Begin with an overview of gabapentin, including its uses and its potential for causing opioid withdrawal. Set the tone for the rest of the article which will discuss the specifics of gabapentin opioid withdrawal, including its timeline and side effects.
Gabapentin is a medication that has many brand names, including Fuse Paq, Fanatrex, Gabarone, Gralise, Horizant, and Neurontin. It is a medication prescribed to help treat epilepsy, as it can be used to control seizures, and it is also FDA-approved to be given to people who have ongoing nerve pain due to shingles and to treat restless leg syndrome.
As for other unconventional uses for Gabapentin, opioid withdrawal and diabetic neuropathy are two of the most common off-label uses. This medication is a pain reliever and is used off-label approximately 95% of the time.
Gabapentin is not considered a controlled substance by the federal government, but some states have classified this medication as a Schedule V controlled substance, along with products that have less than 200mg of codeine. Although risks are lower than other drugs, this medication can cause physical and mental dependence, especially if misused.
Gabapentin and Its Role in Opioid Withdrawal
For people who are provided with Gabapentin for opioid withdrawal, it was shown to reduce some pain and other discomfort, but it is not often prescribed in conjunction with opioids in any way due to the risk of respiratory depression.
Around 1% of patients in the US will misuse Gabapentin, which can be especially dangerous if used alongside opioid drugs, as it can amplify their effects, including respiratory sedation. Because of this effect, in 2019 and 2020, Gabapentin was linked to nearly 10% of overdose deaths in which opioids were the cause of death.
Recognizing Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms
Common Gabapentin withdrawal side effects include anxiety, difficulty falling asleep or insomnia, nausea, pain, light sensitivity, headaches, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, and excessive sweating. If you were taking the medication to treat a seizure disorder, you may also notice an increase in seizure activity. These side effects are more pronounced if you quit using Gabapentin suddenly.
Timeline of the Gabapentin Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms from Gabapentin can begin within 12 hours, or they can start up to 7 days after stopping the medication and may last for up to 10 days. The Gabapentin withdrawal timeline depends on how long you were using the medication, and whether you were taking more than prescribed. To avoid this discomfort and pain, a slow tapering-off supervised by your doctor is always recommended over quitting cold turkey.
How Long Does Gabapentin Withdrawal Last?
You can expect Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms to last for approximately ten days total, although each person is an individual who will experience withdrawal symptoms differently. Withdrawal has been documented in individuals who took daily doses of this medication between 400 mg to 8000 mg, for at least 3 weeks. Some factors that might affect the withdrawal timeline include:
- How long have you were using Gabapentin
- Whether you were using this medication with other drugs
- Your age
- The dosage of Gabapentin you were prescribed
- If you have other medical or mental health problems
- Whether you were abusing Gabapentin recreationally
- Whether you were taking it as prescribed or not
Dealing with the Side Effects of Gabapentin Withdrawal
If you are worried about potentially suffering withdrawal symptoms from Gabapentin, speak to your doctor about it. The simplest solution is to taper off your use on a doctor-prescribed schedule, under close medical monitoring.
You can also check into a detox facility if you want to quit Gabapentin in a safe, supervised, and encouraging environment. This may be the best option if you have a substance use disorder, are using other drugs, or have a co-occurring mental health condition. It is also a good idea if you do not live in an encouraging or sober-friendly place, or if you have tried to quit before but were not successful.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is gabapentin and why does it cause withdrawal?
Gabapentin is a prescription medication that makes small chemical changes within the brain to help an individual deal with nerve pain and prevent seizures. Over time, the body becomes accustomed to having the substance in its system and cannot function normally without the medication. This is what is known as a physical dependence. When the medication is taken away suddenly, the body produces withdrawal symptoms as it struggles to compensate for the missing chemicals within the brain.
What are the typical symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal?
Typical Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms are similar to benzodiazepine and alcohol withdrawal, like:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sensitivity to light
- Seizures in some cases
How long can withdrawal from gabapentin last?
Generally speaking, Gabapentin withdrawal usually lasts around ten days, but every person is unique in their experience. For some, it may only last a few days, and for others, it could be two weeks or longer, especially if other substances were also being used simultaneously.
Are there factors that can influence the duration of gabapentin withdrawal?
Yes, if a person is an older adult, has co-occurring mental or physical health issues, has been abusing other drugs, or has been taking a larger dose than they were prescribed, their withdrawal may be more severe or last longer.
How can I manage the side effects of gabapentin withdrawal?
Medical detox is the safest way to manage Gabapentin withdrawal. You may be prescribed smaller doses of the medication to help the body slowly taper down the use of the medication to reduce the shock that removing it altogether can cause to the system. Quitting Gabapentin should never be done without a doctor’s supervision, as seizures can occur, even if you have never had a seizure before.
What does a typical gabapentin withdrawal timeline look like?
Gabapentin withdrawal typically only lasts for a week to ten days, but this timeline can vary depending on how much you were taking, how long you were using the medication, whether you were using it as prescribed, your age, and whether you were using other substances at the same time. It may also be affected by your physical and mental health.
Are certain individuals more susceptible to gabapentin withdrawal?
Those who were misusing Gabapentin, taking more than they were prescribed, using it more often than the doctor told them to, or using it recreationally, with or without other drugs, will be more likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms than those who were taking the medication as prescribed, short-term.
Also, people who were using Gabapentin to stop their seizures, and then suddenly stop the medication may also experience a rebound of seizure issues, or even an increase in frequency that can be dangerous and even deadly. It is always a good idea to talk to a doctor before stopping Gabapentin use.
When should I seek medical attention during gabapentin withdrawal?
If you begin to notice signs of withdrawal after stopping Gabapentin use, including feelings of anxiety, insomnia, fast heartbeat, pain, or agitation, it is a good idea to speak to your doctor right away, so that the withdrawal symptoms don’t escalate to a dangerous level.
If you are considering quitting Gabapentin use, you can call WhiteSands at 877-640-7820 for recovery guidance. Our experts are standing by and can help you decide what the best course of action will be for your unique case. Don’t quit Gabapentin cold turkey without speaking to a medical expert, it could be dangerous to your health.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.