Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction: Symptoms & Treatment - PAX Riverbend

Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

gabapentin abuse and addiction

Gabapentin is a prescription medication used to treat nerve pain and seizures. It is different from other prescription pain medications and is considered less addictive than opioids. Despite being less addictive, gabapentin is still commonly abused and people do develop addictions to it.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of gabapentin abuse and addiction will help to identify an issue early on. Having this knowledge enables people to seek treatment for their addiction as soon as possible.

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is the generic form of Neurontin. It is in a unique drug class known as anticonvulsants. It has a different mechanism of action that is not fully understood by medical professionals. However, it is suspected that gabapentin works by affecting calcium levels in the brain in a way that slows down nerve signals.[1]

The ability to dampen these signals to nerves is what allows gabapentin to prevent seizures as well as decrease nerve pain. Gabapentin is commonly prescribed during detox from other drugs and alcohol due in order to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent seizures. However, gabapentin also has some potential side effects.

Gabapentin Side Effects

Some of the side effects of gabapentin alter mood and motor function. These side effects range from mild to severe. The most common side effects when taking gabapentin are:[2]

common side effects when taking gabapentin:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Irritability
  • Sudden, jerky movements
  • Nausea and vomiting

These side effects are considered less severe when compared with the other potential side effects of gabapentin. More serious side effects of gabapentin are:

More serious side effects of gabapentin

  • Depression and/or suicidal thoughts
  • New or worsening anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Hostility or sudden bursts of violence
  • Mood swings

Gabapentin is not considered a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This is misleading for many people, as it suggests that it is impossible to develop a gabapentin addiction. However, that is simply not true, as gabapentin abuse and addiction occur frequently with regular use.

Signs of Gabapentin Abuse

Recognizing the signs of gabapentin abuse is an important step in being able to identify an addiction. As gabapentin does have a mild sedative effect, some people may take it more often than needed because they like how it makes them feel. With continued use, they may also find they have to take more gabapentin to get the same amount of pain reduction that they previously achieved with a lower dose.[3]

Needing to take higher doses of gabapentin is a sign that someone has developed a tolerance to the drug, which is a clear indication of abuse. In addition to having a tolerance for the drug, there are other telltale signs of gabapentin misuse.

Gabapentin abuse may manifest as taking the medication more often than what the prescribing doctor recommends. People abusing gabapentin will also take it for purposes other than what it was prescribed for. People who are addicted to gabapentin might also mix the medication with other drugs or alcohol to further alter their mental state. This is extremely dangerous to do.

Symptoms of Gabapentin Addiction

It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of gabapentin addiction. People addicted to gabapentin will experience increasing thoughts of the drug and the urge to take it regularly. These thoughts become obsessive for many people struggling with gabapentin addiction and impede their ability to participate in day-to-day life.

Gabapentin addiction can be damaging to relationships because it is mood-altering and causes people to behave in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. This causes people to act out and be hostile or distant with friends and family members.

Other consequences include the physical ones. People who are addicted to gabapentin will experience physical withdrawal when they discontinue the medication. Withdrawal from gabapentin is a difficult process and can last over a week. Symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Seizures

Treatment for Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction

Although gabapentin addiction is a destructive force in the lives of those struggling with it, there is treatment available. The first step in treatment for gabapentin addiction is medical detox.

During detox from gabapentin, medical professionals will monitor the withdrawal process and ensure it is done safely and as comfortably as possible. This step is especially important when discontinuing gabapentin due to the risk of seizures. During detox, a person will be placed on a gabapentin taper where their doses are slowly decreased to reduce the potential for dangerous withdrawal side effects.

After undergoing detox, the next step is to maintain sobriety from gabapentin. This is done through drug rehabilitation programs where people can get to the root cause of their addiction. These programs include group and individual therapy to work through their problems that are contributing to gabapentin abuse.

Start Your Recovery Today

At PAX Riverbend, we are here to help you overcome your addiction to gabapentin from start to finish. We provide all services, including medical detox as well as both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation treatment programs.

Our caring staff works with you one on one to develop a plan of care to get you on the road to recovery. With the help of our licensed counselors, you’ll be able to get sober and stay sober for years to come.



Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.