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Gabapentin Overdose 

Estimated reading time: 28 minute(s)

Often sold under the brand name Neurontin, gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication available in various formulations, like tablets, oral solutions, and capsules. Thousands of people use it daily to control specific seizure disorders and a neuropathic pain issue called post-herpetic neuralgia. The drug is also available in the form of an extended-release formula to manage the uncomfortable symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

Read Also About Prescription Drugs Addiction Treatment

Despite having a very low potential for addiction, experts have raised concerns regarding the rising incidences of gabapentin abuse. The number of visits to the emergency rooms in America due to non-medical use of gabapentin has seen a sharp rise of 90% since 2008. This increased potential for abuse has also led to more cases of gabapentin overdose, a severe condition that can even put an individual’s life in danger. If you or someone you know has been using or abusing gabapentin for some time, it is imperative to understand what gabapentin overdose is, what it looks like, and how to manage it to keep yourself and others safe.

Gabapentin Overdose Symptoms to Look Out For

Most people use gabapentin between 800 mg to 1800 mg per day. The human body can safely tolerate it in doses as high as 3600 mg per day, but any amount higher than this cut-off value can put their lives in danger. Additionally, if an individual is using this medication with another drug or substance, like alcohol or an opioid, the chances of an overdose skyrocket.

Mixing gabapentin with a depressant of the central nervous system leads to the amplification of its side effects, eventually setting the stage for an overdose. For example, those who combine it with an alcoholic drink may experience excessive dizziness and sedation. Alcohol itself may also cause a rapid release of this medication, putting users at a greater risk of an overdose. Some other gabapentin overdose symptoms to look out for include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Double vision
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Slurry speech
  • Diarrhea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Ataxia (a condition in which there is a loss of bodily movement)
  • Labored breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Coma (particularly seen in patients with kidney issues or complete renal failure)

Why Does Neurotin Overdose Happen? The Role of Gabapentin Abuse

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is yet to classify gabapentin as a controlled substance. This means that the drug is not covered in the annual reports of misuse by the substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. However, many believe that gabapentin is structurally similar to pregabalin, a medication classified as a Schedule V drug. The abuse potential for gabapentin has always been considered to be low; however, more recently, experts have raised concerns over increasing numbers of people misusing it. The primary intention behind this misuse is to boost their opioid highs and reinforce the effects of euphoria, a sense of calm, or a relaxing high.

As a result, gabapentin abuse has now become a concern among professionals in the U.S. In 2017, a lawmaker tried to classify this drug as a Schedule V substance, requesting the authorities to monitor its sales and prescriptions more closely. Similarly, in Ohio, police have reported a sharp increase in the illicit use of gabapentin. Off-label use has become so common that gabapentin now has multiple street names and is available for as little as 75 cents per tablet. The use of gabapentin abuse and overdoses is also getting common in prison populations. Some inmates have reported crushing the drug and snorting it to achieve a high.

The increasing misuse and the consequent cases of overdose related to gabapentin are partly because of uncontrolled prescribing of the drug. Experts have been carelessly prescribing it so much that at one point, everyone taking an opioid for chronic pain management was also on gabapentin at the same time. These people who had easy access to gabapentin continued to take it beyond their pain management, especially in the form of polysubstance abuse, dramatically increasing the danger of gabapentin dose.

Treatment for Gabapentin Overdose

People who have taken a gabapentin lethal dose are at risk of acquiring significant damage unless they get timely treatment and care. If you have a good reason to believe that you or someone around you who frequently uses gabapentin have overdosed on it, it is always a safe option to call emergency medical services right away. As you wait for them to arrive, never leave the victim alone and keep engaging with them, so they do not lose consciousness.

As soon as the medical services arrive, they can immediately commence the overdose treatment. The members of the team may ask you questions about the overdose incident, for example, how it happened, when it happened, and the dose of gabapentin the victim took. Experts advise answering these questions honestly and with as much detail as possible as doing so may save a life.

Depending on the history of use, experts may use naloxone, especially if the victim has combined gabapentin with opioids. If they do not suspect this combination, the following standard plan of treatment commences:

  • Maintaining an open airway.
  • Administration of supplemental oxygen and provision of ventilatory assistance as needed
  • Administration of gastric lavage with or without activated charcoal to forcibly remove any remaining residues of gabapentin in the stomach.
  • Management of symptoms, such as confusion, aggression, agitation, and delirium
  • Protecting the patient from any bodily harm or self-injury

Fortunately, most cases of gabapentin overdoses are manageable, provided treatment commences in time. Most people fully recover without acquiring any long-term complications or effects on health.

Prevent a Gabapentin Overdose Responsibly by Seeking Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with gabapentin addiction or misuse, remember that you are always at risk of an overdose. Fortunately, there are many resources to help you get over these addiction issues and attain full recovery. Gabapentin addiction programs are now widely available across multiple United States rehabilitation centers that use targeted treatment techniques to recover fully. A standard treatment program for gabapentin addiction may involve different types of care, such as:

Detoxification

The purpose of a detoxification process is to help people go through uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that are common in people using gabapentin for a long time. As a part of this process, they stay in supervised facilities where a team of experts, including doctors, keep monitoring them round the clock for increased comfort and decreased risk of side effects. The process continues for 7 to 10 days and helps people give up their gabapentin use entirely.

Inpatient Care

Inpatient care involves staying in supervised accommodations inside the rehab, where individuals participate in intensive individual and group therapies. These people can seek emotional or medical support around the clock, typically for four weeks or more, depending on the severity of their addiction.

Outpatient Care

Outpatient care allows individuals to live at home while attending scheduled individual and group therapy sessions at a pre-decided treatment facility. The intensity of this program may vary depending on individual needs and often involves comprehensive care for all associated physical and mental health concerns.

Medications

Sometimes, experts may use medications to help reduce the risk of withdrawal and relapses in people abusing gabapentin for a long time. The use of medications is also common in people with a history of polysubstance addiction.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy helps patients learn to maintain their newfound sobriety, reduce the relapse risk, adopt healthy activities, and improve the overall quality of their life.

FAQs

Can you overdose on gabapentin?

Despite the potential to cause withdrawals in long-term users, it is typically quite difficult to overdose on gabapentin. Studies performed in this context reveal that people who ingest it at very high levels only suffer from mild to moderate mental and physical side effects that rarely carry a life-threatening potential. So far, very limited peer-reviewed case reports involving gabapentin overdose have led to death. However, it is essential to note that despite this very low statistic, the use of gabapentin as a suicide drug has significantly increased over the last few years. This suggests that despite being relatively safer than other drugs, you must not ingest gabapentin in higher doses.

Why do people attempt to use and overdose on gabapentin?

There are many reasons why people turn to gabapentin for its non-medical uses. These include the fact that it is currently not scheduled as a controlled substance, and escalating its doses is recommended. The euphoric effects of gabapentin can also increase when people combine it with opioids; hence, the cases of its non-medical uses are on the rise.

Are there any off-label uses of gabapentin?

Numerous reports suggest that gabapentin is used for plenty of unapproved and off-label uses. These high statistics are mostly because the manufacturers of gabapentin have promoted this medication as a treatment for many off-label medical issues such as migraines, diabetic neuropathy, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), seizures due to alcohol withdrawal, neuropathic pain, and complex regional pain syndrome.

Can you get high on gabapentin?

At the moment, gabapentin is not a controlled substance, and its solo consumption rarely leads to a noticeable high. This is why it has very little risk for abuse or addiction. However, when you combine it with other medicines, such as opioids, muscle relaxants, or medicines for anxiety, it may trigger euphoria. People have described the effects of gabapentin as a part of polysubstance use by using terms like euphoria, relaxation, and a high comparable to the one that marijuana leads to.

How much gabapentin does it take to overdose?

The toxic dose of gabapentin in humans begins from 49 grams and goes up for different people. Side effects associated with gabapentin overdoses, such as ataxia, breathing struggles, sedation, and diarrhea, have been reportedly seen in people who consumed 49 grams of this medication or more. While experts have clearly outlined the daily safe limits and doses of gabapentin for children and adults, it is essential to note that overdose does not only occur in people who have taken a lethal dose of this drug. Some people may also develop similar symptoms when they combine small amounts of gabapentin with other drugs that depress the nervous system, such as opioids or alcohol.

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