In This Article
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsive medication. It was first discovered in the 1970s, but it didn’t receive FDA approval until 1993 or become generically available until 2004.4
Gabapentin was originally used as a muscle relaxer and anti-spasmodic treatment. Now, it’s often prescribed to treat epilepsy and nerve pain.5
Gabapentin has the FDA stamp of approval as a treatment for the following:4
- Postherpetic neuralgia (pain that follows shingles)
- Adjunctive therapy for partial seizures in some people with epilepsy
- Moderate to severe restless leg syndrome (RLS)
For epilepsy, gabapentin can help to stop seizures. It works by reducing the brain’s abnormal electrical activity.5
For nerve pain, gabapentin can help reduce pain. It works by blocking messages from the brain that travel down the spine.5
Common brand names of gabapentin include:3
Gabapentin comes in pill, tablet, or liquid form. Each capsule contains 100 mg, 300 mg, or 400 mg of gabapentin. One tablet contains either 600 mg or 800 mg.5 The liquid form comes in 50 mg per ml.
The typical prescription of gabapentin for epilepsy is about three doses of 900 mg to 3,600 mg per day. For nerve pain, the dose typically starts at 300 mg per day and then is increased. Your healthcare provider will prescribe the best dose of gabapentin for you. It may take a few weeks to work.5
While gabapentin can effectively treat epilepsy and nerve pain, it’s not for everyone. You shouldn’t take gabapentin if you’re allergic to it, pregnant, or are trying to get pregnant.
Gabapentin can also be addictive. If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, talk to your doctor about alternative treatment options.
Taking a higher dose of gabapentin than what your doctor prescribes is dangerous. Taking gabapentin more frequently than what your doctor prescribes is also unsafe.
Does Gabapentin Get You High?
Gabapentin is a pain reliever. It functions like a mild tranquilizer.
Because gabapentin can help you feel better, it might cause feelings of calmness and euphoria. It may feel like a gabapentin high. Some users say the drug produces a high that’s similar to a cannabis high.
Gabapentin may also boost the euphoric effects of other legal and illegal drugs.
Side Effects of Gabapentin
Not everyone with a gabapentin prescription experiences side effects. However, like all medications, unpleasant side effects are possible.
Here are some of the most common side effects of gabapentin:5
- Feeling tired
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Mood disorders
- Memory problems
- Weight gain
- Swollen arms or legs
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Erectile dysfunction
Some people who take gabapentin have very serious side effects. If you experience any of the following severe side effects, call your doctor immediately:5
- A severely high temperature
- Persistent swollen glands
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Unexplained bruising or bleeding
- Unexplained muscle pain or weakness
- Serious exhaustion
- Suicidal thoughts
A small number of people who have taken gabapentin have experienced thoughts of harming or killing themselves. This can happen within only a week of treatment.5
Some people who take gabapentin also become addicted. If you notice any of the following signs of addiction, call your doctor to talk about safely stopping the medication:
- Cravings for the medication
- Taking the medication more often than prescribed
- Taking higher doses of the medication than prescribed
- A tendency to misuse gabapentin in any way
- Using gabapentin to treat multiple ailments (other than nerve pain or seizures)
Risks of Abuse and Addiction
Almost half of the population (48.6 percent of people) use at least one prescription drug.2 Not everyone who takes prescription drugs abuses them or becomes addicted, but it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse.
More than 9 million people, 12 years old and up, reported misusing prescription pain relievers in the past 12 months.9
Gabapentin isn’t currently considered a narcotic. It’s also not considered a controlled substance. But, gabapentin can cause addiction. This is especially true if you have a personal or family history of drug abuse or alcohol abuse.
Cutting back on or stopping your intake altogether can be risky. You may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:6
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- More frequent seizures (if you’re taking the medication to treat seizures)
- Feelings of a physical dependence on the drug
If you start abusing gabapentin or have become addicted to it, talk to your doctor about a plan to slowly and safely stop. Treating addiction alone isn’t only difficult; it’s dangerous.
If you’re worried about addiction, seek professional help immediately. Addiction can become deadly if left untreated. It can cause a number of health problems and lead to overdose.
Overdose Risks and Symptoms
If you or someone you know is taking higher or more doses of gabapentin than prescribed, there is a risk of overdosing.
Look out for the following symptoms of a gabapentin overdose:
- Slurred speech
- Double vision
- Trouble breathing
If you or someone you know has been prescribed gabapentin and overdosed, contact emergency medical help immediately.
Treatment Options for Gabapentin Abuse
You don’t need to set out on the recovery journey alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with gabapentin abuse, help is available.
Talk to your doctor about what treatment options are right for you:1
- Individual or family therapy
- Inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation centers
- Abuse and addiction support groups
- Holistic therapies
Your doctor can also discuss alternative treatment options for central nervous system pain and seizures.
Substance abuse treatment can help you not only safely stop using gabapentin, but it can also help you stay drug-free.8
Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
- “Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 26 Oct. 2017.
- “FASTSTATS - Therapeutic Drug Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Oct. 2021.
- “Gabapentin (Oral Route) Description and Brand Names.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Mar. 2022.
- “Gabapentin.” StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf.
- “Gabapentin.” NHS Choices, NHS.
- “Gabapentin: Medlineplus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- “Prescription Drug Abuse.” National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- “Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction Drugfacts.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26 Mar. 2022.
- “What Is the Scope of Prescription Drug Misuse in the United States?” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26 Jan. 2022.