It’s no secret that prescription pain medication can be incredibly dangerous. Even when used carefully and only as medically directed, prescription pain medication can lead to addiction. This can happen through no fault of either the person using the prescription or the doctor who prescribed it. They also tend to be some of the easiest substances of abuse to obtain due to their accessibility and ability to treat a variety of ailments. One particular type of prescription pain medication that tends to be placed in a different category than the others is gabapentin.
While it is a prescription painkiller, it doesn’t typically get the same attention as the others do, particularly in the addiction space. In this blog, we will take a look at gabapentin as well as answer the questions of “Is gabapentin addictive?”
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a type of prescription painkiller also known as Neurontin, Neuraptine, or Gralise. Unlike other prescription painkillers, though, gabapentin is in its own drug class due to its chemical and scientific makeup. It’s considered an anticonvulsant and is typically prescribed to treat ailments such as neuropathic pain, restless leg syndrome, hot flashes, and epilepsy. While it’s widely considered to be less addictive than more traditional opioids, addiction and abuse can still occur.
In addition, Gabapentin has also been used in addiction treatment to help with withdrawal symptoms, nerve pain, seizures, and in some extreme cases, diabetic neuropathy and fibromyalgia. Gabapentin has a chemical structure that can mimic the brain’s gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which affects the body’s nervous system and can produce feelings of relaxation.
Is Gabapentin A Controlled Substance?
The U.S. government doesn’t currently consider gabapentin a controlled substance. However, certain states have created laws to ensure that gabapentin is treated as such. It might also be monitored by a state’s prescription drug monitoring program.
Since opioids are considered a controlled substance, doctors prescribe gabapentin as an alternative. However, gabapentin does have the potential for abuse.
How Is Gabapentin Abused?
People who abuse gabapentin tend to be already suffering from an addiction to opioids or another substance. When abused, the feelings a person might experience tend to mimic the feelings one would feel when high on marijuana. Due to the wide variety of ailments that it can treat, gabapentin has become one of the more popular drugs on the market today. In fact, in 2019, it was the fifth most-prescribed drug in the United States. Due to its popularity and its lower abuse potential when comparing it to opioids, it is easier to get Gabapentin than ever before.
Many people who abuse gabapentin tend to take it along with opioids in order to increase the high they get. This can be incredibly dangerous as it increases the chances of an overdose. Unlike opioids and other drugs of abuse, there is currently no antidote to overturn a gabapentin overdose, making the drug even more dangerous and potentially fatal when used other than directed.
What Happens When Gabapentin Is Abused?
While the chances of abuse among those taking Gabapentin are much smaller than with other prescription medications, especially opioids, the drug can still be abused. Because of this, it’s important to know the signs of Gabapentin abuse, especially if you or someone you know is currently prescribed the medication. The following are some common signs of excessive Gabapentin use or even Gabapentin abuse:
- Coordination issues
- Changes in mood
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Trouble speaking or breathing
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Weight gain
- Vision problems
Gabapentin tends to be most commonly abused by those who have prescribed the drug early on in the recovery process to help with withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with other drugs of abuse. This is because when a high enough dosage is taken, it can produce the same euphoric-type feelings that they were getting from the other drug of abuse without showing up on a standard drug screening.
What Happens When You Mix Gabapentin and Alcohol?
While often it says on the bottle not to mix alcohol and prescription drugs, many people don’t think about it when they are drinking and end up mixing the two anyway. Just like with other prescription substances, it’s not terribly uncommon for someone taking gabapentin to drink while on it. However, mixing the two can have some significant negative consequences.
For starters, mixing the two can cause the effects of both the alcohol and the gabapentin to become heightened. This means that the side effects associated with gabapentin can become worse and more severe when drinking. It also means that you might feel drunker faster when drinking while on the drug. Other potential side effects that can become worse and more severe when mixing the two together include:
- Loss of coordination
- Digestive problems
In some extreme cases, there can even be major health complications and issues that can arise as a result of mixing the two. While it is extremely uncommon, someone mixing the two can suffer from an overdose which can lead to death. In addition, someone mixing the two may experience severe changes in their behavior or mood which can lead to bodily harm or death. Before combining any prescription medication and alcohol, always speak to your prescribing doctor first.
What Other Substances Shouldn’t Be Mixed With Gabapentin?
As is the case with any other drug, mixing multiple substances together can have negative consequences. Mixing gabapentin and tramadol, an opioid, can result in the development of severe respiratory issues. In some cases, it can cause an overdose and even death. In addition to opioids, the following substances should not be taken and mixed with gabapentin:
- Acid reducer or heartburn relief medication
- Ethacrynic acid
- Magnesium oxide
Before mixing any sort of substance with prescription medication, talk to your doctor. Ask them to make sure that mixing the substances will be OK and won’t cause severe health issues.
Is Gabapentin Addictive?
While it might be tougher and take more of it to do so, you can get addicted to gabapentin. As we mentioned above, those who get addicted to gabapentin tend to already suffer from a substance abuse addiction. However, that doesn’t mean you are immune to getting addicted to gabapentin if you don’t already suffer from addiction.
Some signs that you or someone you know might be suffering from a gabapentin addiction include:
- Changes in personal hygiene and grooming habits
- Seeing multiple doctors to get extra prescriptions
- Switching doctors when one will no longer write a prescription
- Embellishing symptoms to doctors in order to obtain a prescription
- Constantly thinking about the drug
- Changes in social circles or habits
- Feeling worried or scared at the potential thought of the drug becoming unavailable
- Trying to quit and failing
- Refusing to quit despite the negative consequences
If you or someone you know is taking gabapentin and is suffering from any of the above symptoms, it is important to get help right away before it is too late.
Is Gabapentin Addiction Treatable?
As is the case with all substances of abuse, if someone finds themselves addicted to gabapentin, there are treatment options available for them.
Since someone who is suffering from a gabapentin addiction is also likely suffering from another substance abuse issue, the first step is to undergo medical detox. This rids the body of any and all harmful substances that are in it. Detoxing can be done at either a medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment facility that also provides detox services. Attempting to self-detox can be very dangerous and even life-threatening.
Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment
Once detox has been completed, the next step is to enter a treatment program. The two most common treatment programs are inpatient and outpatient treatment and after meeting with a treatment professional they will likely recommend one of the two based on your addiction and needs. During treatment, you will attend both individual and group therapy sessions where you will learn how your addiction started in the first place, as well as learn ways to live your life without needing to use anymore. In addition to these traditional treatment methods, many treatment centers now offer alternative treatments as a way to complement the more traditional treatment methods.
Contact Addiction Intervention and Find Help
While gabapentin tends to be less addictive than many other prescription drugs, you can still develop an addiction to it, especially if it’s abused. It can be difficult to ask for help. Addiction Intervention can direct you toward a treatment center that treats abuse of this medication.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction to gabapentin or any other substance of abuse, contact us today to learn more about getting them the help that they need in order to live a clean and sober life.