The medication gabapentin is frequently prescribed to treat anxiety and seizures. It is also administered to people who are going through alcohol withdrawal, have restless legs syndrome, insomnia, or shingles-related nerve pain (postherpetic neuralgia).
Gabapentin is a medication that requires a prescription but is increasingly taken recreationally. As a result, addiction to this drug is growing more widespread. Users particularly enjoy the relaxing effects of the substance, which, when abused, can provide a euphoric high.
You must go through detox as the initial phase of treatment if you are addicted to this substance. You may be concerned if the procedure will cause you pain. Will it? Read on to find out more.
How does gabapentin become addictive?
In reality, gabapentin has a low risk of abuse. Even so, a growing number of individuals are abusing this substance. Because gabapentin has calming effects, many users take it to experience the soothing feelings as a “high.” Most people who are addicted to gabapentin take opioids in conjunction with it to increase the enjoyment they get from the drugs. In fact, most gabapentin users already suffer from opioid addictions.
The chemical structures of gabapentin and GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, are analogous. The brain contains the chemical GABA naturally. It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces brain and nervous system activity. As a result, after taking gabapentin, you experience increased calmness and tranquility.
However, the drug’s soothing effects have the potential to become addictive. Suppose you have a gabapentin prescription, but after a few days you don’t feel that the drug is still working. So, you decide to increase your dose in the hope of improving the effect. It may work, but this is the quickest way to become physically dependent on the drug. Your brain will grow more and more acclimatized to the drug as you cozy up to its relaxing effects.
Your cravings will eventually become so intense that you will be unable to function normally without gabapentin. If you’ve come to this point, you most probably have a full-blown addiction.
How do I know if I’m addicted to gabapentin?
Gabapentin addiction has a number of clear signs. Mostly, it manifests through changes in your behavior and lifestyle. Here are some red flags to watch out for:
- You would spend more and more money acquiring gabapentin
- Most of your time is spent taking the drug
- You hop between different doctors to get extra gabapentin prescriptions (doctor shopping)
- You present to your doctor with fake conditions to get more prescriptions for gabapentin
- You try to find ways to buy gabapentin without a prescription
- You resort to getting street versions of the drug
- You would ditch responsibilities at work, in school, or at home more often
- You distance yourself from friends and family members concerned about your drug use
- You seek isolated places when taking gabapentin
- You got involved in a crime related to drugs
- You find yourself unable to quit despite knowing the harmful effects of the drug
- You attempted to quit multiple times in the past but did not succeed
These patterns of behavior are good indicators of an addiction to gabapentin. If you find yourself acting in those ways, or if your close friends or family members notice these behaviors in you, it is time to seek help. Gabapentin detox is the first step in getting clean.
Why can’t I just stop taking gabapentin right away?
Quitting this drug is difficult once you have become addicted to it. Once you stop, withdrawal symptoms will set in. They can become so uncomfortable that your only recourse would be to take gabapentin again. This is why most attempts to quit on your own end up failing.
Here are several examples of withdrawal symptoms you may get when quitting gabapentin:
- Sensitivity to light
- Irregular heartbeat
What will gabapentin detox do for me?
The best method to stop taking gabapentin is through detox. You will receive medical assistance during this process. Doctors can respond quickly to any life-threatening situations or severe discomfort you may experience. Also, in a formal detox setting, medical equipment, medications, and other life-saving tools are always close by, so you can get treated immediately in cases of emergencies.
In detox, the process of stopping the drug is meticulously monitored. The cold turkey approach is typically not advised since it will result in severe withdrawal. Your body won’t be able to quickly adapt properly to the drug’s total absence.
Doctors will instead create a tapering regimen for you. Over the course of a few days, you will gradually cut back on your gabapentin consumption. Your body will have time to acclimatize to the decreasing concentration of the drug this way. It will be easier to deal with withdrawal symptoms if you do experience them.
If you do have severe withdrawal symptoms, doctors can give you medications. This way, your withdrawal can be put under control as you continue your detox.
What comes next after detox?
After you have completed your detox, the next stage of treatment involves behavioral therapies. Some of these include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Contingency management
- Motivational enhancement therapy
- Family therapy
- Couples therapy
- Group counseling
- Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
- Participation in support groups
Each one has its unique benefits and applications. Overall, the goal of these therapies is to address the psychological damage done by the addiction.
In therapy, you will learn lots of useful skills such as:
- Finding the root cause of your gabapentin addiction
- Healthy habits to replace drug-seeking behavior
- New hobbies or pre-occupations in place of drug use
- Healthy coping strategies for stress and negative emotions
- Techniques to avoid drug triggers
- Other skills to help you live sober
Behavioral therapies, unlike detox, take more time before good outcomes are achieved. It will take months before positive change happens in you. But at the end of it, the time and effort you spend will be well worth your while.