Gabapentin is one of the most notorious drugs cited by the Drug Enforcement Administration when it comes to abuse and misuse. Today, Transcend Recovery Community takes a closer look at how this anticonvulsant drug may impact one's mental and physical health, alongside its drug information, side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and possible treatment plans to help someone recovering from this particular drug addiction.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a type of medication prescribed for patients with types of seizures or even epilepsy. It is included in a drug class known as "anticonvulsants."
The drug comes in the form of tablets, capsules, or an oral solution with varying dosage strength, depending on the recommendation of a consulting specialist.
It is also used as a pain reliever for postherpetic neuralgia (PHN--the stabbing and excruciating pain lasting for months and even years post-Shingles). Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS is another medical condition that may need a prescription of Gabapentin.
People have abused the drug more recently. Gabapentin is commonly known as "Gabbies," with numerous reports cited for unapproved and off-label uses linked to bipolar disorder, migraine, and attention deficit disorder that some manufacturers use to promote the drug despite no official medical endorsement.
Gabapentin Side Effects
As with many prescription drugs found on the market, Gabapentin has its fair share of side effects ranging from mild to severe. These side effects may manifest in every person in different ways and are affected by various factors.
Usual factors such as genetics, age, and sex may influence the other side effects that may manifest when under Gabapentin medication. Patients must first look into Gabapentin's drug information and consult with their physicians to know if it's the right medication for them.
Let's first look at the common and mild side effects of this drug. These may occur in more than 1 in 100 people. But rest assured, the side effects go away eventually by themselves.
These may include:
- General lethargy (feeling tired or dizzy)
- Digestive or gastrointestinal symptoms (such as diarrhea)
- Swelling of the arms and legs
- Blurry vision
- Xerostomia (dry mouth)
- Dark urine
- Sore throat
- Trouble sleeping
- Skin rash
- Memory problems
- Weight gain
- Erectile dysfunction (impotence)
The more serious side effects that may severely affect a patient under Gabapentin medication may include:
- Suicidal/depressive thoughts
- Swollen glands
- Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
- Long-term stomach pain (which may signal an inflamed pancreas)
- Kidney failure
- Anaphylaxis (serious allergic reaction)
- Tachypnea (shallow breathing)
It's important to call 911 or your consulting health professional if you're experiencing any of these severe symptoms or side effects to receive immediate medical attention.
Signs That Someone is on Gabapentin
When identifying if someone is abusing Gabapentin, one must first check telltale signs or "side effects" and have a keen eye for flagging any unusual behavior that someone may manifest. Oftentimes, it may be harder to spot, but through careful research and observation.
However, as long as you can take heed of the noticeable signs listed below, you can help a struggling person by providing medical and psychological interventions with the help of a trusted healthcare professional.
Some of the signs you need to watch out for in someone with a Gabapentin addiction include:
- Behavioral changes (moodier than usual, manifesting erratic behavior) that may range between the following:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Impulsive behavior
- A drastic change in work or school performance
- Swollen glands
- Disinterest in hobbies or activities that they're usually engaged in.
- Lack of coordination or motor skills
- Temporary amnesia (memory loss)
- Panic attacks
You may also notice that a person who is suffering from Gabapentin addiction may have an unusual skin rash, shallow breathing, and trouble sleeping.
With the help of a trusted mental health and wellness partner, these individuals may be endorsed for further diagnosis to ascertain the appropriate addiction recovery program and medical attention fitted to their needs.
Gabapentin is a prescribed drug that is originally used for pain management. While it is more known for managing certain seizure disorders and neuropathic pain (for example, nerve pain caused by shingles), and treating restless leg syndrome (RLS), people found ways to abuse the drug.
There are two ways wherein a person may develop an addiction to Gabapentin. People who are prescribed this drug later form an unnecessary dependence on it may find themselves abusing it, similar to patients who rely solely on pain killers to cope with chronic pain.
Meanwhile, other individuals resort to the drug for recreational use. They may take it with other substances, such as opioids, and report getting a sense of relaxation or calmness, similar to the after-effects of marijuana.
People report having side effects, such as swollen glands, sore throat, and dark urine along with other side effects when using Gabapentin too. However, with prolonged use, people may be at higher risk of developing co-occuring disorders, or worse, a fatal overdose.
Therefore, it's important to identify how a prescription drug addiction can develop so that people can find ways to avoid irreparable long-term damage, as well as receive proper medical attention right away.
Withdrawal Symptoms from Gabapentin
While it is rare for patients to have withdrawal symptoms or side effects when undergoing drug addiction therapy, it may still occur in some cases. A published medical journal review from 1993, during the time the drug was approved, and 2015, indicated that there were at least 18 reports of Gabapentin addiction, dependence, or withdrawal.
In some documented cases with Gabapentin abuse, withdrawal happened from the start of the 12th hour leading to 7 days after the latest dosage. Meanwhile, some experienced withdrawal symptoms within 1 to 2 days.
Some of these symptoms include:
- Sweating profusely
- GI symptoms (such as diarrhea)
- Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Sleeping disabilities (such as insomnia)
It's important to understand how long drugs stay in your system, so that your consulting outpatient drug rehab healthcare professional may prescribe a viable treatment program to help you towards recovering better.
Treatment for Gabapentin
While recovery from drug abuse may be a difficult path to take, nothing is impossible. There are many options that individuals may consider for their long-term sobriety.
People who want to be close to their loved ones or think they may recover better surrounded by family may consider outpatient drug rehab programs that may include detoxification or cognitive behavioral therapy to help them process their addiction problems.
People who want to start afresh but may need some time before acclimating to the outside world may benefit from a sober living arrangement. It features a community of healthcare professionals and mentors to help an individual be in better shape as they start their rehabilitation program.
Reach out to Transcend Recovery Community to learn more.