Gabapentin Addiction & Abuse: Causes, Symptoms & Detox in Wisconsin

Though not quite as “famous” as many other addictive drugs, Gabapentin is showing up in an increasing number of toxicology reports all over the country. This is because it has become one of the latest prescription drugs to be abused for recreational purposes. As a result, thousands of Americans are struggling to overcome Gabapentin addiction. Fortunately, beating the addiction simply requires a comprehensive detoxification with a provider like Midwest Detox, followed by a thorough recovery plan.

But if you’ve never heard of Gabapentin before, you may have a lot of questions. Continue reading to learn more about Gabapentin abuse, addiction, detox, and recovery:

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    What is Gabapentin?

    Gabapentin is a prescription medication that belongs to a class of drugs called anticonvulsants or antiepileptic drugs. It was initially developed to treat epilepsy. Today, Gabapentin is commonly sold under the brand name Neurontin. Contrary to popular belief, Gabapentin is not a narcotic or an opioid.

    Gabapentin Uses

    While its primary use is the management of partial seizures in people with epilepsy, Gabapentin is also prescribed off-label for various conditions, including:

    • Neuropathic Pain - Gabapentin is often prescribed for the treatment of nerve pain resulting from conditions such as diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia (pain following shingles), and spinal cord injuries.
    • Restless Legs Syndrome - Gabapentin is sometimes used to manage symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition characterized by discomfort and an irresistible urge to move the legs, particularly at rest or during sleep.
    • Fibromyalgia - Some healthcare providers prescribe Gabapentin for pain management and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness.
    • Anxiety Disorders - Gabapentin is occasionally used as an off-label treatment for anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD).

    Gabapentin works by affecting the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, primarily by inhibiting the release of excitatory neurotransmitters and modulating the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). However, the exact mechanism of action of Gabapentin is not fully understood.

    While Gabapentin is generally considered safe when taken as prescribed, it can cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, and coordination problems. And as previously mentioned, there have been numerous reports of Gabapentin misuse and abuse, particularly among individuals with a history of substance abuse. This is why it is crucial to take Gabapentin as prescribed and to discuss any concerns or side effects with a healthcare professional.

    Signs & Symptoms of Gabapentin Abuse

    Although Gabapentin is considered to have a low potential for abuse, more and more people have begun misusing the drug. By knowing the signs and symptoms of abuse, you can help someone in your life who may be addicted to Gabapentin:

    • Recreational Use - Gabapentin is specifically designed to treat medical conditions. If someone is using the drug, particularly in high doses, for recreational use or to get “high,” this is a blatant sign of abuse.
    • Doctor Shopping - Visiting more than one doctor to obtain multiple prescriptions for Gabapentin, or frequently requesting early refills, can suggest misuse of the medication.
    • Changes in Behavior - Individuals abusing Gabapentin may exhibit mood swings, social withdrawal, or a sudden lack of interest in their favorite activities.
    • Mixing Drugs - Gabapentin addicts frequently mix the drug with other substances to attain a stronger effect. Mixing Gabapentin with alcohol, opioids, or illicit drugs is a common sign of abuse.
    • Physical Symptoms - Gabapentin misuse can cause drowsiness, dizziness, slurred speech, lack of coordination, blurred vision, and tremors.
    • Overdose - Over time, individuals who abuse Gabapentin may develop a tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects. This also increases the risk of overdose.

    Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms

    Like any addictive drug, Gabapentin can produce very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. If you or someone you know recently stopped using Gabapentin after a period of heavy usage, be prepared for any of the following symptoms:

    • Irritability
    • Inability to fall asleep
    • Hot flashes
    • Nausea
    • Stomach pain
    • Restlessness
    • Lightheadedness
    • Heart palpitations
    • Headaches or migraines
    • Mood swings
    • Seizures (in rare cases, particularly among individuals with a history of epilepsy)

    Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 12 to 48 hours after the last dose and can last for several days to a few weeks. To minimize the risk of withdrawal symptoms, it is generally recommended to taper off Gabapentin gradually under the supervision of a healthcare professional, rather than stopping abruptly.

    How Long Does Gabapentin Stay In Your System?

    The half-life of Gabapentin is estimated to be between 5 and 7 hours for most people. However, it may be slightly shorter or longer depending on individual factors. It usually takes around 5 half-lives (25 to 35 hours) for the drug to be fully eliminated from the body.

    Drug tests for Gabapentin are not part of the standard drug panels and are not typically performed in routine drug screenings. However, specialized tests can detect Gabapentin if specifically requested. The detection windows for gabapentin using different tests are as follows:

    • Blood Test - Gabapentin can be detected in blood tests for up to 1 to 2 days after the last dose.
    • Urine Test - Gabapentin can be detected in urine tests for up to 2 to 3 days after the last dose, although detection times may be longer in individuals with impaired kidney function.
    • Saliva Test - There is limited information available about the detection window for Gabapentin in saliva tests.
    • Hair Test - Gabapentin is not typically tested in hair samples, and its detection window in hair tests is unknown.

    Short & Long-Term Side Effects of Gabapentin Abuse

    Gabapentin produces various effects in the minutes and hours after it is taken. However, long-term abuse of the drug also comes with its own side effects. Here is a closer look at all of the side effects you can expect with Gabapentin abuse:

    Short-Term Side Effects

    • Drowsiness or sedation
    • Dizziness
    • Increased risk of falling
    • Slurred speech
    • Poor balance while standing or walking
    • Blurred vision
    • Uncontrollable twitching
    • Gastrointestinal issues
    • Swelling in the hands, feet, or ankles
    • Confusion
    • Mood swings

    Long-Term Side Effects

    • Addiction and dependence
    • Cognitive decline
    • Increased risk of anxiety and depression
    • Long-term coordination problems
    • Increased risk of kidney damage

    Gabapentin Detox In Brookfield, Wisconsin

    As more research is done on Gabapentin and its addictive properties, more resources will become available to help people avoid addiction. In the meantime, you should seek help immediately if you or someone you care about is abusing the drug. Fortunately, the experts at Midwest Detox have experience dealing with Gabapentin addiction and can help you kick the habit for good.

    Do you live in Brookfield, Waukesha County, or the larger Milwaukee area? Are you in need of a private Gabapentin detox center to begin your recovery? If so, Midwest Detox can provide everything you need to detox from Gabapentin in a safe, comfortable environment. Visit our site or call us directly at 414-409-5200 to take the first step toward sobriety.