Gabapentin is a prescription medication that treats seizures as well as neuropathic pain related to shingles. There are several off-label uses for gabapentin as well including for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy and fibromyalgia. For a long time, gabapentin was considered a safe medication without risk for abuse, but in recent years that perception changed.
Gabapentin is increasingly used along with opioids to increase the high people experience. Some states saw so many gabapentin-related overdose deaths that they’ve classified it as a controlled substance.
Whether someone uses gabapentin as prescribed or they abuse it along with substances such as opioids, there is a potential for physical dependence to form. When someone becomes dependent on this medication, gabapentin withdrawal may occur if they stop using it suddenly.
How Gabapentin Works
How does gabapentin work? Gabapentin is believed to affect the brain and central nervous system to stabilize electrical activity in the brain. Gabapentin is also thought to affect how messages are sent from the nerves to the brain, although doctors don’t yet understand how it works.
Gabapentin likely affects the gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter. GABA is a naturally-calming neurotransmitter and gabapentin may increase how much GABA is produced, therefore inhibiting nerve excitement and electrical signals. This mechanism of action is likely why gabapentin can help reduce epileptic seizures and alter how pain signals are sent to the brain for pain relief.
Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms
While gabapentin isn’t currently a federally controlled substance, there is a potential for it to be habit-forming and to cause withdrawal. Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms are fairly rare but possible. Some of the potential gabapentin withdrawal symptoms people may experience are:
- Gastrointestinal upset and related symptoms
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
While most gabapentin withdrawal symptoms may be mild, if someone uses it without a prescription or they’ve been combining it with something else such as opioids, the symptoms may be more severe.
Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline
The gabapentin withdrawal timeline is an estimate of how long withdrawal symptoms may last, and when the peak symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal may occur. It’s important to understand that the gabapentin withdrawal timeline is different for every person, but having a general idea can help someone know what to expect.
Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms can begin anywhere from 12 hours to 7 days after someone takes their final dose, but the average time for withdrawal symptoms to begin is within 24 to 48 hours. The peak gabapentin withdrawal symptoms are usually around three days after the last dose, and within a week most people will see their symptoms lessen in intensity.
Detoxing From Gabapentin
Some people require a medical detox from gabapentin, particularly if they’re also detoxing from other substances. During a medical detox from gabapentin, a patient is carefully monitored and provided the necessary treatments to keep them both safe and comfortable. This process can be especially important because of the relationship between gabapentin and seizures. For example, someone with epileptic seizures may be more likely to experience them when they detox from gabapentin, so medical supervision can be important for their safety.
If you struggle with gabapentin misuse, contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. A representative can talk with you about the treatment options that can work well for your needs. You deserve a healthy future.
Osborn, Corinne O’Keefe. “How Long Does Withdrawal From Gabapentin Last?” Verywell Mind, November 26, 2018. Accessed April 4, 2019.
Dellwo, Adrienne. “Gabapentin for Fibromyalgia.” Verywell Mind, April 30, 2018. Accessed April 4, 2019.Mammoser, Gigen.
“Gabapentin is the Latest Pain Medication Showing Up in Opioid Overdoses.” Healthline, April 9, 2018. Accessed April 4, 2019.