What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin – also known by its brand name, Neurontin – is a prescription medication most commonly used as an anticonvulsant or a nerve pain medication. It is used to treat seizures and to treat pain that is caused by conditions like shingles. In its extended-release form, this medication might also be used to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS) – however, it is not known exactly how this medication treats RLS. Gabapentin treats seizures by effectively reducing abnormal brain activity, and it treats pain-related issues by essentially changing the way in which the brain processes pain signals. Overall, Gabapentin can be extremely beneficial in treating the above-listed health conditions when taken exactly as prescribed by a medical professional. However, when taken other than as prescribed this medication can be habit-forming and result in a wide range of serious physical and psychological consequences.

Despite the fact that it can be physically and psychologically addictive, gabapentin is sometimes used in an addiction treatment setting. One additional medical use is the alleviation of withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine and alcohol. Those who abuse gabapentin most frequently have a personal history of substance abuse – specifically opioid abuse. When taken in high doses this drug produces euphoric effects. However, there are many serious risks involved when it comes to gabapentin abuse – risks that must be thoroughly understood and acknowledged before this potentially habit-forming medication is prescribed for any reason.

Gabapentin Abuse – Risks Involved

There are many serious risks involved in gabapentin abuse. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently published a public warning regarding the serious risks that go hand-in-hand with taking high doses of this specific prescription medication. The FDA stated that taking greater amounts of gabapentin than prescribed can result in respiratory depression and other serious breathing problems. An article published by Healthline titled, “Side Effects of Gabapentin” details additional – and potentially life-threatening – risks of taking more gabapentin than prescribed for longer than recommended.

These serious side effects include:

  • Extreme anxiousness which can lead to hyperventilation and panic attacks
  • Agitation, aggression and irritability that can lead to violent outbursts
  • Severe depression which can lead to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts
  • Insomnia and other severe sleep-related issues
  • Mania (periods of extreme euphoria and excitement, often characterized by delusions and erratic behavior)

There are also many common side effects associated with gabapentin abuse. While these side effects are not typically dangerous, they can be harshly uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life. If you are currently taking this medication as prescribed by a medical professional and you have been experiencing the following side effects on a regular basis, it is important to get in touch with your physician. If you have been abusing gabapentin and have been experiencing the following side effects, it is crucial that you cease use immediately. If you find that you are unable to quit on your own, there is help available.

gabapentin detox risks

Common side effects of gabapentin use:

  • Gastrointestinal issues, like nausea, diarrhea or constipation
  • Excessive drowsiness and fatigue
  • Unsteadiness/an inability to stand up straight
  • A lack of coordination
  • Abnormal and uncontrollable eye movements
  • Slurred speech/difficulty speaking
  • Dehydration and chronic dry mouth

The risks that this medication presents depend heavily on the individual. For example, individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions are more likely to experience adverse psychological effects like anxiety and depression. Individuals with pre-existing heart conditions are more likely to experience rapid heartbeat and other cardiovascular issues. According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, individuals who have pre-existing kidney disease could experience a fatal toxicity resulting from gabapentin use. Even if you do not currently suffer from any known pre-existing physical or mental health conditions, it is absolutely crucial that you seek professional addiction treatment if you have been abusing this specific prescription medication for any duration of time.

Signs and Symptoms of Gabapentin Addiction

There are many symptoms associated with gabapentin abuse and addiction.

The most common symptoms of gabapentin abuse include:

  • Continuing to use gabapentin despite conflicting medical advice
  • Taking higher doses than recommended more frequently than recommended
  • Physical symptoms like a consistent lack of coordination, tiredness, low-grade fever and flu-like symptoms and uncontrollable shaking/trembling
  • Attempting to cut back on the amount of gabapentin being taken daily but being unable to cut back or quit for any extended period of time
  • Continuing to use gabapentin despite an accumulation of personal consequences, which could be problems in interpersonal relationships, financial hardships, legal issues or problems at work or at school
  • Attempting to obtain more than one prescription at a time
  • Spending an excessive amount of time thinking about using, obtaining the drug, using the drug and recovering from the effects of use
  • An increase in risk-taking behaviors, which could include driving while under the influence of gabapentin or engaging in illegal activities in order to obtain more of the drug (stealing, for example)
  • Neglecting hobbies and activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Avoiding personal responsibilities and neglecting personal obligations
  • Developing a physical tolerance, meaning that a higher dose of gabapentin is required in order for the initial effects to be produced
  • Withdrawal symptoms that take hold when gabapentin use is abruptly stopped

Guardian IOP – Continuing Clinical Care

Guardian IOP provides a quality program of intensive outpatient treatment to anyone seeking help. We offer age and gender-specific treatment options so that our clients get as much as possible out of their recovery experience. If you or a love one has been suffering at the hands of a gabapentin abuse disorder of any severity, recovery is possible with an effective, multi-phased continuum of clinical care. We offer a wide range of services geared towards providing the most comprehensive and individualized care available throughout the state of Florida. Some of the therapeutic services we provide include Cognitive Behavioral therapy, Dialectical Behavior therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization, life skills training, relapse prevention training, 12 step program immersion, dual diagnosis treatment and a thorough family program. Additionally, we believe that effective addiction treatment services should be available and easily accessible to anyone who is struggling with substance abuse – for that reason, we work closely with most major regional and national insurance providers. If you are currently insured there is a very good chance that your entire Guardian IOP experience is covered in full (or at least majoritively). We offer free, no obligation insurance benefit checks to each of our future clients. The moment you give us a call and express interest in our recovery program we set to work developing a viable admission plan. In most cases, intensive outpatient treatment comes after medically monitored detox and inpatient or residential treatment. However, the structure of every treatment plan varies on a person-to-person basis. We are more than happy to help you figure out which level of clinical care best suits your specific needs and requirements.

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today

If you or a love one has been struggling with a gabapentin abuse disorder of any severity there is help available. At Guardian IOP we offer a comprehensive and highly individualized program of gender and age-specific care. We utilize proven therapeutic techniques to help our clients develop all of the coping mechanisms and life skills they need to maintain success in sobriety for years to come. To learn more about our recovery program or to continue along in your personal journey of addiction recovery, simply give us a call today.


Reviewed for accuracy by:

Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.