Gabapentin Withdrawal & Detox

Gabapentin is a generic drug that is also available under the brand name Neurontin. Gabapentin is used primarily for the treatment of partial seizures in people with epilepsy. It’s also used to treat nerve pain related to shingles infections and diabetes. There are off-label uses of gabapentin as well. For example, it’s sometimes used off-label to treat restless leg syndrome and anxiety disorders. Gabapentin is an analog of the natural neurotransmitter GABA. When taken, gabapentin acts as a central nervous system depressant. Some of the common side effects of the drug include drowsiness and dizziness. Severe side effects may occur as well -but are rare. For example, some people may experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors, or changes in their mood or behavior.

While gabapentin does have therapeutic benefits, especially for people who have epilepsy, there is a risk of abuse. Gabapentin abuse has become a larger problem in recent years. Gabapentin isn’t a controlled substance, making it easier to get than drugs like narcotics and benzodiazepines. When the drug is used and abused, both addition and dependence are possible. If someone is dependent upon gabapentin and they stop using it suddenly or lower their dose, they may experience withdrawal symptoms.

What Causes Gabapentin Withdrawal?

Gabapentin crosses the blood-brain barrier and interacts with GABA receptors. Any time a drug affects the brain, the brain starts to change how it functions in response. For example, if the brain becomes used to the presence of gabapentin, it may produce less of its own natural GABA. Over time, the brain adapts to the presence of these drugs. When someone suddenly stops using a drug, the brain goes into a type of shock and struggles to regain a sense of normalcy in its function. That struggle is why withdrawal symptoms occur. Any time a drug affects GABA, withdrawal symptoms can be particularly severe. For example, because both alcohol and benzodiazepines affect GABA, they have some of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Factors

Not everyone who uses gabapentin is going to go through withdrawal. Even if someone does go through withdrawal from gabapentin, it doesn’t always have to be severe. Factors that influence the severity of withdrawal symptoms include the amount of time someone has used the drug, the dosage they usually take, and whether or not other substances are also involved. If someone has been taking a high dose of gabapentin every day for several years, they’re probably going to have more severe withdrawal symptoms than someone who has been taking it as prescribed for a few months. If a doctor works with a patient to gradually taper down their dosage of gabapentin over time, as opposed to stopping suddenly, that individual may not go through a noticeable withdrawal at all.

Gabapentin Withdrawal & Detox

Some of the most common symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal include sweating, dizziness and fatigue. People may experience headaches, insomnia and other sleep disturbances, and muscle pain as well. It’s common for people to have anxiety when they go through withdrawal from gabapentin, as well as depression. Spasms, restlessness and stomach pain can occur. Some of the most serious possible symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal include seizures and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

For most people, gabapentin withdrawal will start anywhere from 12 to 48 hours after they’ve taken the last dose of the drug. In the initial hours of gabapentin withdrawal, symptoms can be the most serious. These early symptoms, from the first 12 to 24 hours, can include anxiety, sweating, headaches, tremors and seizures. By day three, most people will have gone through the worst of the gabapentin withdrawal symptoms, such as restlessness, confusion and agitation. Some people may have more serious symptoms like hallucinations and changes in the heart rate. Within around a week, the majority of the gabapentin withdrawal symptoms should have subsided. Some people may have post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWs, however. These are ongoing symptoms that are primarily psychological, such as anxiety or depression.

Gabapentin Withdrawal & Detox

Some people may be able to go through detox for gabapentin withdrawal at home by following their doctor’s instructions. For the most part, however, detox for gabapentin withdrawal is best done in a professional environment. With any drug that affects GABA, because there is a potential for such severe side effects, a medical detox is usually the safest option. During a medical detox, a patient can be closely monitored and provided with the necessary treatments to keep them safe and comfortable.

People often wonder what to expect from a detox center -whether it’s for gabapentin or another substance. When someone goes to a detox center, they will typically answer assessment questions and move through the intake process. This is when the staff can assess the individual situation and make a plan to provide the best care for the patient. This is one of the most important elements of addiction treatment because it can determine and guide the entire treatment process. When a patient is transparent and honest at the beginning of detox, they can receive the optimal detox treatment. The primary objective during detox is to mitigate or alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal in order to increase the patient’s likelihood of success.

The Recovery Village works to create customized, tailored detox and treatment plans that can change the course of your life, or the life of your loved one. Contact us today to learn more.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.