Is Gabapentin addictive?

My experience has been that it is.

This is a short testimony of my experience with the frequently prescribed drug known as Gabapentin. Gabapentin is prescribed for seizures and nerve pain, but it’s also prescribed for anxiety.  A common question asked by many prior to taking a medication is this: is the medication addictive or habit-forming?

What makes a medication addictive or habit-forming in the first place? I have been prescribed many different medications in the last 30 years. Some of these medications I could take and then quit taking without any consequences, while others have put me in pretty scary situations just from discontinuing a medication.

By scary situation, I mean excruciatingly painful withdrawal symptoms that will leave the strongest person cradled up in a ball in the shower. Your body goes from hot to cold to hot to cold, and your legs feel like they are getting bitten by ants.

From all of the various pills I have been prescribed, the ones that seem to be habit-forming or addictive are the kind that produce some sort of physiological “effect” or “high.” For me, any medication that has gotten me high has always had a pretty painful withdrawal phase upon discontinuing the medication. 

Obviously, some people are more prone to addiction than others, and you could say that I meet the criteria of having a highly addictive personality. You hear about opiate pain pills being addictive.

You hear about the horror of trying to get through the excruciating withdrawal from quitting opiates. However, you don’t hear about the horror of trying to get off Gabapentin, which is supposedly a “non-habit-forming medication.”

Gabapentin Is Addictive — And I’ve Experienced It

Knowing I have an addictive personality, and especially after going through the pain of getting off pain pills, you couldn’t pay me to get back on any medication of this nature. A few years ago, I suffered a pretty severe rotator cuff injury, partially tearing my labrum and causing very severe nerve damage to my shoulder joint and rotator cuff.

The doctor advised that I try Gabapentin since I was not comfortable being prescribed anything that might be habit-forming.

Gabapentin worked wonders for my nerve pain. It kinda gave me a little buzz after taking the 1,600 mg dose that I would take twice during the day, as ordered by my doctor. After taking my 3rd dose, I definitely was feeling some sort of high. I felt like I could go to the gym and work out for hours without ever getting tired or fatigued. This would evolve over time, and I started to find myself taking more than what the doctor prescribed. 

Gabapentin Withdrawal

I eventually ran out of my medication, and upon running out, I really wasn’t too concerned about having any sort of withdrawal symptoms since I wasn’t really getting the same sort of high that I might get from something like hydrocodone. Plus, this medication is “non-habit-forming,” right?

Well, let’s just say that the doctor and I were both very wrong in assuming that this would be safe for me.

After the first 20 hours of not taking my normal dose, I felt like I was coming off of alcohol and benzos at the same time. I have gone to treatment to get off both, and the symptoms I was experiencing were literally almost worse than alcohol and valium detox combined.

I found one pill that I guess I had left out of the bottle, and after taking just one, the feeling of having an elephant sitting on my chest went away, and the symptoms were definitely more manageable.

I ended up buying more Gabapentin off the street just to not be sick from not having it, and I would eventually have to go into a 6-day detox in order to get safely taper off of the medication.

Is Gabapentin addictive? In my experience, it definitely is.

Be Careful Before Taking Gabapentin

Gabapentin was one of the most difficult medications to get off of that I have ever been prescribed. It’s sad that you can’t always trust what the medical community tells you.

Hopefully, this helps you if you are currently taking this medication or if your doctor recommended it. 

DO NOT stop this medication cold turkey. You MUST taper off SLOWLY, or you will find yourself living in the midst of your worst nightmare.

Are you prescribed Gabapentin? Have you found that Gabapentin is addictive? I’d love to hear your story in the comments.

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Andrea Benson
Andrea Benson
3 years ago

I had a terribly time coming off of gabapentin after a year and a half on it. The side effects from taking it caused me so much anxiety- the brain fog was horrible, but I didn’t realize how bad it would be without it. I quit right before I went on a trip to Chile and experienced the physical withdrawal symptoms on vacation. The discomfort of being in a foreign country compounded with medication withdrawal was literal hell. Anhedonia, anxiety, sweating, constant creepy crawly feelings in my legs, restless sleep,etc. yucky.

Adam Fout
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea Benson

That’s horrible! So sorry to hear you went through that. So many of the medications that can help us are hell to get off. I hope you’re finally off.

Andrés Acosta López
Andrés Acosta López
3 years ago

I also have struggled to figure out what medications are ok and not ok to take (besides the obvious ones). It’s surprising that many doctors are still not very well versed on how psychotropic drugs affects the human brain and how other seemingly harmless drugs affect addicts differently. I was prescribed gabopentin for shingles after confidently telling my physician it was habit forming and they insisted it was not. Luckily I have a relationship with my pharmacy and the pharmacist and staff that work there are all aware that I am in recovery. I denied the gabopentin and learned a the lesson that I have to be my biggest advocate because sometimes even doctors aren’t well versed in the science or addiction. I have to be aware of how certain drugs make me feel and most importantly I have to be assertive when I advocate for myself with my health care providers.

I realized I didn’t like the feeling of gabopentin early in recovery when my psychiatrist prescribed it, along with a slew of other medications, for my anxiety. I had to wean off the drugs she swore she wouldn’t prescribe if she thought they were dangerous to me. I trust science and I trust doctors, but I also understand that I have to be the expert on identifying how I feel when I ingest medications. In early recovery I didn’t have the skills to verbalize or assert myself and I’m so glad that the 12 Steps and therapy helped me find those skills. I will always follow the medical advice of my doctor, but I will also always remember that feeling I get when I get high and I don’t want to experience that again.

Adam Fout
3 years ago

You’re absolutely right about being your own advocate. I’ve seen over and over where people who understand the truth about certain medications let themselves get talked into using it by a doctor. It rarely goes well. A doctor’s recommendation is a great excuse to use something that is supposedly not addictive if we’re not careful.

3 years ago

I’m actually prescribed gaba along with a bunch of other cocktails to control aura seizures. One supplement I had found called DL-Phenylalanine helps with all withdrawals. Personally I just recently went from a very high dosage of an opioid to almost nothing with the help of this supplement. I’m even shocked myself and having trouble believing it. I’ve been taking it for few weeks during the time I was also taking the opi and increased it when I was weaning. It really helped. I have a bunch of research somewhere i’ll be able to send you if you’re interested

Adam Fout
3 years ago
Reply to  Jewels

Yes please send it! I’m really interested to learn more about it.

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