Gabapentin Addiction Symptoms, Signs and Side Effects

Gabapentin is a drug of concern because its abuse is rising. Gabapentin, available under the brand name Neurontin, is a medication prescribed for the treatment of seizures and nerve pain.

Gabapentin is not a new medication, but it is increasingly prescribed because of tightening restrictions on opioids. In the face of the opioid epidemic, health care providers look for alternatives to help treat patients’ pain. The increasing prescribing rates of gabapentin makes it inexpensive and widely available on the streets, and more often people are developing gabapentin addiction symptoms.

Side Effects of Gabapentin

Many gabapentin side effects stem from the drug’s impact on the brain and central nervous system. Gabapentin stabilizes neural activity in the brain so neurons aren’t firing in an overly excited way which can lead to seizures.

Gabapentin also affects the way nerve messages transfer to the brain. Primarily, gabapentin affects gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which is a calming neurotransmitter.

Some of the most common gabapentin side effects include:

  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Shakiness
  • Unsteady walking, known as ataxia
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased number of white blood cells
  • Changes in appetite
  • Depression, or changes in mood
  • Confusion
  • Sleeping issues
  • Tremors
  • Speech and coordination problems
  • Visual disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of memory

Rare but possible gabapentin side effects include slow breathing and loss of consciousness.

One of the most dangerous effects of gabapentin is an overdose. The likelihood of a gabapentin overdose is exceptionally high when someone combines this medication with another drug that depresses the central nervous system, like opioids.

Long-Term Side Effects of Gabapentin Use

Currently, many of the long-term side effects of gabapentin use haven’t been widely studied. There is some evidence that long-term gabapentin use can:

  • Affect fertility and pregnancy
  • Cause kidney problems, particularly in people with pre-existing kidney disease
  • Cause memory loss
  • Cause weakened muscles

Addiction and dependence can also be considered some of the long-term side effects of gabapentin. Addiction is a chronic disorder in which the use of a substance activates the brain’s reward centers. In this case, the substance is gabapentin. Then, once the reward cycle begins, a person’s use of gabapentin is no longer in their control.

Dependence can occur when someone’s addicted to gabapentin, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The brain and central nervous system start to depend on the presence of gabapentin with repeated exposure. When people stop using gabapentin suddenly, they may go through withdrawal.

Signs of Gabapentin Abuse

It wasn’t until fairly recently that gabapentin abuse became relatively prevalent. Gabapentin isn’t necessarily a big drug of abuse on its own, although it can be. What’s more common is for people to abuse it with other substances.

When gabapentin is combined with other drugs, it can increase their effects including euphoria, relaxation and sedation. Opioids and gabapentin are one of the most common drug combinations. Gabapentin is also used with marijuana and cocaine by people who want to create a more powerful high.

As a result of increased gabapentin abuse, Kentucky moved to make it a controlled substance to curb prescriptions. Other states are likely to follow.

Possible signs of gabapentin abuse are:

  • Speech impairment
  • Impaired coordination
  • Temporary memory loss
  • Tremors
  • Double vision
  • Strange eye movements
  • Restlessness
  • New or worsening anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Impulsivity
  • Aggress
  • Depression
  • Mania

Behavioral signs of gabapentin abuse can also include doctor shopping to get prescriptions, or creating symptoms to receive a prescription. While gabapentin abuse is an increasingly common issue across the country, help is available for people who struggle with this drug.

If you struggle with gabapentin or another substance, please contact Orlando Recovery Center. Our admissions coordinators can explore treatment options with you, and help you find the right program for your needs.

Sources:

Gordon, Ronni. “Gabapentin’s Secret: The Drug Opioid Abusers Crave.” MedShadow, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.

Ghelani, Rita. “What are the possible side effects of gabapentin?” Netdoctor, 2017. Accessed March 19, 2019.

Gal, Kat. “What are the side effects of gabapentin?” Medical News Today, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.

Perrone, Matthew. “Drug Epidemic Ensnares 25-Year-Old Pill for Nerve Pain.” U.S. News, 2018. Accessed April 2019.

Staff. “Small Study Reports Troubling Abuse Potential for Gabapentin.” US Pharmacist, 2018. Accessed March 19, 2019.