Gabapentin is the sixth most prescribed drug in the United States. It is often sold under the brand names Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant.
The drug is a sedative with potent relaxing, calming effects. With that, it is helpful in treating anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and restless legs syndrome. In other cases, gabapentin is used to help with alcohol withdrawal and cocaine withdrawal. It is also prescribed as a pain reliever for individuals suffering from postherpetic neuralgia, a condition characterized by nerve pain occurring after a shingles infection.
The drug works by emulating the action of a brain chemical known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows down the transmission of signals between brain cells. With fewer signals traveling around the brain, the body feels more relaxed.
Although the drug has low abuse potential, some individuals still take it recreationally. Often, users who get addicted to gabapentin already have prior addictions to opioids. If you combine gabapentin with opioids or other addictive substances, you may develop addiction faster. Also, you expose yourself to a higher risk of a lethal overdose.
If you have become addicted to the drug already, gabapentin detox is in order. It is a process usually done to remove the drug from your system. Detox is part of any formal rehab program, and it is often the first stage of treatment.
If you are wondering what to expect during the detox process, read on to find out. You will also learn what will happen after you have completed detox.
What is gabapentin detox?
Detox is the first step in recovering from a gabapentin addiction. Medical professionals will facilitate this procedure to keep you safe, comfortable, and healthy. The aim of detox is to help you rid your body of all traces of the drug until you can tolerate taking none of it anymore.
Medical professionals recommend a gradual taper than quitting cold turkey. This is to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms from developing. If you quit cold turkey, your brain will struggle to adjust to suddenly having no gabapentin at all. In contrast, tapering off the drug will allow your brain to adapt slowly. Once your dose goes down to zero, your brain will already be used to the diminishing doses, so the adjustment will be easier.
Distressing withdrawal symptoms are frequently experienced when detoxing from this substance. The reason for this is that as the drug leaves your body, your brain is thrown off balance. Gabapentin became a “natural” part of your brain, so even reducing your dose will cause your brain to experience a sort of “shock.” This means your brain finds it difficult to adjust to the lack of the usual effects gabapentin provided.
The withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sensitivity to light
The worse your addiction is, the more severe these withdrawal symptoms become. If you took gabapentin along with opioids or other substances, withdrawal will also be more uncomfortable.
The good news is this: any time your withdrawal symptoms become unbearable during detox, doctors may prescribe medications to ease the pain.
Length of gabapentin detox
Many medical professionals recommend a tapering schedule of more than 7 days. That way, withdrawal will be as comfortable for you as possible. You will not get any insufferable withdrawal symptoms that will make detoxing nearly impossible.
Detox procedures are frequently carried out in hospitals or rehab facilities. Medical personnel always watch over you in case you need help. They give round-the-clock monitoring and care, so you will get immediate medical attention if you encounter serious discomfort or any complications.
What comes after gabapentin detox?
Detox is only the first step in a full recovery from a gabapentin addiction. After it, you will go through a number of behavioral therapies to address the psychological effects. Addiction is a mental health problem, so it needs mental health treatments.
Two main types of treatment exist: either outpatient or inpatient rehab. If you are enrolled in an outpatient program, you can live the rest of your life freely while receiving treatment. You will go to the rehab center a set number of times per week during scheduled therapies. After each session, you are free to go back to work, school, or home.
Outpatient programs are well suited for mild addictions. But if your case is more severe, you will need an inpatient rehab program for the best recovery outcomes.
In inpatient rehab, you will stay inside the rehab center for the entire duration of treatment. This may last from one to three months, depending on your specific treatment needs. While living in the rehab center, you will have a structured day, with specific times to sleep, wake up, eat meals, and do different activities.
This way, you can build healthy routines that promote sobriety. Each day is filled with recovery-related activity, such as therapy sessions, support groups, and recreation. All activities are geared towards your mental wellness. This way, you can focus on your recovery fully.
Also, there are no distractions or temptations to use drugs inside the rehab center. Drug triggers may be a problem in outpatient rehab, so the chances of relapsing while in treatment are higher. But in the controlled environment of an inpatient rehab facility, there will be no opportunities to go back to drug use.
A wide range of evidence-based behavioral therapies are used in gabapentin rehab. These include:
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Talk therapy (psychotherapy)
- Contingency management
- Motivational enhancement therapy
Recreational activities may also be used to help in treatment. These can be anything from art, sports, yoga, and even taking care of pets.
End result of therapy
By the end of your rehab program, you should be able to live a drug-free life once again. The new habits you have developed will overtake your desire to use drugs.