Short- and Long-Term Effects of Gabapentin (Neurontin)
Gabapentin can be highly beneficial to individuals who are prescribed it and who take it as directed, however the misuse of this substance can be dangerous and even deadly. This page will discuss gabapentin misuse in further detail, including the long-term effects of gabapentin, gabapentin side effects, and possible withdrawal symptoms.
What is Gabapentin (Neurontin)?
The prescription drug gabapentin – widely known by the brand name Neurontin – is a medication used to help manage partial seizures in people who suffer from epilepsy and to treat pain in people with postherpetic neuralgia and some other forms of neuropathic pain. However, like many medications, gabapentin does have some negative side effects, along with withdrawal symptoms, some of which may be experienced after just one use, and some of which may arise as a result of long-term use. These effects can range from mild to severe.1
While gabapentin is not a controlled substance or considered a drug with a high potential for abuse, there have been reports of people abusing it to experience a more intense high from opioids such as methadone.2
Side Effects of Gabapentin
The use of any medication, including gabapentin, can create a number of various side effects. Both short-term and long-term use of gabapentin can cause physical and psychological complications. Misusing it may cause you to experience a greater number of symptoms or experience them with greater severity.
Suicidal ideation is a rare but extremely serious side effect of gabapentin. You should seek help immediately if:4
- You have new or worsened depression or anxiety.
- You are suffering from panic attacks.
- You are having manic episodes.
- You are having intrusive thoughts about dying or suicide.
- You experience any other unusual changes in your mood or behavior.
Gabapentin has uses beyond its primary indication for the management of certain types of seizures. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also approved to manage the pain of postherpetic neuralgia (the pain that occurs after a case of shingles).
Gabapentin is sometimes prescribed for several off-label uses, including the management of:3
- Diabetic neuropathy.
- Neuropathic pain after a spinal cord injury.
- Restless leg syndrome.
Like many medications, people who take gabapentin have reported a variety of side effects from the drug. Some side effects of gabapentin are more serious. These effects are more likely to occur if gabapentin is overused or otherwise abused. Serious side effects include: 4
- Weakness or lack of energy.
- Impaired coordination.
- General feeling of unease.
- Feeling of unsteadiness.
- Abnormal eye movements (nystagmus).
- Gastrointestinal upset.
Incoordination and unsteadiness may be more of a concern for elderly patients who are more likely to incur serious injuries upon falling.5 This does not encompass the full list of potential side effects, only the more common and relatively less severe ones. More significant side effects are possible and may be more likely to arise in certain populations, including those who misuse the drug in any way.
Gabapentin (Neurontin) Withdrawal Symptoms
Physical dependence develops when a person has taken a substance for a sustained period of time and no longer functions in the same way without it. Gabapentin is associated with a risk of dependence and withdrawal. Abrupt discontinuation of the drug may result in symptoms similar to those of benzodiazepine or alcohol withdrawal and may include:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Incoherent speech.
- Impaired ability to pay attention.
Someone using gabapentin to control seizure activity should not stop using gabapentin suddenly without talking to their physician. Withdrawal may bring on prolonged seizure activity (status epilepticus).4
Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline
Withdrawal may begin within as little as 12 hours of discontinuation or as late as 7 days after quitting or significantly reducing your dose.12 To decrease your risk of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, you can undergo a gradual taper off of the drug, performed by your doctor.9 If you are abusing gabapentin and want to seek help for addiction (see below), you may also slowly withdraw from the drug (and any other substances of abuse) in a medical detox program.
Is Gabapentin Misused?
As mentioned above, gabapentin is a prescription drug with many uses and a relatively low potential for abuse; however, there is evidence to suggest that some people are misusing it.8 The most common reasons for misuse of this medication include:
- Achieving a high.
- Preventing or diminishing symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
- Potentiating (heightening) the effects of methadone.
A study that evaluated gabapentin abuse looked at information posted by users online and noted several areas of discussion, including:8
- Gabapentin’s potential to produce both sedative and psychedelic effects.
- The ability to obtain the drug online without a valid prescription.
- It’s potential to help you feel less inhibited and more social.
- Getting high by combining it with drugs like amphetamine, LSD, marijuana, alcohol, and SSRIs.
- The ability of gabapentin to produce a feeling of dissociation (on the hands and head).
Gabapentin misuse frequently goes hand in hand with opioid abuse. A study of gabapentin abusers found that nearly 88% misused opioids concurrently.8
Help for Gabapentin (Neurontin) Misuse and Addiction
If you are abusing gabapentin alone or with opioids or other drugs, you face a number of physical and mental health risks. Fortunately, there is help.
Treatment centers that provide evidence-based treatment with professionals knowledgeable about gabapentin abuse – as well as its polydrug abuse with opioids or other drugs – can provide help you need to gain control over your substance use and live a life in recovery. This may be achieved through a variety of therapeutic approaches.
Greenhouse Treatment Center combines the comforts of an upscale rehab with the high-quality treatment you’d expect in a professional drug abuse rehab program. With licensed therapists and medical professionals, you’ll have access to the treatment you need to get better. Our program offers co-occurring disorder treatment to address not only your addiction but any mental health issues that are complicating your substance use. Our offering range from detox to outpatient care and sober living. Wherever you are in the process of recovery, we’re here to help.
Call us right now and speak with one of our rehab admissions navigators who can answer all of your questions, including those regarding how to pay for rehab. You can also verify your insurance via our We accept a variety of plans including Aetna, Humana, and more.
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