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Your Complete Guide to Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline

by | Last updated Jul 16, 2021 at 10:16AM | Published on Dec 11, 2020 | Drug Addiction

gabapentin withdrawal symptoms

Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms, and Treatment

Gabapentin is not a controlled substance since experts believe it has little potential for abuse or dependence. Despite its legal status, gabapentin prescriptions continue to increase. Recent research points to uptake in illicit abuse. Though rare, gabapentin withdrawal symptoms can happen. Especially among those who develop a substance use disorder.

What is Gabapentin?

An anticonvulsant medication, gabapentin treats various neuropathic pain conditions:

  • Partial seizures
  • Postherpetic neuralgia
  • Restless leg syndrome

Gabapentin is available under Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant. Though gabapentin abuse is uncommon, studies have documented its misuse. Gabapentin abuse occurs with other drugs, such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms

Gabapentin’s chemical makeup makes it highly addictive. Even if someone follows their doctor’s instructions, they may develop physical dependence. Evidence shows people experience withdrawal symptoms after three weeks of taking the medication.

Withdraw from gabapentin is like alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal. Both substances act on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.

Symptoms after gabapentin discontinuation may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Pain

Some people take gabapentin to control seizures. In this case, quitting gabapentin can produce an increase in seizure activity. Withdrawal usually occurs within 12 hours to 7 days after stopping the medication. Some people noted symptoms for over 10 days.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) can continue even after six months of someone’s last dose. These come and go as waves and might require medical attention to control. The most common symptoms include:

  • Intense and persistent anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty performing complex tasks
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Seizures
  • Depression

Gabapentin Withdrawal Timeline

Most cases report experiencing symptoms between 12 hours and seven days after their last dose of gabapentin. Overall, withdrawal symptoms peaked after 48 hours. But, unlike other drugs, there’s no much documentation about the precise timeline of withdrawal symptoms. So, here’s an estimated timeline of what to expect:

  • 12 Hours to Day 1: the first withdrawal symptoms are usually agitation, confusion, and disorientation.
  • Day 3: symptoms include sweating, insomnia, and tremors. Some people complain of gastrointestinal problems too. High blood pressure and fast heart rate are often noted too.
  • Day 7: by the end of the week, most symptoms go away. But, those with co-occurring mental disorders still struggle. They can experience more intense symptoms. Suicidal ideation and seizures are common when not addressed.

Even though gabapentin withdrawal syndrome is not as recorded as other drugs, it can be pretty dangerous.

Many studies involve people with a history of psychiatric or substance abuse problems. Symptoms of bipolar disorder, psychosis, and depression may return to pretreatment levels. In this case, complications can be life-threatening. A similar scenario involves people with substance abuse problems. Their withdrawal timeline may be more complicated. Because of this, a medical detox facility or an inpatient detox facility is best for those with pre-existing conditions.

Gabapentin Abuse, Dependence, and Withdrawal

Still, there’s a lot we don’t know about gabapentin dependence. When someone develops a tolerance for a drug, they need higher doses to get the same results. Then, their body produces dependence on it, so it needs the medication to function as it used to. Unfortunately, this cycle can lead to addiction and substance use disorders.

Significant dependence is likely to develop in people who use gabapentin recreationally. It can produce a euphoric high in some users when used like this, similar to the high produced by marijuana. Because it also produces feelings of calmness and increased sociability, some people might use it to deal with social anxiety.

The likelihood of gabapentin abuse occurring is considered low due to its low addictive potential. It does, however, produce withdrawal symptoms, which is an essential aspect of physical addiction. More than a physical addiction, it’s the psychological component of the effects of the drug that become addictive. Very much like with alcohol, the calm, euphoric feelings are sought after by some users.

One study found that over 22% of participants abused gabapentin for intoxication purposes. Another police report from 2011 also found that gabapentin is increasingly being used as a cutting agent in heroin.

More commonly, people attending substance abuse clinics report abusing gabapentin without a prescription. Gabapentin enhances the effects of drugs like opioids and methadone. This is why it quickly found its way to the black market. But, gabapentin addiction is not closely monitored because this isn’t a controlled substance.

Gabapentin Addiction Treatment Options

Long-term gabapentin addiction treatment will depend on many scenarios. The presence of co-occurring mental health illness and substance abuse will determine the type of treatment. There are no protocols to manage gabapentin withdrawal, so most treatment plans are set on a case-by-case scenario.

Long-term gabapentin addiction treatment will depend on many scenarios. The presence of co-occurring mental health illness and substance abuse will determine the type of treatment. There are no protocols to manage gabapentin withdrawal, so most treatment plans are set on a case-by-case scenario.

As the drug’s mechanism of action remains somewhat unclear, withdrawal is also misunderstood. Some people need gabapentin to control a medical condition. In this case, an addiction specialist designs a plan to ensure the safe use of it.

  • Inpatient Programsa temptation-free environment that’s designed to help people in recovery. People check into a drug rehab facility, and they attend therapy sessions while remaining in a supervised environment.
  • Outpatient Programsfor those with a mild addiction, an outpatient rehab program might be an option. A flexible program allows them to maintain their daily schedules and responsibilities.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatmentwhile rare, long-time addicts might experience worse withdrawal symptoms. To prevent symptoms from getting worse, a physician might prescribe medications supervised program.

Finding Substance Abuse Treatment Near Me

Seek medical attention if you or someone you know experiences withdrawal symptoms. Though, for anyone thinking about stopping gabapentin, it is best to request an appointment to discuss it with your physician. They can assist you with the tapering process to prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Still, long-term treatment is best for anyone struggling with drug abuse. If you’ve been combining gabapentin with other drugs and alcohol, rehab is necessary. Beyond medical detox, embarking on a recovery journey with addiction treatment is best to treat your dependence.

Our drug addiction center offers personalized treatment plans to address your needs. The journey towards recovery is a long one, but together and with your family and friends’ support, we’ll make it.

Sources:

See, S., Hendriks, E. & Hsiung, L. (2011). Akathisia Induced by Gabapentin Withdrawal. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 45(6), e31.

Smith, R., Havens, J., and Walsh, S. (2016). Gabapentin misuse, abuse, and diversion: a systematic review. Addiction 111(7):1160-1174.

Hellwig, T.R., Hammerquist, R. & Termaat, J. (2010). Withdrawal symptoms after Gabapentin discontinuation. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 67(11), 910-912.

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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