Gabapentin Addiction & Abuse

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Published on Mar 22nd, 2018

One of the prescription drugs rising in popularity for treating neurological disorders is Gabapentin. While the drug has been proven to relieve patients from their existing medical conditions, it has also shown a number of adverse effects, which include a potential dependence on the drugs. In this article, we will look into important information about Gabapentin, including its original pharmacological design, effects on the human body, and the tendency to abuse it.

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is an anti-epileptic drug that affects chemicals and nerves in the body that cause seizures and some types of pain. It is popularly sold in the market under the brand name Neurontin. Additionally, recreational users know this drug by the street name “Johnnys”.

This drug was first introduced in 1993 by Parke-Davis, and its generic version was introduced in 2004.

In adults, Gabapentin is used to treat neuropathic pain or nerve pain that is caused by herpes virus or shingles. It is also used to treat seizures in both adults and children above three years old.


Gabapentin wor

ks both in the brain
and nervous system. It acts by stabilizing the electrical activity in the brain and at the same time affecting the way the nerves send messages to the brain.

Gabapentin curbs the action of glutamate decarboxylase and branched chain aminotransferase. These two enzymes are involved in the GABA synthesis.

This drug was found to increase GABA biosynthesis and boost non-synaptic GABA neurotransmission in vitro. Since the GABA system is found to be the most prolific inhibitory receptor set within the brain, this results in the calming effects of the drug on the nervous system.

Similarly, Gabapentin has also been proven to bind to the α2δ-1 subunit of voltage-gated calcium ion channels, thereby generating its analgesic effects.

Different Forms of Gabapentin

Gabapentin comes in different forms and various strengths such as capsules, tablets, and oral solutions. Both the capsule and tablet come in 100 mg, 300 mg, 400 mg, and 800 mg strengths, while the oral solution comes in 250 mg / 5 L solution.

The initial dose of Gabapentin is usually 300 mg once a day. As the treatment progresses and the body is able to adjust to its effects, the dose is increased to about 300 mg three times a day.

The dosage given to a patient is dependent on the following factors:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Condition to be treated
  • Weight


Gabapentin is not a controlled substance. However, you need to have a prescription in order to purchase it. People who use it for recreational purposes get their supplies either by stealing from other people who are legitimately using Gabapentin for a medical condition or buying the drug from the black market.

Although it can help heighten pleasure and calmness when using it with other narcotic drug, its effect is not as dangerous as that of cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, or MDMA. In other words, it’s highly unlikely for Gabapentin to be considered a party drug.

Uses of Gabapentin

Gabapentin is used along with other medications to help prevent and control seizures. Furthermore, it is used to relieve pain following a painful rash due to herpes zoster infection in adults. As mentioned earlier, it works as an antiepileptic or anticonvulsant drug.

Effects of Gabapentin Use

Although the drug has been proven to be effective in the treatment of symptoms on patients with neurological conditions, individuals taken the drug show the following:

Cognitive Effects

  • Amnesia
  • Anxiety suppression
  • Cognitive euphoria
  • Decreased libido
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Dream potentiation
  • Emotion suppression
  • Thought deceleration

Physical Effects

  • Dizziness
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Pain relief
  • Perception of decreased weight
  • Physical euphoria
  • Sedation
  • Seizure suppression

Visual Effects

  • Internal hallucinations
  • Visual disconnection

Other Adverse Effects

  • Abnormal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Back or joint pain
  • Blurry or doubled vision
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Cold symptoms
  • Constipation
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Increased appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Nausea
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Shaking in one part of the body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Tremor
  • Uncontrolled eye movement
  • Unsteadiness
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Weight gain

Allergic Reactions

It is likely that some Gabapentin users may experience a certain level of allergic reaction, which may be life-threatening and may manifest the following:

  • Body aches
  • Change in urination
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dark urine
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Increased seizures
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • New or worsening cough
  • Rapid back and forth movement of your eyes
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Severe skin reaction
  • Severe tingling, numbness, pain, or muscle weakness
  • Short of breath
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling
  • Swollen glands
  • Trouble breathing
  • Upper stomach pain

If any of these becomes apparent, particularly when the patient may suffer from shortness of breath, immediate medical attention should be provided.

Effects of Gabapentin Use

Just as short as 12 hours after taking Gabapentin, the patient may already experience certain symptoms. Therefore, patients legally prescribed with this drug should follow the dosage recommended by their physicians. They should also be aware of the possibilities of experiencing symptoms.

Short-Term Effects

  • Clumsiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Unsteadiness
  • Vision disturbances

Long-Term Effects

  • Agitation
  • Dependence
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart problems - including heart failure
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Weight gain

How long does Gabapentin stay in the body?

Gabapentin can stay in the body for up to 48 hours after intake. However, individuals with renal failure will likely still have the drug up to 30 days after the last intake.

Elimination of Gabapentin may be influenced by the quantity consumed and frequency of use. Therefore, it is likely to show up even after the 2-day window detection if the individual has taken large doses of Gabapentin.

The average half-life of Gabapentin is 5-7 hours, which means that it is likely to be eliminated after 2 days.


Gabapentin has a half-life around 5-7 hours. This means that it would take up to days to eliminate traces of Gabapentin in the blood.


It is unusual to use a hair test in determining Gabapentin. However, the presence of most drugs can be detected up to 30 days of use in hair samples.


Although the route of administration of Gabapentin is oral, Gabapentin presence cannot be detected using a swab test.


Gabapentin is excreted via the kidneys. Complete elimination of the drug is after 2 days of use.

Gabapentin Drug Test

It is unlikely that Gabapentin will show up in a traditional or basic drug test, particularly for two reasons:

  • Gabapentin is not a scheduled drug.
  • Drug tests are used to detect narcotics and illicit substances only.

Testing for Gabapentin requires drug screening products specifically designed for such purpose. Gabapentin Drug Test Urine Dip Card, for instance, can detect use of Gabapentin within two days after the last intake.

Precautionary Measures when Taking Gabapentin

It is important to note that prior to taking any kind of medication, an individual should tell the doctor or pharmacist if he/she is allergic to it. This will prevent allergic or toxic reactions to drugs such as Gabapentin, which has been reported to cause allergic reactions and other problems.

Moreover, inform your doctor about your complete medical history, particularly if you have renal problems, mental/mood problems, and previous use/abuse of alcohol or drugs.

This drug may make you feel drowsy, which can cause blurred vision. It isn’t advisable for you to drive or use machinery that requires having complete focus and alertness. Drinking alcohol in combination with Gabapentin should also be avoided.

Extreme precaution is needed if ever the doctor prescribes this drug during pregnancy. The risks and benefits of using Gabapentin should be clearly be delivered to the patient.

Gabapentin and Addiction

Gabapentin has become one of the most abused drugs after its first distribution in 2004. According to a Florida correctional facility, less than 20% of the gabapentin prescriptions are being used by people who are legally prescribed the drug. This means that gabapentin may have gone to people who aren’t supposed to use them.

Inmates were reported to crush the pills and snort them. All of these inmates had a history of cocaine use.

Prescription drug abuse is also possible with Gabapentin. Taking more than what is supposed to be taken can lead to dependence and ultimately can result in withdrawal symptoms when intake is stopped.

Gabapentin is often used in conjunction with other anti-epileptic drugs to increase its potency. Similarly, if Gabapentin is taken with other narcotics, opioid, or alcohol, it may heighten the effects, which may cause the following:

  • Less inhibitive
  • Unusual “high”
  • Increased libido
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Insomnia


Addiction to Gabapentin is low compared with other drugs. However, it is possible that anyone who takes the drug more than what they are supposed to take may fall into addiction and potential for overdose.

The following are common symptoms for people who are abusing and on the verge of overdosing on Gabapentin:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Fever
  • Jerky movements
  • Loss of coordination
  • Memory loss
  • Tremors
  • Unusual eye movements

Withdrawal Symptoms

The higher the dose that an individual takes, the more likely that he will experience the worse withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Changes in appetite
  • Crying spells
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Itching
  • Muscle pain or spasms
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Sweating

Treatment for Gabapentin Abuse

People whom you think is using Gabapentin inappropriately should immediately be directed towards medical help. Although most of the symptoms mentioned above are not dangerous, seizures may lead to a serious injury or even death. Suicidal thoughts are also possible to happen.

Similarly, it is also recommended to consult with the doctor before completely quitting Gabapentin. Abrupt cessation after living off Gabapentin for months or years may cause excruciating withdrawal symptoms that may be too much for the person to bear. Whether Gabapentin is taken for medical or recreational use, it is important to slowly reduce the amount of Gabapentin from the system until such time that the body is able to survive without having it.

Furthermore, the individual is advised to stay in a hospital setting so that the individual can be properly managed by medical professionals. Enrolling the recovering addict in a rehabilitation facility is also a good idea, considering that these establishments know how to help people ease off prescription drug abuse.

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