Our thanks to Ashwood Recovery who originally posted this article.
By now, most of us have heard the word – opioids are a major problem in the United States. Millions are addicted to opiates like heroin, Codeine, and Morphine and synthetic opioid medications like Oxycodone, Fentanyl, and Hydrocodone. Opioid addiction causes devastation and destruction to all those who come into contact with it and it brings death to more than 33,000 people every year.
With Opioid Addiction On The Rise, The World Of Modern Medicine Is Turning To Gabapentin
With opioid drugs delivering such a crushing and deadly blow to Americans of all ages, colors, and socioeconomic backgrounds, doctors have been scrambling to find a safe alternative to these powerful narcotic painkillers for treating pain. What have they come up with? An anti-seizure medication called Gabapentin.
Gabapentin is not only prescribed for pain relief, however. It is also offered by doctors as the solution for several other conditions. As a result, many people are taking opioids for pain relief and Gabapentin for other medical conditions. Furthermore, because of its calming effect, many people are taking Gabapentin recreationally and mixing it with opioids.
Studies have recently shown that taking opioids and Gabapentin could be a deadly combination. We want to educate you on the subject.
Are You Mixing Gabapentin and Opioids? If You Are, You’re Playing a Risky Game of Russian Roulette
In this blog, we will talk to you about the growing popularity of “gabbies” and the dangers of opioids, but first we want to discuss the risk you are taking if decide to combine the two.
Some people take Gabapentin and opioids because they have been prescribed both medications by a doctor. Others mix these two substances because Gabapentin is said to enhance the high opioids create. And some don’t know they are mixing the two.
Law enforcement officials have reported that more and more confiscated street heroin is testing positive for Gabapentin. Heroin dealers are using Gabapentin to cut heroin to make their stash go further and amplify the effect of the drug.
Whatever category you may fall into, if you’re mixing Gabapentin and opioids, you’re gambling with your life. If you haven’t tried Gabapentin and opioids – don’t. We are convinced this is a lethal concoction.
Mixing Gabapentin and Opioids – It’s A Killer Combination
Opioids alone are deadly. Did you know that 1 in every 550 chronic opioid users dies within the first three years of being prescribed opioids? This is shocking. We will talk more about the dangerous of opioids later in this blog, but we wanted to point out now that taking opioids by themselves is risky business.
When you take opioids with Gabapentin, you are greatly increasing your risk of overdose or death. A recent Canadian-based study revealed that of 1,256 cases of opioid related deaths and 4,619 opioid related overdoses, 12.3 percent of the death cases (155 of 1,256) and 6.8 percent of the overdose cases (313 of 4,619) were prescribed Gabapentin in the prior 120 days to the overdose event.
What can we conclude from these findings? We aren’t scientists and we certainly don’t want to bog you down with a bunch of scientific data, but this study indicates there is a correlation. We’ll break it down in the simplest of terms. When Gabapentin and opioids are mixed together, bad things happen.
The study went on to suggest that both Gabapentin and opioids suppress breathing, which can be fatal. Additionally, the study concluded, that “the use of Gabapentin with opioids can increase the amount of opioid absorbed by the body, potentially leading to higher risk.”
Our educated conclusion? DO NOT MIX GABAPENTIN WITH OPIOIDS!
What is Gabapentin? What Is It Used For? Is it Really a Miracle Cure?
Gabapentin– also known by its generic name Neurontin, which we will use interchangeably in this article – is a tablet medication that was introduced in 1993 and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of epilepsy. In 2004, the FDA approved the medication for the treatment of neuropathic pain. Since then, it has gotten a reputation as a cure-all.
In recent years, Gabapentin (referred to on the street as “gabbies”) has been prescribed by doctors for “off-label” uses that have not been approved by the FDA. It is now being called a “wonder drug” or “miracle medication” by many who swear by the stuff for the treatment of many very different medical problems.
In addition to being prescribed for epilepsy and neuropathic pain, Neurontin is also being used to treat chronic and mild to moderate pain, migraine headaches, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, opioid withdrawal, alcohol withdrawal, Restless Leg Syndrome, and several other medical conditions. Because it is such a diverse medication, Gabapentin prescriptions are on the rise. According to GoodRx, Neurontin is the seventh most frequently prescribed medication in the country.
How could one medication possibly be prescribed for so many very different diagnoses? Is it possible that the same drug could provide pain relief and treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder? Let’s do some investigating.
A Crash Course On How Neurontin Works On The Brain
We don’t want to get too scientific on you, but we do want you to have a basic understanding of how Gabapentin works. This way, you can better conceptualize why the medication is prescribed to treat such a wide variety of conditions.
Neurontin works on the brain and the central nervous system by stabilizing electrical activity in the brain and affecting how the nervous system sends messages to the rest of the body.
Scientists are still studying Gabapentin and trying to learn more about how this medication works, but they do know it has a calming effect on the body.
What we do know is that Neurontin appears to increase the production of a neurotransmitter called “GABA,” which acts as a nerve-calming agent. It also appears to reduce the release of glutamate, which is a nerve-exciting agent that causes electrical signals to build up in the brain.
By working to increase the calming agent GABA, and reducing the nerve-exciting agent glutamate; Gabapentin can stabilize nerve activity in the brain and keep a proper balance in the body. In theory, this explains why Neurontin is capable of lessening seizure activity, decreasing pain, stabilizing mood disorders, and decreasing withdrawal symptoms.
Gabapentin Side Effects
Although Gabapentin is being prescribed for a wide variety of conditions and, we admit, does show promise for being a type of cure-all (or at least “cure-many”) medication, it is no miracle drug. If it were, it would be without side effects. But, just like any medication on today’s market, Neurontin does have side effects.
Here are a few of the most common side effects you can expect with Gabapentin:
DizzinessDrowsinessUnsteadiness on your feetMemory lossLack of coordinationDifficulty speakingViral infectionsTremorsDouble visionFeverUnusual eye movementsJerky movements
You should call your doctor immediately if you have any of these side effects:
Increased seizuresFeverSwollen glandsBody achesFlu-like symptomsSkin rashEasy bruising or bleedingSevere tingling, numbness, pain, or muscle weakness, Upper stomach pain, Loss of appetite, Dark urine, urinating less than usual or not at all, Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), Chest pain, irregular heart rhythm, feeling short of breath, Confusion, Nausea or vomiting, Swelling, Rapid weight gain, New or worsening cough, Trouble breathing, Rapid back and forth movement of your eyes.
If you are considering taking Gabapentin for any of the conditions we mentioned earlier – or for any other reason – talk to your doctor to determine if the benefit for taking the medication outweighs the potential risk of side effects.
There Aren’t A Lot of Statistics Available, But We Know Gabapentin Abuse Continues To Increase
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the misuse of prescription drugs is a major problem in the United States. An estimated 54 million Americans over the age of 12 reportedly take prescription medications for non-medical reasons every year.
We know a lot about people abusing opioid and opiate medications, but until recently, we didn’t hear much about people abusing Gabapentin. This is largely because Neurontin doesn’t cause the level of addiction and the same devastating consequences we see with medications like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Morphine. Plus, fewer people have heard about Gabapentin so it isn’t as popular as opioids.
There still aren’t a lot of specific statistics available about Neurontin abuse. Nevertheless, we do know that more and more people are abusing Gabapentin because of its calming effects. Law enforcement officials are reporting that they are confiscating significant quantities of gabbies on the streets.
Plus, treatment centers are gathering data that suggests hundreds of thousands of people are illegally using the medication. As a result, the drug is continuing to make headlines around the country and people are becoming more aware of Neurontin abuse.
The Gabapentin High – Why This Drug Is Gaining Popularity For Recreational Use
Those who use Gabapentin recreationally say they use the drug because it makes them feel relaxed, calm, and chilled out. This is not surprising because – as we explained – Neurontin functions as a calming agent that quiets the nerves and sedates the body. Many say the medication produces an effect like that of marijuana.
One reason Gabapentin is becoming so popular on the streets is because the medication is incredibly inexpensive. With a one-month supply costing about twenty dollars, one pill of Neurontin costs about sixty cents and is sold on the street for two to five dollars a pill. When you consider that Oxycodone costs anywhere from twenty to forty dollars a pill on the black market, gabbies are a cost-effective alternative.
Another reason why gabbies are becoming more prevalent is because they are safer than opioids and benzodiazepines like Xanax or Valium. They are less addictive and do not pose the threat of overdose like hardcore painkillers or tranquilizers.
Gabbies are also becoming a common recreational drug because they are not currently classified as a controlled substance. This means two things. One: if you are caught with them in your possession without a prescription, you won’t be charged with a felony. Two: you can take Gabapentin and still pass a drug test unless you are specifically tested for the medication.
Although It Isn’t Classified As An Addictive Substance, Neurontin Is Habit-Forming
Addiction experts report that the risk for Gabapentin addiction is low because the medication does not contain addictive properties like those found in opioids or benzodiazepines. The brain simply does not respond to Neurontin the way it does to narcotic medications like Codeine, Percocet, or Ativan. However; this is powerful stuff. Despite what you may have heard, it is habit-forming. You should be warned that Gabapentin is nothing to fool around with.
Those who take gabbies for fun or mix them with opioids can develop a dependence on the medication and quickly begin to abuse the stuff. While Gabapentin does not demonstrate a high likelihood for physical dependence, it has proven to be psychologically addictive for those who take it regularly.
Because so many people think of Neurontin as being safer than opioids, they tend to downplay the dangers of this medication. The thought process goes something like this, “Well, at least it’s not Oxycodone! Sure, why not?! I’ll have another!” This is wrong thinking. You can become hooked on Gabapentin – and we want to caution you, it’s an addiction that sneaks up on you.
Make no mistake about it: you should stay away from any drug that causes withdrawal symptoms unless you absolutely need it. And, yes. Neurontin causes withdrawal.
Withdrawal – A Very Real (And Very Uncomfortable) Consequence of Gabapentin Abuse
People who abuse Gabapentin are typically under the mistaken belief that because it is not an opioid, they can just quit taking the stuff and go on with their life. This is simply not true. If you have been taking Neurontin on a regular basis, and you stop taking it, there will be hell to pay. It’s called withdrawal.
Withdrawal, also known as detox, is what happens when your body has become used to processing a powerful substance and you take that substance away. It is very disquieting, uncomfortable, and painful.
If you consume mass quantities of sugar and suddenly stop eating sugar, you will go through sugar withdrawal. If you are addicted to cocaine and stop using it, you will go through opioid withdrawal. Are you a smoker? Put down the cigarettes and see what happens. The same is true of Gabapentin. If you are taking this medication regularly and you suddenly remove it from your body, you will go through the unpleasant experience of withdrawal.
Here are some of the withdrawal symptoms you should expect if you stop taking Gabapentin:
Anxiety, Insomnia, Nausea, Vomiting, Sweating, Loss of appetite, Uncontrollable crying, An increased response to pain, Headaches, Fatigue, Irritability, Restlessness, Seizures.
Post-acute withdrawal from Gabapentin lasts from one to two weeks. However; it can take your body up to two months before it restores to a real place of wellness after abusing this medication.
Both pregabalin and gabapentin are antiepileptic medications that bare structural resemblance to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Please see our related article on pregabalin.