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Signs and Symptoms of Gabapentin Overdose

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People who abuse gabapentin often take the drug in combination with opioids or stimulants. This is a dangerous, potentially life-threatening behavior. Being able to identify gabapentin overdose symptoms can help you protect loved ones until they get proper treatment to end their gabapentin use for good. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with Gabapentin abuse, we can help. Our drug rehab programs in Nashville, TN, can help you or a loved one find the help you deserve. Call us now at 615-234-9425 or verify your insurance now. 

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a prescription medication that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat seizures, restless leg syndrome, and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is a type of severe nerve pain that is associated with shingles. 

It is also prescribed on an off-label basis to treat anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, alcohol use disorder (alcoholism), and chronic pain due to diabetes or sciatica.

In the United States, gabapentin is marketed under several brand names, including Fanatrex, Gabarone, Gralise, and Neurontin. These medications may be taken orally in capsule, tablet, or liquid form. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. pharmacies filled 69 million gabapentin prescriptions in 2019, making it the seventh most frequently prescribed medication that year.

You may be surprised to learn that experts aren’t entirely sure how, exactly, gabapentin produces its beneficial effects. (You may also be surprised to discover that this isn’t uncommon. Experts are unclear about the exact mechanisms of action of several prescription medications.)

What researchers do know is that gabapentin reduces abnormal activity in the central nervous system (CNS). In addition to having a calming effect, this reduction in abnormal CNS activity can also prevent seizures and block the delivery of some pain signals. 

gabapentin overdose

Dangers of Gabapentin Abuse

Generally speaking, people who abuse gabapentin do so for one of two reasons:

  1. To self-medicate, which can include using the drug more frequently, in larger doses, or for a longer amount of time than directed by the prescribing physician
  2. For recreational purposes, often in an attempt to enhance the effects of opioids or other illicit substances

Anyone who takes gabapentin for any reason risks a variety of unpleasant side effects, such as:

  • Blurred vision
  • Involuntary eye movements 
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Swelling in the arms and legs
  • Impaired coordination
  • Memory problems

People who abuse this medication are at elevated risk of these effects, as well as more serious outcomes such as organ damage, addiction, overdose, and death. 

The CDC has reported the following about gabapentin overdose deaths in the U.S.:

  • Among 58,362 overdose deaths from 2019-2020 that had documented postmortem toxicology results, about 9.7% (or 5,687 people) had gabapentin in their system when they died.
  • Gabapentin was identified as a contributing factor in just over half (2,975) of these overdose deaths.
  • Heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids were involved in about 90% of overdose deaths in which gabapentin was detected.
  • Stimulants were involved in about 9% of overdose deaths in which gabapentin was detected.

Gabapentin Overdose Symptoms

Common gabapentin overdose symptoms include:

  • Disorientation
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Faint pulse
  • Extremely slow or shallow breathing
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Bluish or purplish coloration near lips and fingertips

Anyone who develops these symptoms after using gabapentin, either alone or in combination with another substance, is in grave danger and needs immediate medical attention.

If you are with someone who exhibits gabapentin overdose symptoms, here’s how you can help:

  • Before you do anything else, summon a first responder by calling 911.
  • Administer Narcan if the person had been combining gabapentin and opioids.
  • If the person is conscious, help them into a sitting position in a comfortable chair.
  • If the individual cannot be awakened, lie them on their side (which can minimize their risk of choking if they vomit).
  • Place a blanket over them to keep them warm.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Be prepared to tell the first responders as much as you know about which drugs the person had taken, how much they had consumed, what overdose symptoms they exhibited, and if they had already received Narcan.

Important note: While Narcan can reverse the effects of opioid overdose, anyone who has overdosed still needs to be evaluated by a qualified healthcare professional. This is particularly important if the person had been taking gabapentin or other substances in addition to opioids. 

While a person may initially appear to be OK after receiving Narcan, the continued presence of gabapentin or other drugs in their system could endanger their health.

Treatment Options for Gabapentin Addiction

If a person’s gabapentin abuse causes them to become addicted to the medication, they may need treatment to help them stop using the drug. Treatment options for gabapentin addiction include:

Patients who receive care at the residential or PHP level typically take part in full days of treatment, following a schedule that may include a variety of therapies and support services. 

  • At the residential level, they will live at the center where they’re receiving care. 
  • If they are in a PHP, they will return to their homes or to supportive housing in the evenings, on weekends, and at other times when treatment is not in session.

IOPs and OPs offer more flexibility, but fewer hours in treatment. These levels can be ideal for someone who needs additional support after completing a residential program or a PHP: 

  • In an IOP, patients usually take part in two or three hours of treatment, two to four days each week. The number of sessions a patient attends can fluctuate based on their needs and progress.
  • An outpatient program offers the greatest degree of flexibility while still providing the patient with a structured connection to clinical care.

With so many options available, it’s important to find a provider who will work with the patient to identify the full scope of their needs, then develop a customized plan to help them achieve successful recovery.

Find Addiction Treatment in Nashville, Tennessee Today

Nashville Treatment Solutions offers personalized outpatient treatment to help adults who have become addicted to gabapentin, other prescription medications, and other dangerous drugs.

Programming options at our addiction treatment center include a PHP, an IOP, an evening IOP, and an OP. We also partner with sober living residences in the area to assist patients who need additional support while they are enrolled in one of our programs.

To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.