Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms And Remedy – Facts Explained

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report published in 2013 reveals a few astonishing facts on 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 way the brain regulates mood and processes emotion.

Studies suggest that prolonged use of an addictive drug 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 the use of the drug produces withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms and their timeline vary according to different drugs and substances.

It should be noted, Gabapentin is highly potential to become an addiction. It is common for a person to exhibit Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms after the cessation of using the drug 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.

This drug is available in drug stores under 50 plus brand names, the most popular ones are Neurontin, Gralise, Gabarone, and Fanart ex.

It is an anticonvulsant medication. Neurontin works for managing an active herpes zoster infection or shingles.

In addition to the pain relief effects, it is useful for restless leg syndrome, migraine, and peri-menopausal hot flashes.

It should be noted; medical science does not have a precise opinion about the actual functioning of this medication. Most reviews suggest that Gabapentin helps to manage seizures by decreasing abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Undoubtedly, Gabapentin interferes with the transit of pain signaling from the brain and down the spine. This, in particular, helps to reduce neurogenic or nerve pain.

Gabapentin Withdrawal

Gabapentin or Neurontin is classified as a schedule 5 controlled substance in some places. It is strictly a prescription medicine.

However, some physician does recommend this drug for off-label uses like treating anxiety disorders and restless leg syndrome.

Continuous use of Gabapentin in high doses leads to dependency or addiction.

Also, it may cause fatal side effects. For example, some of the users may even exhibit severe mood swings and behavioral disorders. Depression, recurring suicidal thoughts or hallucinations are some issues faced by those who use this drug beyond the prescribed limits.

In recent years, Gabapentin has become one of the most abused drugs.

For a regular user of Gabapentin, suddenly stopping the use of the drug leads to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Factors Influencing Withdrawal

The withdrawal issues vary between different drugs. It depends on how they interact with the brain, body, and mind.

Similarly, each drug has a different timeline for absorption and remaining potentially active in the body.

The ‘half-life’ period is critically important in deciding the onset of withdrawal symptoms in the user.

The gravity of withdrawal symptoms largely depends on the level of dependency the person has on the drug or 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; such as oral ingestion, injecting, smoking, or snorting)
  • Cross interaction with other drugs
  • Physical and mental health conditions of the user
  • 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.

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 drug. For this reason, when a person suddenly stops the use of this drug, the brain finds it hard to produce its own GABA. The brain struggles hard to attain normalcy in the absence of Gabapentin. This results in the occurrence of Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms.

Only a few users face withdrawal symptoms after ceasing the use of Gabapentin. Mostly the ones who have become addicted to this drug for a long period might experience withdrawal issues.

The severity of withdrawals symptoms depends on certain factors such as:

  • Duration of using the drug
  • Dosage of the drug taken
  • Cross interaction with other drugs and 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 common withdrawal symptoms are:

Shockingly, severe withdrawal symptoms of Gabapentin may include seizure and suicidal tendencies in behavior and thoughts.

Timeline for Gabapentin Withdrawal

Signs of withdrawal issues usually occur anywhere between 12 to 40 hours after having the last dose of the drug.

Normally, the drug user exhibits strong withdrawal symptoms during the initial hours.  The user might experience a severe attack of anxiety, headache, tremors, sweating, or seizure within the first 12 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 up to 4 days.

Apart from this, Gabapentin can take up to a week for the withdrawal issues of the drug to die down. Most of the ongoing withdrawal issues arising from this drug are mostly psychological.

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 the instructions of your doctor.

However, drug addiction rehabilitation facilities available in a hospital or rehabilitation center are best for effective detox treatments.

Extensive and prolonged use of Gabapentin upsets the healthy GABA status in the body. A good medical detox is good for rectifying the natural GABA production and its functions in the body.

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 in the smooth management of 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 the use of 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 out the habit.

An addictive user of this drug 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 of the drug helps the addicted user to quit the use of the drug without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Administering detox medicines and patient counseling by an expert helps the user to quit the use of the drug in a few weeks.

The Bottom Line

Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms are mostly seen among those addicted to this drug.

The timeline for withdrawal, based on case studies, is between 12-48 hours. Symptoms of withdrawal can last up to a week. Major symptoms of withdrawal are anxiety, insomnia, palpitation, sweating, fatigue itchy skin, nausea, headaches, and seizure.

Medical detoxing is under the direct vigilance of an expert doctor is best for overcoming the withdrawal symptoms without any fatal health problems. The safest way to go off the drug is to work with a physician on a tapering schedule.

Article Source:

  1. The University of Michigan Medicine. Gabapentin.
  2. “Drug Withdrawal Symptoms, Timelines, and Treatment”, Reviewed by Amanda Lauteiri, B.S., American Addiction Centers
  3. Norton, J. (2001). Gabapentin Withdrawal Syndrome. Clinical Neuropharmacology, 24(4), 245-246.
  4. Melton, S. (2014). Has Gabapentin Become a Drug of Abuse? Medscape.
  5. Gabapentin withdrawal syndrome in the presence of a taper. Bipolar Disorders, 7(3), 302-304.
  6. 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.