is a prescription drug that is generally safe when used as prescribed by a doctor. When taken on its own, there is little potential for abuse, but recently this drug has become a substance that is frequently abused with other drugs.

The Prescription Drug Gabapentin

Gabapentin is a prescription drug that is used to prevent and control seizures, such as for people who have epilepsy. It is also used to relieve nerve pain, treat restless leg syndrome, and is often prescribed for anxiety, mood disorders, and alcohol withdrawal, among other conditions.1

Gabapentin works to treat seizures by decreasing abnormal activity in the brain and it relieves nerve pain by changing the way the body senses that pain. It comes as a capsule, tablet, extended-release tablet, and oral solution and is typically prescribed to be taken three times a day.2

Misuse of Gabapentin

Gabapentin is not considered an addictive drug and although it is only a controlled substance in Kentucky as of July 1, 2017, the potential for misuse is high due to the withdrawal symptoms it causes and the psychoactive effects it produces when misused.3

When taken alone, there is very little potential for misuse and addiction. However, many people who misuse it do so to enhance the effects of other medications and drugs in an effort to increase their high or achieve a sense of extreme sedation.

Researchers found that of patients taking gabapentin illegally, 56 percent were taking it with an opioid, 27 percent were taking it with an opioid and a muscle relaxant or an anxiety medication, and the remaining 8.6 percent of patients were combining it with other illicit substances.4

Despite its slight potential for abuse, researchers and authorities are finding that the frequency of gabapentin misuse is increasing. One survey completed by 129 patients attending six different substance abuse treatment clinics found that 22 percent of them admitted to abusing gabapentin, compared to 47 percent who misused benzodiazepines and 43 percent who abused cannabis.5

Many people get this prescription drug, nicknamed “Gabbies” and “Johnnys,” from their doctors. In fact, gabapentin is the fifth most prescribed drug in the U.S.6 Unfortunately, even if the use of this prescription drug begins for legitimate medical purposes, it can turn into misuse, especially for those who have a history of substance abuse. Media reports are even indicating evidence of a black market for the drug now too, further indicating the presence of illegal sales of gabapentin.7

Dangerous Effects of Gabapentin Abuse

Abusers describe the effects of gabapentin abuse with feelings of euphoria, improved sociability, a marijuana-like high, relaxation, and a sense of calm.8

When people take too much gabapentin or use it when they don’t need it, they may also experience some of the following side effects, which can be uncomfortable, painful, and downright dangerous.

  • Tremors
  • Memory loss
  • Lack of coordination and speaking difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Agitation
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Mania
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
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Individuals who abuse gabapentin may also be at increased risk for overdosing. Symptoms of gabapentin overdose include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy

Signs that Your Loved One May Be Abusing Gabapentin

If you think that your loved one may be abusing gabapentin, he or she may display some of the following signs and symptoms9:

  • Needing early or frequent refills
  • Taking excessively high doses
  • Getting gabapentin prescriptions from multiple doctors
  • Experiencing sudden and uncharacteristic memory loss problems
  • Stealing or forging prescriptions
  • Appearing to be high or unusually sedated
  • Excessive mood swings
  • Demonstrating poor decision-making skills

Medically-Assisted Drug Detox for Gabapentin Misuse

After abusing gabapentin for a long period of time, a person’s body will become dependent on the substance and they will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it suddenly.

To safely stop all use of gabapentin, users should complete a medically-assisted drug detox program. This type of detox will slowly wean the user off the drug while treating any uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal. This will allow the user to achieve a stable state of sobriety before continuing their addiction treatment with a drug and alcohol rehab program.

If a person is struggling with gabapentin abuse, he or she is also most likely suffering from addiction to other substances, such as opioids or alcohol. At Briarwood Detox Center, we can provide an individualized polydrug detox program to address the complex needs of multiple types of addictions occurring simultaneously. This allows us to address all of the client’s needs and ensure a safe, comfortable drug detox experience.

If you or a loved one needs help overcoming prescription drug abuse of gabapentin or some other prescription drug or illicit substance, call Briarwood Detox Center today. We can provide a personalized drug detox program to help you overcome your addiction for good.

 

References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-14208-8217/gabapentin-oral/gabapentin-oral/details
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a694007.html
  3. https://www.goodrx.com/blog/gabapentin-now-a-controlled-substance-in-kentucky/
  4. http://www.pharmaciststeve.com/?p=16101
  5. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/826680
  6. https://www.statnews.com/2017/07/06/gabapentin-opioid-abuse/
  7. https://www.wxyz.com/news/local-news/investigations/with-abuse-on-the-rise-experts-warn-about-johnnys-the-prescription-drug-gabapentin
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404313/
  9. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prescription-drug-abuse/symptoms-causes/syc-20376813
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