Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction
Gabapentin is not a controlled substance, yet the abuse of gabapentin is growing. For example, the Substance Abuse Monitoring Network issued a warning about the growing misuse of gabapentin in the state. An uptick of gabapentin misuse isn’t just occurring in Ohio. It’s a growing, nationwide problem.
So what’s happening with gabapentin? It’s not an opioid, so why are people abusing it and is it addictive?
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a treatment for seizures related to epilepsy and pain related to neuropathy. Gabapentin’s brand name is Neurontin. Gabapentin is thought to work by calming overactivity in the brain. Gabapentin is also used as a pain reliever and a treatment for fibromyalgia, numbness and tingling.
When someone takes gabapentin, it may increase the brain’s production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is a natural neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. When you’re feeling stressed out or anxious, GABA is responsible for calming nerve impulses and helping promote a sense of calm. With the use of gabapentin, the calmed neural activity can reduce pain and it can also cause relaxation.
Is Gabapentin Addictive?
Is it possible to be addicted to gabapentin? Gabapentin does have the potential to be addictive. While gabapentin isn’t as addictive as opioids, anytime a drug changes the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, developing addiction is a possibility.
Gabapentin is frequently used with opioids because gabapentin increases the effects of the opioids and creates a stronger high. Gabapentin is also much more widely available than opioids because it’s not a controlled substance. That increased level of availability means gabapentin is inexpensive, making it even more accessible.
Unfortunately, the practice of combining gabapentin with other substances — particularly opioids — is dangerous. The combination increases the risk of an overdose because both gabapentin and opioids are central nervous system depressants. Using multiple substances simultaneously can also increase the risk of developing a polydrug addiction.