Gabapentin Addiction: Definition, Common Signs & Options For Help


Are you or a loved one struggling with gabapentin addiction? You are not alone! Many people worldwide need help identifying signs of addiction, seeking treatment, and succeeding in their recovery.

Luckily for you, we can help. This is not to say that recovery from an addictive substance is a walk in the park.

Still, we can provide the right tools and information to help you recover from this addiction.

What Is a Gabapentin Addiction?

Gabapentin addiction is an urge or a need to use gabapentin, a prescription anticonvulsant drug. Gabapentin is prescribed to patients with restless leg syndrome, neuralgia, or epileptic seizures.

This prescription drug decreases brain signaling, prevents seizures, alters how a brain responds to pain, and inhibits the production of GABA neurotransmitters, leading to an overall reduction in pain, anxiety, stress, and agitation.

Gabapentin is also commonly used to treat addiction and alcoholism. However, during the treatment phase, those who are taking gabapentin may end up becoming addicted to the side effects of the drug.

Gabapentin addiction typically occurs in those with an addiction to other substances, such as alcohol or opioids. Addicts will experience withdrawal symptoms once they stop taking this prescription drug.

Understanding addiction basics can help patients and loved ones identify warning signs.

Do Gabapentin Addiction Urges Go Away?

The hardest part of stopping the drug is the withdrawal phase. Those physically dependent on the drug will end up experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia, nausea, pain, chest pain, sweating, anxiety, and depression.

The symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal begin in the first 12 hours after the last pill and usually last up to seven days. Gabapentin addicts will be relieved to know that after one week, the urges to use gabapentin significantly decrease.

Medication is typically used to help with intense withdrawal symptoms. Detoxing and withdrawal from gabapentin is best done under the supervision of a medical professional and with a doctor’s approval.

Forms of Gabapentin Addiction

There are a few types of gabapentin addiction that can lead to dependency on the drug.

1. Chemical Addiction

Chemical addiction is a dependence on a substance or a “substance use (or abuse) disorder.”

Chemical addiction can be genetic. This type of drug misuse has common signs:

  • Need to use more gabapentin to feel the same effects
  • Intense cravings
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Spending less time doing things you previously enjoyed
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Being unable to stop using
  • Discomfort if you can’t get the substance
  • Risky behaviors

2. Behavioral Addiction

Behavioral addiction can also manifest. If someone is addicted to how they behave on the drug and the mannerisms related to drug intake, they can become addicted to gabapentin.

For example, a red flag of behavioral addiction is if the person spends a significant amount of time thinking about the drug, likes the way it makes them feel, feels disoriented without it, and has difficulty not taking it.

3. Social Use

The final type of gabapentin addiction is taking this prescription drug and other substances to feel high. Other drugs may include cocaine, opioids, or prescription drugs.

Gabapentin Addiction Statistics

  1. 1.1% of gabapentin users misuse the drug (American Addiction Centers).
  2. 22% of people in treatment centers misuse gabapentin (American Addiction Centers).
  3. Gabapentin data with abuse, misuse, or exposure increased by 104% in the United States from 2013 to 2017 (Clinic of Toxicology Philadelphia).
  4. 90% of gabapentin drug overdose deaths also involved another opioid (American Forensic Medical Pathology).
  5. 6-9% of gabapentin deaths involved a stimulant (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

What Are the Signs of a Gabapentin Addiction?

There are a few telltale signs of gabapentin addiction that can help you or a loved one get the help needed.

1. Loss of Coordination and Balance

People addicted to gabapentin can experience a loss of coordination during daily activities, such as walking, running, holding items in their hands, and so on. A feeling of drowsiness or dizziness typically accompanies the loss of coordination.

2. Consistent Fatigue

People may begin taking gabapentin to help with seizure disorders, neuralgia, or seizures. All of these disorders can lead to mental and physical fatigue. To help combat chronic tiredness, individuals may take gabapentin.

An overreliance on this drug can lead to stimulant effects that will decrease over time. The more a person relies on gabapentin, the more they will need to take it to feel the same energy boost.

3. Short-term Memory Loss

Short-term memory loss is a common sign of addiction. Although stimulant medication can increase cognitive skills for immediate tasks, a sign of addiction is short-term memory loss, such as difficulty finishing tasks, forgetting regular schedules, and misplacing everyday items.

4. Arm Tremors and Shaking

Involuntary tremors are a symptom of illnesses, addiction, and withdrawal. Tremors from drug withdrawal typically occur in the arms, head, feet, and hands.

5. Difficulty Concentrating

People who are addicted to substances might have trouble concentrating and issues thinking clearly.

If they are preoccupied with procuring their drug, or gabapentin has altered the neural pathways in their brain, people may find it hard to stay alert, finish tasks, complete obligations, or adhere to schedules.

6. Inability to Multitask

Those displaying signs of gabapentin addiction might have difficulty finishing tasks, doing multiple things at once, or creating mind-body connections that allow them to complete tasks on time.

7. Flu-like Symptoms

Some people might exhibit flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, headaches, body aches, nausea, and loss of appetite.

8. Depression

People who are addicted to gabapentin can experience depression. One of the leading causes is that this drug alters the neural transmitters in the brain, which can lead to a significant drop in dopamine during withdrawal periods.

Another cause of depression is a preoccupation and social need to procure the drug. If someone cannot find or obtain the drug, they may become depressed and isolated.

9. Anxiety

Gabapentin addiction can cause people to appear anxious, nervous, or agitated because of a preoccupation with getting the drug, an inability to obtain the drug, a low supply, or concern over other aspects of their life.

Types of Unhealthy Gabapentin Behavior

One of the main warning signs of a gabapentin addiction is behavioral change. A reliance or dependence on gabapentin will cause changes in the brain signaling and behavior of the person, which can lead to risky behavior, uncharacteristic tendencies, and a higher likelihood of using other illicit substances.

Signs of behavioral changes include:

  • Stealing money
  • Lying to loved ones and friends
  • Inability to stop taking gabapentin, even though it is in the person’s best interest
  • Planning daily life around taking or procuring more gabapentin
  • Foregoing other responsibilities or obligations
  • Visiting multiple healthcare practitioners to get more gabapentin
  • Borrowing or stealing gabapentin

If you notice that you or a loved one experiences withdrawal symptoms once you stop taking this drug, this is a sign of addiction. Gabapentin addiction causes the brain to rely more on this drug for mood stabilization, anxiety relief, pain reduction, and dopamine release.

Since your brain relies on a drug to produce naturally-occurring hormones and neurotransmitters, it is hard for the brain to rewire itself when you stop taking this drug.

What Is the Main Cause of Gabapentin Addiction?

The main cause of gabapentin addiction includes a doctor prescribing it to a patient with an addictive personality. When this happens, it can lead to abuse or misuse of gabapentin.

Although the rate of misusing gabapentin is relatively low compared to other substances, over 20% of people within treatment centers still rely on gabapentin or a similar drug.

Those who are currently addicted to cocaine, alcohol, or opioids should avoid taking gabapentin to avoid the potential for addiction.

How Gabapentin Addiction Affects the Brain

Gabapentin provides mild euphoric and calming effects to the brain that can lead to feelings of happiness and calmness. Gabapentin increases relaxation, calmness, sociability, and mood stabilization.

This drug is usually prescribed for bipolar disorder, alcohol addiction, anxiety, major depression, seizure disorders, or schizophrenia.

Gabapentin can be successful in affecting GABA and metabolic enzymes within the brain to help produce anticonvulsant effects. It boosts cellular GABA levels within the brain and glutamate concentrations.

What Is the Personality of a Gabapentin Addict?

The personality of a gabapentin addict will usually exhibit compulsivity, inability to handle stressful situations, lack of control, nonconformity, impatience, and low-self esteem.

The “positive” feelings a gabapentin user may experience while taking this drug include a sense of heightened euphoria, relaxation, and calmness. Reliance on this drug can lead to mood and personality changes due to a rewiring of the brain chemistry.

If a person becomes addicted, they may become anxious, nauseous, needy, depressed, and withdrawn. A person addicted to gabapentin might experience physical withdrawal issues, such as sleep problems and flu-like symptoms.

Is Gabapentin Addiction a Mental Health Issue?

Yes, addiction is a serious mental health issue. Addiction rewires and changes the way the brain works, altering a person’s typical thought patterns, behaviors, needs, and desires and making them completely reliant on using and finding the drug of their choice over all other needs and wants in their life.

What Mental Illnesses Go Hand in Hand With Gabapentin Addiction?

People who suffer from neuralgia or anxiety may begin taking gabapentin to help with the negative symptoms of their condition.

Individuals with addictive personalities are much more likely to develop a gabapentin addiction. People who are addicted to other behaviors or substances should not take gabapentin.

How Do I Stop My Gabapentin Addiction?

Patients can treat their gabapentin addiction by finding a treatment method that suits their lifestyle, preferences, and the severity of the addiction. Using medical professionals is one of the best ways to help tackle all of the issues surrounding addiction.

Can Gabapentin Addiction Ever Be Cured?

Yes, gabapentin addiction can be cured. People who are suffering from reliance on this drug, or know of a loved one/friend struggling with misusing gabapentin, should find a treatment center and detox program.

The initial step typically includes detoxifying the substance from your body, which includes the withdrawal, and then developing coping mechanisms and aiding with any other mental illnesses or physical conditions.

Once patients get through the first week after cessation, the withdrawal symptoms will subside. After three weeks, patients will have a reduced desire or need to take the drug.

What Is the Most Common Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction?

The most common treatment for gabapentin addiction is usually a combination of behavioral intervention/behavioral therapy and medical care.

However, for those who are considered addicted to the substance or have a history of addiction, more intense treatment is preferable. Patients should look into an in-patient addiction rehab program that provides them with comprehensive medical care, supervision, and withdrawal medication.

In addiction treatment centers, patients can speak with healthcare professionals throughout their recovery. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and primary care doctors can set a multi-faceted treatment approach for those addicted to gabapentin and other substances.

While a patient is recovering in the in-patient treatment center, families and loved ones can visit. Most inpatient centers offer programs for loved ones to discuss their feelings since families also need support during this tough time.

What Can I Replace Gabapentin With?

If you do not want to take gabapentin, there are a few alternatives you can try:

  • Pregabalin — This prescription medication is used to treat chronic pain, anxiety, and seizure disorders. Pregabalin decreases brain activity and reduces neurotransmitters that send ‘anxious’ chemicals. Patients should be aware of the potential side effects, such as dry mouth, heezing, double vision, anxiety, and bloating.
  • Amitriptyline — Amitriptyline is an antidepressant for treating depression, migraines, and neuralgia. Side effects of this drug include dry mouth, constipation, and nausea.
  • Carbamazepine — Carbamazepine is an anticonvulsant drug that treats seizures and restless leg syndrome. This drug reduces neurotransmitter activity and electrical impulses in the brain. Side effects include shaking, constipation, and difficulty breathing.
  • Phenytoin — Phenytoin treats seizure disorders and neuralgia. Side effects include nausea, constipation, and migraines.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions from individuals who need information when helping somebody with an addiction.

How long can you stay on gabapentin?

Patients can continue taking gabapentin for multiple years if there are no signs of addiction or misuse. For example, patients with a seizure disorder or epilepsy can take gabapentin for multiple years to treat their conditions.

What is the addiction rate of Gabapentin?

The addiction rate of gabapentin is 1.1% in the general population.

Additional Addictions To Be Aware Of

There are a few additional addictions to be aware of when it comes to misusing substances.

  • Xanax Addiction: Xanax is commonly used to treat anxious personality disorder, panic disorder, and insomnia. However, this drug is extremely addictive and has the potential for long-term issues.
  • Adderall Addiction: Adderall is a stimulant drug used to treat hyperactivity disorder by increasing dopamine and boosting focus. This drug increases dopamine in the brain, leading to euphoric effects. However, this drug is commonly misused, as this drug has a high risk of addiction even when prescribed in low doses.
  • Ketamine Addiction: Ketamine is an anesthetic that is used to treat depression and chronic pain. Ketamine blocks pain receptors in the brain and creates a “high” feeling. Ketamine can make a user feel exhausted, numb, anxious, or hallucinate. It can cause long-term issues like paranoia, personality changes, depression, and psychosis.

Wrapping Up

Are you worried that your or a loved one is suffering from gabapentin addiction?

If so, there are a few ways to identify signs of addiction, figure out treatment methods to help your loved ones, and identify other addictions to be aware of.


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