Gabapentin, also known by its brand name Neurontin, is a prescription painkiller belong to Gabapentinoids drug class. For many professionals and health experts, Gabapentin is considered a less-addictive alternative to opioids. However, addiction and abuse can still occur for those individuals who have been prescribed this medication. In fact, Gabapentin has been on the rise as a drug of abuse for the last several years, including as a single agent. What is the street value of gabapentin and how has that shaped the drugs’ misuse?
What is Gabapentin?
Many consider Gabapentin (Neurontin) a “miracle drug” because of its variety of uses, both on and off-label. Historically, it’s been prescribed to treat nerve pain and it can also aid in combating alcohol and cocaine withdrawals. However, the darker side of this medication is popular misuse as a pain killer, behaving similarly to opioids. Due to a spike in gabapentin-related fatalities, states like Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia have moved the medication to a class Schedule V controlled substance. The street value of gabapentin is also another indication of how potent it can be for users.
Gabapentin is classified as an anticonvulsant and is primarily used to treat epilepsy and other similar conditions that affect the nervous system. Unfortunately, it is also commonly abused for the high that it creates when taken in larger doses. Because of Neurontin’s rising star in the treatment of so many conditions, it is being easily diverted by addicts looking for a quick high to supplement pre-existing drug problems. Abuse usually occurs with people who are already suffering from pharmaceutical prescription drug addictions, such as opiates and benzodiazepines. Doctors continually find more uses for the anti-emetic on a regular basis. Unfortunately, once people begin to abuse it, they see that it does come with its own set of serious problems, such as physical dependence and withdrawal.
This Gabapentinoid prescription has been around for nearly two decades to combat epilepsy and relieve nerve pain. It can also help treat mental health disorders and various other conditions such as:
- Bipolar Disorder
Illicit or illegal use of gabapentin is also becoming quite common. Many who are already suffering from substance abuse and addiction have found that gabapentin can be easily sourced and it enhances the impact of other drugs. It’s often mixed with:
The combination of these drugs can be fatal especially in large quantities. Recent reports have found that 40-65% of patients legally prescribed gabapentin misuse it, and around 20% of individuals with opioid addiction issues also abuse it.
How Gabapentin (Neurontin) is Used and Abused
Being an anticonvulsant, it suppresses the nerves of the CNS that can lead to the uncontrollable misfiring of the brain that is a seizure. Since its debut, Neurontin has also been found to be an effective treatment for chronic pain conditions rooted in the nervous system, such as fibromyalgia. It shines here where traditional pain medications fail. Typical pain medications such as opiates block pain receptors in the brain, while Gabapentin suppresses the overreaction of the nerves that are generally found in conditions like fibromyalgia. As such, it is also an effective treatment for the pain that comes with shingles, and the pain coming from diabetic neuropathy. Off-label, Gabapentin is used by opiate addicts to mitigate the worst effects of painful withdrawal. Doses taken for these treatments can skyrocket, reaching upward of 1600 milligrams. Unfortunately, many addicts who first use Neurontin to find relief from the withdrawal of their drug of choice find that they enjoy the effects of it. This leads to abuse and what can be the development of a nasty addiction.
The street value of gabapentin is also on the rise. Because of its ease of accessibility and its potency, particularly when used in combination with other substances, gabapentin is in demand.
Effects of a Gabapentin High
Because diversion and abuse of the drug have recently skyrocketed, it is wise to know what to look for in a person who could potentially be abusing Gabapentin. If you notice that some pills are going missing and suspect that someone you care about could be abusing the drug, look for these signs and symptoms:
- Euphoria, described as similar to a marijuana high
- Enhanced sociability
- A state of relaxation that can also cause “zombie-like” effects
- A sedative/opiate-like buzz with no discernable comedown
- Unusual eye movements
- Blurred vision
The risk of suffering side-effects from Gabapentin abuse increase as the person abusing the drug increases the dose. Dosage increase is extremely common in those who abuse Neurontin as the body develops a tolerance for the drug rapidly. This means that the person will need more and more of the drug at a rapid rate to recreate the high that Gabapentin initially gave them.
Physical dependence and addiction to Gabapentin can occur at an alarming rate if the drug is misused. Once physical dependence develops, the person will suffer uncomfortable and alarming withdrawal symptoms upon abrupt cessation of the drug. When the addict cannot find Neurontin to stave off withdrawal symptoms, he or she can expect to go into withdrawal within twelve hours of the last dose. They can last up to a week. There are a host of varying symptoms, and the exhaustive list follows:
- Severe anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vivid nightmares
- Extreme nausea
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
Withdrawal from Gabapentin can also cause severe mood changes in the acute stages, such as extreme, irrational anger or sadness. It can lead to suicidal ideation. Gabapentin withdrawal should be medically supervised by a professional in a medical detox facility if at all possible. Neurontin withdrawal can be dangerous due to the increased risk of seizures of the overcompensating central nervous system being in a state of shock. Seizures can be fatal. Gabapentin (Neurontin) Overdose Risk Gabapentin overdose is a serious risk since the addict will continually raise the dose while seeking the high that the drug initially created for him or her. The threshold for overdose risk is variable and can fluctuate wildly from person to person. What may have a mild effect on one person might be enough to push another person over the edge. If you or someone you know is abusing Gabapentin and you see any of the following signs of overdose, seek medical attention immediately:
- Extreme double vision
- Slurred speech
- Extreme drowsiness and sedation
- Itching of the face or mouth
- Difficulty breathing
Overdose risk significantly increases after an addict has withdrawn and relapsed, as tolerance is not what it once was. Like any substance, an overdose of Gabapentin requires immediate medical attention as it can have lasting effects on the liver, heart, lungs, and brain.
Street Value of Gabapentin and Accessibility
When bought off the street, Gabapentin is relatively cheap. This is due to it being diverted so commonly from medicine cabinets across the country by addicts seeking to mitigate withdrawals or potentiate other illicit substances. It is also easily accessed by younger children and teenagers looking to experiment with drugs. This is due to so many people having legitimate prescriptions for it because it has such a wide range of uses. This means that the price of Gabapentin is low and people can find it without much effort. Sadly, because so many people think that it is a generally safe drug, some of the more unscrupulous drug dealers will not hesitate to sell it to youth, where they might have pause with certain ‘harder’ substances like heroin or crack.
Because of the ease of accessibility and subtle, pleasant effects, the NCBI and SAMHSA both expect Neurontin abuse to continue. Gabapentin abuse statistics back evidence of this trend. When used in combination with other drugs, it is lethal.
On average, it costs about $1.00 dollar for 100 milligrams. 300 milligrams is enough to give a small, inexperienced user such a high, while 600 milligrams enough to intoxicate an adult that doesn’t have any tolerance to the drug. Once physically addicted, many users will begin to need doses of upwards of 2000 to 3000 milligrams to create the effects they desire.
Early Recovery from Gabapentin or Neurontin Addiction
Knowing the street value of gabapentin is not the only indication of a bigger issue. Know what to expect when recovering from this prescription medication.
If you or someone you know has been abusing gabapentin and become addicted, a medically supervised detox is always advised. This is due to the higher risk of seizures, even in patients who have never suffered from the previous. Gabapentin should never be abruptly discontinued if the patient has become physically addicted. A medically supervised detox will allow an experienced physician or another mental health professional to oversee a gradual reduction in dose. If at all possible, this will last over a week or so, to reduce the discomfort the patient will experience as much as can be expected. The initial withdrawal phase of Neurontin typically lasts a week if it is abruptly stopped, with some lingering symptoms carrying on for slightly longer.
Currently, there are no medications that can completely stop Neurontin withdrawal. All that can be done pharmaceutically is symptom management, with medications such as antiemetics for extreme nausea that is likely to occur. Mild sleep aids such as an over-the-counter like melatonin can help with insomnia and anxiety. If the patient is in a medically supervised detox facility, the overseeing doctor might prescribe something slightly stronger to aid with sleep if insomnia is still present after treatment with an over-the-counter.
Lasting Gabapentin Recovery
If Gabapentin abuse is stopped in time, likely the patient will not experience any lasting damage to the internal organs. The body is amazing and can recover very well from extreme abuse. If it cannot fully recover, it can learn to compensate, and the addict can still have a life full of quality. What will be key to successful gabapentin addiction treatment is finding out why the addict is abusing the medication in the first place. This typically involves a 30-day stay at a quality inhouse transitional program that is experienced in treating this type of addiction.
In rehab, clients facing the disease of addiction can begin to learn what is causing drug abuse in a comfortable, secluded setting. This safe-zone of personal exploration is designed to foster a loving environment where the client can delve deep into personal issues that may contribute to addiction. Co-occurring mental health disorders often become prevalent or are exacerbated in individuals who are misusing prescription medications like gabapentin. The healing begins internally and radiates outward in a short period of time. Of course, relapse is always a possibility, even with the best intentions. This is why after a 30-day stay at an inpatient facility, it is prudent for the client to consider the continuation of treatment. This can be done in various ways.
Types of Recovery Programs
One of the more common is the traditional, statistically-proven effectiveness of a dual diagnosis program. An individual suffering from gabapentin addiction can receive the proper therapy and care needed while being able to slowly reintegrate into society addiction-free and happy. The major types of addiction treatment options available include:
In addition, sober living houses can provide a supportive environment where recovery is the main focus. This hive-mind setting fosters a successful reintegration into a society where the addict knows he has a safe place to come home and lay his head every night, without the threat of drugs or alcohol being present.
The First Step to Neurontin Recovery
Every thousand-mile journey begins with that first step out the door. As overwhelming as addiction seems to those suffering from it, the burden will immediately begin to lift when the addict simply admits he or she needs help. Talk to a family member or trusted friend and let them know what you are suffering from. If those options aren’t available, attend a twelve-step meeting, and open your mouth. Being able to freely talk among those who understand what you are suffering through because they have been there is cathartic, and they can get you to the help that you truly need and deserve. Life is simply better when you aren’t chained to drugs. You only have one chance here; don’t waste it.
AspenRidge: Gabapentin Recovery
Unsure of whether you’re suffering from gabapentin addiction? Pain medication abuse is all too common. AspenRidge Recovery offers a free self-evaluation to answer, Am I Addicted to Pain Meds? found here.
AspenRidge understands the challenges that arise from addiction. Gabapentin use can be lethal, especially when used in combination with other substances. AspenRidge highly encourages you to engage in our self-assessment tools. Proper assessment prior to engaging in treatment is crucial and AspenRidge offers concise and accurate assessments. They take approximately 5 minutes to complete and you are then connected with a specialist who can discuss the assessment results and properly guide you through the initial steps towards recovery.