What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a drug usually prescribed by doctors to patients to relieve their pain post-surgery. It affects the human’s nervous system activity by slowing it down through the GABA (inhibitor neurotransmitter) and decreasing the brain’s abnormal activities. The use of gabapentin is prescribed to treat seizures, convulsions and to relieve pain, as it changes the way body perceives pain. Due to this, this drug is also prescribed to treat restless leg syndrome and recently, to treat individual with marijuana dependence.
Lately the drug has been abused by many users due to its euphoria-inducing properties. Although there are currently limited studies proving the addictive quality of gabapentin, abuse and misuse of this drug can pose a serious threat to its users.
Signs of a Gabapentin High
Can it get you high and how much dose? Gabapentin high is a euphoric state induced by the drug which can be similar to the “high” induced by marijuana. Although individuals’ experience of this “high” differ based on their profile (psychiatric history, dosage, past experiences), the intoxication is often described as that similar to a state of tranquility and relaxation (feeling sleepy and calm). Other users also note that they become more sociable and talkative after intake of this medication. Because there are limited studies which establish a generally-acknowledged sign of gabapentin high, recreational users report the following syndrome observed in gabapentin abuse:
- Euphoria or “high state”. Due to this effect, users feel an extreme sense of happiness and excitement which also results to the next symptom;
- Giddiness and talkativeness. Because users feel extremely happy, they become giggly and more sociable;
- Relaxation can also be experienced by users because this drug induces a feeling of calmness;
- Drowsiness and unresponsiveness, where users stare off into space, often leading to the last symptom;
- Confusion, a state where users may not fully understand their surroundings
Some users find these enjoyable, however these results often include side effects, particularly if taken in high dosages. Frequent intake of gabapentin, even in the right dosage, can cause mild to dangerous side effects. As an individual continuously abuses this medication, the dangers and risks for his mental health and overall physical condition also progresses. Advanced signs of long-term and continuous gabapentin misuse are:
- Dizziness, headache and blurry vision;
- Motor coordination problems including uncontrollable eye movements and shaking of different body parts;
- Anxiety which makes users feel an overwhelming apprehension and fear, accompanied by sweating and high pulse rate;
- Problems in retaining information and memories;
- Gastrointestinal problems including dry mouth, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Heartburn where users feel an unpleasant hot sensation in the chest area;
- Metabolic issues such as unusual increase in the user’s appetite and weight gain;
- Fever and other flu-like symptoms such as cold, muscular ache in the back and pain in the ears and joints, fatigue and weakness;
- Dry and itchy eyes;
- Depression upon withdrawal
While there are no studies to support or officially pronounce gabapentin to be addictive, experts discourage users from mixing this drug with other substances as it may result in the following life-threatening situations:
- It may cause discomfort in the stomach (nausea) and cause users to vomit
- Users may also experience psychological dependence where their capacity to experience pleasure is significantly decreased and they may start to feel anxiety
- Even if it’s taken at the prescribed dosage, users may still experience drug overdose especially if it is taken with other substances
How do People Use Gabapentin Recreationally?
Due to the effects of using gabapentin, a growing number of users have started abusing this medication.
Prescribed drug or unauthorized purchase
Gabapentin is usually introduced to individuals primarily to relieve post-surgery pain. Since prescription to this drug can be easily acquired, it is relatively easier for users to acquire this drug.
Recreational users ingest it orally. Dosage of gabapentin starts at 300mg and can reach 3600mg depending on the user’s tolerance and dependency on the drug. It can also be ingested through intravenous injections and snorting, however, that method can be particularly dangerous especially if not administered under a medical supervision.
Gabapentin takes about an hour before the user starts to feel the subtle relaxing effects before it progresses intensely to the euphoric state which can last for several hours before it eventually fades.
Maintaining “high” state
When the effects of the medication start to fade, additional dosages of smaller quantity may be taken by recreational users to maintain the euphoric state, which results to users needing a larger supply of gabapentin to sustain their “euphoria” for a longer time.
The withdrawal symptoms of gabapentin usually take place in a matter of days and weeks after use. Recreational users may feel angry, agitated, and anxious and depressed which may prompt them for another dose of gabapentin to avoid the crash and withdrawal syndrome.
What are the Treatments for Gabapentin Addiction?
Recently, there has been growing increase in the misuse of the drug. Although researches and studies about the dangers of this drug are few as compared to available studies on other addictive substances, treatment for the addiction and dependence must be created given that a number of these studies detail a possibility of gabapentin addiction.
Pharmacological Treatments vs Behavioral Treatments
Currently there are no approved pharmacological treatments for gabapentin addiction. However, a feasible treatment can be found in the form of behavioral treatments. A recreational user’s dosage of gabapentin may be decreased slowly over time to avoid withdrawal syndrome. Recreational users may opt to go through counseling, which has already been proven effective in the treatment of addiction and dependence to other drugs and substances.
Types of behavioral treatments:
- Cognitive-behavior therapy
Under cognitive-behavior therapy, gabapentin-dependent recreational users are taught to avoid scenarios which are considered “triggers” for their craving for gabapentin, while guiding them towards a better response which beneficial to their health.
- Contingency management
Under contingency management, therapists make use of “rewards” such as cash prizes or vouchers, and give them to recreational users who will produce a negative drug test.
Support groups are an optional but useful way to successfully treat addiction to gabapentin. These support groups can provide activities for recreational users which they can continue even after they have successfully overcome their addiction.
Other beneficial method to overcome addiction and dependence to gabapentin include holistic treatments such as yoga, dance and art therapy, which not only help in the formal treatments, but also physically and mentally challenge the recreational users to realize a world outside of the addiction.