Gabapentin (Neurontin) is a prescription medication commonly prescribed for the treatment of neuropathic pain, seizures, and restless leg syndrome. Gabapentin works by simulating the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the body, thereby increasing the available amount of GABA to the brain. This action then induces feelings of relaxation, as well as anticonvulsant effects.
Currently, gabapentin isn’t classified as a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The reason for this is because research has shown that the drug has minimal potential for abuse or addiction. Despite this fact, recent research has posed questions about the drug’s safety and potential for dependence.
Moreover, the popular belief is that gabapentin use or abuse is less problematic than many other substances. However, some who use it report feelings of well-being, an effect that could be attractive to recreational drug users. Some also state that gabapentin intensifies the effects of other drugs, such as opioid painkillers and alcohol.
As noted, gabapentin is not scheduled as a controlled substance. There has been some evidence, however, of its use as a recreational or abused drug. One of the hallmark signs of a burgeoning gabapentin addiction is the use of the drug in ways it was not intended. These most commonly include snorting or smoking.
When gabapentin is snorted, users crush tablets and inhale the residual powder into the nasal passages. Regardless of whether a person snorts, smokes, or uses gabapentin orally, it can induce some problematic effects. These effects may include the following:
- Trouble sleeping
- Panic attacks
- Anger and aggression
- Violent behavior
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Unusual behavior
- Mood changes
Also, there are other adverse side effects that gabapentin abuse may produce, including the following:
- Double vision
- Impaired memory
- Impaired motor function
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Swollen hands and feet
- Muscle aches
- Weight gain
Why People Snort Gabapentin
Addiction often begins when a person develops a tolerance. When tolerance occurs, the person will need to use increasing amounts of the drug to achieve effects that previous doses once provided.
Along with tolerance is dependence, which is a condition in which a person’s body has become accustomed to a substance’s presence. Dependence results in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when the use of a substance is abruptly stopped. An intense period of withdrawal can compel a person to continue using gabapentin when they attempt to quit.
Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms can be highly unpleasant and include nausea and fatigue. If people are taking the drug for seizure management, they can expect to experience an increase in seizure activity when they cease use. For this reason and others, most patients choose to wean themselves off the drug under the care of a medical provider. This method can significantly reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
Finally, addiction has developed when a user begins to exhibit compulsive behaviors related to using a substance. An addicted person will continue to abuse the drug despite adverse effects on health, career, relationships, finances, etc.
How Is Gabapentin Addictive?
Whenever a new medication is introduced to the market, there are always concerns surrounding its potential for abuse. As such, researchers will examine how the drug interacts with nerve receptors in the brain. Activation of specific receptors may result in a determination that a substance is addictive and may elicit compulsive, drug-seeking behavior.
Although gabapentin is widely believed to be nonaddictive, some anecdotal reports have raised concerns. For instance, one study described a case of gabapentin abuse in which the person experienced “toxic delirium, intense cravings, and a prolonged post-withdrawal.”
It’s also vital to note that any psychoactive substance has some potential for emotional or psychological dependence. This fact is true, regardless of whether any actual physiological dependence is present. Issues that can result specifically from a psychological dependence include cravings, anxiety, agitation, and depression.
Treatment for Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction
For those who are struggling with the abuse of gabapentin or other substances, it is critical to seek professional help as soon as possible. A person who is abusing gabapentin is at an increased risk of doing so in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol. If this is the case, this is another problem that deserves to be addressed in its own right.
Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers comprehensive, evidence-based services. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Peer group support
- Substance abuse education
- Individual and family counseling
- Health and wellness programs
- Aftercare planning
If you or someone you know needs help breaking free from the chains of substance abuse or addiction, contact us today! We are dedicated to providing our clients with the tools they need to be successful at recovery and foster the healthy, satisfying lives they deserve!