Gabapentin is a prescription medication that is often used to treat people who have been having convulsions, partial seizures, and nerve pain. As is the case with virtually every type of prescription medication, gabapentin use has both beneficial features and certain unpleasant side effects. Common questions about gabapentin’s side effects include, “Can you overdose on gabapentin?” and “Is gabapentin addictive?”
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is the generic name of a drug that is sold under several brand names, including Neurontin, Gabarone, and Gralise. It is sometimes categorized as an anticonvulsant. It may also be included in a relatively new category of medications called gabapentinoids.
Gabapentin was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. The medication was initially authorized for use by adults. Today, physicians in the United States are permitted to use gabapentin to treat children as well as adults.
Gabapentin use has increased significantly in the United States over the past two decades. One of the main reasons for this increase is that this medication has been seen as a safer option than opioids for treating certain types of pain. However, this does not mean that gabapentin is harmless. Gabapentin can be addictive and misuse may result in dependency and even overdose.
How Does Gabapentin Work?
Gabapentin affects the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter. GABA blocks certain messages from being transmitted throughout the central nervous system. Insufficient GABA production may increase a person’s risk of experiencing seizures and certain other health concerns.
Many medications are designed to interact with areas of the central nervous system that are associated with GABA production and transmission. This includes several anesthetics, sedatives, and muscle relaxants, as well as some medications that treat anxiety and depression. In the case of gabapentin, its impact on the central nervous system can diminish a person’s risk for certain types of seizures. It can also ease nerve pain that is associated with shingles and restless leg syndrome.
What Are the Side Effects of Gabapentin?
When gabapentin is used as directed under the supervision of a qualified professional, it can be both safe and effective. However, gabapentin use can lead to a variety of side effects, such as the following:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Dry mouth
- Impaired balance and coordination
In addition to the effects listed above, gabapentin use has also been associated with some severe side effects, including the following:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulties breathing or swallowing
- Panic attacks
- Outbursts of anger or violence
Anyone who develops gabapentin side effects may need to consult with their physician or seek immediate medical attention.
Is Gabapentin Dangerous?
Because gabapentin can create a sense of sedation or mild euphoria, some people abuse this drug for recreational purposes. People who abuse gabapentin sometimes use it to enhance the effects of opioids. Whether gabapentin is used alone or in combination with another drug, any recreational abuse of this substance can be extremely dangerous.
The CDC has reported the following statistics about the use and dangers of gabapentin:
- In 2019, U.S. pharmacies filled more than 69 million prescriptions for gabapentin. Only six other medications were prescribed more frequently than gabapentin in that year.
- From 2013-2017, the annual number of reports to U.S. poison control centers related to gabapentin increased by 104%.
- A study of 58,362 overdose deaths from 2019-2020 revealed that 9.7% of those who died from drug overdose had gabapentin in their system.
- Almost 90% of overdose deaths involving gabapentin also involved at least one opioid.
Is Gabapentin Addictive?
According to a study in the December 2020 issue of the journal Drug Safety, gabapentin misuse and abuse can lead to the development of dependence. This means that gabapentin can be addictive. The 2020 study noted that gabapentin abuse appears to be more common among people who have a history of substance use disorders and certain mental health concerns.
In addition to the risk of gabapentin addiction, people who abuse this medication also expose themselves to an array of additional dangers. For example, those who abuse gabapentin in combination with opioids may have an increased likelihood of drug addiction, overdose, and death.
Polysubstance abuse, the simultaneous misuse of multiple substances, is an extremely dangerous behavior. Anyone who has been abusing multiple substances may be in crisis and should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare provider.
How is Gabapentin Addiction Treated in Birmingham, AL?
People who have become addicted to gabapentin, opioids, or other prescription drugs are often treated with a combination of medication and therapy. Medications may ease the symptoms of withdrawal, address the impact of co-occurring mental health disorders, or treat underlying physical concerns. For example, if a person began abusing gabapentin after receiving a prescription to treat seizures or nerve pain, they may need alternative medical support to help with these concerns.
Therapy can help a person learn to resist the urge to abuse gabapentin or other drugs. During therapy, clients can learn to identify their triggers, which are the events or experiences that may prompt them to abuse gabapentin. Therapy sessions are safe spaces where clients can develop healthier strategies for responding to triggers without resorting to substance abuse.
Begin Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction in Birmingham, Alabama
Addiction to gabapentin or any other prescription drug can have a devastating impact on just about every part of your life. But when you get the care you need, you can achieve true healing in mind, body, and spirit. Birmingham Recovery Center is a valued source of comprehensive care for people who are struggling with gabapentin addiction and other substance use disorders. Give us a call or visit our admissions page to learn more about how we can help.