Drug and Alcohol

Gabapentin High: What is a Gabapentin High, and Does it Drive Gabapentin Addiction?

What is a gabapentin high? We examine this powerful prescription drug and its potential for abuse in our blog. Prescription drug abuse can be lethal.

What is Gabapentin? Gabapentin High & Side Effects

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 12, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Gabapentin is a prescription medication primarily used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain. However, it can also have psychoactive effects and is sometimes misused for recreational purposes or as a supplement to enhance the effects of other drugs.

Gabapentin is often used to enhance the effects of opioids, experience a euphoric high, or reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Stats About Gabapentin:

According to data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 62% of patients reported misusing prescription drugs, and 16% of those patients admitted misusing gabapentin in the past.

Gabapentin High: What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a medication that belongs to the class of drugs known as anticonvulsants or antiepileptics. It was originally developed for treating epilepsy but had also effectively managed various other conditions, including neuropathic pain, restless leg syndrome, and certain mood disorders. Gabapentin is available under several brand names, including Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant.

The exact mechanism of action of gabapentin is not fully understood. However, it is believed to work by modulating the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate signal transmission between nerve cells.

Does Gabapentin Have Side Effects?

Yes. Gabapentin, particularly if it’s abused, can have some nasty side effects, including:

  • Fever

  • Swelling in limbs

  • Dizziness, difficulties with coordination

  • Nausea

  • Vision issues

  • Infections

Gabapentin High: How Does Gabapentin Work?

By increasing GABA activity, gabapentin may help reduce abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can lead to seizures or contribute to developing certain types of pain.

Gabapentin is commonly prescribed for the treatment of epilepsy. It is used as an adjunctive therapy, usually prescribed with other antiepileptic drugs to control seizures. It can effectively manage various types of seizures.

In addition to its antiepileptic properties, gabapentin is widely used to manage neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is a chronic condition characterized by pain caused by nerve damage or dysfunction. Gabapentin helps to relieve neuropathic pain by blocking the transmission of pain signals in the central nervous system.

It is sometimes prescribed off-label for other conditions, such as fibromyalgia, postherpetic neuralgia (nerve pain following shingles), restless leg syndrome, and certain mood disorders like anxiety and bipolar disorder. While it may be effective for some individuals in these conditions, its use is not officially approved by regulatory authorities.

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How Do People Take Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is typically taken orally in capsules, tablets, or an oral solution. The dosage and frequency of administration depend on the specific condition being treated and individual patient factors. Therefore, it is essential to follow the instructions the prescribing healthcare professional provides and not exceed the recommended dose.

Like any medication, gabapentin can have potential side effects. The most common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, coordination problems, and gastrointestinal disturbances like nausea and diarrhea. Some individuals may also experience mood changes, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems. Reporting any concerning or severe side effects to a healthcare professional is essential.

It works by modulating the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. While it can be an effective treatment option for some individuals, it is essential to use it under the guidance of a healthcare professional and be aware of potential side effects and interactions.

What is a Gabapentin High? Can You Get High off Gabapentin?

A “gabapentin high” refers to the recreational use of gabapentin to achieve euphoric effects or altered states of consciousness. While gabapentin is primarily prescribed for medical purposes, some individuals misuse it for recreational purposes. Therefore, using gabapentin for non-medical reasons or in higher doses than prescribed is considered misuse and dangerous.

When taken at prescribed doses for medical purposes, gabapentin does not typically produce a "high" or euphoric effect. However, some individuals have reported experiencing psychoactive effects and pleasurable sensations when taking higher doses of gabapentin or using it with other substances, such as opioids or benzodiazepines.

What Happens When You Take Gabapentin With Other Drugs?

Gabapentin can enhance the effects of certain substances, and some individuals misuse it to potentiate or amplify the effects of other drugs. This can be particularly dangerous when combined with substances that depress the central nervous system, such as opioids or alcohol, as it can increase the risk of respiratory depression, sedation, and overdose.

Also, it has the potential for dependence and withdrawal symptoms when misused or stopped abruptly. Therefore, tapering off the medication under medical supervision is recommended if someone misuses gabapentin and wants to discontinue its use.

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Why Do People Take Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a medication primarily used to treat seizures and certain types of neuropathic pain. However, it is also prescribed off-label for various conditions such as anxiety, restless leg syndrome, and migraines.

While the exact mechanism of action of gabapentin is not fully understood, it is believed to primarily affect the brain's neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

How Does Gabapentin Work on the Brain?

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate the transmission of signals between nerve cells in the brain. It plays a crucial role in reducing neuronal excitability, which helps maintain the balance between excitation and inhibition in the brain. When GABA is released and binds to its receptors, it produces inhibitory effects, decreasing neuronal activity.

Gabapentin is structurally similar to GABA but does not directly bind to GABA receptors. Instead, it interacts with a specific subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels, known as the alpha-2-delta subunit. By binding to this subunit, Gabapentin modulates the influx of calcium ions into nerve cells.

The precise mechanism by which this interaction occurs is not completely understood, but it is thought to reduce the release of several excitatory neurotransmitters, including glutamate and norepinephrine.

By decreasing the release of these excitatory neurotransmitters, Gabapentin helps dampen the excessive neuronal activity associated with seizures and neuropathic pain. As a result, it stabilizes the brain's electrical activity, making it less likely for seizures to occur and reducing the transmission of pain signals.

What is the Half-Life of Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is known to have a relatively short half-life, which means it needs to be taken multiple times a day to maintain therapeutic levels in the bloodstream. The prescribing healthcare professional determines the dosage and treatment duration based on the individual's condition and response to the medication.

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Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Yes. However, research indicates that people who have reported a gabapentin addiction also have a history of substance abuse. Gabapentin does cause physical dependence, which is why some people feel withdrawal when they're not taking gabapentin.

What are the Symptoms of Addiction to Gabapentin?

Symptoms of addiction to gabapentin may include:

Cravings for Gabapentin

Individuals addicted to gabapentin may experience intense and persistent cravings. These cravings can be difficult to resist and may lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

Loss of Control

People with an addiction to gabapentin often find it challenging to control their drug use. Despite negative consequences, they may take higher doses than prescribed or use the medication more frequently than directed.

Increased Tolerance

Tolerance develops when the body becomes accustomed to the effects of gabapentin, leading to a reduced response over time. To achieve the desired effects, individuals may need to take higher doses, which can contribute to the development of dependence and addiction.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Abruptly stopping or significantly reducing gabapentin after prolonged use can lead to withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and tremors. Withdrawal from gabapentin should be made under medical supervision to minimize discomfort and ensure safety.

Withdrawal symptoms from gabapentin include:

  • Confusion and anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • Sweating

  • Body pain

Withdrawal from gabapentin can start from half a day to a week after the last dose was taken.

Neglecting Responsibilities

Individuals addicted to gabapentin may neglect their personal, social, and professional responsibilities. They may prioritize obtaining and using the drug over other essential aspects of their lives.

Social Withdrawal

Addiction can lead to isolation and withdrawal from social activities and relationships. Individuals may avoid friends, family, and hobbies once important to them.

Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences

Despite experiencing negative physical, emotional, or social consequences due to gabapentin use, individuals with addiction may continue to use the drug.

What are the Causes of Addiction to Gabapentin?

The causes of addiction to gabapentin are multifaceted and can vary from person to person. However, several factors may contribute to the development of gabapentin addiction, including:

Misuse or Recreational Use

Using gabapentin for non-medical purposes, such as to achieve a euphoric or sedating effect, significantly increases the risk of addiction. Some individuals may intentionally misuse the medication by taking higher doses or combining it with other substances to enhance its effects.

Co-occurring Substance Abuse

People with a history of substance abuse or addiction may be more susceptible to developing an addiction to gabapentin. Misusing other substances, such as opioids or benzodiazepines, alongside gabapentin can potentiate its effects and increase the risk of addiction.

Psychological Factors

Certain psychological factors can contribute to the development of addiction. Individuals with a history of mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma-related disorders, may be more vulnerable to developing an addiction to gabapentin as they may use the medication to self-medicate or cope with emotional distress.

Genetic Predisposition

Genetic factors play a role in addiction susceptibility. Some individuals may have genetic variations that make them more susceptible to developing dependence or addiction to certain substances, including gabapentin.

Chronic Pain Management

Gabapentin is commonly prescribed for neuropathic pain management. Individuals who rely on gabapentin for long-term pain management may develop a physical dependence on the medication, which can potentially lead to addiction if misused or if higher doses are taken without medical supervision.

Medical History and Prescription Practices

Certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy or chronic pain, may require long-term use of gabapentin. In such cases, careful monitoring of prescription drug use and adherence to prescribed dosages is essential to reduce the risk of addiction.

Conversely, inappropriate prescribing practices, such as overprescribing or insufficient monitoring, can contribute to the development of addiction.

Lack of Awareness and Education About Gabapentin

Limited awareness and education about the potential risks of gabapentin misuse and addiction among healthcare professionals, patients, and the general population can contribute to the problem. Insufficient knowledge about the addictive potential of gabapentin may lead to improper use or nonchalant attitudes toward the medication.

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Can Someone Overdose on Gabapentin?

Yes, and the risks of a gabapentin overdose are much higher when it's used with opioids and/or alcohol.

What is the Treatment for Addiction to Gabapentin?

The treatment for addiction to gabapentin typically involves a combination of medical management, psychological interventions, and support from healthcare professionals. Here's a detailed explanation of the treatment options for gabapentin addiction:

Medical Detoxification

The first step in treating gabapentin addiction is often medical detoxification. This process involves gradually reducing the dosage of gabapentin under medical supervision to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Abruptly stopping gabapentin can lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and tremors.

Medical detoxification helps individuals safely manage these symptoms while their bodies adjust to the absence of the drug.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

In some cases, healthcare providers may use medications to support recovery. However, no specific medication is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating gabapentin addiction. Medications used in other addiction treatments, such as opioid addiction, may be prescribed to manage withdrawal symptoms or reduce cravings. 

Behavioral Therapies

Psychological interventions play a crucial role in treating gabapentin addiction. Behavioral therapies are commonly used to address the underlying causes of addiction, teach coping mechanisms, and promote long-term recovery. Some of the commonly employed behavioral therapies include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with addiction. It focuses on developing healthy coping skills, stress management techniques, and relapse prevention strategies.

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

MI is a client-centered therapy that helps individuals explore their motivations and goals for recovery. It aims to enhance motivation and commitment to change by addressing ambivalence and increasing self-efficacy.

Contingency Management (CM)

CM is a reward-based therapy that incentivizes achieving specific treatment goals, such as attending therapy sessions, passing drug tests, or meeting sobriety milestones.

Supportive Therapy

Individual or group therapy sessions provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment where individuals can share their experiences, receive guidance, and gain emotional support from others going through similar challenges.

Support Groups

Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery, can be essential to addiction treatment. These groups offer a safe space for individuals to share their experiences, seek advice, and receive ongoing support from others in recovery. Support groups can be beneficial in maintaining long-term sobriety and preventing relapse.

Holistic Approaches

Complementary and holistic approaches may be used to support the overall well-being of individuals recovering from gabapentin addiction. These may include exercise, yoga, meditation, art therapy, or mindfulness practices. These techniques can help manage stress, improve mental health, and enhance overall recovery outcomes.

Feel Like You’re Losing Control of Gabapentin? The Forge Recovery Center Will Help

If chasing the gabapentin high feels like it’s taking over your life, we can help. The Forge Recovery Center provides comprehensive treatments that help people overcome addiction to gabapentin. Our team of highly experienced nurses, therapists, and counselors work together to offer customized treatment for the specific needs of our clients.

In addition, the facility helps the patient by providing aftercare and counseling services. Our addiction center is committed to helping patients recover and lead a healthy, sober life. We also provide support and help to individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders. With us, our clients are able to develop a long life free from gabapentin addiction.

If you want to know more about our successful gabapentin addiction program, reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

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