Gabapentin for Withdrawals

The antiepileptic drug gabapentin has recently been touted as a support for addiction treatment, both as a means of safe, comfortable detox and as a support for avoiding relapse.

This page will discuss the use of gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal, gabapentin for opioid and benzodiazepine withdrawal, how gabapentin works, and potential gabapentin side effects.

Gabapentin for Withdrawal Symptoms

In the last few years, several studies have demonstrated that gabapentin can be a helpful resource for treating substance abuse in various ways. Specifically, it is useful in treating withdrawal and maintaining abstinence in people struggling with alcohol, benzodiazepine, and opioid addiction.

A research review from Pharmacology & Pharmacy indicates that multiple studies support the use of gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal. The drug may help to moderate the discomfort of alcohol withdrawal, and it may also help to manage co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety and depression, during addiction treatment. Because these co-occurring disorders can hinder the addiction treatment process, being able to manage them is likely to provide more positive outcomes from addiction treatment, from detox through recovery.

Gabapentin is also used to help with opioid detox, as detailed in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, as well as benzodiazepine withdrawal in methadone treatment, described by the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. All of these studies indicate major improvements in symptoms when using gabapentin for opioid withdrawal when it is used in combination with other treatments, as well as in comparison to a placebo.

Side Effects of Gabapentin Use in Detox

The use of gabapentin in detox does pose certain potential risks. Some of those risks include the following.

People using gabapentin can have other uncomfortable or even severe side effects when using the drug. According to Medline Plus, these include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Headaches.
  • Joint and back pain.
  • Anxiety.
  • Tremors.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Problems with memory.

Allergic reaction is also a risk with this drug, as with any other medication. If side effects are too disruptive, it may make the detox process harder and negate any benefit that might have come with easing withdrawal symptoms.

How Gabapentin Affects the Brain

The full mechanism of gabapentin is not thoroughly understood. However, it is known to help calm brain activity by increasing certain neurochemicals in the brain, such as GABA. Originally, it was thought that gabapentin worked through this neurotransmitter system, but the medication doesn’t bind with GABA receptors in the brain, so it is not known exactly what the action of the drug is.

Mental Health Daily states some hypotheses about how the medicine works.

  • It reduces electrical stimulation in the brain by interacting with calcium channels in neurons.
  • It reduces the release of monoamines in the brain.
  • It decreases brain cell excitability in certain parts of the brain.

Any of these may be part of the action of gabapentin. Research to determine exactly how the drug works is still ongoing.

The main result of gabapentin use is a calming effect, which can help the body manage withdrawal from opioids and depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines with a drug that is considered to have much lower addiction potential.

Detox Using Gabapentin

Using gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal or during detox from other drugs can be helpful because of the medicine’s ability to reduce withdrawal symptoms. This is beneficial because the symptoms of withdrawal and the detox process present some of the most difficult aspects of substance use treatment; these symptoms and the often overpowering cravings for drug use that accompany them can make it extremely tempting for individuals to relapse into substance use.

Gabapentin for alcohol withdrawal or withdrawal from opioids and benzodiazepines can help individuals navigate this relapse risk, getting them through the difficult detox phase without returning to substance use. The individuals can then move into the therapeutic aspects of substance use treatment to make it more likely that they will achieve recovery at the end of the treatment period.

How to Stop Taking Gabapentin

Anyone wishing to cease their gabapentin use should consult with their doctor. While gabapentin addiction is rare, there is evidence that the drug can induce withdrawal symptoms when someone reduces their intake or stops taking gabapentin abruptly.

If you or a loved one struggles with substance use please call to speak to an admissions navigator. Admissions navigators can help you start treatment today, answer questions about the types of addiction treatment offered at Recovery First, and help you explore payment options, including using insurance to cover rehab costs.

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