Wednesday July 30th 2014

Can you get addicted to gabapentin?

No. Gabapentin is not considered addictive.

But it is possible to develop a physical dependence on the drug. In fact, people can experience withdrawal symptoms for up to 45 days after they stop taking gabapentin. Although gabapentin does give some people a euphoric “high” which can cause gabapentin abuse, gabapentin abusers do not present with the kind of compulsive, drug-seeking behavior or strong cravings that indicates addiction.

Just how does gabapentin affect the body? What are some of the side effects of gabapentin? What should you do if you want to stop taking this medication? We review here and invite your questions about gabapentin use, abuse and addiction at the end.

Gabapentin uses

Gabapentin belongs to a family of medications called “anticonvulsants.” Gabapentin is a medication used to control certain types of epileptic seizures, the pain resulting from attacks of shingles, and restless less syndrome. Gabapentin has also been used to treat addictions to narcotics, such as cocaine or methadone. There has even been some research into using gabapentin to treat alcohol addiction.

What medications contain gabapentin?

Gabapentin is available under the brand names Horizant and Neurontin. It is available as a tablet, an extended-release tablet, and an oral solution. The Horizant extended release tablet is usually taken once a day in the evening. The other formulations are taken several times a day at evenly-spaced periods.

What does gabapentin do in the body?

Gabapentin decreases abnormal excitement of the brain and changes how the body feels pain. No one is exactly sure how gabapentin produces analgesic or anticonvulsant effects on the body. It’s possible that it interacts with receptor sites in the brain, but none have yet been found. While the mechanism of action is not known, studies have shown it to be effective in treating a variety of illnesses.

How do you develop a dependence on gabapentin?

Taking gabapentin long-term is enough to develop a physical dependence on this type of medication. If you are taking gabapentin for a chronic condition such as epilepsy, your doctor can help you judge whether the potential for a physical dependence outweighs the symptoms it treats.

Can you get addicted to gabapentin?

No. Gabapentin use and abuse is not associated with compulsive, drug-seeking behavior or strong cravings that indicates addiction. But what can you expect if you are physically dependent on gabapentin? What kind of withdrawal symptoms occur when you stop taking this medication?

Questions about gabapentin dependency

If you concerned about the long-term effects of taking gabapentin, talk to your doctor about reducing your dose on a tapered schedule so that you can avoid withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms can occur during acute detoxification and include:

  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • nausea
  • pain
  • sweating
  • temporary increase in seizure symptoms

If you have any other questions about gabapentin use, please let us know. We answer legitimate questions with a personal and prompt response.

Reference sources: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Info on Gabapentin
Daily Med drug info on Gabapentin capsules
PubMed: Gabapentin withdrawal syndrome
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39 Responses to “Can you get addicted to gabapentin?
Angel
3:42 pm April 14th, 2012

Just exactly how long in days or weeks does it take for your body to become dependent on gabapentin. I’m already on trileptal (another anti-seizure med) as a mood stabilizer prescribed by my psychiatrist. It’s taken me two years to get my brain chemistry “corrected” for lack of a better word to enable me to come back to myself and feel “normal”. I’ve been given gabapentin for nerve pain from a scar revision surgery that has left me with alot of nerve pain. However the LAST thing I want is to become dependent on this stuff and have it screw with my brain chemistry. I’ve come off of anticonvulsants before and it was nothing short of a nightmare, and don’t care to go through it again. So saying long term is a vague statement for me concerning the gabapentin. What qualifies as “long term”. I’ve read a whistle blowing book written by an M.D. that graduated at the top of the top of her class, published in 2010 that I’m sure was like committing blasphemy in the medical community call Drug Induced Dementia: The Perfect Crime. In this book several global studies showed that anticonvulsants cause damage to a particular gland in the brain. Some of the damage caused by drugs used psychiatricly can be repaired by discontinued use and some, not so much….which I find terrifying when it comes to dementia. So could you please clarify long term use when it comes to answering the question of how long it takes for your body to become addicted to gabapentin.

4:33 am April 17th, 2012

Hi Angel. Thanks for your question. Long term use for gabapentin is considered more than 4 weeks.

It sounds like you’re doing quite a lot of research on your own. Good for you! I’d suggest that you find more clinical studies about gabapentin by going to usasearch[dot]gov or running a Google site:.gov search for keywords related to long term gabapentin use.

Does this help?

Valarak
10:45 pm May 2nd, 2012

I was looking for a camera cord in my 15 year old son’s room and came across 3 of these capsules – 1 empty and 2 wrapped loosely in blue tape. Should I be worried? He is not prescribed any medication – so he got them from someone.

2:12 am May 3rd, 2012

Hi Valarak. Yes, I believe that any kind of non-medical prescription drug use is a sign of a drug problem. I would take the capsules and confront him about it. If you want your home to be drug free, you need to be clear about your rules and boundaries. But often, teen drug use is a sign of troubles at home. Are you ready and willing to take a look at the family dynamic and possibly get help for everyone involved?

Nancy
4:48 pm May 8th, 2012

For 2.5 years I took 600 mg four times daily. When I was ready to stop taking the drug I first tapered don to the 400 mg tablets then two weeks later I began to suffer withdrawl symptoms even though my doctors said that’s not possible. Needless to say it took my quite a while to end my use of the drug.

I never want to take this drug again; however I am experiencing nerve pain gain and gabapentine is again my doctors first choice. What can I say to convince these folks that it is not a good option for me? also what alternatives are available?

Let me know your thoughts

12:52 pm May 10th, 2012

Hello Nancy. You are describing the effects of tolerance and withdrawal, which are both indicators of physical dependence on a drug (and not necessarily addiction). As long as you take medication as prescribed, and know the risks, you might want to try it again. Otherwise, your neurologist or MD would be better versed in offering alternatives.

Are you interested in or have you looked into Eastern medicine?

Nancy
1:36 pm May 10th, 2012

Until recently I have been able to control my pain via a diet that is based highly on anti-inflammatory foods – especially Indian dishes rich in turmeric, ginger, cumin, etc. So yes I am open to and prefer non medicinal options.

Let me know your thoughts.

1:51 pm May 10th, 2012

Hi Nancy. Good for you for taking action! It is inspiring to hear about your diet and steps to eat foods which prevent pain. I have found this page from MedLine Plus to be helpful in terms of references for sources of alternative medicine for pain relief: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/pain.html#cat4

Please let me know what you think.

Nancy
3:33 pm May 10th, 2012

Thanks for the link you sent and I have tried several of the alternative options listed including integrated pain therapy which I credit to allowing me to cease all medications I was taking. The TENS unit was somewhat helpful as well. Massages are good but expensive and their effects wear off quickly. I haven’t tried acupuncture as it too looks to be a costly alternative and is not covered by insurance.

One other source that has been very helpful to controlling my nerve pain are physical therapy exercises developed by the Postural Restoration Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. However I am unable to do those exercises right now due to physical limitations.

Not sure where to go from here ;-)

wth
11:22 am May 24th, 2012

Smdh I know I love the high gabapentin gives me! No weed. No worries; gaba gaba to the rescue!

Simon Lice
9:44 pm July 7th, 2012

Physical dependence is addiction. Are you mentally challenged or something to make an ignorant statement almost immediately in your claims.

2:08 am July 8th, 2012

Hello Simon. Physical dependence is just that: physical dependence on a drug. This means that over time, you develop a tolerance to the chemical and when you stop taking the chemical, you go through withdrawal. Addiction refers to the psychological desire, or “cravings” for a drug. Clinically, the two are very distinct. In our pop culture language, though, the two are blurred, which makes the distinction difficult to understand.

robert
8:16 am September 27th, 2012

When I started taking gabapentin I was not informed about the potential for dependance on this drug I don’t believe there is any mention of posible dependance when taking this drug on the drug label. And when you talk about cravings not being present while weaning off of this drug you may be right. I think we can often confuse the two but which is worse? In my opinion the withdrawal from gabapentin is the worst experience I have ever had with any drug. The nausea the lack of appetite anxiety because you at first don’t even know what is wrong with you and even the understanding when you finally know that its a drug that was prescribed for you with confidence in saying to you everything will be all right. Kind of shakes your confidence in doctors and worse the pharmaceutical company that made this drug gabapentin and knew but didn’t want to tell us about the horable withdrawal that we would experience. For you to quibles over weather this is an addiction or withdrawal from this drug, I suggest you take a couple grams daily of this drug for 5 year and you just might have a better understanding of how bad this drug really is. You might not be so quick to want to quible over addiction or just bad withdrawal because you wouldn’t be so interested in giving advice here, more importantly you would be wondering how you are ever going to wean yourself off of this drug. You would have no appetite you will experience nausea and every moment of your day would be filled with thoughts of taking some gabapentin just so you don’t experience the god awful withdrawal from gabapentin the addiction is not psychological in this case its phisical addicttion. You should know that I have been trying for over 10 months to wean myself off of this drug and when the withdrawal goes on for so long (a month) without any end in sight I go back to taking more gabapentin so that I may feel normal for a while, I am looking for a good class action law suit against this drug gabapentin. Good luck with your justafications for this drug gabapentin I don’t buy them. This is a seductive drug as you take your first dose and you are more than likely to feel better right away and so you take the next and the next untill you finally realize after you’ve been hooked on this drug that it didn’t improve anything in your life and you decide to stop taking gabapentin and discover you can’t stop. Now you might say that this is psychological desire, or “cravings” of a much more dangerous nature because no one is going to admit that they allowed a drug to be put on the market with such god awful cravings as this drug produces.

david
2:51 pm September 29th, 2012

l have been taking gabapentin for almost 4 weeks now the reason why i am taking it is because of a muscle twitching problem that started back in july just how long dose it take to develop a dependance on gabapentin because it no longer helps the twitching problem and i thinking about stop taking it.

7:35 pm September 29th, 2012

Hi David. Are you asking about dependence or tolerance? They are two separate issues.

At any rate, your prescribing doctor would be the best person to help you out on whether or not gabapentin is working for you. I’d suggest that you schedule a consultation to report the symptoms and to consider other pharmaceutical or lifestyle treatment options that can help you. Does that help?

robert
10:54 pm September 29th, 2012

David. It depens on how much you are taking, my Doctor wasn’t even aware of the dependence factor with gabapentin untill medicare stoped paying for gabapentin and so because they could not afford to pay for this job out of their own pocket they stoped taking gabapentin and they experienced the effects of the withdrawal, but I don’t know how much they were taking or for how long. I am not a doctor but I have the personal experience of having been on gabapentin for over 10 years with an average of taking 2400 miligrams a day during that time. I have read else where that taking more than 1000 miligrams a day is considered a high dose but just how long it takes to form a dependence on this drug I don’t have any answers. I think you should consult with your pharmacist and see what he suggests, there may be alternatives to gabapentin, I personally would not recoment gabapentin as a long term treatment (not more than 3 months and not more than 300 miligrams, I think that doctors are prescribing higher amounts of this drug than they should expecially as they now are beginning to see the major down side of this drug ( the dependence factor) It’s not clear that my message is making it to this board simply because I know too much from my own personal eperience with gabapentin. It may be that I am being sensored!!!

David if you can or anyone else on this forum can see my words please acknowledge that you can see my message.

thankyou

david
1:19 am September 30th, 2012

l am talking about about dependence, l started taking gabapentin on the night of september 4th l was taking one 300 mg capsule at bed time for the first couple of weeks it worked well but after that it started to lose effect l seen my doctor on september 25th and he decided to increase the dosage to taking three 300 mg capsule every day as needed for the muscle twitching but after taking it that way it made my body feel real weird so l went back to only taking one 300 mg capsule each night, it will be 4 weeks this coming tuesday since l started taking gabapentin and l can’t get ahold of my doctor because he is out of town and my next appointment is not until october 23ed i was just woundering if i should stop taking the gabapentin cold turkey since it dose not work and if l did would l be dependant on the medicine and go through withdraw since i have been taking it for about 4 weeks.

Crissy
3:42 pm October 1st, 2012

I have been taking gabapentin for over a year now, and I must say, it has been my miricle drug. Yes, I have experienced a high from taking more than prescribed, but it’s not a high like you get from other drugs. Gabapentin has helped with my nerve pain and migraines. When I forget to take it, or miss a few days in a roll, I can tell because I become short with others. So, I would have to say, it’s also helping keep my mood in check. I know others who have taken it, and couldn’t function at all…..so this drug isn’t for everyone. But it sure has helped me :) the downside to taking gabapentin is dry mouth.

Thomas
3:10 pm October 6th, 2012

All I can tell you is that my son was picked up by the cops on this stuff, acting very strange but not exhibiting the usual symptoms of your standard drug overdose so EMS released him and he had no place else to go so the cops dropped him off here. My son is “supposedly” in outpatient treatment for profound drug/alcohol dependencies and this mindset that it is not clinically addictive and “no worries” and not showing up in standard drug tests is a total denial. The scariest thing about this entire episode was the fact that he exhibited involuntary spasms, very bizarre and extremely frightening. He had almost no motor control after a bit. We were pretty close to calling 911 again but knew they had cut him loose earlier. All I know is tht anything that can cause spasms like that (I wish I had filmed it and put it on youtube) can NOT be good for your general well-being. If you are taking this recreationally you are playing with fire.

David
12:54 am October 20th, 2012

I was diagnosed with rapid cycle bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety disorder by my psych. Whether I have all that stuff or not is up for debate, but I am prescribed 600 mg of gabapentin 4x day for the anxiety. It works miraculously, like nothing ever has. However, it works too good. One time I accidentally took more than my usual dose and noticed significant euphoria. I am now in a hellish cycle of running through a script in a few days and suffering horrible withdrawal waiting for the next refill to get covered by my insurance. I’m trying to break the cycle but it’s difficult because the medication does such an excellent job at doing what it was supposed to. I just wanted to throw a warning out there to anyone with histories of addiction (I have one) that this drug can be psychologically addictive if abused for long periods of time (over two years for me.)

dave ovenden
11:15 am November 26th, 2012

hi i have been on 3600 mg of gabapentin and 400 mg of slow release tramadol every day for the last 3 years and my nerve pain in my legs is ok ,without the drugs i would not want to be here as the pain would be to great,ihave enjoyed reading your webpage

Randal K.
2:22 am January 23rd, 2013

What are the symptoms of taking too much Neurotin?

James Knaus
4:06 am February 20th, 2013

My doctor perscribed Gabapentin for nerve pain. Can it ne taken in conjuncton witth acetaminophen at bed time ?

2:43 pm February 21st, 2013

Hello James. This is a question for a pharmacist or your prescribing doctor. I’d suggest that you call either for a quick consult via the phone.

kerry
4:58 am March 14th, 2013

I have not been to the pharmacy to refill my prescription yet. I have been taking 600 mg each night for almost 2 years. I’ve been without it for 5 days. I’ve been itching like crazy at night, I feel sick, and I had a headache that lasted a few days. I assume these are all withdrawal symptoms. I never had any side effects from the Gabapentin while taking it. Is suddenly going back on it going to have adverse effects? How long before the withdrawal symptoms disappear? I go refill my prescription tomorrow, so my time without taking it will be 6 days.Thank you.

Liz Cook
7:50 pm March 20th, 2013

I need to stop taking Gabapentin but I apparently have developed a dependence. I experience a tingling and itching when I try to step down the dosage so I am suffering the side effects now due to a reduced intake. Sometimes the itching is almost more that I can tolerate. I now take about 400mg daily to help me deal with the side effects but my goal is to stop completely. Please advise.

7:43 am April 4th, 2013

Hello Liz. I’d suggest that you consult with your prescribing doctor or a pharmacist about the symptoms that you report, as you’ll need an expert opinion about stopping gabapentin.

Really?!
6:14 pm April 13th, 2013

You can get addicted to gabapentin. Ya its not physically addiciting on that level of opiates, but it does create a euphoria. Certain feelings that people chase after. And Ive seen people desperately seek out these gabapentin pills just for that fact. I have even see people prefer them to others, so i mean to they they are NOT addictive is by far, skewed.

angie
3:59 pm April 28th, 2013

hello, i need to stop taking gabapentin. I’ve been taking it for 8yrs now and believe i’ve been addicted right from the start, something tramatic had happend to me and my doc told me to just take one whenever i needed to..and now i’m on 800mg a day and i take so much more than that. i run out early every single month sometimes i buy them.i twitch all the time and i’ve had two seizures from taking too much, also I have gained 50lbs.Their has been a few times i was somewhat forced to quit and lost alot of weight and felt pretty good about myself.But i look forword to it every morning. I tell myself and my family that when i go into see my doc i’m gonna tell him whats going on but i go in there and i cant do it…i like the high and feel ”normal” when i take it…i feel like if i knew this drug was addictive in the first place i never would have taken it:/

Keith
11:52 pm May 6th, 2013

I have been on 900 mg gabapentin 4 x daily for neuropathy for years and am now going to try Lyrica instead. How do I go off the Gabapentin and start Lyrica?

7:16 am May 7th, 2013

Hi Keith. This is a question for your prescribing doctor or a local pharmacist. Please ask a professional to get direct instruction on stopping one medication and starting another.

anusha
5:18 am May 11th, 2013

gabapentin with tramadol or naprox..is it safe for long term use. what are the withdrawl sympotms if you use it for more than 10 years?is it ok to take 300mg gabapentin twice daily unless otherwise i feel anxious.

Worried
3:28 pm August 2nd, 2013

I have been taking this medication for my severe headaches. It works really well but makes me feel very high. I don’t have a care in the world when I take it. I only take it when it when I am told to take the dosage but I could see myself having problems when I no longer take it. It works so well I am terrified to get off of it but I am worried I am liking the feeling it gives me to much.

craig h
9:09 pm August 16th, 2013

I have been taking gabapentin for 4 or 5 years now sometimes I just stop taking it and after a day or two I am fine other times I get really short tempered and edgy like I need it to calm me down weird having it both ways it did help my nerve pail greatly before my operation but am not sure if I need it now or not as I aint of it long enough to find out plus its said to help your mood as they think I could be bi polor but I do not get any of this high or euphoric feelings most of you describe wish I did as I hate feeling the way I do as its a miserable lonely life when you cant work or find some partner to live with that understands your moods as you aint that sociable to find someone in the first place so you don’t have a chance to meet someone like you or will understand and give you the benefit and understanding you need and the things that go with having a partner so I don’t no if its worth taking this stuff any more if I don’t feel a big difference in my moods to enjoy your life and if you should come off it incase it gets worse or the pain in my leg also comes back later or not getting confused on what to do with this medication or what medication I should be on for nerve pain and for mood sick of feeling hopless

Linda
6:08 pm April 8th, 2014

Hi – I just started taking gabapentin for shingles. I have enough to help me through the pain for about 10 days. Should I be concerned about stopping after 10 days? ie is that considered long term? I’m hoping the shingles will start to disappear by then and that I won’t have further pain. My doctor nor pharmacist mentioned anything about withdrawing gradually so I’m thinking taking this med for 10 days may not warrant gradual withdrawal. I take 300 mg capsules 3 x daily.
Your thoughts?
Thanks

Josie
12:48 am June 2nd, 2014

My pain mgmt doctor prescribed 100mg gabapentin 3X day. After 1 month, even this low dosage makes me feel drunk. I hate it, so he tells me to just take one during the day & 2 at bedtime. Feeling really drunk did not help my insomnia! Today I decided my back pain was tolerable & did not take the gabapentin but became extremely anxious, very depressed, crying, bordering on panic attack. So I took a lorazepam, which I have also not been taking regularly, as prescribed because I’ve read that it is very addictive. I guess I’m going to have to either take some sort of shot that this dr has offered for my back pain or simply learn to live with it. Even on the small dose, I hate the groggy-headed feeling it gives me. I honestly cannot imagine functioning at all with any higher dosage. I have a friend that takes 1800mg per day & I swear I don’t know how she can manage going to work, even driving! I guess people build up a tolerance. I don’t want it. Thanks for the info provided here.

jane
3:02 pm June 9th, 2014

After taking 300mg gabapentin at night only for 4 years, does it lose its effectiveness? Taking for hot flashes by Mayo Clinic directions. Can I go into withdrawal while still taking it? Thank you!

Dottie
7:12 pm July 17th, 2014

I have been on gabapetin for 6 months after a total masectomy and the removal of right lymph nodes. Gabapetin has changed my life. I am a stage 4 cancer survivor. The nerve pain I suffered from was extremely painful and sharp. Gabapetin stopped all nerve pain. I don’t feel as though I suffer from any side effects. If at all I sometimes lose my balance, but other factors could be the cause of it. I take 300 mg in the morning and 400 mg at night. Thanks

Howard
4:12 pm July 27th, 2014

My Dermatologist suggested I begin taking 100 mg of Gabapentin once a day and work up to 3 pills a day to somehow relieving a body itch that i have had for a long period of time. He thinks it will help to desensitize me to this constant itch. I have gone to an allergist for all kinds of tests and she is still trying but I can feel that she is out of ideas but still trying.

I have read many of the side effects but have become concerned about the withdrawal problems and wondering if taking 300mg a day would possibly put me into this category of “withdrawal” problems. However one spins it, withdrawal problems seems to me the body desires the stuff and is letting you know as you clean yourself. I do not want to chance that I may not be a good candidate for this drug. the other question is if I do start how long do i have to be on to actually notice a reduction with my itching problem.

Please believe me–I am not trying to be humorous–just seeking advice.

Thankyou

The Dermatologist has been very effective in clearing up most skin problems but cannot reduce this crazy itching that I have that comes and goes at its pleasure–not mime.

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