Gabapentin is not as well-known as other prescription drugs, like hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, and fentanyl. The drug is beneficial for people who suffer from nerve damage, as an epilepsy medication, and treating restless leg syndrome. However, gabapentin can be abused just like other prescription drugs. As a result, many states are in the process of reclassifying the drug as a controlled substance. Yet, even with these measures, the drug is still easily obtainable. This might have you wondering, “can you become addicted to gabapentin?”
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is the generic name for Horizant, Neurontin, and Gralise. Initial research and the creation of gabapentin occurred back in the 1990s. It was not until the 2000s that the drug obtained FDA approval.
As such, it was not widely known or prescribed even after the FDA approved it. Part of the reason doctors were not prescribing gabapentin was that pharmaceuticals were pushing prescription opioids more heavily.
When the addictiveness of opioids became apparent, doctors started considering gabapentin as a potential substitute to prescription opioids. As a result, gabapentin prescriptions have now surpassed oxycodone prescriptions.
How Does Gabapentin Work?
Gabapentin targets the neurotransmitters in the brain and alters their activity. This is why it is prescribed as an anti-seizure medication for epilepsy. Essentially, it slows down the nerve activity and electrical impulses being sent through the neurotransmitters.
The reduction in nerve activity can help alleviate pain and discomfort on nerve endings that are damaged. Since gabapentin is not an opioid drug and does not interact with the brain receptors associated with pleasure that release dopamine, it is believed that it is not as addictive as other pain-relieving prescription drugs.
How Does Gabapentin Make You Feel?
Gabapentin is a mild sedative. Many people who take it report feeling “high,” similar to the “high” experienced when using marijuana. Other people report gabapentin mimics the effects of alcohol. Some of the other potential effects gabapentin users experience include:
- Blurry vision
- Loss of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Problems concentrating
Can You Become Addicted to Gabapentin?
Taken on its own, gabapentin is considered to have a very low risk of becoming an addictive substance. However, if people enjoy the sensations and feelings the drug produces, it is easy to become addicted to it. Furthermore, while the drug does not alter the receptors in the brain as opioid drugs do, it is possible to develop a psychological dependence on the drug. So, to answer the question, “can you become addicted to gabapentin?” the answer is yes.
What Is Psychological Dependence?
Psychological dependence, also called psychological addiction, develops when the person using a substance exhibits the following symptoms:
- The person has intense cravings for the substance because they enjoy the sensations the substance produces
- The person generally believes that they need the substance to function, socialize, or perform specific tasks, like sleeping
- The person becomes obsessed with the substance and will go into a panic when they run out of it
- The person begins to lose interest in activities they usually enjoy because they spend too much time thinking about the substance
Even though gabapentin does not necessarily produce a drug dependence, the psychological dependence on the drug can become very powerful. So, people who abuse gabapentin can experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it.
How Does Gabapentin Addiction Develop?
Gabapentin is a relatively cheap drug compared to opioids and other street drugs. Thanks to its affordability and ease of obtaining it, it is often used alongside alcohol and other drugs to enhance their effects.
For example, taking gabapentin while consuming alcohol intensifies the effects of both substances. The first time someone experiences these effects, they may start to enjoy how they feel. So, they will continue to take gabapentin when drinking.
Eventually, they will become dependent on using gabapentin when drinking because consuming alcohol alone does not achieve the desired effects. However, mixing the two substances is dangerous.
As the body develops a tolerance for alcohol, more and more alcohol is needed to achieve the desired effects of using alcohol with gabapentin. Potentially, one could get alcohol poisoning, experience blackouts, or even overdose and end up in the hospital.
Another example of how gabapentin addiction develops is when people take it alongside prescription opioids or take it when using heroin. Since gabapentin intensifies the effects of these drugs, addicts can use smaller doses of opioids or heroin and achieve the same effects they enjoy.
Yet again, this is highly dangerous because of the intensified effects on the central nervous system. If the central nervous system’s response slows too much, it can cause the user’s heart to stop or their respiratory system to shut down, resulting in asphyxiation.
Gabapentin Treatment in Dallas
While gabapentin is not considered a highly addictive substance, people still become addicted to it. If you have developed a psychological addiction or use gabapentin with other substances you abuse, help is available at Casa Colina.
We understand that struggling with addiction and admitting you need help is challenging. When you are ready, we offer specialized alcohol and drug treatment programs to help you recover from gabapentin abuse, as well as other substance abuse disorders.
Our mission is to equip men and their families with the tools they need to achieve a lifetime of freedom in sobriety. To learn more about our treatment programs, please contact us today!