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Gabapentin is a generic prescription anticonvulsant used to treat seizures and nerve pain. In addition, the medication can be used as a treatment for migraines, pain and fibromyalgia.
The number of prescriptions written for gabapentin has significantly increased in recent years. This increase is partly because opioid regulations have become more strict, leading some doctors to prescribe gabapentin as a pain treatment alternative to opioids. However, gabapentin has misuse potential. Along with misuse, gabapentin dependence and gabapentin withdrawal can develop as well.
Gabapentin is the generic version of brand-name anticonvulsants like Gralise, Horizant and Neurontin. It is an FDA-approved medication that treats seizures and a kind of nerve pain called postherpetic neuralgia. Doctors also commonly prescribe gabapentin off-label for conditions like diabetic nerve pain.
Gabapentin was the 10th most common medication prescribed in the United States as of 2019, and almost 10 million Americans took the drug that year. Although gabapentin is not a controlled substance at the federal level, several states have made it a controlled substance.
You should not stop gabapentin cold turkey, as doing so can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Instead, you should taper (slowly decrease) your gabapentin dose over a period lasting at least a week. Depending on your dose of gabapentin, your taper may be longer. Your doctor can help you decide on the safest and most effective taper for your situation.
Gabapentin comes in both short-acting (IR) and long-acting (ER) dosage forms. The risk of gabapentin withdrawal symptoms is increased if someone takes a high dose of gabapentin on a regular basis and then suddenly stops the drug.
Further, many people develop gabapentin withdrawal symptoms because they use the drug to treat withdrawal symptoms from other substances. It is unfortunately common for people withdrawing from other drugs to take very high gabapentin doses that exceed the max recommended dose. This puts them at risk for gabapentin withdrawal when the time comes to stop.
Although gabapentin withdrawal is rare, withdrawal symptoms have been documented and can include:
More severe symptoms can include:
Since gabapentin is a short-acting drug, withdrawal symptoms can start quickly. In a person with normal kidney function, the medication’s half-life is five to seven hours for gabapentin IR and five to six hours for gabapentin ER. A drug’s half-life refers to how long it takes for half of a dose to be eliminated from the body.
Because it takes around five half-lives after the last dose for a drug to leave the body, it can take up to 35 hours for the last dose of gabapentin to be removed from your system. As a result, withdrawal symptoms may start within around two days.
If you want to stop taking gabapentin, it is important to first talk with your doctor. This is especially important if you are taking gabapentin that has been prescribed to help you control seizures. Stopping gabapentin can cause a flare in the condition the drug was used to treat, such as pain or epilepsy.
If you need to come off gabapentin, your doctor can design a taper regimen to help wean you off gabapentin while avoiding withdrawal symptoms. Because taper regimens can vary, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Sometimes, coming off gabapentin means switching to a different drug. In these cases, your doctor might prescribe you a cross-taper. This involves slowly lowering your gabapentin dose while slowly ramping you up on your new medication.
You may be able to go through a gabapentin detox at home by following your doctor’s orders on how to taper the drug. In some cases, however, you may need closer monitoring in a professional environment with around-the-clock care. This includes people who abuse gabapentin alongside other substances or people with preexisting medical conditions, such as seizures.
In an inpatient medical detox setting, doctors and nurses can closely monitor a person and make detox a safer and more comfortable process.
Gabapentin is not a scheduled drug at the federal level. However, several states have classified it as a Schedule V substance since some studies indicate it may cause abuse and addiction. These states include:
Instead of taking the step of scheduling gabapentin, some states have required that gabapentin prescriptions be reported in prescription monitoring databases. These include:
About 1% of the population abuses gabapentin. Of these, between 40% and 65% have a prescription. In addition, some people deliberately abuse gabapentin to get high, including about 15% to 22% of people who abuse opioids.
Preparing to detox from gabapentin can be overwhelming, particularly if you may be at risk for complications or you’re detoxing from multiple substances at the same time. Fortunately, with the help of a professional addiction treatment center like the Orlando Recovery Center, you can start your recovery with a strong foundation for sustained success.
Located near the downtown Orlando area, The Orlando Recovery Center is a fully accredited gabapentin detox facility that also offers inpatient and outpatient gabapentin rehab options. If you or someone you love is struggling with gabapentin use, our experts are here to help. Contact us today to learn more about medical gabapentin detox programs or addiction treatment programs that can work well for your needs.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.