Gabapentin is a drug classified as an anticonvulsant. It is often used for treating epileptic seizures and postherpetic neuralgia (nerve pain that follows a shingles infection). The drug is often found in pharmacies under these brand names:
Gabapentin is a prescription drug, so you cannot simply buy it over the counter. In fact, more and more people Despite this, more and more people use this drug without a prescription in the United States.
Gabapentin has a low potential for abuse, but some people still do. Users often do not use gabapentin on its own. Instead, they combine it with opioids like morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl to produce a more intense high. In fact, some people with combined gabapentin and opioid prescriptions have been reportedly purchasing three times the amount which was prescribed to them. Combining multiple drugs can more easily make you addicted to gabapentin.
If you have a gabapentin addiction and want to quit, you will need to go through gabapentin detox as part of treatment. Read on to find the best practices to keep detox as safe as possible.
What is gabapentin detox?
Detoxing from gabapentin is necessary to remove the drug fully from your body. This is the first step in becoming sober and quitting the drug properly. When detox is part of a full gabapentin rehab program, it is done with medical supervision either in a hospital or a rehab center. This ensures that you are kept safe, healthy, and comfortable through the entire procedure.
What is “tapering off”?
You might think that the best way to quit using gabapentin is to just stop taking it entirely. This is also known as quitting “cold turkey.” But in practice, this is not the best way to do it.
Quitting cold turkey will come as a “shock” to your brain. It will struggle to adjust to the sudden absence of gabapentin, so you will get intense symptoms of withdrawal. Although withdrawal symptoms are unavoidable during gabapentin detox, quitting cold turkey will only make them worse.
Here are some withdrawal symptoms you may experience:
- Sensitivity to light
- Irregular heartbeat
A gradual taper will make the withdrawal symptoms more tolerable. Slowly reducing your dose gives your brain time to adjust. Unlike the cold turkey method, your brain will not be shocked by ever decreasing doses of gabapentin. Instead, it will keep thinking that there is still enough gabapentin to go about each time. By the time your dose reaches zero, your brain will have much less trouble adjusting to the complete absence of the drug.
After the taper, you may still have a few lingering drug cravings, but they will not be as intense as before. They will be more manageable.
Why do I need medical supervision?
Detox carries a few risks, like developing painful withdrawal symptoms and, in some cases, life-threatening complications. For this reason, it is important for the process to be administered and supervised by medical professionals. In case any emergencies arise, they will be ready to give you aid at a moment’s notice.
Also, it is possible for you to develop particularly intolerable withdrawal symptoms. If these happen to you, doctors can give you medications to ease the discomfort. They can also easily adjust your dosage or change your medications if your body does not respond well. Moreover, you can tell the doctors right away if you experience any harmful side effects.
Is it safe to detox at home?
Detoxing from gabapentin at home is an option, but it is not the safest route to take. For one, you do not have medical personnel on standby to help you whenever you need it. If you encounter any serious complications during your detox process at home, no one can come to your aid immediately. While members of your family can call for help, the few minutes it takes for the medical team to get to you may mean the difference between life and death.
You may even be putting your own family at risk when detoxing at home. Sometimes, withdrawal from addictive substances like gabapentin can produce violent behaviors. You might unintentionally lash out at or physically harm members of your family.
For these reasons, it is best not to detox at home on your own. If you must, opt to have a medical professional to watch over you at home. Otherwise, go for formal detox in a rehab center or hospital.
Will I be completely sober after gabapentin detox?
You can achieve complete sobriety after a comprehensive drug rehab program. Detox is only the first step, as it only addresses the biochemical aspect of addiction. The mental and emotional damage is still there, and they need to be managed as well. For this reason, you will need to go through behavioral therapies after detox is done.
Behavioral therapies are done in a rehab center and include the following:
- Talk therapy (psychotherapy)
- Motivational enhancement therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Group counseling
- Individual counseling
- Support groups
- Recreational therapy
- Art therapy
- Animal-assisted therapy
You may undergo these therapies as part of either an inpatient or an outpatient program. The difference is whether or not you have to stay in a rehab center for the whole duration of the treatment.
In outpatient rehab, you do not; you will be in the rehab facility only during scheduled therapy sessions. Inpatient programs, on the other hand, require you to live in a rehab center for the entirety of treatment. This way, you can focus on your recovery and avoid potential drug triggers in the outside environment.
Behavioral therapies may last several months. It is a long process, but it will be worth the effort in the end. Once you are done, you will have the skills and habits you need to live a drug-free lifestyle.