There are various different types of addictive substances that people are abusing at higher rates than ever before. Drugs such as opioids and stimulants, along with alcohol, are responsible for a vast majority of addiction in the 23 million people in the United States who suffer from this disease. While these drugs are talked about often in both public and private, there are several drugs that are rarely discussed as being addictive, even if they are.
Neurontin is one of those drugs. This particular prescription medication can be addictive if abused, just as most other substances. Because it is not as addictive or produces the same intense high as other substances does not mean that it is safe for people to do with it what they please. An addiction to Neurontin can be just as devastating and destructive as an addiction to any other mind-altering substance.
WHAT IS NEURONTIN?
Neurontin, also known as gabapentin, is a prescription drug that was first designed to manage epilepsy, a condition where the activity of nerve cells in the brain are disturbed, which leads to the onset of seizures. This medication, however, is also utilized to help manage neuropathic pain and other types of seizure disorders. Additionally, Neurontin has become the go-to treatment for neuropathic pain caused by diabetic neuropathy, central neuropathic pain, and post-herpetic neuralgia, which is nerve pain associated with shingles. As with many other prescription medications, Neurontin is also used for off-label purposes, such as for the treatment of anxiety disorders and other mood disorders. When Neurontin is used as prescribed, it can be extremely beneficial for those who suffer from these types of physical and psychological conditions. Generally, Neurontin is not very addictive, however, it can become addictive if abused. Also, it can cause withdrawal symptoms, which is a direct sign that physical dependence can form when abusing this prescription medication.
Neurontin was originally intended to mimic GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that produces feelings of relaxation and calmness, much like benzodiazepine medications like Xanax and Ativan do. Research now suggests that Neurontin does not mimic GABA as originally intended, but instead its strong psychoactive effects have been linked to both dependency and addiction.
SIGNS OF NEURONTIN ADDICTION
The signs that someone is addicted to Neurontin are often very similar to signs of other types of addiction. While the symptoms that a person addicted to Neurontin might experience (such as insomnia, anxiety, or tremors) are specific to this drug, the signs that an addiction is occurring are typically more general. The disease of addiction, regardless of what substance or substances a person is using, produces baseline effects that translate from one type of addiction to the next. This means that someone who is addicted to heroin shares in the same signs of addiction as someone addicted to Neurontin. Some of these signs include the following:
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and loved ones in an effort to keep using and/or hide the use
- No longer participating in previously enjoyed hobbies and activities due to one’s time being taken up by Neurontin abuse
- Taking Neurontin for longer than prescribed or taking it for self-medication or recreational purposes
- Continuing to abuse Neurontin despite being aware of the dangers of doing so
- Experiencing professional problems, such as being demoted or terminated, as a result of Neurontin abuse
- Engaging in frequent conflicts with loved ones, friends, or even strangers due to being under the influence, experiencing wide-ranging mood swings, or attempting to hide/defend one’s use
- Using in secret or with others who the user does not feel will judge him or her
- Abusing Neurontin when it is dangerous to do so, such as when driving a car (Neurontin abuse can lead to extreme sedation, drowsiness, and lethargy)
- Continuing to abuse Neurontin despite suffering from physical or psychological effects
- Ignoring others’ pleas to get professional help because of fear of what life would be like without the abuse of Neurontin
- Suffering from withdrawal symptoms when decreasing or completely stopping Neurontin abuse
- Feeling unable to function without the use of Neurontin
An addiction to Neurontin means that the user is psychologically hooked on using this particular substance, causing him or her to be mentally and emotionally reliant on it. Being dependent on Neurontin refers to being physically dependent on the drug. When someone is dependent on Neurontin, he or she cannot stop using without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Someone who abuses Neurontin, however, does not always become addicted to it, rather abuses it outside of a regular basis but does not rely on it physically or mentally. Someone who abuses Neurontin is not consuming this particular medication responsibly, rather using it for the effects it can produce.
Whether someone is showing one or many of the signs of Neurontin addiction above, reaching out for professional help can get him or her the support needed to put a stop to this type of addiction before things get worse.
NEURONTIN SIDE EFFECTS
Even though Neurontin is sometimes used to treat physical pain, it is not an opioid medication like OxyContin, Vicodin, or fentanyl are. But, Neurontin is addictive, too, just as opioids are. While not nearly as habit-forming, those who abuse Neurontin and who become addicted to it often begin abusing it for the side effects that it can produce, such as euphoria, relaxation, and an overall sense of calm. When a person is high on Neurontin, he or she can experience the following physical side effects that are not as desirable:
- Clumsiness or unsteadiness
- Dry mouth
- Swelling of the extremities
- Weight gain
- Sexual dysfunction
- Strange eye movement
- Double vision
- Problems speaking
The physical side effects that can develop when Neurontin is being abused are nowhere near the relaxing, calming effects that users tend to seek. When paired with the psychological effects that Neurontin abuse can cause, someone addicted to this substance can really start experiencing some upsetting consequences. The most common psychological symptoms of Neurontin abuse include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Short-term memory loss
- Panic attacks
- Violent behavior
Over time, as a person continues to abuse Neurontin and becomes addicted to it, their abuse can trigger the onset of more long-term side effects that can stay with them long after they stop abusing this substance. They include the following:
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
- Kidney problems such as renal failure and kidney disease
- Memory loss
- Weakness in muscles
- Respiratory complications, including respiratory failure
Possibly one of the greatest risks associated with Neurontin addiction is the increased likelihood of a polysubstance addiction developing. Since Neurontin does not produce as profound of a high as other substances do, many users include other addictive substances into their abuse, such as opioids. The longer that a person abuses Neurontin for, the more likely he or she becomes to engage in this type of substance abuse.
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When someone is prescribed Neurontin and takes it as prescribed, there is extremely low risk, if any, of a fatal overdose. Abusing Neurontin in large amounts can cause overdose, however, most people who end up overdosing on Neurontin do so because they were simultaneously abusing another substance that enhanced the effects of this drug.
Neurontin is a central nervous system depressant, meaning that when it is consumed, it helps to relax the nervous system. This is exactly what it is supposed to do, which is why it is used to treat the conditions that it is prescribed for. However, when too much of a central nervous system depressant is consumed, or if it is consumed with another more potent central nervous system depressant, the effects can be deadly.
Someone who is overdosing on Neurontin is going to experience a number of different symptoms. If any of these symptoms develop, even if it is just one, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention to prevent an overdose from occurring:
- Shallow or labored breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Double vision
- Low blood pressure
- Ataxia (loss of control of bodily movements)
- Slurred speech
Those individuals who are suffering from kidney problems to begin with, such as kidney failure, can slip into a coma prior to an overdose becoming fatal. The greatest dangers and risks associated with Neurontin overdose are more possible when this medication is combined with other drugs. For example, abusing Neurontin and an opioid substance like heroin or fentanyl can cause respiratory problems to develop much faster. These symptoms can include respiratory distress and respiratory failure, which are often the most common causes of overdose in those who abuse opioids. When the user is not taking in enough oxygen, the blood cannot pump oxygen to the rest of the body and its vital organs, causing the body to start shutting down. If help is not received in time, or if a person has abused too much Neurontin and opioids, he or she can die from overdose.
Since fatal overdose is possible, it is important to take Neurontin exactly as prescribed and never with alcohol or any other central nervous system depressants like opioids. Combining Neurontin with antihistamines, muscle relaxers, and sleep aids can also be dangerous. Unlike opiates, there is no reversal drug that a person can administer in the case of overdose, so it’s important to get medical help right aware if any of these symptoms are occurring.
Neurontin grew in popularity as an effective drug and it was not believed to cause addiction, physical dependence, or withdrawal. The view on Neurontin has changed, however, even though the federal government does not count Neurontin as a controlled substance. Neurontin produces a similar high to that of marijuana – an overall sense of calm and relaxation. A study of illicit Neurontin abuse found that more than half were taking it in conjunction with an opioid and nearly 30% were taking it with an opioid, muscle relaxant or anxiety medication. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), emergency room visits involving the nonmedical use of Neurontin has jumped 90% in the United States since 2008. Numerous cases of individuals suffering from flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, and cognitive problems have been reported.
If a person has been taking Neurontin for an extended period of time, he or she can expect to feel withdrawal symptoms similar to the ones felt by people addicted to benzos or alcohol. It only takes 5-7 hours (its half-life) for Neurontin to clear the body. Half-life is important because medications with shorter half-lives tend to produce the most severe withdrawal symptoms.
When withdrawal symptoms develop, it is a clear sign that a person is physically dependent on a substance. As mentioned before, Neurontin dependence refers to the body being so used to the presence of this medication that when a person stops or minimizes his or her use of it, several physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms develop. Anytime a person is withdrawing from a substance, he or she is at risk for picking up and using again. This is because the withdrawal symptoms that one can experience can be so invasive and distressing that going back to using can seem like the best, fastest option to alleviate these symptoms.
Each addictive substance produces its own variation of withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using. When someone begins to withdraw from Neurontin, he or she can experience the following symptoms:
- Changes in appetite (e.g. increased or decreased hunger)
- Unpredictable and seemingly unwarranted crying spells
- Itchiness all over the body
- Muscle pain
- Excessive sweating (including night sweats that can increase in severity)
Even though Neurontin is not as powerful or potent as other substances of abuse, withdrawing from it can be deadly. This is because of two reasons – the development of suicidal tendencies and the possibility for seizures.
Specific to suicidal tendencies, withdrawing from Neurontin can trigger the onset of depression, which is a mental illness that is frequently linked to suicidal tendencies. Withdrawing from Neurontin can also produce these symptoms without a person experiencing depression. While not life-threatening in the sense that someone will happen to the user physically that will cause his or her life to end, suicidal tendencies can quickly grow, and a person’s mental stability can start to crumble if the appropriate treatment is not obtained. What were once a few fleeting thoughts about how to commit suicide can easily become detailed actions on how to carry out a suicide plan.
Since suicidal tendencies and associated behaviors are possible in those who withdraw from Neurontin, it is important to not only get professional Neurontin addiction help but also critical to know what the warning signs of suicide are. These symptoms, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, include the following:
- Looking for ways to kill oneself, like searching online or purchasing a gun
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill oneself
- Talking about being burdensome to others
- Expressing feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Behaving recklessly
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Increasing the use of drugs and/or alcohol
- Withdrawing from others or isolating oneself
- Experiencing extreme mood swings
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Substance abuse of any kind, including Neurontin addiction, is one of the top risk factors for suicidal behaviors and actions. Thankfully, if you or a loved one is addicted to this drug, there is help available, such as the detox program offered at our Neurontin addiction treatment facility. Do not hesitate to reach out and contact us. The sooner that you ask for help, the less likely you are to suffer from severe and potentially life-threatening effects.
DO I HAVE A NEURONTIN ADDICTION?
It can be extremely difficult to see yourself from an aerial view, making it feel nearly impossible to determine what kind of help you might need when abusing Neurontin. Not only is your judgment clouded because of your use, but it is never easy to admit to having a problem, especially if you struggle with pride and ego (which many addicts and alcoholics do). However, that does not mean that you cannot recognize that your behaviors surrounding your Neurontin addiction signify a need for help. If you are concerned that your Neurontin abuse has reached a point where you cannot stop using on your own, ask yourself the following questions to determine if getting professional Neurontin addiction treatment is right for you:
- Have I tried to quit Neurontin but find the withdrawal symptoms too difficult to tolerate?
- Have I asked my doctor for a higher dosage of Neurontin or for more frequent prescriptions?
- Have I doctor shopped to obtain more Neurontin? Have I purchased Neurontin from outside sources?
- Have my original pain symptoms disappeared, yet I still take Neurontin anyway?
- Have I started having problems at work, with loved ones, with finances or my reputation — even if it doesn’t seem related to Neurontin?
- Have I combined Neurontin with alcohol or another drug to get a stronger high?
- Do I feel the need to continue to abuse Neurontin out of fear of being unable to function without it?
- Have I replaced important responsibilities with my Neurontin use?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any one of these questions, reaching out to inquire about getting professional help is the most beneficial thing that you can do for yourself. You might find that after asking yourself these questions, that your Neurontin addiction becomes much more obvious to you, as does your need for help. You might still be confused about where you fall in terms of needing treatment, which is why we encourage you to call us with any questions that you might have, as we can help you determine what might be the best option for you.
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NEURONTIN ADDICTION TREATMENT AT JourneyPure
If you have been abusing Neurontin for a considerable amount of time, stopping use abruptly can increase your chances of seizures or suicidal thoughts, along with other painful and upsetting withdrawal symptoms. For your safety, it is important to seek professional help for your Neurontin addiction as opposed to making independent attempts to get sober. At JourneyPure in Florida, our Neurontin addiction treatment begins with a clinical assessment and evaluation so that our staff can determine what resources will be most suitable for your treatment plan.
There is never a one-size-fits-all approach to the treatment of addiction. Everyone has their own story, their own challenges, and their own personal journey that they will travel. Our staff makes it a priority to get to know you and create a plan that is customized to your specific treatment needs. This plan will include the treatment of any mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or PTSD. We will help determine the root cause of your addiction so that we can tackle each piece of the puzzle day-by-day. We will begin with medically assisted detox, where our staff will be at your side to help ease painful withdrawal symptoms and slowly and safely eliminate the drug from your system. Treatment continues with counseling, 12-step education, and group therapies, along with several other evidence-based therapies that can help enhance your recovery.
Once you leave treatment, we will continue to remain by your side. We will assign a recovery coach to support you in your first year of recovery so that you do not feel like you are going it alone. If you are having a tough day, you can easily call your recovery coach and he or she will help you get through it. Your recovery coach will be checking in with you on a regular basis to ensure you are staying on the right path. We will also provide you with a tool to track all of your recovery goals so you can see your progress in real time and look back at how far you’ve come.
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