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Gabapentin is a popular anti-seizure medication sometimes prescribed to relieve pain from shingles or other neuropathic issues. While it is not a controlled substance or narcotic in the United States, experts commonly refer to it as an opiate potentiate that can amplify the effects of heroin, morphine, and other prescription painkiller medications. Despite a low risk of abuse and dependence, it is very likely that someone chronically abusing it will develop gabapentin addiction, especially when combining it with other opioid medications. However, timely detoxification and rehabilitation can reverse these addictive behaviors to achieve lasting recovery.

Gabapentin Addiction Side Effects

Gabapentinoids refer to medications that people commonly use to treat restless leg syndrome or neuropathic pain. Experts also prescribe it for managing hot flashes in postmenopausal women and epilepsy. Marketed under different labels and names like Gralise Neurontin, gabapentin was first manufactured in 1987 as a synthetic analog of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a natural neurotransmitter that regulates the body’s nervous system. The medication induces feelings of calmness and relaxation in people to help alleviate their anxiety or nerve pain. One of its prescribed uses is as an anticonvulsant to lessen different types of seizures associated with a brain disease like Parkinson’s.

The ability of gabapentin to tackle a variety of ailments has contributed to its nationwide popularity and a consequent increase in the prevalence of abuse cases. In May 2019, surveys indicated gabapentin as America’s fifth most prescribed drug. More recently, people have started relying on gabapentin as a less addictive alternative to opioids; however, the drug has its own negative effects. Some of these long-term side effects of gabapentin include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Inability to communicate
  • Loss of coordination
  • Memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Inability to focus
  • Blurry vision
  • Anxiety and depression

These side effects can possibly appear even in those who use gabapentin for medical purposes and responsibly. However, the risk is much higher for those who abuse the medication or form an addiction.

Many people are under the false pretense that gabapentin is not addictive. While its addiction potential is relatively low compared to other opioids, its abrupt stoppage leads to withdrawal symptoms, an essential hallmark of physical addiction.

Gabapentin abuse is considered unlikely due to its low addictive potential. However, it produces withdrawal symptoms, an essential aspect of physical addiction. The chances of this happening are relatively low, though.

Gabapentin dependence is more common in individuals who mix it with other drugs or alcohol to enhance the effects of either. People who use this medication may experience a euphoria similar to the one that marijuana brings about. Intoxication with gabapentin also makes users feel joyous yet calm. Because of its numerous applications, widespread availability, legal classification, and the inability to show up on most drug tests, the association between gabapentin and addiction is only getting stronger. Experts are now classifying it as a more strictly controlled substance in the United States, where its abuse is rising.

Following are some of the most common gabapentin addiction symptoms:

  • Lying about or exaggerating the medical symptoms to doctors to get more prescriptions for gabapentin
  • Switching multiple doctors to get more doses
  • Changes in social circles and habits
  • Feeling uncomfortable when gabapentin is unavailable
  • Changes in grooming and personal hygiene habits
  • Refusal to quit despite experiencing legal, financial, and social consequences
  • Repeated failed attempts to quit

If you or a loved one has been suffering from gabapentin addiction, seeking professional treatment as soon as possible is imperative. You may consider joining an accredited rehabilitation center where highly trained doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, therapists, psychologists, and other personnel will overlook as you successfully fight off gabapentin dependence.

Following are some of the services that a gabapentin rehab typically offers:

Intervention

Intervention refers to a professionally supervised discussion where someone, usually a family member or a friend, sits with a person fighting addiction to communicate their concerns regarding substance abuse. A gabapentin rehab may offer the services of an interventionist who will spend weeks with the family members of an afflicted individual and help them learn how to approach their loved one compassionately and in a non-confrontational way.

As a part of an intervention, the family members and friends can discuss their worries about how gabapentin addiction is destroying their loved one’s life. Next, they may gently bring up the idea of seeking professional treatment. It is possible to repeat these sessions multiple times under professional supervision to help the afflicted individual realize their problem. Once they agree, the family members can support them in seeking treatment.

Detoxification

Once you agree to seek help for gabapentin addiction, you will enter detox, the first step of a standard treatment program that involves eliminating gabapentin along with other substances from your system. Sometimes, this process may lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms. Instead of trying to manage these symptoms on your own, getting medication-assisted treatment and behavioral health from an addiction specialist is better, as it is a much safer and more effective option. The medications prescribed during detox will help you manage the withdrawal symptoms while reducing cravings to minimize the risk of a relapse. During the entire program duration, a medical staff team carefully monitors every patient to maintain their safety and comfort.

Most detox programs occur in an inpatient setting where clients must stay onsite 24/7, and staff can monitor them. Once detox is complete, you may begin behavioral treatment to identify and remove all root causes of addiction.

Residential Rehab

The safest method to kick out psychological dependence on gabapentin is by joining a residential rehab after detox. As a part of this program, patients move into a rehab center and live there until the end of treatment. With round-the-clock help and professional supervision, the chances of relapsing are minimal.

As a part of residential treatment, patients have private or semi-private rooms, three meals a day, and access to various amenities that vary from one rehab to another. Some include swimming pools, gyms and spas, fitness centers, massage centers, sports grounds, and more. Each patient gets an individualized plan which includes different therapies for behavioral treatment, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Family programs
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Motivational interviewing

The best thing about joining a residential rehab is that it allows patients to escape the triggers fueling their gabapentin addiction in a drug-free environment. Therapists and other staff members can always offer emotional and physical support when required.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient treatment can come in handy for someone with family or work responsibilities that do not let them join a residential rehab. These treatment programs allow them access to professional doctors and therapists who help them manage gabapentin withdrawal and behavioral therapy without having to live onsite. As such, these patients come to the rehab daily, spend a fixed number of hours in therapy and counseling, and return to their homes in the evening. More recently, some rehabs have begun offering telehealth services with virtual outpatient programs that allow clients to seek therapy, get refills, and attend support group meetings through online mediums without having to visit the rehab in person.

Aftercare

Once someone completes therapy, they work with an addiction specialist to devise an aftercare plan. The main purpose of this aftercare plan is to minimize relapse prevention by focusing on each patient’s specific triggers and how they alter their reaction. The relapse prevention plan will also include a list of emergency contacts the patients can get in touch with when they feel like they are about to relapse. This list may consist of your family, friends, and even support group members. Aftercare usually includes continuing sessions with a therapist in which you follow up on your progress every once in a while.

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