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Gabapentin Addiction: Use vs. Misuse

Gabapentin is one of the more misused prescription drugs. In one study, 40-65% of individuals with gabapentin prescriptions were found to be misusing the drug in some way.

In this blog post, we will discuss gabapentin addiction — what it is, how it happens, the effects it can have, and what treatments are available. By understanding more about gabapentin addiction and its treatment, we can begin to help those most affected by it and restore them to a healthy and happy life.

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a medication used to treat various conditions, including epilepsy, neuropathic pain, insomnia, and anxiety. It is an antiepileptic drug (AED) and a member of the gabapentinoid class of medications. 

Gabapentin works by reducing the amount of abnormal electrical activity in the brain and central nervous system or by altering the way pain messages travel through the brain and down the spine. This can help control seizures, prevent nerve damage from occurring, and reduce discomfort associated with painful conditions such as shingles or diabetic neuropathy. 

In addition to its primary uses in treating epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and certain sleep disorders, gabapentin has been approved for other indications, such as restless leg syndrome and hot flashes in women taking tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment. 

It is important to note that although gabapentin can be effective in treating these conditions, it can also have side effects including dizziness, fatigue, abdominal pain, confusion, appetite changes, nausea, vomiting, headache and ataxia.

Medical Use of Gabapentin in Addiction Recovery

Gabapentin is sometimes used in addiction treatment centers to help ease the symptoms of alcohol or other drug detoxification. It helps to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, restlessness, agitation, irritability and insomnia. 

Additionally, it may be used to treat nerve pain associated with withdrawal from substance abuse. It is important to note that gabapentin should only be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for addiction and should not be taken on its own. 

It is important to note that gabapentin can cause side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, abdominal pain, confusion, appetite changes, nausea, vomiting, and headache, so it’s important to consult your doctor before starting any treatment plan involving gabapentin.

Understanding Misuse & Gabapentin Addiction

While gabapentin has medical uses for addiction recovery, people can begin to abuse gabapentin by taking larger doses than prescribed, more often than prescribed, or in different ways, such as crushing the tablets and snorting them. This can lead to gabapentin addiction.

Gabapentin addiction can also occur when a person begins to take the drug to cope with stress or anxiety or to self-medicate the symptoms of other behavioral health conditions. This may result in a co-occurring behavioral health disorder and substance use disorder.

People become addicted to gabapentin because it produces feelings of euphoria and relaxation when taken in high doses that are much stronger than those experienced when taken at a therapeutic dose. It is important to be aware of the signs of addiction to gabapentin, such as cravings, increased tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and loss of control over use.

Individuals with a history of psychiatric disorders or substance use disorder seem to be at higher risk for misuse and abuse of gabapentin.

Signs & Symptoms of Gabapentin Addiction

People who are abusing gabapentin can display numerous signs and symptoms of addiction. The signs and symptoms of gabapentin misuse and addiction can vary but may include:

• Increased tolerance to the drug

• Craving the drug

• Taking higher doses than prescribed

• Significant withdrawal symptoms when drug use is stopped

• Neglecting responsibilities in order to obtain and use the drug

• Losing interest in other activities one used to enjoy in favor of drug use 

Additionally, physical signs of gabapentin addiction may include constipation, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion.

An addiction to a substance like gabapentin is a serious matter that requires medical attention. Those who think they or someone they know may be developing an addiction should speak with their doctor right away for help identifying and getting treatment.

Risks & Side Effects of Gabapentin Addiction

Gabapentin has many appropriate medical uses, such as treating epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and anxiety. Unfortunately, like most medications, it carries risks when taken in high doses or by other means, such as crushing the tablets and snorting them. Gabapentin addiction can cause serious physical, mental and emotional side effects such as:

Physical Effects

When taken for long periods of time or abused in large doses, gabapentin can cause significant physical changes in the body. Some of the physical effects of gabapentin addiction include:

• Constipation

• Nausea

• Dizziness

• Drowsiness

• Confusion

• Difficulty concentrating 

Gabapentin addiction can also lead to an increased risk of developing physical diseases and other health conditions, such as kidney damage and liver damage.

Mental Effects

Gabapentin is known to affect neurotransmitters in the brain, and therefore it can cause a range of mental and emotional effects such as:

• Changes in mood

• Impaired judgment

• Disorientation

• Hallucinations

• Suicidal thoughts

Misusing gabapentin can also increase a person’s risk for developing mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. These behavioral health issues can have long-term consequences, including difficulty functioning in everyday life, impaired work performance, relationship difficulties, social isolation, and more severe symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Social Effects

Gabapentin addiction can lead to social effects and consequences, such as difficulty forming meaningful relationships, isolating oneself from loved ones, and avoiding activities that were once enjoyed. 

Additionally, people struggling with gabapentin addiction may find themselves engaging in risky behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol to cope with uncomfortable emotions. Loved ones may also be deeply affected by the addiction, feeling frustrated and helpless when attempts to help are met with resistance or disinterest. 

Ultimately, gabapentin addiction can have a deep and lasting impact on individuals’ social lives if it is not addressed in a timely manner.

Treatment & Recovery from Gabapentin Addiction

Treatment for gabapentin addiction can provide a wide variety of benefits. Treatment can help those struggling with addiction learn how to manage their symptoms, break the cycle of misuse, and heal any damage that may have been caused by the addiction.

Here are some commonly used methods for gabapentin addiction treatment:


Detox is an important part of the recovery process for individuals suffering from gabapentin addiction. Detoxification involves gradually reducing the amount of gabapentin in the system until all traces are eliminated. 

This can be done through tapering or by using medications that reduce withdrawal symptoms. During detox, individuals may experience uncomfortable side effects such as headaches, dizziness, anxiety, and fatigue. 

To minimize these symptoms, medical professionals may prescribe certain medications to help with the detoxification process. This is why medically-assisted detoxification is offered at residential treatment centers, such as New Method Wellness so that patients can receive medical care around the clock.

Behavioral Therapy 

The next step in the treatment of gabapentin addiction is counseling and psychotherapy, which can happen in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Behavioral therapies are particularly effective in helping people who are recovering from addiction.

Types of behavioral therapy include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, rational emotive behavioral therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. Behavioral therapy can help a person identify the triggers of addiction and develop healthy coping strategies to manage them.

Motivational interviewing and relapse prevention are also useful counseling techniques to help people recover from gabapentin addiction.

Holistic Treatment

Holistic treatment for gabapentin addiction is focused on the overall well-being of the individual. This type of approach may include:

• Yoga

• Mindfulness-based stress reduction

• Acupuncture

• Herbal Therapies

• Massage

• Nutritional Counseling

These treatments focus on the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of addiction and work to restore a sense of balance in the individual’s life. They are used in combination with other therapeutic interventions, such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) or 12-step programs to help an individual achieve lasting recovery from gabapentin addiction.

Begin Your Healing Journey at New Method Wellness

Gabapentin addiction is a serious condition that can have many physical, mental, and social effects. While it can be difficult to overcome, it is possible with the right treatment and support. If you or someone you know is struggling with gabapentin addiction, it’s important to seek help from a qualified healthcare professional. 

New Method Wellness is a residential addiction treatment center located in Orange County, California that specializes in treating substance abuse and underlying behavioral health issues. Our highly trained and compassionate counselors provide individual and group therapy utilizing proven modalities such as:

• Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

• Dialectical Behavior Therapy

• Addiction Psychiatry

• Medication Assisted Treatment 

To deepen the healing with a holistic approach, a wide range of complementary modalities are also available. These include:

• Acupuncture

• Massage Therapy

• Nutritional Counseling

• Wolf-Assisted Therapy

• Art Therapy

• Meditation Therapy

To learn more about our treatment programs for gabapentin addiction, contact New Method Wellness today.

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