The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report reveals some surprising statistics about drug abuse. According to this survey, over 25 million Americans over the age of 12 had used illicit drugs a month before the survey.
Most importantly, alcohol and addictive drugs, including Gabapentin, influence the brain’s mood regulation and processes of emotions.
Studies suggest prolonged use of an addictive medicine creates a flood of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. As a result, a person gains an artificial feeling of pleasure or a “high.”
In addition, stopping drug use produces withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms and timeline vary for different drugs and substances.
It should be noted that Gabapentin is highly likely to become an addiction. It is common for a person to exhibit Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms after ceasing to use the after discontinuation of gabapentin therapy far beyond the prescription period.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a prescription medication for postherpetic neuralgia, partial seizures, and neuropathic pain issues.
Gabapentin is an analog of the natural neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid).
It is available in medical stores under 50-plus brand names. The most popular ones are Neurontin, Gralise, Gabarone, and Fanart.
It is an anticonvulsant medication. Neurontin works for managing an active herpes zoster infection or shingles.
In addition to its pain relief effects, it is useful for restless leg syndrome, migraines, and peri-menopausal hot flashes.
Medical science does not have a precise opinion about the actual functioning of Gabapentin. Most reviews suggest that Gabapentin helps manage seizures by decreasing abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
It is evident that Gabapentin interferes with the transmission of pain signals from the brain and down the spine. This, in particular, reduces neurogenic or nerve pain.
Gabapentin, or Neurontin, is classified as a schedule 5 controlled substance in some places. It is strictly a prescription medicine.
However, some physicians recommend this medicine for off-label uses like the treatment of anxiety disorders and restless leg syndrome.
Continuous use of Gabapentin in higher doses leads to physical dependence or addiction.
Also, it may cause fatal side effects. For example, some users may exhibit severe mood swings and behavioral disorders. Depression, recurring suicidal thoughts, or hallucinations are some issues those who use this medication face beyond the prescribed limits.
In recent years, Gabapentin has become one of the most abused medications.
For a regular user of Gabapentin, suddenly stopping the use of it leads to severe withdrawal symptoms.
Factors Influencing Withdrawal
Withdrawal issues vary between different medicaments. It depends on how they interact with the brain, body, and mind.
Similarly, each medication has a different timeline for absorption and remaining potentially active in the body.
The “half-life” period is critically important in determining the onset of withdrawal symptoms in the user.
The severity of withdrawal signs largely depends on the person’s dependency on the substance.
The major factors that influence the withdrawal timeline are:
- Type and dosage of substance abuse
- Length of time abusing the substance
- Methods of using the addicted substance include oral ingestion, injection, smoking, or snorting).
- Cross-interaction with other substances
- Physical and mental health conditions of the user and his quality of life
- Genetic traits and family history
What Causes Gabapentin Withdrawal?
Gabapentin can go beyond the blood-brain barrier. It interacts with the functioning of GABA receptors.
However, the brain responds more quickly to Gabapentin, and natural GABA receptors gradually become inactive. It’s an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.
Moreover, the brain becomes attuned to the presence of Gabapentin and decreases the production of its own natural GABA.
In the long run, the brain develops a dependency on this medicine. For this reason, when a person is suddenly stopping Gabapentin, the brain finds it hard to produce its own GABA. The brain struggles to attain normalcy in the discontinuation of Gabapentin. This results in the occurrence of Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms.
Only a few users face withdrawal symptoms after ceasing the use of Gabapentin. Those dependent on this medication for a long time might experience withdrawal issues.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms and recovery depends on certain factors, such as:
- Duration of using it
- The dosage of the medicine taken
- Cross-interaction with other substances
- Health conditions of the user
Symptoms of Gabapentin Withdrawal
As we know, the severity and type of withdrawal symptoms from Gabapentin vary from user to user.
Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms are:
- Excessive sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle spasms
- Stomach pain
Shockingly, severe withdrawal symptoms of Gabapentin may include seizures and suicidal tendencies in behavior and thoughts.
Timeline for Gabapentin Withdrawal
Signs of withdrawal issues usually occur anywhere between 12 and 40 hours after the last dose of the medicine.
Normally, the user exhibits strong withdrawal signs during the initial hours. The user might experience a severe anxiety attack, headache, tremors, sweating, or seizures within the first 12 hours to 24 hours.
Recurring symptoms of withdrawal can last three to four days. Physical reactions like restlessness, agitation, confusion, drop in heart rate, or hallucination can continue for up to 4 days.
Apart from this, Gabapentin can take up to a week for the withdrawal issues of it to die down. Most of the ongoing withdrawal issues arising from this panacea are mostly psychological.
Related article: How Long Does Suboxone Stay In Your System
How to Get Relief From Gabapentin Withdrawal
First of all, a thorough detox for Gabapentin is necessary to overcome withdrawal problems. You can do it in the comfort of your home by following your doctor’s instructions.
However, drug addiction rehabilitation facilities in hospitals or rehabilitation centers are best for effective detox treatments.
Extensive and prolonged use of Gabapentin upsets the healthy GABA status in the body. A good medical detox can rectify the body’s natural GABA production and functions.
The patient should always undergo medical detox. It helps to safely manage the withdrawal with the least amount of adverse consequences.
Most importantly, medical detox may also involve the use of mild medications to reduce the side effects of withdrawal. A residential or inpatient detox program gives the most comprehensive care for managing withdrawal symptoms.
Rehabilitation for Gabapentin Abuse
Despite being a treatment medication for detox and addiction rehabilitation, Gabapentin itself is dangerous. The use of this drug beyond the prescription period may drive a person to abuse and dependence.
Many say that taking Gabapentin gives a similar sensation to marijuana. Using it along with alcohol or other substances is indicative of abuse. In such a scenario, the user needs to undergo rehabilitation programs to kick the habit.
An addictive user of this medicine can avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms by joining a drug abuse rehabilitation center.
Firstly, the doctor will gradually taper down their dosage of Gabapentin over time. Gradually reducing the dosage helps the addicted user quit using it without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Administering cleansing medicines and patient counseling by an expert helps the user quit using the drug in a few weeks.
The Final Thought
Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms are often seen among drug addicts.
Based on case studies, the timeline for withdrawal is between 12 and 48 hours. Withdrawal symptoms can last up to a week. Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, insomnia, palpitations, sweating, fatigue, itchy skin, nausea, headaches, and seizures.
Medical detoxification under the direct supervision of an expert doctor is most effective at overcoming withdrawal symptoms without causing fatal health problems. Working with a physician on a tapering schedule is the safest way to go off the Gabapentin.
Read next: How Long Does Methadone Stay In Your System
Article source and references:
- The University of Michigan Medicine. Gabapentin.
- “Drug Withdrawal Symptoms, Timelines, and Treatment”, Reviewed by Amanda Lauteiri, B.S., American Addiction Centers
- Norton, J. (2001). Gabapentin Withdrawal Syndrome. Clinical Neuropharmacology, 24(4), 245-246.
- Melton, S. (2014). Has Gabapentin Become a Drug of Abuse? Medscape.
- Gabapentin withdrawal syndrome in the presence of a taper. Bipolar Disorders, 7(3), 302-304.
- Tran, K.T., Hranicky, D., Lark, T., and Jacob, N.J. (2005). Hellwig, T.R., Hammerquist, R. & Termaat, J. (2010). Withdrawal symptoms after Gabapentin discontinuation. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 67(11), 910-912.