Drug Addiction

Is Gabapentin Addictive? Gabapentin Addiction and its Consequences

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Gabapentin is a prescription drug currently on the market used to treat various conditions. Although gabapentin is not as addictive as opioids, gabapentin addiction is still possible. Read on as Avenues Recovery provides an overview of how gabapentin is addictive and what it entails.

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin belongs to a class of medications known as anticonvulsants, which treat epileptic seizures by decreasing abnormal levels of activity in the brain. Gabapentin is also an analgesic drug used to treat pain related to nerve damage, also known as neuropathic pain. Gabapentin is a widely used drug in the US, with around 10.5 million users in 2020.

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Can You Get High On Gabapentin?

When one uses gabapentin, they are usually able to tolerate it. At most, many people feel drowsy or have weaker muscle control. Nevertheless, gabapentin is addictive when it is misused, as people can experience a high from taking this prescription drug. When using it for this reason, gabapentin addiction is a form of substance use disorder.

The DSM’s 11 Criteria for Substance Use Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders sets out 11 criteria for a substance use disorder (SUD). When looking for the signs of gabapentin addiction and dependence, a professional will typically look to see how many symptoms on the criteria are identified in an individual. This will help to determine how severe their substance use disorder is.

The 11 diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder are as follows:

Do you find yourself…?

  1. Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you're meant to.
  2. Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to.
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance.
  4. Cravings and urges to use the substance.
  5. Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use.
  6. Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.
  7. Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.
  8. Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger.
  9. Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance.
  10. Needing more of the substance to reach the effect you want (tolerance).
  11. Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance.


Based on how one answers these questions, one can determine if they are experiencing gabapentin dependence.

How Can Gabapentin Be Abused?

There are a few main ways in which gabapentin can be abused, and all fall under the border category of prescription drug abuse (PDA).

  1. One way in which gabapentin can be misused is when it is used “off-label” for a disease or medical condition that it is not approved to treat. Although gabapentin is mainly used to treat seizures, people have started to use gabapentin to treat a broader range of conditions. While there is no recent research, according to NCBI in 2012, gabapentin began to be used for conditions such as attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, diabetic neuropathy, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement, sleep disorders, trigeminal neuralgia, and other conditions [1]
  2. The fact that gabapentin has been diverted from treating a narrow group of disorders to treating a much larger variety makes it easier for users to obtain and in turn, for users to abuse.
  3. Another way in which the drug can be misused is when it is taken alongside opiates to intensify the opiate effects - namely, the reduction of anxiety as well as feelings of euphoria. Taking a drug alongside others is known as an adjuvant effect. Although mixing the drugs will lead to stronger effects, there can be dangerous consequences of polysubstance abuse.
  4. Gabapentin can also be used alone in higher than recommended dosages, enabling users to feel high on gabapentin. They may experience feelings of euphoria, calmness, relaxation, and improved sociability. High doses will cause gabapentin to become addictive to individuals who use it in this way. 

Since gabapentin isn’t a controlled substance, government regulation and oversight of its distribution is relatively lax. This can lead to a gabapentin addiction developing quickly when misused. 

Side Effects of Gabapentin Addiction

Dizziness and drowsiness are common side effects of gabapentin, together with forgetfulness and confusion in some cases. All of these factors put a user in a vulnerable position, since they have less control over their behavior and decreased awareness of what is going on around them. In some cases, this can result in the substance abusers injuring themselves or driving under the influence of drugs.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms

Since gabapentin can be addictive, addiction withdrawal can occur to one who stops taking gabapentin. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, “long-term use [of gabapentin] can cause physiologic dependence and withdrawal syndrome on cessation, characterized by diaphoresis, anxiety, confusion and, rarely, seizures.” [2] Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms also include diarrhea, insomnia, dizziness, and nausea. The adverse side effects that result from withdrawing from the drug imply that many users fail multiple attempts to quit and find themselves returning to it again and again.

Can Gabapentin Cause an Overdose?

Overdosing on gabapentin is unlikely when used as a sole substance, nevertheless, gabapentin can strongly contribute to an overdose when used together with other drugs. 

Overdosing on gabapentin is not impossible though, as suicide can occur when the substance is intentionally ingested in excess.

As mentioned above, the more probable danger is for gabapentinoids to contribute to an overdose. This is when gabapentin is used in conjunction with other CNS depressants, since the former can have a synergistic effect on the latter. Since they act on the same areas of the brain, gabapentinoids compound the effects of CNS depressants. This can result in drowsiness, respiratory depression, coma, and death. The exact effect of the drug largely depends on the amount of the drug that is taken, the frequency at which they are taking it, as well as which other substances they are using alongside it.


Treatment for Gabapentin Dependence

As explained above, gabapentin is addictive when it is misused. Stopping to take gabapentin cold turkey is not recommended at all as it can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Instead, one should taper off from gabapentin over the course of at least a week. Quitting should be under the guidance of a medical professional while receiving therapy for gabapentin addiction at a rehab facility.

Gabapentin Addiction Treatment at Avenues Recovery

Although recovery from addiction can be challenging, it is one of the most worthwhile decisions you will ever make. If you or a loved one are experiencing gabapentin addiction and are looking for guidance about what next steps to take, reach out to Avenues Recovery today. A trained professional will be available to talk you through the best recovery options individualized for you. Thousands have recovered through our treatment programs and have gone on to live happy, addiction-free lives. Take this opportunity too - start your journey to recovery today!


[1] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

[2] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.go

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