Updated on April 4, 2024
6 min read

What is Gabapentin's Potential for Addiction?

People with chronic pain often struggle to relieve their physical discomfort. Medicines like gabapentin can help with different kinds of pain as well as some seizure problems.

Gabapentin treats various conditions, including neuropathic pain, seizures, and restless legs syndrome. Some people also use gabapentin recreationally, which can lead to the potential for addiction or abuse.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Yes. Though it’s recognized as a controlled substance in only a few states and is less addictive than opioids, gabapentin misuse can still lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

This is because the pain relief mechanism involved in taking gabapentin can cause euphoric effects. This pleasurable feeling is something people often want to replicate, which can turn into addiction when left unchecked.

Because of this, certain states already recognize it as a controlled substance—though it’s not federally recognized. As of 2022, these states include:13

  • Michigan
  • Kentucky
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota
  • Alabama

These states recognize gabapentin as a Schedule V drug. This classification is considered to have a lower potential for abuse and addiction, but there’s still a possibility.

Signs and Symptoms of Gabapentin Addiction

Gabapentin addiction can cause behavioral changes similar to those of opioid addiction. These include:12

  • Compulsive use of gabapentin despite adverse consequences
  • Experiencing cravings for gabapentin and increasing the dose without a doctor's recommendation
  • Neglecting essential activities in favor of using gabapentin, such as work, school, or familial duties
  • Inability to stop using gabapentin despite a desire to do so
  • Changing social circles to those who use or approve of using gabapentin
  • Having legal issues related to possession of gabapentin without a prescription
  • Stealing prescriptions for gabapentin
  • Trying to convince your doctor to up your dosage
  • Using gabapentin even if it’s dangerous, such as driving

If you notice these signs, get medical intervention immediately. Your doctor can help you get off the drug safely so you don’t have to suffer intense withdrawal.

What Are Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms?

The most prominent symptom of gabapentin addiction is physical dependence. This involves withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of drug use because your body has gotten so used to the presence of the drug.

Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Light sensitivity

If your withdrawal symptoms are particularly severe, we strongly advise talking to your doctor about adjusting how fast or slow you’re tapering the drug use. They can increase or decrease your dosage to keep you safe, as withdrawal can cause relapse and overdose.

Gabapentin and Its Association with Fatal Overdoses

A 2018 study of the Appalachian region of the U.S. revealed that 22% of those who died of a fatal drug overdose had gabapentin in their system.14 In that same study, gabapentin was a “contributing factor” on 40% of death certificates in Kentucky and 57% in North Carolina.

Another study found that using gabapentin with opioid treatment significantly increases the risk of opioid-related overdose and death.10 One possible explanation for this is the length of gabapentin use.

Symptoms of Gabapentin Overdose

Taking too much gabapentin in one sitting—whether or not you’ve developed an addiction—can be dangerous. Here are some overdose symptoms you can look out for:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired coordination
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Labored breathing
  • Drooping eyelids (ptosis)
  • Hypoactivity or excitation
  • Double vision
  • Marked sedation
  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Coma

If you notice anyone around you suffering from these symptoms, call 911 immediately. They will need to deploy an emergency medical response team. If you’re aware of any substance or drug abuse, let the medical team know so they can prepare accordingly.


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What are the Treatment Options for Gabapentin Addiction?

Withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone addicted to gabapentin stops taking it. These symptoms can be severe and potentially life-threatening.

It’s crucial to undergo gabapentin detox under medical supervision for safety reasons. These are the available treatment options for gabapentin addiction:

Inpatient Treatment

For a secure and effective path to quitting gabapentin, consider seeking treatment at an inpatient facility. These specialized centers provide vital medical supervision during the detoxification process.

Numerous inpatient drug abuse treatment centers are available nationwide to assist you in your journey toward recovery. They ensure your safety and well-being through these programs:


The first step of any inpatient treatment program is detoxification, which involves reducing the amount of gabapentin in your system. Doctors will typically prescribe medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms.

Medication Therapy

Certain medications, such as naltrexone and buprenorphine, can aid in reducing cravings or blocking the effects of gabapentin. A doctor must prescribe them under close supervision to ensure you use them safely.

Therapy and Counseling 

Inpatient treatment programs focus on helping you understand the underlying causes of your addiction. They will also equip you with the knowledge to manage cravings.

Healthcare professionals do these through cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, and other therapeutic modalities that address your addiction's root causes. They also help you develop healthy coping skills to replace negative behaviors like substance abuse.

Mutual Support Groups

These peer-run organizations provide a safe space for those who have gone through similar struggles. Members share their experiences and receive emotional support from others in such groups. 

These organizations, such as 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous, offer ongoing assistance even after leaving the inpatient facility. 

Aftercare Planning

At the end of your inpatient treatment program, healthcare providers will create a detailed aftercare plan for you. Aftercare planning helps guide your recovery and lower relapse risk. It can include:

  • Attending support group meetings
  • Seeing a therapist regularly
  • Engaging in other activities that promote sobriety

Additionally, these aftercare plans can provide access to resources like housing assistance and employment opportunities so you can get back on your feet.

Additional Support 

Job counseling and case management can teach budgeting, job hunting, and resume writing skills. Occupational therapy can help you do better at work or school.

These additional support services can help you gain a sense of purpose and allow for a healthier lifestyle in the long run.

Remember that getting help and treatment for addiction recovery isn’t something to feel shameful about. It’s important to acknowledge when you need help to get back on your feet.

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How to Manage Pain Without Medication

A holistic approach to pain management is ideal for people struggling with gabapentin abuse. If you can manage your pain without any potentially addictive medication, you can circumvent the possibility altogether.

Here are some ways to manage pain without medication:

  • Movement and mindfulness: Engage in regular exercise like walking, swimming, or cycling. Consider yoga or Tai Chi, which combine movement with relaxation techniques like meditation. 
  • Diet and rest: Follow an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish. Prioritize quality sleep and incorporate rest periods throughout the day to manage energy levels and pain. 
  • Mind-body connection: Practice mindfulness and meditation to focus on the present moment and reduce stress. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help address negative thoughts about pain and teach you some coping strategies. 
  • Complementary therapies and stress management: Explore acupuncture or massage therapy for pain relief and improved function. Utilize relaxation techniques like deep breathing and connect with social support systems to manage stress, often linked to chronic pain. 
  • Environmental modifications and personal well-being: Adjust your workspace and home for better posture and consider using assistive devices to reduce strain. Engage in hobbies and interests to distract from pain, boost accomplishment, and improve overall well-being.

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Updated on April 4, 2024
15 sources cited
Updated on April 4, 2024
  1. Bastiaens et al. “Abuse Of Gabapentin Is Associated With Opioid Addiction.” Springer Link, 2016.
  2. Gomes et al. “Gabapentin, opioids, and the risk of opioid-related death: a population-based nested case–control study.” PLoS Medicine, 2017.
  3. Hellwig et al. “Withdrawal symptoms after gabapentin discontinuation.” American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 2010.
  4. Kukkar et al. “Implications and mechanism of action of gabapentin in neuropathic pain.” Archives of Pharmacal Research, 2013.
  5. Mason et al. “Gabapentin Treatment For Alcohol Dependence: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014.
  6. Quintero, G.C. “Review about gabapentin misuse, interactions, contraindications and side effects.” Journal of Experimental Pharmacology, 2017.
  7. Straube et al. “Single dose oral gabapentin for established acute postoperative pain in adults.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010.
  8. Wiffen et al. “Gabapentin for chronic neuropathic pain in adults.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2017.
  9. Slavova et al. “Prevalence of gabapentin in drug overdose postmortem toxicology testing results.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2018.
  10. Gomes et al. “Gabapentin, opioids, and the risk of opioid-related death: A population-based nested case-control study.” PLoS Medicine, 2017.
  11. Anton et al. “Efficacy of Gabapentin for the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder in Patients With Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA Internal Medicine, 2020.
  12. Lennox et al. “Gabapentin misuse.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2019.
  13. Lanham et al. “Gabapentin Presents High Potential for Misuse.” Pharmacy Times, 2022.
  14. Smith et al. “A Qualitative Analysis of Gabapentin Misuse and Diversion among People who Use Drugs in Appalachian Kentucky.” Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 2019.
  15. Gabapentin.” National Health Service, 2022.

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