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Gabapentin Withdrawal: What Are the Symptoms?

Gabapentin Withdrawal

  • Prescription medications can be addictive like illicit drugs. And with this type of addiction, the withdrawal from using them can be just as dangerous as using them in the first place without the proper medical supervision.
  • Gabapentin is a medication prescribed to treat postherpetic neuralgia, a condition that involves pain that persists after shingles, and to help treat some types of seizures.1,2
  • Gabapentin is also used off-label for various concerns, including for seizures during drug and alcohol detox.3
  • Gabapentin Withdrawal SymptomsAlso known by the brand name Neurontin, gabapentin’s specific mechanism of action is unknown.
  • It is similar to GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that impedes activity in the central nervous system, in its structure, but it does not impact the uptake, breakdown, or attachment of GABA.1,4

Potential side effects of gabapentin may include:1

Side effects of gabapentin may include:1 (Potential)

  • Drowsiness.
  • Incoordination.
  • Feeling dizzy.
  • Tremor.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Abnormal movement of the eyes.
  • Double vision.
  • Thoughts of suicide.

Gabapentin misuse does occur.5 It can be especially dangerous if the medication is mixed with opioids, as it can raise the likelihood of fatal opioid overdose.6

Combining gabapentin with any sedating drugs, like benzodiazepines, may increase the risk of depression of the central nervous system.1

Gabapentin use can lead to physical dependence. Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms may occur in an individual who abruptly discontinues the drug.5,7,8 Thus, individuals should be tapered off under medical supervision.8

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms

Dependence is when a person’s body requires a drug to function properly. Regular use of a drug can result in dependence. If the drug is suddenly stopped, in other words, if a person stops taking it “cold turkey” rather than tapering off it, withdrawal symptoms can result.9

Stopping Neurontin (gabapentin) suddenly may cause an increase in seizure activity in those who have seizure disorders.1 Other potential symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal may include:1,7

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Pain
  • Anxiousness
  • Being irritable
  • Confusion

If gabapentin needs to be stopped, a person should be tapered off of it by a medical provider.8

Gabapentin Withdrawal Duration & Severity

  • Among those experiencing withdrawal symptoms, the severity may vary from person to person. The timeline may vary widely as well. Withdrawal may begin as soon as 12 hours or as late as 7 days after stopping the drug.5
  • The more significantly dependent on gabapentin a person is, the more intense withdrawal may be.10 When withdrawal starts, how severe it is, and how long it lasts are influenced by how long a person has been using the drug and how much the person’s body has adapted to its presence.11
  • If a person struggles with a co-occurring medical and/or mental health condition, withdrawal symptoms may be more complicated.10

Pregnancy and Long-Term Treatment

  • Long-term use of medications, prescription or otherwise, while pregnant can have an impact on the fetus. Gabapentin is no exception.
  • If you believe you’re pregnant, be sure to consult a licensed physician so that they can determine an alternative for you to detox and undergo treatment in a way that is safe for both you and the baby based upon your specific needs.

Gabapentin Detox & Tapering

  • Individuals should not discontinue gabapentin on their own. They should consult their medical provider.1 In general, the medical provider should slowly decrease the amount of gabapentin the person is taking over the course of more than a week.8
  • An individual struggling with misusing gabapentin may need addiction treatment. Treatment may involve addressing underlying issues and learning techniques to manage stress and to cope with potential triggers and drug cravings.

Why Greenhouse Treatment Center?

  • Although not all of our patients require a medically-supervised detox, Greenhouse offers this helpful program that has benefited many.
  • With a licensed medical team experienced in a range of withdrawal symptoms, we manage symptoms in a safe and supervised environment 24/7.
  • Once patients complete detox, they are placed in an addiction treatment program tailored to their unique needs.

References: 

  1. Pfizer. (2017). Highlights of Prescribing Information, Neurontin.
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Postherpetic neuralgia.
  3. Mack, A. (2003). Examination of the evidence for off-label use of gabapentinJournal of Managed Care Pharmacy, 9(6), 559-568.
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2019). gamma-Aminobutyric acid.
  5. Mersfelder, T. L. & Nichols, W. H. (2016) Gabapentin: Abuse, Dependence, and Withdrawal. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 50(3), 229-33.
  6. Gomes, T., Juurlink, D. N., Antoniou, T., Mamdani, M. M., Paterson, J. M., & van den Brink, W. (2017). Gabapentin, opioids, and the risk of opioid-related death: A population-based nested case–control studyPLOS medicine14(10), e1002396.
  7. Hellwig, T. R., Hammerquist, R., & Termaat, J. (2010). Withdrawal symptoms after gabapentin discontinuationAmerican Journal of Health-System Pharmacy67(11), 910-912.
  8. Yasaei, R. & Saadabadi, A. (2019). Gabapentin. In StatPearls [Internet].
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007). 8: Definition of dependence. In The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction.
  10. World Health Organization: Western Pacific Region. (2009). Clinical guidelines for withdrawal management and treatment of drug dependence in closed settings. Geneva: World Health Organization.
  11. Miller, S. C., Fiellin, D. A., Rosenthal, R. N., & Saitz, R. (2019). The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.