Gabapentin Addiction Symptoms, Signs & Side Effects
Gabapentin (Neurontin) is a relatively new anticonvulsant that is used to treat seizures, postherpetic neuralgia, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, tremors, nerve pain, alcohol and opioid addiction. It is sometimes prescribed to help patients suffering from migraines, fibromyalgia and various other types of chronic pain.
Gabapentin is not currently a controlled substance, as it was initially believed to have little potential for dependence or misuse. However, there has been a significant increase in prescriptions over the past decade. Experts agree there’s a growing concern that it could be more easily misused than previously believed.
Gabapentin has an effect that is comparable to prescription opioids, and, it is even used to treat people who are addicted to alcohol or opioids. Though it can be useful in treating a wide variety of conditions, it’s increasingly becoming a misused substance. In addition, it’s showing up more and more in people who have overdosed on heroin or prescription opioids.
It can be difficult to tell if someone is addicted to gabapentin. The symptoms are easier to hide than other drugs that cause recognizable behaviors or outward, physical signs of misuse.
Gabapentin addiction symptoms include:
- Seeking early refills or lying about lost prescriptions
- Taking higher doses than recommended
- Purchasing it illegally
- Taking it without a prescription
- Being unable to quit due to withdrawal
- Isolating oneself from social situations to take the drug
- Using it to treat any type of emotional pain, depressive thoughts or difficult situations
- Becoming obsessed with it
- Taking it in a way other than it was prescribed, such as crushing, snorting or injecting it
- Showing signs of constant mood changes
Side Effects of Gabapentin
Proper use of gabapentin can help treat many health conditions. However, there are serious side effects that should be considered by the doctor prescribing the medication and the patient that’s considering taking it.
Gabapentin side effects include:
- Cold and flu-like symptoms
- Memory loss
- Lack of coordination
- Jerky movements
- Viral infections
- Difficulty or inability to speak
- Unusual eye movements or double vision
- Trembling or shaking
- Pain in the lower back or side
- Swelling of hands, feet and/or lower legs
In some cases, gabapentin can also lead to mood and behavior changes, depression or anxiety.
Long-Term Side Effects of Gabapentin Use
If gabapentin is used over long periods of time, more serious side effects and an increased risk of dependency can occur.
Long-term side effects of gabapentin can include the following:
- Suicidal behavior and ideation
- Weakened muscles and loss of strength
- Respiratory failure
There are also other rare but extremely serious side effects that some people may experience.
Signs of Gabapentin Abuse
If you’re concerned someone you know might be dependent on gabapentin, there are signs to look out for to determine whether or not they’re misusing the drug.
Signs of gabapentin abuse include:
- Taking a higher dose than prescribed
- Not taking it at the right time of day
- Taking it more frequently than instructed to
- Crushing, snorting or injecting it
- Lying to a doctor to obtain a prescription
- Taking someone else’s medication
- Seeking early refills or lying about losing prescriptions
- Purchasing it illegally
- Not being able to stop taking it
- Experiencing withdrawal without it
If you or someone you know is misusing or addicted to gabapentin, we encourage you to seek help. The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers drug detox and treatment. During detox, people can experience both psychological and physiological withdrawal symptoms, so it’s recommended to seek professional medical assistance. Contact us today to take the first step toward recovery.
Vestal, Christine. “Abuse of Opioid Alternative Gabapentin Is on the Rise.” Pew, May 10, 2018. Accessed April 25, 2019.
Cunha, John. “Neurontin(Gabapentin) side effects drug center.” RxList, October 17, 2018. Accessed April 25, 2019.
Gal, Kat. “What are the side effects of gabapentin?” Medical News Today, November 21, 2018. Accessed April 25, 2019.Medical Disclaimer: 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.