Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin) is a prescription drug that has been increasing in popularity ever since the opioid crisis started. Because of this, many questions about the medication have surfaced. In this article, several of the commonly asked questions about this medication will be addressed.
Is Gabapentin a Painkilller?
Gabapentin is a type of anticonvulsant drug prescribed as a mode of treatment for seizures and epilepsy as it calms down the nerves. It is also used to relieve neuropathic pain associated with shingles (a rash due to the herpes zoster infection) in adults.
While it is currently mainly being used to address these issues, other drug properties have made doctors consider it an off-label treatment for other conditions, such as restless leg syndrome and anxiety. And although gabapentin was not developed to be used as a painkiller, it is commonly prescribed to help relieve certain types of pain.
Moreover, gabapentin is not an opioid, and it does not work the same way as an opioid regarding how it affects the brain and the body. Gabapentin is one of the top non-opioid-based alternatives being prescribed to people for pain management. It is considered a much safer alternative than opioids, with a much lower risk of overdose. This is one reason why doctors prescribe gabapentin to individuals experiencing pain but do not want the risk of opioid addiction.
Can You Get High on Gabapentin?
Yes, a gabapentin high is possible. It’s psychoactive effects are not entirely different from intoxicants that are commonly abused. The drug works in a manner that is comparable to a mild tranquilizer, as it has sedative effects. Taking the medication can produce euphoria similar to the high experienced by individuals who use marijuana.
Users also report experiencing feelings of increased sociability and calm. Polydrug users may also use gabapentin to achieve a more intense high. When combined with other drugs, such as anti-anxiety medications, opioids, and muscle relaxants, gabapentin enhances feelings of calm and sedation.
Just like any other drug, gabapentin has the potential for side effects. Some of the most common side effects include the following:
- Face and mouth swelling
- Difficulty breathing/swallowing
- Depression and anxiety
Other side effects may include the following:
- Impaired memory
- Tremors and jerkiness
- Double vision
- Coordination loss
- Speaking difficulties
For people with underlying respiratory illness or those who are advanced in age, gabapentin use can depress the central nervous system. Studies have also shown it to cause increased breathing pauses while sleeping.
When abused, gabapentin can cause significant brain or organ damage. Combining it with other drugs, such as opioids, can depress respiratory function and even lead to an overdose if a person is experiencing gabapentin overdose.
Signs to look in the event of an overdose on depressants include the following:
- Very slow heart rate
- Slow or stopped breathing
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Unresponsiveness to stimuli
- Muscles are limp/droopy
- Cyanosis, or bluish skin
- Cold, clammy skin
- Awake, but unable to talk
- Choking or gurgling sound
If you suspect someone you know is overdosing, please call 911 immediately.
Gabapentin is generally believed to be safer than opioids, and for this reason, more and more doctors have been prescribing the drug an alternative to medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone. However, statistics show that many people are misusing the drug, and many in combination with other medicines, illicit substances, and alcohol.
Moreover, the affordable price of gabapentin, even on the street, makes it easier for people to misuse it. When abused in conjunction with other substances, the effects of all those ingested, including gabapentin, can be compounded and, in severe cases, possibly lead to an overdose.
Discontinuing the use of gabapentin has also been shown to cause withdrawal symptoms, a sign that people develop some level of physical dependence on it.
Getting Help for Drug Abuse
Although many researchers and health experts indeed believe gabapentin to have a lower risk of abuse, dependence, and addiction, there have been many reports, both anecdotal and in official studies, of individuals being addicted to the drug. Fortunately, help is available for those abusing this drug or other psychoactive substances.
Just Believe Recovery Center offers residential and intensive outpatient treatment programs that feature a wide variety of therapeutic approaches and services, including psychotherapy, counseling, group support, psychoeducation, art and music therapy, relapse prevention, aftercare planning, and more.