Last Updated on June 4, 2024 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Some people have never even heard of the drug gabapentin, but gabapentin abuse is more common than many might think. Although this drug, also known by its brand name, Neurontin, is an anticonvulsant and sedative medication prescribed for several medical issues, including pain, seizure disorders, and mental health concerns, it is often misused by people who use opioids to intensify opioid euphoric effects. Is gabapentin addictive? It can be when misused in this manner. Read on to learn more about it. 

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin, sold under Neurontin, is a medication primarily used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain. It is also an adjunctive treatment for partial seizures in adults and children. Gabapentin is recommended as one of the first-line treatments for managing neuropathic pain caused by diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, and central neuropathic pain.

Gabapentin works by calming down nerve activity in the brain and nervous system. It is an analog of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), but interestingly, it does not bind to the GABA receptors in the brain. Instead, it blocks the alpha2delta (α2δ) subunit of voltage-dependent calcium channels in neurons.

Gabapentin is not classified as a controlled substance at the federal level in the United States. However, several states have implemented controls on it due to concerns about misuse. For instance, Kentucky has classified gabapentin as a Schedule V controlled substance, and other states require reporting to prescription drug monitoring programs.

Despite the potential for misuse, it is essential to note that gabapentin is safe and effective for many patients when used as directed by a healthcare professional. Patients should never adjust or discontinue their medication regimen without consulting their healthcare provider, as abrupt cessation can lead to withdrawal symptoms.

It’s also essential to point out that gabapentin is primarily metabolized through the kidneys, and thus, dosage may need to be adjusted in patients with kidney disease. Common gabapentin side effects can include dizziness, fatigue, and drowsiness, and its use should be carefully monitored in patients with a history of depression or suicidal thoughts.

Currently, it is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States, pointing to its wide-ranging uses and overall efficacy. Yet, this high prescription rate also highlights the need for careful management and awareness of the drug’s potential for misuse or dependency.

What is the drug used for?

Gabapentin is FDA-approved for numerous conditions, but it is also often prescribed for conditions for which it is not approved.  The FDA recommends gabapentin for seizures and for the nerve pain that many people experience after having shingles. However, doctors also prescribe it for sleep disorders, sciatica, fibromyalgia, headaches including migraines, restless leg syndrome, perimenopausal hot flashes, mood disorders, and PTSD. It’s sometimes a medication for anxiety and insomnia, too. It’s no wonder it has become one of the most prescribed drugs in the country.

Street names

Many people who misuse gabapentin call it by its actual name or by one of its brand names. However, there are a few street names as well – most commonly, this drug is called “gabbies” or “johnnies” by people who use it recreationally. 

Why Do People Get Addicted to Gabapentin

Gabapentin, while less addictive than opioids, can lead to physical dependency if used over extended periods or in high doses. Although it isn’t an opioid, it can provide a similar feeling of euphoria or a calming “high” effect, particularly when taken in large doses. This sensation can lead to drug misuse or abuse, especially among individuals with a history of drug addiction.

The mechanism of action of gabapentin is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve GABA-mimetic activity, which can have calming and mood-stabilizing effects. These effects might make it appealing to some people seeking to self-medicate for problems such as anxiety or sleep disorders, further increasing the risk of misuse.

Gabapentin misuse is often a part of polysubstance abuse, where it is taken in conjunction with other substances like opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol to enhance their effects. In these instances, gabapentin can increase the intensity of an opioid high. Because it is not a controlled substance in many regions, it can be easier to obtain than other drugs.

How common is Gabapentin addiction and abuse

Gabapentin abuse is becoming more and more common all the time. As a result, some states are making it a Schedule V controlled substance, even though it is not yet scheduled federally. However, the majority of people who abuse it do so in conjunction with other drugs. If they were not already struggling with addiction to those other drugs, it would be unlikely that they would use gabapentin otherwise. 

Signs and symptoms of a Gabapentin addiction

People who misuse and abuse gabapentin may become habitually addicted to it and may go to great lengths to get the drug. They may tell their doctor that they have symptoms that they don’t actually have or may say that their symptoms are increasing in order to get more. They may go to multiple doctors to double-up or triple-up on prescriptions and they might take larger doses of it and take it more frequently than prescribed. People addicted to gabapentin may also even go as far as to forge prescriptions to get more of the drug. 

When someone becomes dependent on gabapentin, they will have difficulty stopping or decreasing their use of the drug. They may experience strong cravings for gabapentin, and they may spend a lot of their time trying to figure out how to get more. They may want to quit but might find that they cannot. Even though they may experience negative gabapentin side effects, they may continue to use it anyway.

Side Effects of Gabapentin Abuse

There are many side effects that users of gabapentin may experience. Whether someone has been prescribed gabapentin or if they are recreational users, the drug may cause fatigue, dizziness, oversedation, weakness, nausea, vomiting, balance and coordination issues, double vision, or respiratory depression. 

Gabapentin overdose

Gabapentin becomes especially dangerous when ingested in combination with other substances.  Unfortunately, that’s how most abusers of this drug like to use it. It is most commonly paired with opioids, but people who misuse gabapentin also use it with stimulants, benzodiazepines, or alcohol, as well. Combining gabapentin with these other substances can cause an increase in the drug’s side effects. In particular, it can cause suppressed breathing which can lead to respiratory distress, which can be deadly. 

What Is Gabapentin Withdrawal?

People who take gabapentin on a regular basis may experience gabapentin withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using it. Some of the symptoms they may experience include anxiety, insomnia, agitation, disorientation, and confusion. They may feel physical pain or nausea. They may also sweat profusely and they may feel a rapid heartbeat. In severe cases, they may even have seizures.


Factors that contribute to gabapentin withdrawal include the frequency, amount, and length of time of use. If someone has been using gabapentin for a long period of time, it’s wise to seek medical help to detox from it.


Someone who wishes to quit using gabapentin, especially when using it in conjunction with other substances, will usually first go through a medical detox, and may be administered medications used to treat addiction. Then, they will participate in some inpatient rehabilitation program. This will be followed by outpatient care and behavioral therapy to help the individual stay gabapentin free in the long term. 

Clear Sky treatment for Gabapentin addiction

If you’re someone struggling with gabapentin dependency, Clear Sky Ibogaine can help. Our innovative ibogaine treatment at our beautiful facility in Cancun, Mexico, can help you to get to the root of your addictions and can help you to break free from them. Whether your issue is with gabapentin, alcohol, heroin, or cocaine, our experienced staff is standing by to welcome you with open arms.  We’d love to help you take your first steps on the path to a better, freer, and healthier life. Give us a call today to learn more.