Snorting Gabapentin | The Dangers Of Neurontin Insufflation

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on

Gabapentin can have serious adverse effects, especially if a person takes too much, snorts it, or mixes it with other drugs. Unfortunately, recent reports have shown a rise in gabapentin abuse. If you or a loved one may be snorting gabapentin, here are the dangers to keep in mind.

Dangers of Snorting Gabapentin

Gabapentin, like pregabalin, is an anticonvulsant drug. It’s commonly used to treat seizures, postherpetic neuralgia (PHN; the neuropathic pain a person may experience after a shingles attack), and restless legs syndrome.

It may also be used alongside methadone to treat alcohol or cocaine withdrawal. Additionally, it may be used off-label to treat hot flashes or anxiety. Typically, it’s prescribed under the brand names Gralise, Horizant, or Neurontin.

As with any prescription drug, there’s a potential for gabapentin misuse. Unfortunately, the drug can have potentially serious adverse reactions if it’s snorted or taken in higher doses than prescribed.

Some of the most severe dangers of snorting gabapentin include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • perforation of the nasal septum
  • withdrawal seizures
  • respiratory depression
  • risk of overdose

Snorting drugs also generally leads to an increased risk of addiction due to a faster onset of effects and a more intense high.

Dangers And Risks Of Snorting Gabapentin

In addition to the dangers listed, gabapentin can lead to additional moderate to severe side effects, even when taken as prescribed or after it’s only taken once.

Side effects associated with gabapentin use may include:

  • suicidal behavior and ideation
  • respiratory depression
  • withdrawal symptoms, including seizures
  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the lips, throat, and tongue
  • central nervous system depression (sedation)
  • dizziness
  • tumorigenic potential (may form tumors)
  • sudden death in patients with epilepsy

Abusing gabapentin in any way, including snorting it, can increase the risk of these adverse reactions. This is also true if a person is mixing gabapentin with other drugs like alcohol or opioids.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

While gabapentin is considered to have low abuse potential, the drug can still be abused and addiction can occur. In fact, a recent study found that 40 to 65 percent of individuals with gabapentin prescriptions were abusing the drug.

Snorting gabapentin further increases the risk of addiction or dependence. Snorting drugs allows them to bypass the digestive system and enter the bloodstream almost immediately. The faster onset of effects greatly increases a person’s risk for addiction and dependency.

After extended use, a person can experience moderate to severe gabapentin withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it. Additionally, the desired effects of the drug can lead to psychological dependence.

Unfortunately, people who are abusing gabapentin may also be abusing other drugs. Mixing multiple drugs can increase the risk of addiction if the person is trying to achieve a certain effect or high. This can also lead to higher risks of overdose.

Risk Of Gabapentin Overdose

Overdosing on gabapentin is possible if more is taken than prescribed. Snorting gabapentin further increases risk of overdose. The drug enters the body faster than normal through snorting, which may make it harder for a person taking it to tell if they have had too much gabapentin.

Signs of a gabapentin overdose may include:

  • double vision
  • tremors
  • slurred speech
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • lethargy
  • diarrhea

In addition to these risks, fatal respiratory depression has been connected to gabapentin abuse when taken alone or with another central nervous system (CNS) depressants including Valium, Klonopin, and Xanax.

If gabapentin is being used by a person with a history of seizures, these could increase in frequency during withdrawal.

For these reasons, it’s important to contact a healthcare professional or treatment specialist if you suspect that you or a loved one may be struggling with a gabapentin addiction.

Side Effects Of Gabapentin Abuse

In addition to life-threatening adverse reactions, gabapentin may also have more common, less severe side effects even when taken as prescribed. Of course, these risks are increased when snorting gabapentin.

Common side effects of gabapentin may include:

  • tiredness or weakness
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • uncontrollable shaking
  • blurred vision
  • anxiety
  • memory problems
  • strange thoughts
  • nausea or vomiting
  • heartburn
  • diarrhea
  • dry mouth
  • constipation
  • increased appetite
  • swelling of the hands, feet, legs, or ankles
  • fever
  • runny nose, sneezing or coughing
  • ear pain
  • red or itchy eyes

More serious side effects may include rashes, swelling of the face/throat/nose, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and seizures.

Physical Effects

Gabapentin acts like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which decreases the activity in your nervous system. However, it doesn’t work with GABA receptors in the same way. Although gabapentin’s mechanism of action isn’t entirely understood, it definitely has an effect on the brain.

Long-term use of gabapentin can lead to lasting physical effects, including:

  • extreme drowsiness
  • weight gain
  • central nervous system depression (sedation)
  • respiratory depression

If gabapentin is being snorted, there’s a risk of additional physical effects. These could range from moderate to severe and may include sinus infections, nasal inflammation, and perforation of the nasal septum.

Mental Health Effects

In addition to physical side effects, gabapentin abuse can also lead to serious mental health risks.

Potential mental health risks associated with gabapentin abuse include:

  • anxiety
  • new or worsening depression
  • unusual changes in mood or behavior
  • suicidal behavior and ideation

Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) including gabapentin can increase these mental health risks even if taken as prescribed. Snorting gabapentin or abusing the drug in any other way can increase these risks. The same is true if a person is mixing multiple drugs.

Polysubstance Abuse Mixing Gabapentin With Other Drugs

Gabapentin can be particularly dangerous when taken with other drugs. Unfortunately, many people who abuse gabapentin struggle with polysubstance abuse.

Gabapentin is only considered a controlled substance in a handful of states, which makes it easy to access. People who use gabapentin describe the effects as marijuana-like, even though the drug doesn’t work the same way as cannabis.

Being easily accessible and creating mild desired effects can make gabapentin a popular choice for polysubstance abuse. In fact, a recent study found that among people who misuse gabapentin, 15 to 22 percent also abuse opioids.

Although gabapentin may be used to treat severe nerve pain, it should never be used alongside other painkillers, opioids, or central nervous system depressants including benzodiazepines.

Signs And Symptoms Of Gabapentin Abuse

If you or a loved one may be struggling with gabapentin abuse, there may be some noticeable signs and symptoms.

The most common signs, symptoms, and side effects of gabapentin abuse could include:

  • extreme drowsiness
  • decreased sociability
  • suicidal thoughts
  • weight gain
  • loss of interest in hobbies
  • not showing up to work, school, or social events

Of course, the risk of these side effects is increased when gabapentin is being mixed with other drugs.

If you’ve noticed these signs and symptoms in yourself or a loved one, reach out to a treatment specialist today to talk about the possibility of a gabapentin addiction.

Treatment Options For Gabapentin Addiction

Whether you or a loved one may be snorting Gralise, abusing gabapentin in other ways, or struggling with polysubstance use disorder, there are several different treatment options available. Gabapentin abuse can be treated with both inpatient and outpatient programs.

Inpatient treatment programs allow people with substance use disorders to check into a treatment center and stay for several days or weeks. Typically, this is the most effective type of treatment program for people who struggle with severe addiction or polysubstance use disorders.

Alternatively, a person can choose outpatient treatment. This may be a better option if jobs, families, and other obligations need to be taken care of while the patient receives treatment. In this type of program, patients visit a treatment center a few times each week for support and resources.

No matter which type of treatment you choose, gabapentin abuse treatment may include:

  • behavioral counseling
  • gradually lowering dosages
  • group or individual therapy
  • evaluation and treatment for mental health illnesses

Quitting gabapentin suddenly and altogether can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, including seizures. This is especially true if the person has been taking high doses of gabapentin for a long time.

For this reason, it’s best to contact an addiction treatment specialist who can work with you to decide on the best course of action.

If you or a loved one may be struggling with snorting Gralise, abusing gabapentin in other ways, or a polysubstance use disorder, don’t put off getting help. Contact an treatment specialist today to find the right treatment center and program.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on

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