There are also cases in which gabapentin, categorized as an anticonvulsant medicine, is administered as an initial treatment to provide relief for patients suffering from neuropathic pain, such as diabetic neuropathy, central neuropathic pain, and post-herpetic neuralgia. Post-herpetic neuralgia can last for months after a patient suffers from shingles. Gabapentin is also given as part of medication treatment for individuals with cases of restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and bipolar disorder.
How gabapentin works is by decreasing unusual brain activity. That is why it is so versatile in its use, because different disorders or illnesses involve just such brain abnormalities. Its effect on unusual brain activity can also prevent seizures, as well as alter the way the brain responds to pain signals. This medication can come in different forms such as capsules, tablets or as an oral solution.
Gabapentin in addiction treatment
Over the years huge strides have been made in the way we view mental illness and addiction. We have gone from seeing it as simply hopeless and wrong, to treatable and worthy of empathy. Along with a change in outlook, the treatment approach has changed as well.
The medical community has discovered that addicts can greatly benefit from medication, in addition to therapy. Gabapentin is one of the medications that has been found to be beneficial in fighting addiction.
Off-label versions of gabapentin are used to treat addiction produced by different companies such as Parke-Davis, Greenstone, and Teva, in generic versions. A couple other similar drugs that are being used to treat withdrawal from specific substances are:
- Other anticonvulsants, such as Tegretol and Depakote
- Methadone and Buprenorphine
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Gabapentin is most commonly used during the treatment of alcoholism. It helps addicts deal with some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal such as tremors, irritability, agitation and anxiety.
It is successful in doing so due to its effect on the brain. Our nervous system communicates with the brain by use of GABA neurotransmitters, and gabapentin works by reducing their activity. So in effect, the messages of anxiety, pain, and agitation are reduced as well.
Studies have confirmed the success of using gabapentin in addiction treatment. Good results were seen in a 16 week study conducted by the American Journal of Psychiatry, of 150 people dependent on alcohol. Better and more lasting results were seen in those who were treated with gabapentin. They saw a reduction in how much they drank as well as a higher rate of abstinence.
Treating Benzodiazepine and Marijuana Addiction
Gabapentin has also been used amongst those detoxing from benzodiazepines and marijuana. Though many may be surprised to see marijuana listed, for there is a widespread belief that it is not addictive, in 2012 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration noted 305,560 people entering rehab citing marijuana as their primary addiction. The same calming effects that soothe alcoholics can help with the withdrawal symptoms of both marijuana and benzodiazepines. Again, the people treated with gabapentin showed less use of the drug they are addicted to as well as improvement in cognitive functioning.
The use of gabapentin can make all the difference. Thanks to its calming effect it gives addicts the peace of mind to fight through their withdrawal symptoms and attempt a full recovery.
Effects of Gabapentin abuse
Gabapentin should never be used without the close supervision of a doctor because it can have some serious side effects. The temptation for abuse exists because some people experience a feeling of euphoria or a “rush” when taken as prescribed, which can then lead to taking more and more to experience that high continuously. This is dangerous as it can lead to a dependency on the drug as well as a possible overdose. Abuse of gabapentin is more likely to occur in someone who already has a history of drug abuse, with substances such as alcohol, cocaine, and opioids.
Gabapentin as an addictive substance
As we’ve already mentioned gabapentin has many legitimate uses and the large majority of people uses it for the purpose it was intended for.
But as with many drugs, frequent use over a long period of time can lead to a physical and psychological dependence. This may lead to addiction and abuse of the drug.
There are different ways of coping with withdrawal symptoms. They include slowly lessening the dose of gabapentin, slowly tapering off it, and treating the withdrawal symptoms with other medication. It is never advised to stop using gabapentin abruptly, or by so called “cold turkey” because this can increase the symptoms of withdrawal. Gabapentin requires medical oversight and you should always contact your doctor before attempting to detox on your own.
What Is The Duration Of Gabapentin’s Effects?
When given to patients, the expected duration, or half-life, of gabapentin is five to seven hours. This relatively short half-life means that the withdrawal symptoms from gabapentin can be expected to be more severe. It’s crucial that a patient withdrawing from this medication seeks professional help.
What Factors Affect The Withdrawal From Gabapentin?
There are several factors that could affect an individual while undergoing gabapentin withdrawal. These factors, vital in determining the recovery period as well as the approaches on how to quit on this drug, include intake timeline, dosage, patient physiology, withdrawal method.
This is dependent on the length of time the person has been taking gabapentin for, which can range from weeks to years. If the user took gabapentin for only a shorter period, quitting the drug is a lot easier. After longer periods of gabapentin intake, the withdrawal process can be more challenging, since the person’s brain and nervous system have come to rely on the medication.
Dosage (300 Mg To 3000 Mg)
The dose that doctors usually prescribe to younger individuals is 900 mg per day, taken three times per day at 300 mg per dose. There are cases in which a dosage increase is recommended up to approximately 1800 mg per day, while some doctors use body weight to determine the appropriate dosage.
People taking this drug may experience noticeable withdrawal effects and severity of symptoms dependent on one’s physiology. Some people have more sensitivity to medication, and for those people discontinuing gabapentin could be a more difficult process.
Cold Turkey Vs. Tapering
If you decide to quit gabapentin, it’s recommended that you work it out with the presence of a medical specialist whose field of specialization is “gradual tapering.” The doctor will reduce the dosage gradually until the drug can be stopped completely.
Quitting “cold turkey” may lead to life-threatening seizures if the addiction is advanced enough.
What Are The Withdrawal Symptoms Of Gabapentin?
Common withdrawal symptoms from gabapentin may include sweating, anxiety, change in appetite, crying spells, depression, dizziness, a feeling of fatigue, headaches, insomnia, irritability, itchiness, muscle pain, restlessness, seizures, spasms, stomach pain, and suicidal tendencies.
- Anxiety – Gabapentin is prescribed to treat anxiety. When a person is withdrawing from the drug , the feelings of anxiety may be triggered again and even stronger.
- Change in appetite – Another common withdrawal symptom that a person will experience is a sudden change in appetite, be it an increase or loss of appetite.
- Crying spells – The emotional stability of a person when quitting gabapentin may also be affected and result in “crying spells.” Here, the person may feel the urge to cry for no apparent reason, but these symptoms will eventually cease.
- Depression – People may experience feelings of depression during the withdrawal stage from gabapentin. This feeling is why many people end up using the drug recreationally.
- Dizziness – A person may experience dizziness while withdrawing from this drug. This symptom will eventually diminish.
- Feeling of fatigue – There are some cases in which gabapentin users complain from feelings of fatigue or lethargy while quitting this drug.
- Headaches – One of the withdrawal symptoms reported while quitting gabapentin is headaches, but these normally fade away.
- Insomnia – Severe insomnia is the initial complaint of people withdrawing from gabapentin, meaning that they normally experience difficulty in falling asleep.
- Irritability – As one undergoes withdrawal from gabapentin, the individual may notice signs of irritability.
- Itchiness – Itchiness is another withdrawal symptom. The person may feel severe itching all over the body.
- Muscle pain – Gabapentin is often administered to treat pain, so after quitting the drug, muscle pain may return or begin to be more noticeable.
- Restlessness – Many gabapentin users complain of restlessness when withdrawing from this drug. The feeling of anxiety may affect your ability to concentrate.
- Seizures – One of the dangerous effects of quitting “cold turkey” may be episodes of seizures.
- Spasms – Spasms during the withdrawal process can be severe; if so, tapering is advised.
- Stomach pain – Stomach pain is a common withdrawal symptom.
- Being suicidal – When a person withdrawing from gabapentin feels depressed, that may include suicidal thoughts.
- Sweating – Individuals quitting gabapentin may also experience sweating, particularly while asleep.
Symptoms of an overdose
It is important to be able to recognize symptoms of a gabapentin overdose, and be able to distinguish it from the normal side effects of the drug. The list of side effects is long and includes things like blurry vision, shaking in one part of the body, dizziness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, strange and unusual thoughts, weakness, swelling in extremities and uncontrolled eye movement. Those are just a few. It is important to know the symptoms of an overdose and to be able to distinguish them from the side effects of gabapentin, in order to be able to know when to seek help.
Here are the important symptoms that may indicate a gabapentin overdose:
- Double vision
- Slurred speech
The risk of a gabapentin overdose increases significantly after withdrawal. If someone relapses they often return to the dose they last took, which was often working in a body that had built up a tolerance to the drug. That same dose now in a body that has detoxed from gabapentin can be very dangerous. An overdose can have a lasting effect on your internal organs, causing damage to your heart, liver and kidneys.