Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline – How Long Does It Take To Quit?

Gabapentin, or Neurontin, is a prescription drug used primarily to treat epilepsy patients.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

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:

  • Clonidine
  • Other anticonvulsants, such as Tegretol and Depakote
  • Methadone and Buprenorphine
  • Naltrexone

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Treating Alcoholism

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.

Once your body becomes dependent on a drug to function, choosing to stop using it will lead to a period of withdrawal. This is basically your body desperately trying to get back to the way it functioned before the drug was introduced.

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.

Timeline

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.

The higher the prescribed dosage, the more difficult the withdrawal.

Physiology

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
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea

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.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline – How Long Does It Take To Quit?

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Comments 20

  • DANGER! A very dangerous drug which
    Caused me to blackout!!!
    DO NOT TAKE!!!!

  • My wife has taken my gapapentine and now im without it for 8 days. I take 3200 mgs a day. Plz what can i do for the withdrawals im going to go thru.

    • Lisa, taper off slowly. that’s the key to getting off any medication

    • Magnesium helps tremendously. But don’t buy the cheap, Oxide Formula that you see in the grocery store. You’ll want the Glycinate or Citrate varieties, as these have much better absorption and won’t cause diarrhea. Gapapentin tends to rob you of Magnesium (so I’m told), and if you dose up on Magnisium, you’ll find it easier to sleep, and the agitation/anxiety isn’t as prevalent…

      Another consideration is this (from my experience). I’ve gone thru many periods where I take loads of Gabapentin, then stop. If you can tolerate it, I have found it better to maybe reduce/taper a bit, but to just bite the bullet and almost go cold turkey. By that I mean maybe a 3 day period of time where you reduce the dosage, but completely stop as soon as you can. Yes, for a couple days you may experience a lot of unpleasant side effects from withdrawal. But I’ve done it both ways, and reducing the amount of Gabapentin over a longer period of time just increases the unpleasantness over a longer period of time. Give it 3-4 days of cold turkey, and I promise it will get better – sooner, rather than later….

      • Hi Douglas do you mind me asking a question re weaning off gabapentin?
        I’ve been on 900mg a day for approx 10 weeks for a spinal fusion but i’m Getting excruciating muscle pain in which the gp thinks it’s Ute gabapentin causing it sonhas told me to come off it to see??!
        However i’m Worried my nerve pain will go through the roof and the muscle pain won’t subside and I may get more side effects?
        She said to have 300mg twice a day yesterday, 200mg twice a day today then 100 mg twice a day tomorrow…this appears too quick to me what are your thoughts???
        Many thanks
        Sharron

  • I have been taking Gabapentin for my sciatic pain. But it caused me to lose a great deal of my hair. So after about 8 months I am tapering off of it. It has many bad side effects. I will say it stopped my nerve pain but it wasn’t worth the hair loss.

    • Oh my goodness, well I am sorry to hear of your hair loss, I am interested because for the first time in my life I lost a complete circular pattern of hair at the back of my head which so far is hidden by the top layers. I take gabapentin 800 mg three times a day and perhaps it is the medication. I can’t find a schedule of titration anywhere. I’d like to come off it is soon as possible. Any help is much appreciated. Any information on the hair returning? I am devastated. Thanks, Melissa

  • My dog has been on 200 mg.in the mornings and 300 mg.at night for her spine. I want to get her on a lower dosage she’s been on it about a year. She is just so tired all the time.

  • I ordered my gabapenin as I have done for years and was gradually reducing the dose. This time when I ordered my tablets the doctor refused to give me them. I ordered them via patient access.
    I was unaware this happened. I was left with no tablets and no backup from my doctor.
    I’ve had a massive withdrawal from this.
    Today I go to see the doctor to find out why I was left high and dry for over 1 week.
    Hopefully he gives me them back as I cannot cope with nothing.
    I believe I have been treated appalling by NHS professionals.
    Let’s see

  • My doctor never told me this was an addictive drug and that you should be hospitalized when withdrawing. I’m prescribed 3200 mgs a day and someone recently told me to be careful with this drug. I’m absolutely terrified now as I’ve been taking this dosage for roughly 3-4 months now. Please pray for me-

  • I took Gabapentin for fibromyalgia for several years and had no problem in stopping it. Last year my fibro began acting up and I began taking it again. I only take 800 mgs per DAY (400 and about 10 hrs later another 400. I think drs prescribe this in WAY too high a dose.
    I also take tylenol EXTENDED for arthritis 4 pills per day.
    I have fibro, spinal stenosis, 3 tears in my meniscus, osteoarthritis, and now, cancer.
    I have no idea why some are prescribed such high doses of this drug. Low doses work just as well, if not better.

  • I took first 300 mg at night for foot neuropathy, then my knees, both replaced by metal, began to get worse so I took another 300 mg. I was only on them for 3 months. I sought advice from my Dr. as the side effects were so bad I wanted to get off them…swelling of feet, calves; severe depression, stomach pain and twitching of fingers, etc.
    I have reduced to 300 mg for 4 days now and have incredible pain, worse in my knees but also my feet. And, I’m on opioid, 2 different kinds, but they don’t touch the pain from weaning off this NASTY drug!!! I’m over 65 and the info that goes with this drug warns not to take if 65+. I had no idea Gabapentin was addictive!
    I’m praying for you, Denny–contact your Dr. If you want to stop–very dangerous!

  • AVOID GABAPENTIN at all costs, it’s is a very DANGEROUS drug with horrific side affects & doctors do not advise you of the the true difficulties of taking this drug eg side affects addiction/ withdrawal & dangers of this drug to your heart & health, DO NOT TAKE GABAPENTIN, it’s not safe & most doctors are unaware of dangers or deny the difficulties it causes, I was prescribed 900mg per day & after 4/5 weeks of being on gabapentin I ending up rushed to hospital with suspected heart attack, severe chest pain double vision breathlessness headache aching right arm hand neck back pain nausea dizzy lightheaded extreme fatigue & inability to speak or think clearly elevated blood pressure & against all medical advice I went cold turkey off gabapentin as I’m 100% positive that the gabapentin cause this difficulties ( although medical staff would disagree ) & it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all & I’m still experiencing difficulties but I felt it was much much safer to stop taking gabapentin immediately than continuing to take a drug that hospitalised me & has left me very unwell when taking the drug & after stopping take the drug & it didn’t even help with the nerve pain it was prescribed for, I think this drug should be banned & I am going to make sure that something is done to bring to light the dangers of taking this drug & hopefully get the medication information leaflet changed to specifically explain what risks you are taking when on this medication, I was on 900mg gabapentin for around 4/5 weeks & wished I had been made aware before I put this into my system, if I can stop at least one person from taking this drug I have achieved what I have set out to do, PLEASE AVOID GABAPENTIN for your own safety & people out there who have have similar bad experiences please spread the word DO NOT TAKE GABAPENTIN, it’s not safe & for whatever reasons the damage it causes is not recognised by the medical profession or for some reason is not accepted by them & is certainly not explained to patients, there is information out there for people who really want to find out more about this drug but you just have to research it & no medical professional will openly admit the dangers to you, thank you for taking the time to read this & I hope that it has helped someone avoid this drug

    • Hey , I read your message and it helped me a little . I took it for about 5 weeks and started getting a bad reaction. I guit about 3 weeks ago and been having the worst detox. I’m having crazy heart papatations , depression, anxiety, and loss of appetite . Can you please tell me if you experienced the same thing. It would really help me with the stress . Thanks

  • Took 100mg.of Gabapentin 3xday for 5 days can I stop taking it?

  • Don’t taper this drug too long if you’re trying to quit. It’s best to bite the bullet and get off after maybe 3-5 days tapering/reduction. Yes, you will experience some unpleasantness, but it WILL get better, and you WILL be normal again.

  • Funny thing. All the withdrawal symptoms are exactly why I am taking this drug: anxiety, sweating, fatigue and itching which are my menopausal plight. Gabapentin has spared me from jumping off a tall building with these wretched issues that professionals blithely call: hot flashes. Mine are more than momentary heat flushes; they are full on episodes that begin with panic/nausea, racing heart, heat, desperate fatigue, hunger, thirst and itching. Seven minutes later I am normal; however, in those 5-7 minutes I am very unhealthy. Gabapentin (800mg/daily: 200mg 4x) has reduced the number of episodes from as many as 30+ in 24 hours, to 8-25, and their severity from “ready to jump” to “I will get through this.” The disadvantage of taking GP is I feel like I am losing critical brain activity, including memory, ability to think and reason. I want to taper off and can’t imagine it–not just the temporary issues, but that my episodes will resume at full capacity. I am interested in anyone else is taking GP for these issues.

  • If I only took 3 (300 mg) capsules of gabapentin, will I still feel the withdrawal effects? Last dose was over a week ago and I’m still having problems sleeping

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