Gabapentin for Withdrawal: Does It Help?

In recent years, gabapentin has been considered an emerging treatment for withdrawal symptoms during the medical detoxification process of substance use treatment.1 This article will explain what gabapentin is, what it is typically prescribed for, and if gabapentin can help during the withdrawal process.

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is used to prevent or control seizures as well as to treat pain from nerves damaged as a result of shingles. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1993.2

Although it is not known precisely how gabapentin works, it is structurally similar to GABA—gamma-aminobutyric acid—the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the body.2

Gabapentin may be prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, including both its FDA-approved uses and numerous off-label uses as well.3

What Is Gabapentin Typically Prescribed For?

Gabapentin is currently FDA-approved to treat:2

  • Postherpetic neuralgia—a type of nerve pain that may occur after a person heals from shingles.
  • Partial onset seizures in adults and children over the age of 3 who have been diagnosed with epilepsy. Gabapentin is prescribed as adjunctive therapy alongside the main medications in this case.

In addition to its on-label uses, gabapentin is known to be frequently prescribed off-label—which means for uses other than what it is FDA-approved to treat. It’s estimated that up to 95% of gabapentin prescriptions are for off-label indications.3

Side Effects of Gabapentin

Some people may experience side effects when using gabapentin. The most common side effects reported include:2

  • Feeling tired or drowsy.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fever.
  • Viral infection.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Jerky movements.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Double vision.
  • Unusual eye movement.
  • Tremor.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Swelling, usually of the feet and legs.

Does Gabapentin Help With Withdrawal?

Gabapentin has been found to help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including easing alcohol cravings, as well as reducing alcohol consumption and maintaining abstinence after withdrawal.4,5,6 Using gabapentin for withdrawal constitutes one example of off-label use of the drug.4

The American Society of Addiction Medicine Clinical Practice Guideline on Alcohol Withdrawal Management lists gabapentin as a pharmacotherapy option for use in certain circumstances during alcohol withdrawal.6

As with other medications for addiction treatment, it is important that each person’s individual needs be evaluated throughout withdrawal so alcohol addiction treatment can be adjusted as necessary.6

A 2020 clinical trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examining gabapentin’s use for alcohol withdrawal treatment also found it effective in preventing relapse to heavy drinking in those with a history of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.7

Is Gabapentin Used During Medical Detox?

As with other medications used during medical detox, whether gabapentin will be prescribed depends on a person’s individual treatment needs. It will only be prescribed if your medical care team determines it is appropriate.11

The purpose of medical detox is to help you safely discontinue alcohol or drugs and alleviate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.11 At Recovery First, each patient receives personalized treatment to ensure they receive the right level of care. Gabapentin may be prescribed to ease withdrawal symptoms as a part of someone’s comprehensive, customized treatment plan.

In addition to supporting a safe and comfortable withdrawal, detox also prepares patients for continued addiction treatment. Many people transition to residential care or outpatient programming after medical detox.11

Alcohol & Drug Detox in Florida

If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, there are effective alcohol and drug detox options available in Florida. Recovery First Treatment Center is an alcohol and drug rehab near Miami that provides several levels of addiction treatment, including:

  • Medical detox.
  • Inpatient or residential treatment.
  • Outpatient programs.
  • Specialized programs, such as a Veterans rehab program designed specifically for former service members.

For more information about Recovery First, reach out to a caring admissions navigator at . You can learn more about our treatment center and the various ways to pay for rehab—including using your insurance benefits.

Our team can help you verify your insurance coverage for rehab quickly and easily over the phone or you can instantly .

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