October 18, 2023

Gabapentin Ruined My Life

woman rests head on her hands representing tina drug

If you have been prescribed the anticonvulsant gabapentin, you might be alarmed at the number of gabapentin horror stories you encounter online. This is understandable, and most people who claim that “gabapentin ruined my life” or “I took gabapentin for two weeks before becoming addicted” are referring to developing a substance use disorder (gabapentin addiction) after using this prescription medication as directed.

Gabapentin, marketed under brand names like Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant, is a medication that is mainly indicated to address partial seizures, nerve pain resulting from shingles, and restless leg syndrome. Its mechanism of action involves influencing chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the brain and nerves.

Different brands of gabapentin are distinct and not interchangeable. They have received FDA approval for treating specific conditions. Adhere to the brand and form prescribed by your doctor. The main types of gabapentin available in the United States include:

  • Neurontin (gabapentin) is employed to alleviate pain associated with postherpetic nerve pain resulting from shingles. Neurontin is also prescribed in conjunction with other seizure medications for partial-onset seizures in patients aged three years and older.
  • Gralise, also containing gabapentin, is specifically designated for pain management following an episode of shingles-induced nerve pain. It should not be employed for any other medical condition.
  • Horizant, which contains gabapentin enacarbil, is an extended-release tablet aimed at addressing restless legs syndrome and the pain resulting from postherpetic nerve pain.
  • Generic brands of gabapentin capsules serve to manage postherpetic nerve pain and act as supplementary therapy for partial onset seizures in patients aged three years and older.

Although often recommended as less addictive than opioids, gabapentin addiction and abuse still occur in many patients.

Gabapentin has a similar chemical structure to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a brain chemical which affects the CNS (central nervous system). It can produce feelings of relaxation and calmness, which can help with nerve pain, anxiety, and even poor sleep.

In addition to its addictive potential, gabapentin can trigger suicidal ideation, mood swings, and sudden behavioral changes. It can also cause high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, fever, appetite changes, and chest pain.

Read on to learn more about the following issues:

  • Can you overdose on gabapentin?
  • Are there any long term side effects from taking gabapentin?
  • What are the long term side effects after stopping gabapentin?
  • How can you connect with gabapentin addiction treatment in Southern California?
A man with his head in his hands representing gabapentin ruined my life

Gabapentin’s Serious Side Effects

Gabapentin can have both common and serious side effects that individuals should be aware of. While many people may not experience these effects, some individuals might be more susceptible. The side effects of gabapentin can range from mild discomfort to more severe complications. 

Here are some of the potential serious side effects associated with gabapentin:

  • Mood changes: Some individuals might experience mood changes, including shifts in emotions or behavior. If you notice any unusual changes in your mood, consult your doctor. They might consider adjusting your medication or exploring alternative treatment options if necessary.
  • Swelling in extremities: Swollen arms and legs can occur as a side effect of gabapentin. To alleviate this, consider sitting with your feet elevated and avoiding prolonged periods of standing. If the swelling persists, discuss this with your healthcare provider.
  • Blurred vision: Blurred vision can be a side effect of gabapentin. During this time, avoid activities such as driving, cycling, or operating machinery that require clear vision. If blurred vision persists beyond a few days, consult your doctor for potential adjustments to your treatment plan.
  • Difficulty getting an erection: Some individuals might experience difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection while taking gabapentin. If this side effect occurs, talk to your doctor about possible solutions or alternative medications that could help manage this issue.
  • Weight gain: Gabapentin can increase hunger, potentially leading to weight gain. Managing your diet and portion sizes while also maintaining a healthy exercise routine can help prevent excessive weight gain.
  • Memory problems: If you encounter memory issues while taking gabapentin, consult your prescribing physician. They can assess whether this side effect is related to the medication and recommend appropriate actions.
  • Headaches: While headaches are a possible side effect of gabapentin, they usually diminish within the first week of usage. However, if headaches persist or are severe, inform your healthcare provider to determine the best course of action.
  • Increased infections: Some individuals might notice an increase in the frequency of infections. If you observe this effect, consult your doctor for guidance.

While these serious side effects are possible, they are not common and may vary from person to person. In case you experience any of these symptoms or other concerning effects while taking gabapentin, promptly contact your healthcare provider for appropriate evaluation and guidance. 

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Gabapentin can be addictive. While many individuals use gabapentin for legitimate medical conditions, some may become addicted to the drug as a result of misuse and dependency. This phenomenon often arises from frequent and prolonged use of the medication.

Physical dependence on gabapentin can occur when the body becomes accustomed to the substance, requiring its presence for normal functioning. Such dependence is a normal physiological response to consistent drug usage. If someone becomes physically reliant on gabapentin, discontinuing its use or reducing the dosage can trigger withdrawal symptoms.

Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety

The severity of these symptoms can be influenced by factors such as the rate of dosage reduction. Gradually tapering off the medication under medical supervision is recommended to manage gabapentin withdrawal effectively. Abruptly stopping its usage – this is known as cold turkey – can intensify withdrawal symptoms, making a controlled approach the safest and most comfortable approach to detoxification.

Gabapentin’s potential for addiction and withdrawal arises due to its impact on the brain’s neurotransmitters, especially GABA, which plays a role in inhibitory signaling. The drug’s mechanism of action is not fully understood, but its interaction with GABA can lead to the development of physical dependence over time.

Image of woman representing gabapentin horror stories

FAQs

Is gabapentin a narcotic?

No, gabapentin is not a narcotic (opioid). It is an anticonvulsant medication used to treat seizures and neuropathic pain.

Can you get withdrawals from gabapentin?

Yes, some individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing gabapentin, especially if they have been using it regularly and in high doses.

Can gabapentin make anxiety worse?

In some cases, gabapentin can exacerbate anxiety symptoms, but its effects on anxiety can vary from person to person.

Can gabapentin cause permanent damage?

There is limited evidence suggesting that gabapentin can cause permanent damage, but prolonged misuse or high doses may lead to adverse health outcomes.

How long does it take to get addicted to gabapentin?

The timeline for developing an addiction to gabapentin can vary based on factors such as dose, duration of use, and individual susceptibility, but addiction can potentially develop over weeks to months of misuse.

Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with gabapentin addiction, seek professional help. Consulting a doctor or addiction specialist can provide you with guidance and information about available treatment options.

For those with a significant dependence on gabapentin, a medical detoxification process may be necessary. Medical detox is conducted under the supervision of medical professionals who can manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure the individual’s safety and comfort during the withdrawal process.

Behavioral therapies are a crucial component of gabapentin addiction treatment. Therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can help individuals identify the underlying causes of their addiction, develop coping strategies, and learn skills to prevent relapse. Holistic therapies such can complement traditional treatment methods. Examples include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Art therapy
  • Mindfulness techniques

These approaches focus on overall well-being and can provide individuals with additional tools for managing stress and cravings.

Joining support groups, either in-person or online, can provide individuals with a sense of community and understanding. Support groups offer a platform for sharing experiences, receiving encouragement, and learning from others who are facing similar challenges.

Many individuals struggling with gabapentin addiction may also have underlying mental health issues. Dual diagnosis treatment addresses both addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders, providing a comprehensive approach to recovery.

After completing initial treatment, aftercare services play a vital role in maintaining sobriety. These services may include ongoing therapy, counseling, and support groups to help individuals navigate the challenges of daily life without relapsing.

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Get Treatment for Gabapentin Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

At Gratitude Lodge in Southern California, we offer specialized addiction treatment to combat addictions and address mental health conditions. Our rehab centers, situated in Newport Beach and Long Beach, CA, provide a holistic approach to recovery, emphasizing whole-body wellness. We’re proud to be pet-friendly, ensuring that your journey to recovery is as comfortable as possible.

Our commitment to your well-being begins with our supervised medical detox program. This program is designed to provide a safe pathway to detoxification and ongoing recovery. When your system is cleansed of addictive substances, you can seamlessly transition into our 30-day inpatient program.

At Gratitude Lodge, we tailor our treatment programs to incorporate a range of evidence-based interventions to effectively address addiction and promote ongoing recovery. These interventions include:

To transition from active addiction to lasting recovery, place your trust in Gratitude Lodge. You can take the first step towards a healthier, addiction-free life by contacting our admissions team at 888-861-1658.

Want to learn more?

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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