Gabapentin (Neurontin) is a prescription drug used to treat nerve pain and epileptic seizures. It is sold as capsules, liquid, and tablets. Its effect is to calm the excited neutrons in the brain that are sending out pain signals. In blocking the pain, it leaves some users with a feeling of relaxation and contentment. This tranquillizing effect on the nervous system is thought to be too mild to make the drug addictive. However, people can still get addicted to gabapentin when they consume large amounts of it on its own, or in combination with other substances like opioids.
Gabapentin (Neurontin) has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of neuropathic pain, either on its own or in combination with other pain killers. It may also be prescribed off-label for a range of disorders. This means a doctor can prescribe it for uses that differ to those laid out by the FDA.
Gabapentin is commonly used in the treatment of the following:
This medication is also used to treat a range of other disorders. These include:
Because of its mild tranquillizing effect, this drug has also been used to bring down the intoxicating effects of substances such as meth cocaine and alcohol, usually at rehab centers.
Gabapentin can be an effective medication when used correctly. According to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 15 percent of those who used it for nerve pain associated with diabetes and shingles experienced a significant benefit.
And a study of alcoholism treatment published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that people drank much less and abstained more when treated with gabapentin. Similar findings were observed in the treatment of marijuana addiction.
Despite its benefits, this drug has the potential to be abused on its own or with other drugs, and the results can be fatal. In West Virginia, the number of overdose deaths attributed to it reportedly increased from 3 to 109 in 2010 and 2015 respectively.
In 2016, data from autopsies of people who died from drug overdoses in Kentucky, showed the presence of gabapentin together with fentanyl and heroin, and revealed that gabapentin was more frequently detected than any other substance.
1. It is not a Controlled Substance in Most States
At the federal level, there are guidelines and constraints to control how large amounts of substances can be prescribed and dispensed in the U.S. But they don't apply to gabapentin. This drug is not controlled at the federal level. However, it has become a controlled substance in some states. These include: Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee. Recovery village. Dentistry.
Where this medication is not a controlled substance, the potential for abuse is high. The volume of prescriptions is growing including those for off-label disorders. This means the price is low and the product easy to find. On the street, it costs around $1.00 for 100 mg of gabapentin. When obtained via prescription, its generic version is also fairly cheap because it's covered by most insurance and Medicare plans.
Prescriptions for gabapentin in the United States rose from 39 million in 2012 to 64 million in 2016, making it the 10th highest prescribed drug then. By May 2019, it had become the fifth most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S. In a U.S. national survey, a quarter of the patients under observation, who had been co-prescribed gabapentin and opioids, were getting 3 times their prescribed supply.
2. People Experience a 'High'
Some people experience a blast of euphoria or "high" when they start taking gabapentin. They say this blast feels like a marijuana high. It's calming and relaxing, it's energizing, and it makes makes them feel more talkative and sociable. To maintain this level of contentment, they have to draw out the high for as long as possible.
When people start craving gabapentin in this way, they may let the doctor know that their prescribed dosage is not working, and they may even invent symptoms to get more of it prescribed. Worse still, they may visit multiple doctors and get still more of it. A 2016 study revealed that 40 to 65 percent of people who were prescribed this drug were in fact abusing it.
3. Gabapentin is Considered Safe
Since this drug is not a controlled substance and is not classified as an opioid, people feel safe taking it, and the more they take it, the more addicted they become. They may experience the following dangerous effects as a result:
Although these symptoms are associated with overdose they may not act as a wakeup call for people abusing gabapentin.
4. Abusers are Habitual Addicts
A study found that gabapentin addiction is more likely in people who have a record of abusing other substances such as alcohol, opioids, and cocaine. So, they don't have a problem taking very high doses of this drug. They may crush the pills into a powder and snort this powder. Or they may mix it with benzodiazepines (benzos), opioids and more intoxicating illegal substances to achieve the desired high.
Many addicts who abuse this drug obtain it legitimately. Heroin users are routinely prescribed the drug for generalized anxiety or neuropathic pain. In a study on Kentucky published in 2018, drug users reported that they'd been legitimately prescribed gabapentin several years before and were now mixing it with opioids, benzos, caffeine and cocaine to sleep better, reduce pain, relax muscles and achieve a 'high'.
The drug is also legitimately used in rehab facilities to treat alcoholism and marijuana addiction. A 2017 news report found that many in rehab (in Ohio) would take gabapentin on its own, instead of opioids to achieve and maintain a high without detection when the mandatory drug screenings were being done. The screenings didn't yet include gabapentin.
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5. Too Much is Taken All at Once
When taken recreationally, the gabapentin dosage is often much higher than when taken medicinally. Some users admit to having taken as much as 5,000 mg all at once. Normally, the prescribed daily dosage is 1,800 mg, divided into 3 doses, taken 3 times a day.
So, a dosage of 1800 mg per day would be taken in 3 doses of 600 mg, evenly spread out through the day. Doctors typically start treatment on a low dose such as 300 mg per day and increasing this dosage slowly to get the body used to the drug. The dosage may be increased depending on what works for you. Ignoring the dosage guidelines often leads to addiction.
6. People Use it To Lose Weight
Some people believe gabapentin to be a magic diet pill when consumed in large quantities. While it can certainly bring on nausea and vomiting, and suppress the appetite, eventually resulting in weight loss, these effects only happen in the short-term. It seems that, the longer you use the drug, and the higher the dose, the more likely it is that the weight will return.
Gabapentin addiction is real. However, it can be treated, but stopping it 'cold turkey' is not recommended. You could experience numerous withdrawal symptoms of varied intensity, some of which could be fatal. They include:
The safest approach for someone addicted to gabapentin is a medically supervised detox and then addiction treatment at a rehab facility manned by professionals where your dose will be slowly reduced or tapered off. How long the process takes depends on your level of addiction.
When used as prescribed, Gabapentin can effectively reduce pain and other disorders. However, it can become addictive because of its mildly sedative properties which lead people to use it excessively on its own or in combination with other substances. But the effects are not irreversible. Help for gabapentin addiction is possible at a rehab center near you.
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