Gabapentin is a kind of medication mostly used to treat seizures. Often sold under the brand name Neurontin, this drug can lead to withdrawal symptoms. What are they and how can they be treated?
Gabapentine is an anticonvulsant drug prescribed to treat seizures and neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain occurs as a result of damage or injury to the nerves that carry information to and from the brain and spinal cord.
It was first approved for use in the U.S. in 1993 and went on to become the tenth most prescribed medication by 2019. Over forty-nine million people are currently prescribed Neurontin.
It is classed under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule V drug. This means it is considered to have a relatively low potential for abuse, despite having narcotic actions.
Although gabapentin is primarily used to reduce seizure activity, is also used to help manage nerve pain as a result of shingles. This is also known as post-therapeutic neuralgia and it is characterized by long-lasting pain in the skin. Other applications include the treatment of restless leg syndrome, as well as certain sleep disorders.
There is also some evidence to suggest it can be useful as a treatment for certain symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Some studies also claim that the drug can be used to reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
Gabapentin was first devised as an analog of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid). This inhibitory neurotransmitter helps reduce overactivity in the brain and is targeted by many other drugs. Like many other anticonvulsants, gabapentin works by enhancing the function of GABA.
Typically taken orally, gabapentin comes in tablet form. The drug also has some veterinary use, in that it can also be prescribed to cats and dogs for pain relief.
it is also typical for a person's normal dose to increase over time. This is a part of many treatment plans for medical conditions, and it helps doctors find out the right amount for each individual person.
The drug was acquired in the 1990s by Pfizer, which was accused of using illegal practices in its marketing. It was found that Pfizer had encouraged physicians to prescribe gabapentin for off-label purposes, or for conditions it was not approved for. This resulted in a series of lawsuits. In the end, Pfizer was ordered to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and settlements.
Gabapentin has an elimination half-life of around five to seven hours. This is the amount of time it takes for the body to metabolize the drug down to half the original dose. The length of time any drug remains in the system is also dependent on how much was taken and the individual's body mass.
There are a number of potential side effects when using gabapentin. Some of the most common side effects are dizziness and sleepiness or extreme fatigue. Ataxia is another side effect. This is a dysfunction in the nervous system resulting in uncoordinated muscular movements. Other side effects include:
There are also some other side effects that can have serious impacts on health. While it is rarer than other side effects, evidence suggests gabapentin use can lead to an increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. This risk is even greater for people who suffer from bipolar disorder or epilepsy.
Another serious side effect is respiratory depression. This effect was even worse in people who were also prescribed or using other substances such as benzodiazepines or opioids. Some people with other preexisting respiratory issues also reported greater difficulty breathing after using gabapentin.
Gabapentin has in a short time become linked with other substance abuse problems. Many people taking gabapentin are also using other medications such as opioids. This may be because they have been prescribed both for a legitimate medical condition, or because they used it as part of a wider drug addiction.
Gabapentin is reported to produce a relaxed and euphoric high, similar to other illicit drugs such as marijuana. It is also frequently mixed with other drugs in order to increase the intensity of the high.
Some people also use it to lessen the withdrawal symptoms from alcohol abuse. The same is also true for those going through benzodiazepine withdrawal. Being relatively easy to be prescribed, as well as its narcotic-like properties can make gabapentin an attractive option for those with substance use disorders (SUD).
It has also been increasingly reported that gabapentin is being used to cut heroin to maximize its street value.
Taking a normal daily dose is safe for most people, however accidentally taking higher doses can be problematic. Some symptoms of an overdose include:
There is also evidence to suggest that gabapentin is being used more and more frequently as part of deliberate suicide attempts. A report in the National Center for Biotechnology Information showed that gabapentin was involved in nearly 3% of all deliberate overdoses recorded in Irish emergency departments.
The same study went on to demonstrate links between gabapentin and fatal overdoses (intentional or accidental) in the U.S and Australia. There is also currently no known antidote for a gabapentin overdose. This means that the treatment process must be slower and more intensive.
It does not always take an overdose for gabapentin use to lead to health problems. Some people may develop a physical dependence after taking gabapentin. This means they experience withdrawal symptoms as a result of gabapentin discontinuation. Stopping gabapentin use too quickly can have many effects on someone's physical health. For this reason, it is crucial that people using gabapentin taper off their dosage, rather than trying to go cold turkey.
Common symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal syndrome include nausea, anxiety, and confusion. In more serious cases, symptoms of gabapentin withdrawal can lead to tremors, insomnia, and a rapid heart rate. This can be very unpleasant for people and may push them towards unhealthy substance use in order to avoid adverse withdrawal effects.
Withdrawal symptoms may end up being very similar to the very symptoms the drug was first prescribed to help treat.
People looking to treat gabapentin withdrawal should seek professional medical advice or the help of addiction treatment services. An addiction treatment center will be able to create a personalized treatment program best suited to the individual.
It is important to take into account someone's medical history, personal circumstances, and any other substance abuse problems when deciding on the right treatment process.
They may start out by facilitating a gabapentin detox. A healthcare provider will help users take increasingly smaller doses of gabapentin before finally ending gabapentin administration. By managing the gabapentin withdrawal timeline, treatment facilities improve the chances of a safe and lasting recovery.
Gabapentin addiction treatment may also involve an inpatient stay at a rehab facility. Trained specialists and physicians will also be on hand to help manage the more severe withdrawal symptoms. This is especially important for people who have tried stopping gabapentin too quickly or all at once.
Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also be employed to help tackle any underlying mental health problems or addiction issues that may be contributing. Having the support of a medical professional can help manage stress and other risk factors.
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