Can Gabapentin Make You High?

Unveiling the truth: Can gabapentin make you high? Understand the risks, impacts, and misuse concerns surrounding this medication.

Published On

July 4, 2024

Understanding Gabapentin Misuse

Gabapentin is a medication used to treat various medical conditions such as epilepsy and nerve pain. While it is not typically addictive and does not produce a high or euphoric feeling, misuse of gabapentin can lead to serious side effects and even overdose. It is important to differentiate between misuse and abuse when discussing the use of gabapentin.

Gabapentin: Not Typically Addictive

Gabapentin is not classified as a controlled substance, and it is not believed to be addictive. According to the Mayo Clinic, the medication does not generally produce a high or euphoric sensation. However, it is important to note that a small number of studies have reported instances of misuse and abuse of gabapentin, despite it not being classified as a controlled substance in most states. These studies suggest that while gabapentin itself may not be addictive, some individuals may still misuse the medication to achieve certain effects.

Misuse vs. Abuse: Differentiation

To understand gabapentin use accurately, it is essential to differentiate between misuse and abuse. Misuse refers to using the medication in a way that deviates from the prescribed instructions, such as taking higher doses or using it without a prescription. On the other hand, abuse implies using gabapentin recreationally or for non-medical purposes, often in combination with other substances.

While gabapentin is not a federally controlled drug, some states have reclassified it as a Schedule V controlled substance due to evidence of certain drug risks. For example, Kentucky, West Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, and Virginia have reclassified gabapentin as a controlled substance, highlighting the potential for misuse and abuse. Studies suggest that gabapentin holds potential for misuse, especially among individuals with specific risk factors for substance misuse [2]. It is crucial to recognize and address these risks to ensure the safe and appropriate use of gabapentin.

Understanding the distinction between misuse and abuse is essential when discussing gabapentin use. While gabapentin itself is not typically addictive and does not produce a high, it is still necessary to exercise caution and adhere to prescribed guidelines to avoid potential risks and side effects associated with its misuse.

Risks and Side Effects

When considering the use of gabapentin, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and side effects associated with this medication. Understanding these factors can help individuals make informed decisions regarding its use.

Overdose and Symptoms

While gabapentin is generally considered safe when taken as prescribed, overdoses have been reported. Symptoms of gabapentin overdose can include double vision, slurred speech, drowsiness, diarrhea, and sluggishness. It is crucial to seek immediate medical attention if an overdose is suspected.

Withdrawal and Discontinuation

Discontinuing gabapentin, especially after taking higher-than-recommended doses or for unapproved uses, can lead to withdrawal symptoms. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before stopping gabapentin to ensure a safe and gradual discontinuation plan. Abruptly stopping gabapentin can result in seizures [3].

It is vital to inform your doctor if you experience any unusual symptoms while taking gabapentin, including respiratory depression, suicidal thoughts, vision changes, or allergic reactions. Your healthcare provider can assess the situation and recommend the appropriate course of action.

Understanding the potential risks and side effects associated with gabapentin is crucial for safe and responsible use. It is essential to follow the prescribed dosage and consult with a healthcare professional for any concerns or questions regarding its usage.

Factors Influencing Misuse

When exploring the factors that contribute to the misuse of gabapentin, it's important to consider state reclassifications and prevalence rates.

State Reclassifications

Although gabapentin is not typically classified as a controlled substance at the federal level, some states have taken steps to reclassify it. For example, Kentucky, West Virginia, Michigan, Tennessee, and Virginia have reclassified gabapentin as a Schedule V controlled substance. This reclassification highlights the recognition of certain risks associated with gabapentin and aims to control its distribution and use.

These state reclassifications serve as a response to increasing reports of gabapentin misuse and abuse, despite its initial classification. By reclassifying gabapentin, these states aim to mitigate the potential for misuse and protect the public health.

Prevalence and Misuse Rates

The prevalence of gabapentin misuse in the general population has been reported to be around 1%. However, higher rates of misuse are observed among individuals with prescriptions for gabapentin and those who abuse opioids. The association between gabapentin misuse and opioid abuse suggests a potential for gabapentin to be used to enhance the effects of opioids or alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Gabapentin is relatively inexpensive and easily accessible, making it an attractive option for misuse. It can be acquired through diversion from health services and physicians, further contributing to its misuse potential. Individuals with a history of substance abuse, particularly opioid misuse, are at a higher risk for gabapentin misuse.

It's worth noting that the increasing prevalence of gabapentin prescriptions is a contributing factor to its misuse. In 2019 alone, approximately 69 million prescriptions were written for gabapentin in the United States. As of 2021, it ranked as the 6th most frequently prescribed drug in the country, with around 95% of prescriptions being for off-label uses [2].

Understanding the factors that influence gabapentin misuse is crucial for addressing the potential risks associated with this medication. By recognizing state reclassifications and monitoring prevalence rates, healthcare professionals can promote responsible prescribing practices and educate patients about the potential misuse and abuse of gabapentin.

Misuse Scenarios

Gabapentin, although not typically addictive, is increasingly being misused for various purposes. Two common scenarios of gabapentin misuse include recreational use and self-medication in combination with other substances.

Recreational Use

Gabapentin has been reported to produce effects of euphoria, improved sociability, and a marijuana-like 'high' in some individuals. These experiences can contribute to its misuse for recreational purposes. However, it is important to note that not all experiences with gabapentin are positive, as some users may describe negative effects like feeling 'zombie-like'.

Self-Medication and Combinations

Another common misuse scenario involves individuals self-medicating with gabapentin and combining it with other substances. Gabapentin may be misused to self-treat conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, pain, and substance withdrawal. This can occur when individuals seek relief from their symptoms without proper medical guidance or supervision.

Furthermore, gabapentin is often misused in combination with other substances, particularly opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol. This polydrug misuse can intensify the euphoric effects of both gabapentin and the other substances, posing additional risks to the individual's health and well-being.

Gabapentin misuse, including these scenarios, has been reported in various studies, with prevalence ranging from 1.1% to 19%. It is important to note that the effects of gabapentin can vary among individuals based on factors such as dosage, past experiences, psychiatric history, and expectations. Understanding the misuse scenarios can help raise awareness about the potential risks associated with gabapentin misuse and the importance of using the medication as prescribed by a healthcare professional.

Misuse Impact and Concerns

Health Risks and Effects

Misusing gabapentin can have significant health risks and adverse effects on individuals. According to studies, gabapentin misuse has been associated with various side effects, including teratogenicity, hypoventilation, respiratory failure, deficits in visual field, myopathy, self-harm behavior, suicidal behavior, mitochondrial toxicity, somnolence, dizziness, and asthenia. These risks highlight the importance of using gabapentin only as prescribed by a healthcare professional and avoiding misuse.

Prescription Trends and Abuses

Gabapentin has seen a surge in prescriptions in recent years. In 2019 alone, approximately 69 million prescriptions were written for gabapentin in the United States, making it the 6th most frequently prescribed drug in the country. However, it's worth noting that roughly 95% of all gabapentin prescriptions are for off-label uses, meaning they are not FDA-approved.

Despite not being a federally controlled substance, gabapentin misuse has become a concern. Reports of widespread diversion, non-medical misuse, and misuse in combination with other substances have emerged [2]. Individuals may misuse gabapentin to intensify the effects of other substances, such as opioids, or to self-treat conditions like insomnia, anxiety, pain, and substance withdrawal. The misuse of gabapentin in such scenarios can lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms [2].

It's important to recognize that while some states have classified gabapentin as a Schedule V controlled substance due to evidence of certain risks, it is not federally controlled. However, studies suggest that gabapentin holds potential for misuse, particularly among individuals with specific risk factors for substance misuse. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of the potential risks and use gabapentin responsibly under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Misusing gabapentin not only poses health risks but also raises concerns about the misuse of prescription medications in general. It is essential to promote proper education, awareness, and responsible use of medications to mitigate the potential for misuse and its associated consequences.

References

[1]: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/21561-gabapentin

[2]: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/neurontin-abuse

[3]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/gabapentin-oral-route/side-effects/drg-20064011?p=1

[4]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5573873/

[5]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404313/

[6]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308580/

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