Neurontin Abuse – Neurontin is the most commonly known brand name for gabapentin, a prescription drug approved for the treatment of neuropathic pain and epilepsy. As a relatively new drug, gabapentin’s precise mechanism of action and potential adverse side effects are still being researched.
Experts believe that gabapentin works by releasing a neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA, which functions as a minor tranquilizer that can produce a mild high in some users. It also promotes feelings of calmness, relaxation, and increased sociability, and may be misused by those who use multiple substances to compound the effects of other drugs or alcohol.
Side effects of Neurontin use may include the following:
- Loss of memory
- Impaired coordination
- Difficulty speaking
- Viral infections
- Blurred or double vision
- Erratic eye movements
- Jerky body movements
Is Neurontin Addictive?
Neurontin can be habit forming but not typically in the same way as many other drugs of abuse. This difference is because, besides GABA, Neurontin does not appear to influence other neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, unlike many other substances that affect the central nervous system (CNS), including opioids or alcohol.
For this reason, gabapentin is thought to have a lower potential for abuse and addiction, so it is not included in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of controlled substances in the United States. Despite a low potential for addiction, Neurontin does have some properties similar to other drugs of abuse and can induce mild psychoactive effects and result in withdrawal symptoms if a user tries to quit abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms are a telltale sign of dependence, a condition that occurs over time as a product of chronic, repeated drug or alcohol use.
Common gabapentin withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Suicidal ideations
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle pain or spasms
- Stomach pain
When using Neurontin as directed by a doctor, side effects such as those listed above are not necessarily a sign of addiction. Symptoms related to Neurontin abuse may be more obvious and include addictive behaviors, such as the following:
- Lying about symptoms or exaggerating their intensity to physicians in an attempt to get more Neurontin
- Visiting multiple doctors or pharmacies (doctor shopping) trying to get more Neurontin
- Switching doctors when the original physician denies the patient access to Neurontin
- Adverse changes in friends, social behavior, or personal hygiene
- Preoccupation with obtaining and using Neurontin
- Refusal to quit despite negative social, financial, or legal implications
- Multiple failed attempts to quit (relapse)
- Development of tolerance (an increasing amount of the drug is needed to achieve the desired effect)
Who Misuses or Abuses Neurontin?
In a study conducted using data collected by six addiction treatment facilities, clinical researchers found that 22% of survey respondents reported abusing gabapentin and pregabalin (both gabapentinoids) in conjunction with methadone.
Another study revealed that rates of Neurontin misuse tend to vary depending on the population in question. For example, the incidence of Neurontin misuse among the general population is only about 1%. However, among those who abuse opioids, this rate is as high as 22%, and among people with Neurontin prescriptions, as much as 40-65%.
The likelihood of death from an overdose on Neurontin by itself is extremely low. However, as a CNS depressant, gabapentin can adversely and unpredictably interact with other drugs, such as opioids, and enhance their effects. These effects may be severe and result in harm to oneself or others, so you should never use Neurontin in conjunction with another substance unless directed by a doctor.
Symptoms of a drug overdose may include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramps and diarrhea
- Dizziness and loss of balance
- Extreme drowsiness
- Shallow or labored breathing
- Stopped breathing
- Visual disturbances
- Congested snoring
Treatment for Neurontin Abuse
Neurontin abuse is a potentially serious condition that should be addressed by medical or addiction professionals. People who misuse or abuse gabapentin often abuse other substances, including benzodiazepines, sedatives, opioids, or alcohol.
Also, many people who engage in prescription drug abuse suffer from co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. These disorders should always be addressed and treated in conjunction with substance abuse.
Treatment for Neurontin abuse involves specialized care, including comprehensive, evidence-based approaches that make use of psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, group support, health and wellness programs, and aftercare planning.
Our goal is to provide each client with the tools and support they need to achieve a full recovery, prevent relapse, and enjoy long-lasting wellness and sobriety. We employ highly-trained addiction professionals who deliver evidence-based, therapeutic services to our clients with care and expertise.
If you or someone you know is abusing prescription medications, illicit drugs, or alcohol, please contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation and to discuss treatment options. We are dedicated to helping people free themselves from the grips of substance abuse and addiction and reclaim the fulfilling and healthy lives they deserve!
Related: Drug and Alcohol Abuse