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Gabapentin Addiction: Could Abusing Neurontin Really be Harmful?

Much to the surprise of many in the addiction treatment field, Gabapentin addiction is becoming more common. This is a medication that is usually used to treat restless leg syndrome, epilepsy, for pain and for other conditions. It’s not usually considered to be a drug of abuse. However, it can produce psychoactive effects, and it is possible to get high while using it.

When it is used as prescribed, it is a highly effective medication. However, when people abuse it, the potential for addiction is there.

If you currently use Gabapentin, it’s possible that you’re already addicted to it. You could even be abusing it without realizing it. It’s important to learn the facts about this drug so that you know if you need to seek out help.

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The Physical and Psychological Side Effects of Gabapentin

While there are many accepted and approved uses for Gabapentin, it does still lead to some side effects. These may vary, depending on the dosage that you are taking. You might experience:

  • Feeling unsteady on your feet
  • Feeling the need to roll your eyes back and forth
  • Symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • Moods that shift quickly
  • Feeling restless
  • Problems with your concentration

Most people who start off taking a low dose of this medication might not have many side effects. 100mg of Gabapentin is considered to be a low dose. 300mg is considered to be a middle-of-the-road dose. It’s possible for dosages to go as high as 800mg.

This medication is the generic form. It is actually sold under a few other brand names. These include:

  • Neurontin
  • Gralise
  • Horizant
  • Pregabalin
  • Gabarone

You may have some or all of the side effects on this list. The higher your dose is, the more likely side effects are.

At higher doses of this drug, you’re likely to experience more severe side effects. These are not common, even with the 800mg dosage. They are more likely to occur once you begin abusing this medication.

The more serious side effects of Gabapentin include:

  • Experiencing chest pain
  • Having black, tarry stools
  • Becoming short of breath
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Developing ulcers
  • Losing your memory

What is Gabapentin Abuse?

Gabapentin abuse is what occurs when someone takes this drug in a way that’s contraindicated on the label. Sometimes people abuse it without realizing they’re doing it. For instance, someone taking it to help with their restless leg syndrome might find it doesn’t work as well eventually. They know the medication works, but they’re not getting relief. As a result, they increase how much of the drug they’re using. This is a perfect example of accidental abuse.

What is Gabapentin or Neurontin Addiction?

It is possible for people to abuse this drug in order to get high. In fact, research tells us that the recreational use of this medication has exploded in recent years. The Gabapentin high produces a mild sensation of euphoria. Many people actually equate it with what using marijuana feels like. They state that it helps them to feel more calm and relaxed. Some people report zombie-like effects, but these reports are few and far between. 

Someone who abuses this drug is likely to continue doing it. This is dangerous because they risk becoming dependent on it. This means that they need higher dosages of the drug to feel its effects.

Someone who is taking this medication on a regular basis has a high risk of abusing it. This is because over time, the drug builds up in the body. People frequently find that they need to take more; otherwise it doesn’t work as well.

There are other risk factors associated with Neurontin as well. These include:

  • Having a personal history of addiction
  • Having a family history of addiction
  • Having a cultural predisposition to abusing substances
  • Suffering from a mental health disorder
  • Constantly dealing with and trying to manage stress

The fact is that anyone could end up abusing this medication. The only want to not put yourself at risk is to never use it, even when a doctor recommends it.

There are specific signs you can look for to determine if someone you love is abusing Gabapentin. The FDA has indicated that this drug is connected to an increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. You may also suspect that abuse is occurring if you observe any of the following:

  • Manic behaviors
  • Feelings of restlessness
  • Agitation or anger
  • Frequent panic attacks
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Abrupt changes in mood
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • New symptoms of anxiety or depression, or symptoms that have become worse

Anyone who abuses this drug should attempt to stop taking it. However, this may be difficult with professional support. While rehab might not be necessary at this point, counseling is recommended. They should also talk with their doctor about ways to get off the drug that are safe.

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How Does Abusing This Medication Lead to Addiction?

When someone continually abuses Gabapentin, it makes sense that this would eventually lead to addiction. As time goes on, you develop a tolerance for this medication. You need to increase your dosage on a regular basis. Eventually, you feel as though you can’t manage your life unless you take it.

This happens because of the way this drug affects the dopamine levels in the brain. When you use it, you experience higher than normal surges of this pleasure inducing chemical. Those surges make you happy, and they can be very addicting.

As time goes on and you continue to use, your brain doesn’t make dopamine on its own any longer. It’s almost as if it’s forgotten how. This is because the drug has started taking over that job. This is why when you aren’t using, you don’t feel like yourself. You may feel down or depressed. You also have cravings for Gabapentin, encouraging you to use again.

Gabapentin is highly addictive, both on its own, and when used along with other substances. It is a drug that is fairly new to the streets, but it’s gaining popularity very quickly.

Studies have shown that this medication is very common among opioid abusers. One study found that 15% of the participants also had abused gabapentin to get high. This is supported by the fact that in many areas, this drug is surpassing Oxycodone prescriptions. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy found that in one month 9 million more prescriptions were written for Gabapentin than for OxyContin.

It seems that this is one of the newer drug trends in the United States. Experts are still questioning how much people need to be concerned. This medication isn’t indicated as a drug of abuse, but it’s clear that people are, indeed, abusing it.

There is no definite period of time that it takes to become an addict. When it comes to Neurontin, some people may be able to take it at normal doses for a long time. Others may become addicted to it quickly, even at their regular dose.

If you abuse it, you’re likely to form an addiction to the drug much faster. This is especially true if you have a history of addiction to another drug, or if you’re an alcoholic.

Regardless of how long it takes to become addicted to this medication, you will if you continue to abuse it. The next time you use could be the time that pushes you past the point of abuse. This is something that anyone who uses Gabapentin should keep in mind.

Do You Think You Might be Addicted to Neurontin?

Perhaps you’ve been using this medication for quite some time. Whether your use of it has been as prescribed, or recreationally, you’re concerned you might be addicted. It is very possible that you are if you’re worried. However, you need to know how to identify the various Neurontin signs of addiction.

You could be addicted to this prescribed medication if you:

  • Currently take it without having a prescription
  • Have asked your doctor on more than one occasion to increase your dosage
  • Visit more than one doctor (doctor shopping) to obtain additional prescriptions
  • Have tried to stop using it, but couldn’t
  • Have purchased this drug online or on the street
  • Continue taking this drug even though you’re not sure it’s working for you
  • Find yourself becoming obsessed with how you can find more of it

It’s normal to be in denial when you’re suffering from an addiction. Many people do. Unfortunately, this keeps them from asking for help for years, in many cases.

If you’re still not sure if you’re addicted to Gabapentin, try taking an addiction quiz. This may help you see your situation in a different light. Once you know for sure, you can begin to take the appropriate steps to get help.

What’s the Difference Between Addiction and Dependence?

People will often use the words addiction and dependence interchangeably. While they are similar, they’re not the same. However, when you suffer from an addiction to Gabapentin, you’re also dependent on it.

Neurontin dependence is the step that comes before addiction. You may increase how much of the drug you’re taking on a daily basis. You might find yourself experiencing slight withdrawal symptoms if you miss a dose. If no other symptoms are present, you’re believed to be dependent on this drug.

An addiction is more of a physical and psychological condition. For someone who is addicted to Gabapentin, they feel as though they need the drug. Without it, they don’t feel OK anymore. They may obsess about it constantly, and even use it when they wake up in the morning. If they run out of it, it’s a cause for panic.

Does This Drug Cause Dangerous Interactions With Other Drugs or Medications?

Whenever you begin taking this medication, you should always discuss any other medications with your doctor. It may not be safe to take with certain drugs due to some interaction warnings. For example, if you’re currently taking Naproxen, you may not be able to use Gabapentin. It also should not be mixed with opioid medications like Vicodin and morphine. Although, people frequently do this as a way to enhance their high.

Drinking alcohol while using this medication is not recommended. This can make many of the side effects of the drug much worse. In fact, according to JAMA Internal Medicine, Gabapentin is being studied as treatment for alcoholism.

The Short-Term Effects for Gabapentin Addicts

Most people believe that this medication isn’t harmful to them in the short-term. The effects they experience when they first start it are why they keep using it. It can lead to weakness and dizziness, but the euphoria is very relaxing. Eventually, weight loss may result from short-term use. This is because it can lead to nausea and vomiting, as well as appetite suppression. People can develop flu-like symptoms if they take it in higher doses.

Taking The Neurontin Drug Long-Term

When you take Neurontin long-term as an addict, you’re likely to experience some more dangerous effects. It’s important to understand that some of the long-term effects of this drug can be fatal. You could experience:

  • An increase in the number of seizures you have
  • Flu-like symptoms (chills and a fever)
  • Feelings of disorientation or confusion
  • Tremors or convulsions
  • Skin discoloration or bruises

Most doctors agree that taking Neurontin long-term isn’t a good idea for most people. This is especially true when you are abusing this drug, or if you’re addicted to it. You could eventually develop serious problems with your heart or liver as well.

Withdrawals and What to Expect When Quitting Cold Turkey

The thought of being addicted to any type of medication makes some people panic. These are individuals who never intended to get addicted at all. They’re not sure what they should do, so they just stop taking Gabapentin.

If this is you, please know that this is not the best idea. It’s much safer for you to quit using it in a professional setting. That way you can be monitored for any complications that could arise as a result. Withdrawing from Neurontin is not easy, and it is likely to result in some of the following symptoms:

  • Problems with sleeping
  • The onset of seizures, or an increase in the number of current seizures
  • Extreme nausea and an upset stomach
  • Excessive sweating (hot or cold)
  • An increase in pain all over the body

Most people begin to feel the effects of withdrawal as soon as 12 hours after their last dose. Your symptoms should start off mildly, but then they will progressively get worse. If you choose to quit using this drug cold turkey, your symptoms may last for about a week. However this is highly subjective because everyone is different. Some people experience symptoms for much longer.

You should find that they begin to improve after around the third or fourth day. However, some symptoms may linger and still remain intense for longer than that. You could also suffer from rebound symptoms that come back after you start feeling more like yourself.

The Case for Neurontin Detox

Withdrawing from any drug is difficult, and this one is no exception. This is why it’s highly recommended for you to go through a period of drug detox.

Detoxifying your body is so important with any history of drug addiction. It can help to minimize your withdrawal symptoms and some may be able to be completely eliminated. There are different ways to go through detox, and the right one for you will be discussed with you.

You may find that medical detox offers you the most benefits. However, it does carry some risks. You could become addicted to the medications you’re given for your withdrawal symptoms. Even so, medical detoxification does work well, and people often find great relief.

If this method isn’t right for you, then you may want to consider holistic detox. This would allow you to taper down your dosage of Neurontin slowly. Your body can better adjust to you no longer taking it. When you combine dietary changes, exercise and other healthy changes, your body detoxes on its own. This is the goal behind holistic detoxification. It works well for many people, and some studies suggest that the success rates are even higher.

You can overdose on any medication, including Gabapentin. While people can overdose on this drug with regular use, this isn’t typical. They’re much more likely to overdose on it when they’ve tried to quit using it, and then had a relapse.

When you’re taking this medication, your body gets used to how much of it you use at a time. When you stop using it, that amount changes. This means that your level of tolerance goes down. Because addiction is a relapsing disease, going back to using is very common. However, when people do this, they typically go back to their normal dosage. They don’t think about their tolerance levels changing at all.

When this happens, people suffer from accidental Gabapentin overdoses. This can be fatal, and it requires immediate medical treatment.

If you know someone who has stopped taking Neurontin, it’s important to know the signs of an overdose. You may need to act quickly and get them immediate medical attention.

The signs of an overdose on this drug include:

  • Developing double vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Feeling drowsy or tired
  • Losing consciousness
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Mild diarrhea

If you suspect an overdose, please call 911 right away. It’s better to be cautious in these situations.

Is Neurontin Even Safe for Normal Use?

The addictive nature of this medication has caused a lot of people to question its safety. There are so many stories out there of people who lost their lives, and their loved ones blame Neurontin.

As of today, this drug is still widely available and it’s prescribed on a regular basis. If you question its safety for yourself, you may want to talk to your doctor. Most physicians prescribe it without questioning its safety as all. Reports suggest that there is probably nothing wrong with taking it, as long as you do so only as prescribed.

Even so, if you begin to notice signs that you’re dependent on Gabapentin, it may be time to switch. There are other medications you can take that have less of a risk for addiction.

Steps to Take if You’re Dependent on or Addicted to Gabapentin

If you’re dependent on Gabapentin, that means that you don’t yet have an addiction. You should talk with your doctor to find out what they recommend. You may want to quit using this drug, but you should taper off it slowly. Your doctor can help you with the right taper schedule for you.

Anyone who abuses this drug should find a counselor to help them stop using it. Even though you’re not addicted, finding out why you feel compelled to use it is crucial. It may be difficult for you to stop otherwise.

Finally, if you are a Gabapentin addict, the time to act is right now. Here at Northpoint Recovery, we can assist you with the services you need to quit. We can provide you with detox services that will meet your own unique needs. We also offer a Gabapentin rehab program that will help with the mental part of your addiction.

Right now, it may feel as though you’re trapped in your addiction. We want you to know that this isn’t true. With the right kind of support, recovery is possible.

Do you have additional questions about Gabapentin or Neurontin addiction? Talk with us by contacting us today to get some answers.

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