Gabapentin, a gabapentinoid, is an anticonvulsant drug made by Pfizer that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved to augment other drugs treating epilepsy.
This medication also treats postherpetic neuralgia as a result of shingles and restless leg syndrome.
Off-label, medical providers use gabapentin (formerly under brand names Gralise and Neurontin) in psychiatry to treat mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar.
It has even been used with methadone to relieve opiate withdrawal.
Prescribing physicians may also recommend the use of gabapentin for fibromyalgia, neuropathy, nerve pain (neuropathic pain), and chronic pain as an alternative to opioids.
Gabapentin is increasingly becoming a drug of abuse both in the United States and Great Britain.
Is Gabapentin Addictive?
Gabapentin is not listed as a controlled substance, but it has been documented to have abuse potential. It is not known to be highly addictive.
It is similar to benzodiazepines in that it interacts with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.
The state of Kentucky has listed gabapentin as a controlled substance even though it is not on the federal schedules of drugs.
However, high doses of the drug alone also create a euphoric effect and the misuse of gabapentin is thought to be one of the reasons why gabapentin prescriptions are on the rise.
Signs of gabapentin abuse can include:
- mood swings
- memory problems
Learn more about why gabapentin is addictive.
How Do People Misuse Gabapentin?
There are many different ways people abuse gabapentin. The most common method is simply by taking more of the pills than are prescribed by medical providers.
But there are other methods of abuse.
Snorting gabapentin involves crushing the medication into a powder and using a straw or similar device to snort it up your nose.
Nasal passages allow gabapentin to enter your system more quickly than swallowing it. However, snorting drugs can cause damage to the nasal tissues and other parts of the nose.
Learn more about snorting gabapentin.
Sometimes, people who abuse gabapentin plug the medication. Plugging is a method of dissolving a medication in water and injecting it into the anus.
People may believe that injecting the drug that way gives them a faster and more intense high.
Read about plugging gabapentin.
What Are The Side Effects Of Gabapentin Misuse?
Just like any other substance use disorder, there are side effects of gabapentin addiction.
Because gabapentin is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, misuse can cause confusion, difficulty recalling recent events, and sleepiness.
How Long Gabapentin Stays In The Body
Gabapentin has a half-life of about seven to eight hours.
Unlike many drugs and substances, gabapentin is metabolized through the kidneys, so it clears the body pretty quickly. Within 48 hours, most traces of gabapentin will be gone.
The following drug tests may detect the presence of gabapentin:
- gabapentin urine tests can detect the drug for about one to three days from the last use
- saliva tests cannot detect gabapentin
- gabapentin hair tests are unusual, but could detect it up to 90 days from last use
- gabapentin blood tests will only detect the drug for up to seven to eight hours after the last use
Read more about how long gabapentin stays in your system.
Mixing Gabapentin With Other Substances Leads To A Range Of Risks
Gabapentin is commonly abused with other drugs, because people may believe that it makes the highs more intense. However, mixing gabapentin with other drugs comes with considerable risks.
Alcohol And Gabapentin
Gabapentin and alcohol are dangerous to mix because both substances are central nervous system depressants.
Taking them together can dangerously affect both your brain and your respiratory system.
Read more about the effects of mixing alcohol and gabapentin.
Cocaine And Gabapentin
People who use cocaine will sometimes use it with gabapentin to counteract some of the harsher effects of the stimulant.
But both drugs have similar overdose symptoms like vomiting and depressed respiration.
Learn more about the dangers of mixing cocaine and gabapentin.
Other Gabapentin Drug Interactions
Gabapentin is also commonly taken with opioids or heroin. Once again, the big concern is the effects on the respiratory system, since both drugs can depress it.
What Other Dangers Occur With Gabapentin Abuse?
Gabapentin abuse can lead to severe drowsiness which can cause poor performance at work.
Additionally, gabapentin abuse can lead to these dangers:
- memory loss
- suicidal thoughts and actions
- respiratory failure
Finally, abusing gabapentin can also lead to physical dependence.
Does Gabapentin Addiction Cause Withdrawal?
Gabapentin addiction can cause withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking it. These symptoms may begin around seven hours after last use and continue for up to five days.
Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms can include:
- body pain
- muscle twitching
Can Gabapentin Cause A Drug Overdose?
Yes, gabapentin can cause an overdose with many potentially dangerous symptoms. It is most likely to lead to drug overdose when mixing gabapentin with other drugs or alcohol.
Symptoms of a gabapentin overdose can include:
- double vision
- slurred speech
If you know anyone who takes gabapentin and is experiencing these symptoms, you should seek medical help right away.
Does Gabapentin Abuse Require Detox?
To date, there is no medical detox for gabapentin and no indication that supplements like magnesium help with the symptoms of withdrawal.
The best way to detox from gabapentin is to slowly taper off use of the drug with the help of a detox program.
Learn more about detoxing from gabapentin.
What Are The Treatment Options For Gabapentin Abuse?
Addiction treatment for gabapentin can include several different parts. Depending on whether you are abusing other drugs, you may need to have inpatient care for a time.
Aspects of addiction treatment for gabapentin can include:
- outpatient treatment
- evidence-based therapy
- support groups
Another important aspect of addiction treatment includes aftercare to help you manage triggers and cravings for the drug.
Gabapentin Drug Use FAQs
Here are some common questions about gabapentin, its use, and its abuse.
Is Gabapentin A Controlled Substance?
No, gabapentin is not a controlled substance, which means that federal authorities do not intervene for gabapentin abuse. However, several states have declared it a controlled substance.
Learn more about gabapentin’s drug classification.
Can You Develop A Tolerance To Gabapentin?
Yes, it is possible to build a tolerance to the drug over the long term, especially if you are using it to get high.
Can You Fatally Overdose On Gabapentin?
Yes, it is possible to fatally overdose on gabapentin, although it is not as likely as overdosing on other drugs such as opiates.
Read more about a lethal dose of gabapentin.
How Much Does Gabapentin Cost On The Street?
Gabapentin is a prescription drug but has the street name of gabbies and is particularly sought after as a drug that makes the high of other substances more potent.
The street cost of gabapentin varies, but in general, it costs around a dollar per 100 mg.
Read more about the street cost of gabapentin.
Find An Addiction Rehab Center Today
You can find help for gabapentin abuse or other forms of substance abuse for yourself or your loved one through treatment programs in your city or region.
At AddictionResource.net, we give you confidential help finding a treatment center that will review what treatment options are best for you.
Call our helpline today.
Published on November 11, 2020
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Gabapentin use, abuse, and the US opioid epidemic: the case for reclassification as a controlled substance and the need for pharmacovigilance
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Substance misuse of gabapentin
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — What is drug addiction treatment?
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — Gralise (gabapentin)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — Neurontin (gabapentin)
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Gabapentin