If you are taking gabapentin, you may wonder what would happen if you stopped taking your medication suddenly. The results vary based on the amount and frequency of gabapentin consumption. The answer also depends on the reason for gabapentin use. If a person takes the drug for managing seizures, stopping gabapentin consumption cold turkey may cause them to have a seizure. Regardless of the reason for consumption, if a person takes a high dose of the drug, suddenly stopping consumption puts them at risk for experiencing withdrawal symptoms. People are at even higher risk for withdrawal if they have been taking the drug for a long time.

How Gabapentin Works

Gabapentin, also sold under the brand names Neurontin and Gralise, is a drug that impacts your brain. Doctors are not sure how gabapentin increases the level of a chemical in your brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). However, doctors know that when you take gabapentin the level of GABA in your brain increases. Gabapentin is used for many different medical problems like:
  • Seizures
  • Nerve pain
  • Mental health problems
  • Headaches
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Cough
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hiccups
  • Itching
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Menopause symptoms
Gabapentin immediate-release, or gabapentin IR, does not stay in the body for long. For this reason, people often need to take a dose of gabapentin IR a few times a day. Gabapentin extended-release, or gabapentin ER, lasts longer in the body. Therefore, people only need to take gabapentin ER once a day. But no matter what kind of gabapentin people take, they may have side effects if they start taking a high dose of the drug right away. Common side effects of gabapentin use include:
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Being uncoordinated
  • Feeling tired
  • Swelling
  • Rapid eye movements
To avoid these side effects, doctors usually start people off on a low dose of gabapentin such as 100-300mg/day. Doctors will then slowly increase the dose for days to weeks. The highest dose of gabapentin depends on why you are taking it, but the max dose is usually 3600mg spread out through a day. Because the largest dose can be so high compared to the starting dose, people need to decrease the dose slowly to avoid side effects. If a person stops taking the drug, they may have withdrawal symptoms.

Gabapentin Addiction

Gabapentin misuse is on the rise, with more people now saying they use gabapentin to get high than in years prior. However, the United States government does not believe that gabapentin has the potential for addiction. Therefore, gabapentin is not listed as a controlled substance by the federal government. Some states like Kentucky and Michigan made gabapentin controlled substances within their states. If a person gets a prescription for gabapentin in those states, it will be treated like a controlled substance, even though it is not a controlled substance federally.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms

There is not much data about the withdrawal risk of gabapentin ER. However, even gabapentin IR withdrawal symptoms are rare. Studies have shown that many people in withdrawal from gabapentin IR used the drug to treat withdrawal symptoms of other drugs. Also, many were taking well above the maximum recommended dose of the drug. However, you may get withdrawal symptoms if you are on a high dose of gabapentin IR then take stop taking the drug all of a sudden. Since gabapentin IR is a short-acting drug, you may start getting withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of a missed dose. These symptoms will go away, often within hours, if you start retaking gabapentin. Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms commonly include:
  • Agitation
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion

Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline

Because gabapentin IR does not last long in the body, withdrawal symptoms may come on quickly. If a person has healthy kidney functioning, it takes about seven hours for a dose of gabapentin IR to begin leaving the body. Therefore, withdrawal symptoms may start within that time. Doctors can calculate that it would take about 35 hours since the last dose for gabapentin IR to be completely out of the system. Therefore, people should start recovering from withdrawal symptoms after that time. However, the exact amount of time it takes to recover will depend on how much gabapentin a person took and for how long they were consuming the drug. If a person has poor kidney function, the gabapentin IR takes longer to leave the body. In some people, this means that the withdrawal symptoms are not as severe, as the gabapentin IR eases out of their system over a longer period.

Detoxing from Gabapentin

In studies, most people in gabapentin withdrawal had their medication restarted. Their symptoms then quickly went away. However, even people who were not restarted on gabapentin had their withdrawal symptoms go away over time. Doctors recommend slowly tapering and stopping gabapentin over at least a week to avoid these symptoms. It’s important to detox at a professional facility, rather than attempting at-home detox because detoxing is the first, crucial step toward sobriety. Having the help of professionals is invaluable during this critical time. If you or a loved one live with a substance use disorder, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield today to learn more about how addiction treatment at a professional rehab facility can greatly benefit your long-term sobriety. You deserve a healthier future, call today.   Sources: U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Gabapentin Capsule.” March 3, 2014. Accessed May 5, 2019. Norton, JW. “Gabapentin Withdrawal Syndrome.” Clinical Neuropharmacology, August 2001. Accessed May 5, 2019. Drug Enforcement Administration. “Gabapentin (Neurontin).” October 2018. Accessed May 5, 2019. Mersfelder, TL., Nichols, WH. “Gabapentin: Abuse, Dependence, and Withdrawal.” Annals of Pharmacotherapy, December 31, 2015. Accessed May 5, 2019.