Is Gabapentin an Addictive Drug?

Feb 2024 Is Gabapentin an Addictive Drug?

Before taking any prescription medication, it is important to speak with your physician about both the benefits and the potential drawbacks of the drug. In the case of gabapentin, you will want to get answers to important questions such as How will this drug help me, Does it cause severe side effects, and Is gabapentin addictive?

What is Gabapentin and What Is it Used For?

Before we answer the question, Is gabapentin addictive, let’s first take a look at what this medication is and what types of conditions it treats.

Gabapentin is a prescription medication that is classified as an anticonvulsant. It was first synthesized in 1975, and it earned approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. 

Today, it is most commonly prescribed to treat people who have been experiencing seizures, nerve pain (typically after developing shingles), and restless leg syndrome. It is also sometimes used on an off-label basis to treat anxiety and to alleviate some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

In addition to being sold as a generic, gabapentin is also marketed under several brand names, including Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant. 

Is it Considered a Controlled Substance?

Gabapentin is not classified as a controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which is responsible for drug scheduling on the federal level. 

However, seven states (Alabama, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) have classified the drug as a Schedule V controlled substance, which allows for gabapentin prescriptions and sales to be more closely monitored. 

Potential Side Effects of Using Gabapentin

Virtually every prescription medication can cause side effects, and gabapentin is no exception to this rule. The following are examples of the more common potential side effects of gabapentin use:

  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Headache
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Double vision
  • Involuntary eye movements
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Tics and tremors
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Memory problems
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain

Gabapentin use has also been linked to some more serious adverse effects, such as:

  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, and lips
  • Problems swallowing or breathing
  • Skin rash and blistering
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Rhabdomyolysis (a potentially fatal condition that involves the release of proteins and electrolytes from damaged muscle tissue into the blood stream)
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Yes, although gabapentin poses a relatively low risk of addiction, it is possible for someone to become dependent on this drug.

How Do People Become Addicted?

There are two general pathways toward gabapentin addiction:

  • A person receives a prescription for gabapentin, uses the drug for a longer time (or in a larger amount) than directed, and develops an addiction.
  • An individual illicitly acquires gabapentin to abuse for recreational purposes, and becomes dependent on the drug.

Gabapentin may be an enticing substance of abuse. This is due to its ability to elicit a euphoric rush and an overall sense of serenity that some people have compared to the high that a person experiences when they use marijuana. In some cases, the pleasurable effects of gabapentin can approximate what a person feels when they abuse some opioids.

According to a study in the July 2016 edition of the journal Addiction, experts estimate that 40%-65% of people who receive prescriptions for gabapentin misuse the drug. The same study reports that recreational gabapentin abuse is most common among people who also abuse opioids.

What Does the Addiction Look Like?

Now that you know the answer to the question, Is gabapentin addictive?, how can you tell if someone that you care about has become dependent on this drug? The following behaviors could be signs of gabapentin addiction:

  • Trying to buy, borrow, or steal gabapentin that had been prescribed to someone else.
  • Using gabapentin in a manner that is inconsistent with their doctor’s instructions.
  • Lying about their symptoms in order to get additional prescriptions for gabapentin.
  • Visiting several doctors to illicitly acquire additional gabapentin prescriptions (a practice that is often referred to as “doctor shopping”).
  • Becoming agitated or irritated when they can’t use gabapentin.
  • Using gabapentin in ways that are especially hazardous, such as by combining the medication with other addictive substances.
  • Developing tolerance (meaning that they need to use larger doses of gabapentin to experience the high they are seeking)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (which can include various forms of physical and psychological distress) when they abruptly try to stop using gabapentin

What to Do if You Think You’re Addicted to Gabapentin

If you think you have become addicted to gabapentin, your first step should be to consult with the doctor who prescribed the medication. That professional can evaluate your symptoms and make a recommendation for appropriate treatment if necessary.

If you didn’t receive gabapentin from a doctor, you should make an appointment for an assessment at Phoenix Rising Recovery or another trusted addiction treatment center in your area. Receiving an accurate diagnosis and reviewing your treatment options can be essential steps on the path toward a healthier, drug-free future.

Treatment Options for Gabapentin Addiction

As we alluded to in the previous section, it’s important to explore your options before entering treatment for gabapentin addiction. This is because there’s no single therapy, technique, or course of treatment that works for everyone. You should focus your attention on finding the provider whose services align most closely with your unique needs and goals.

At Phoenix Rising, your gabapentin treatment options include the following programs:

Within each of these programs, your treatment plan may include a variety of therapies and support services to help you end your gabapentin use, address any co-occurring mental health concerns, and build a framework for successful, long-term recovery.

Again, remember that there’s no single “perfect” route to recovery – what’s most important is finding the programming that’s right for you.

Contact Our Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment Center in Southern California 

Phoenix Rising Recovery is a trusted source of life-affirming treatment for adults whose lives have been disrupted by addictions to gabapentin and other prescription medications. 

At our prescription drug treatment center in Southern California, you can work with compassionate experts who are committed to providing personalized services within a safe and respectful environment. We understand how addiction can impact virtually every part of your life, and we’re here to develop the comprehensive solutions that can prepare you for long-term success.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact page or call us today.