The opioid crisis has devastated many communities across the United States. It has also prompted government bodies and medical institutions to be more vigilant in preventing over prescription of opioids to patients as most pills end up being abused. With opioids becoming more difficult to acquire, users have turned to other drugs such as anti-anxiety medications (Xanax and Valium), sleeping pills, and now, gabapentin.
Gabapentin is a prescription medication that is used as a treatment for different conditions including epilepsy, restless leg syndrome, and hot flashes. As it acts as a sedative, it is also commonly used to treat pain that is related to nerve damage called neuropathy. Introduced only in 1993, it is considered as a relatively new drug that’s why further studies have yet to be done on its full range of uses and effects.
Being a non-opioid, it is widely considered as “non-addictive” that is why the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified it as an alternative to opioids for people looking for chronic pain medication. The normal prescription is no more than 1,800 to 2,400 mg of gabapentin per day. However, recent findings show that it is fast becoming one of the most popular medications in the United States and it is being abused recreationally. It even became one of the top prescribed medications nationally. In Ohio alone, it was the most prescribed medication in 2017 and it surpassed oxycodone prescription by more than nine million doses. This triggered alarm amongst medical professionals as evidence suggest that gabapentin is indeed being abused recreationally.
Gabapentin is used alone or with opioids. When used alone, it will supposedly give you a calm and euphoric feeling. The high that it provides is said to be comparable to that of marijuana, without the smell or the hassle of bringing drug paraphernalia to smoke it. This downer effect is preferred by people who want to feel relaxed or less agitated. People also use gabapentin to become less stressed so they can become more sociable. This is because the high is supposedly not as noticeable or frightening as other drugs.
Gabapentin is also used with an opioid to enhance the euphoria as well as to minimize drug withdrawal symptoms. The drug can also enable patients to get high while in recovery because it can bypass the blocking effects of drugs used in addiction treatment.
Gabapentin is not a controlled substance. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. What this means is that, while it requires a prescription, it is legal to have gabapentin on you and the DEA will not consider it as an illegal narcotic. It is also widely available and very cheap as you can get loads of pills for a small amount of cash. Some people even refill prescriptions electronically to avoid being closely monitored. These are just some reasons why gabapentin is becoming an easy and convenient alternative compared to expensive opioids sold on social media or sourcing heroin on the streets.
What many users don’t realize is that taking gabapentin recreationally can have dangerous effects and can lead to medical emergencies. Just because it is legal and cheap, many people think that the risks in taking this drug are very minimal. However, abusing gabapentin, or any other drug for that matter, can produce adverse side effects.
Gabapentin abuse could make you feel very sleepy, nauseous, and light-headed. It can also cause fainting and create coordination problems. If you’re just at home, this may not be a major problem, however, if you’re outside, it can cause you to have accidents. The drug could also produce psychedelic effects as well as turn you zombie-like which can permanently alter your brain.
Long-term use of the drug could also cause permanent organ damage, especially to the brain and its overall function. When you take more than your body can handle, gabapentin overdose could take place. However, unlike opioids, there is no instant antidote like naloxone to a gabapentin overdose that could prevent the drug from permanently damaging the brain. Any life-threatening symptoms will be addressed by doctors but this does not assure that it could undo the damage brought about by overdosing on gabapentin.
As it is also a relatively new drug, the full extent of its negative effects is still unknown. Even if it is now considered non-addictive, future studies may prove this to be false. Keep in mind that opioids were also considered as non-addictive painkillers decades back which caused many people to accidentally become addicted to opioids. Extra caution has to be exercised before taking drugs like gabapentin. Make sure that it is only legitimately prescribed by a doctor for a valid illness.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, help is available. Contact Lighthouse Treatment Center to learn more about our specialized programs.