Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction

gabapentin bottle sitting on a shelf with other prescription drug medications

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.

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Why is Gabapentin Addictive?

So, why is gabapentin addictive? Gabapentin is addictive because it affects GABA production in the brain. When that happens, someone may experience feelings of euphoria or pleasant relaxation. Those pleasurable feelings can, in turn, lead the brain’s reward response to be activated. The activation of the reward cycle in the brain can lead to the development of addiction.

How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Gabapentin?

The question of how long does it take to get addicted to gabapentin is difficult to answer because everyone’s physical and psychological composition is different. One person may use gabapentin and never become addicted. Another person may use it briefly and become addicted.

Some of the factors that play a role in whether someone becomes addicted to gabapentin or how quickly an addiction forms include:

  • How gabapentin is used. Is it used as prescribed or is it used recreationally? Someone who recreationally uses gabapentin only for certain desirable effects is more likely to develop an addiction, and that addiction is more likely to form quickly.
  • The volume consumed. If someone takes higher doses of gabapentin, they may develop an addiction faster.
  • A personal or family history of a substance use disorders
  • Mixing other substances with gabapentin

Along with addiction, physical dependence on gabapentin can develop. Dependence indicates that a person may experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly try to stop using gabapentin.

If you or someone you care about struggles with gabapentin addiction, contact Orlando Recovery Center. Our representatives can help you learn more about detox and addiction treatment programs that are available. Begin your healthier future today.



Rodriguez, C. “New on the Streets: Gabapentin, a drug for nerve pain, and a new target of misuse.” Kaiser Health News, July 6, 2017. Accessed March 22, 2019.

Ghelani, R. “Gabapentin, uses, dose, side effects and warnings.” Netdoctor, March 17, 2017. Accessed March 22, 2019.

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