The anticonvulsant medication Gabapentin (Neurontin) is a supplemental treatment for epileptic seizures and neuropathic pain. It is not considered a narcotic.
Gabapentin helps regulate the neurotransmitter glutamate release, which calms down excited nerve cells in the brain.
In the U.S., it has other brand names, including:
It has come under increasing scrutiny for abuse and misuse.
- Gabapentin is number 24 on the list of the 25 most prescribed medications in the United States.
- According to Forbes, Gabapentin prescriptions are up a staggering 58.38 percent since 2010.
Can you get high on Gabapentin? The answer is a qualified “YES.”
“Unfortunately, our clinical experience suggests that gabapentin is now prevalent as a drug of abuse,” writes lead author Blair H. Smith in The British Journal of General Practice.
The study, supported in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, charted a rise in the number of primary care patients that admit to misusing or abusing Gabapentin.
- The drug sometimes goes by the name “gabbies” on the street.
A growing number of emergency rooms across the country have started scanning for Gabapentin, and other drugs. In addition, patients admitted to the hospital for an overdose on unknown substances are now being checked for Gabapentin.
According to the NIH, “Gabapentin was primarily misused for recreational purposes, self-medication, or intentional self-harm and was misused alone or in combination with other substances, especially opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol. In addition, individuals with histories of drug abuse were most often involved in its misuse.”
Gabapentin is not scheduled as a controlled substance currently because it will not make you high when taken as prescribed.
Gabapentin is a Schedule V controlled substance in Kentucky, effective July 1, 2017. Kentucky is the only state currently listing Gabapentin as a controlled substance. The DEA and other states are currently investigating the addictive qualities of Gabapentin.
Healthcare professionals, law enforcement officials, and state and federal legislatures have started the debate whether Gabapentin should be a controlled substance.
Users need to significantly take large doses than the therapeutic, medically-approved maximum daily amount to get high.
This medication has shown little potential for abuse on its own. However, it is one reason that Gabapentin has stayed under the radar and remained off the federal drug schedule.
Research shows that mixed with other drugs, Gabapentin does have the potential for illicit abuse.
The effects of the drug vary from person to person. It depends on an individual’s psychiatric history, past drug usage, dosage, and several other factors.
Evidence suggests that when misused, Gabapentin can bring about some of the following:
- Relaxation and a sense of calm
- Improved sociability with others
- Marijuana-like high
- Feelings of euphoria
- Psychedelic-type experiences in much larger doses
These seemingly enjoyable side effects can turn on users. Many reports abusing Gabapentin can also lead to zombie-like states.
The effect of this drug varies widely between users.
Some recreational Gabapentin users report feeling no effects whatsoever from Gabapentin.
Others have had negative experiences such as headaches, nausea, anxiety, rashes, and trouble urinating.
If recreational Gabapentin users crush tablets and try to smoke or snort them, it doesn’t work.
Gabapentin is a tablet, capsule, or liquid. The active ingredients metabolize in the small intestine. If the drug doesn’t pass through the digestive system, it will not get into the body.
Gabapentin suppresses nerve pain, essentially calming users. Abusers take them with opioid painkillers, like oxycontin, oxycodone, or Vicodin. Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Alprazolam, are also popular with recreational gabapentin users.
- The use of Gabapentin as a cutting agent in heroin has spiked.
Misusing Gabapentin, opioids, or benzodiazepines, alone or in combination, is extremely dangerous.
As the British Journal of General Practice study reports, “Like opiates, gabapentin is fatal in overdose; unlike opiates, there is no antidote…”
In other words, Narcan used to revive patients suffering an opioid overdose will not work with a certain amount of Gabapentin.
Recreational Gabapentin users believe it is ‘safe’ because the chances of overdosing are low when compared to other drugs. Most adult medical users of Gabapentin take much less than the approved daily maximum.
It’s usually not possible to overdose on Gabapentin, although in one case, a 62-year-old woman died due to intentional ingestion of a Gabapentin.
It could be because taking high doses of Gabapentin can cause users to feel suicidal.
Mixing alcohol with Gabapentin is risky for Gabapentin users because both alcohol and Gabapentin cause sedation, loss of balance, and brain activity suppression.
Taking high doses of Gabapentin with alcohol can result in unpleasant symptoms like nausea, dizziness, skin rashes, headaches, and erratic blood sugar levels. Drinking alcohol and taking Gabapentin can also make users feel anxious, agitated and experience seizures in extreme cases.
Despite the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s approval for Gabapentin as an epileptic and neuropathic painkiller for shingles, many physicians prescribe it for other conditions.
This practice, known as an off-label prescription, is not illegal. However, it can be problematic because there’s often little to no data suggesting the drug is effective for other uses.
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Some off-label uses are for conditions such as the following:
- Bipolar disorder