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Neurontin/Gabapentin for Alcohol & Opiate Withdrawal

If you’ve experienced a back injury that left you in excruciating pain, your doctor may have prescribed an opiate, such as Vicodin, oxycodone or hydrocodone to relieve the pain. It’s not uncommon for people to become addicted to opiates even after the source of the pain is gone. Neurontin – or its generic form, gabapentin – is currently being tested as a treatment for opiate withdrawal conditions.

To date, Neurontin and gabapentin have not been FDA approved as effective treatments for alcohol, cocaine or opiate withdrawal as researchers are still unsure how the drugs work in this regard.

The Effects of Neurontin / Gabapentin on Withdrawal Symptoms

Anyone who has tried to stop taking an opiate drug after ongoing use knows full well how uncomfortable the withdrawal effects can be. Depending on the person, opiates can actually increase pain-sensitivity levels as they work to relieve pain symptoms. This means you may experience even more pain than the original injury caused if you try to stop taking an opiate drug.

Add to this the euphoric or “high” feelings that opiates cause and it’s no wonder why these drugs are so addictive. In some cases, the withdrawal effects alone may be enough to keep a person addicted to the drug.

Neurontin and gapabentin help to relieve pain by slowing down the pain signals that travel through the nerves. Researchers at Tuff’s New England Center attribute Neurontin’s effects on substance P – a brain neurotransmitter chemical – as the reason for its pain-relieving abilities. Substance P secretions in the brain send pain messages along the body’s nerve pathways. Neurontin or gabapentin is believed to reduce the amount of substance P released in the brain.

Those who are addicted to alcohol tend to have low levels of GABA in their system, and the craving for more alcohol may be, in part, due to the fact that alcohol intake boosts the brain’s GABA levels.

After years of ongoing alcohol use, reaching for a drink when life gets stressful or overwhelming may seem like the most natural thing to do. One reason it may feel so natural is because of alcohol’s effect of increasing the body’s GABA levels – which can help soothe fear and stress.

After years of ongoing alcohol intake, the brain learns to rely on alcohol in order to cope with daily events. So in a sense, reaching for a drink becomes a “natural” behavior for increasing the amount of GABA in the system.

For someone addicted to cocaine, ongoing use causes damage to GABA-secreting brain cells, leaving lower than normal levels of the chemical in the brain. This condition alone can trigger withdrawal symptoms. While gabapentin holds many similarities with GABA, it may not be strong enough to counteract the damaging effects brought on by cocaine addiction.

What are the differences in Neurontin Treatment Effects?

Since everyone’s body and brain chemistry is different, Neurontin’s GABA-like behavior tends to affect different people in different ways, according to IC Lifestyles & Exercises. In general, a person may respond to Neurontin treatment in one of four ways:

  • Some will experience immediate pain relief and an increase in energy levels.
  • Some will not experience pain relief unless higher doses of Neurontin are administered.
  • Others will see no improvement whatsoever.
  • After a certain length of time, Neurontin’s treatment effects may start to fade for those who do benefit from the higher dosages.

Neurontin’s Opiate Tapering Effects

The effects of long-term opiate use tend to build up in a person’s system, so any time you try to cut back withdrawal symptoms may come on fast and strong. For this reason, many doctors advise patients to taper their opiate usage, which involves a gradual process of decreasing dosage amounts until a person is off the drug. For some people, even small decreases can result in harsh withdrawal effects.

One of Neurontin’s benefits is its ability to mimic opiate effects in the body. This means a person can stop taking opiates without suffering harsh withdrawal effects. Part of Neurontin’s mimicking ability is due to how it affects substance P chemical releases in the brain. Neurontin’s GABA-like effects on the brain also help to reduce the intensity of withdrawals experienced.

Addiction Potential

While much regarding Neurontin’s effectiveness in treating opiate withdrawal remains unknown, the drug’s calming effects on brain neurotransmitter pathways offer some benefits for providing relief for opiate addictions. Oftentimes, treatment for one condition can lead to addiction to the cure, which is how many cases of opiate addiction take root.

In terms of its addiction potential, Neurontin and gabapentin pose little threat of becoming addictive, either physically or psychologically. While the addiction potential is low, someone coming off Neurontin or gabapentin may need to taper the dosage so brain and body chemical processes can learn to function normally without the drug’s effects.

For more information on how medications can factor into addiction treatment for opiates, contact us today. We are here 24/7 to answer your questions.

Gabapentin as an Alcohol Replacement

Part of the reason why researchers have taken an interest in gabapentin as an addiction treatment is due to the way it fights the cravings for alcohol by restoring the brain’s normal chemical functions. In effect, gabapentin helps malfunctioning brain cells produce the chemicals needed to handle everyday stressors without alcohol.

One study published in the Journal of Neuroscience demonstrated that gabapentin successfully reduced alcohol intake only in rats that were dependent on alcohol – unlike their non-alcohol-dependent counterparts.This finding may help affirm the theory that gabapentin reduces alcohol cravings by feeding the “hunger” of the GABA-deprived body.

Gabapentin’s Effects on Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

A closer look at some of alcohol’s withdrawal symptoms further highlights how gabapentin can help ease your alcohol withdrawal process.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are dependent on alcohol, you may experience any of these common and less severe withdrawal symptoms as early as 6 hours after your last intake of alcohol6:
Man in bed insomnia anxiety

  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Headache.
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances.
  • Palpitations (rapid, irregular heart beats).
  • Sweating.

Theoretically, gabapentin’s ability to increase GABA production may be responsible for producing a calming effect on a number of these alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Research studies have added further insights as to how gabapentin succeeds in relieving a number of these symptoms.7

Insomnia Effects

If you’ve attempted to abstain from alcohol after a long history of drinking, you may have experienced bouts with insomnia on a regular basis. That’s because insomnia is one of the withdrawal effects brought on by alcohol deprivation.

Gabapentin has been demonstrated to be effective in treating sleep disorders in several different studies:

  • Gabapentin was shown to have greater effectiveness than both trazodone and lorazepam in treating insomnia among those withdrawing from alcohol. Moreover, participants who were given trazodone and lorazepam experienced grogginess during the daytime hours, while those receiving gabapentin did not.8
  • Sleep quality among 15 individuals withdrawing from alcohol was improved with a reported average dose of 953 mg/day.
  • Gabapentin was shown to be as effective as a benzodiazepine sedative for treating sleep disturbances in patients who had completed antidepressant therapy.9
  • Gabapentin has been recommended for treating chronic insomnia among women in menopause.10

One study of 21 individuals did report that gabapentin did not significantly improve sleep quality among those in alcohol withdrawal.8 However, this study involved a low number of subjects and should be taken in perspective alongside of the other gabapentin sleep studies.

Anxiety Effects

Social anxiety is a common ailment for those who struggle with alcohol as well as those who don’t. So it’s no surprise that alcoholic beverages are pretty much an “expected” menu item at most party events.

If you experience mild or moderate anxiety at work or around friends or family, these events can easily trigger the urge to drink. Gabapentin – and more specifically, the brand formulation Neurontin – has been found to help alleviate anxiety triggers for people going through alcohol withdrawal.11

Treating Cocaine Addiction with Gabapentin and Neurontin

The theory behind gabapentin’s effectiveness in treating cocaine addiction has to do with its soothing effects on the body’s nervous system. In addition to relieving withdrawal symptoms, these effects should also satisfy some of the cravings a person has for the “high” that cocaine brings. In the process of reducing a person’s cravings, the likelihood of relapse may also be reduced.

Unfortunately, the higher the dose, the less effective gabapentin or Neurontin becomes. This alone may limit the drug’s effectiveness in treating cocaine addiction. The dosage needed to treat a cocaine addiction would be considerably high, according to University of Iowa studies. High dosages can pose a considerable threat to people with liver function problems and may also cause other adverse effects, such as lethargia, dizziness and blurred vision.

What are the common side effects of Gabapentin?

Even when administered at low to medium dosages, gabapentin can cause a range of side effects to occur, depending on your particular body chemistry. Some of the more common side effects include:

  • Abnormal thinking
  • Nausea
  • Weight gain
  • Impotence
  • Depression
  • Twitching

Conflicting Clinical Results

As standard dosages of gabapentin were found to be too weak to combat cocaine’s effects, researchers have also explored the use of the drug at higher dosage levels. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, several clinical studies have been conducted to determine whether higher doses of gabapentin would alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings caused by cocaine addiction. Unfortunately, the studies produced conflicting results.

One small study involved nine to 30 patients in outpatient treatment. The participants were given gabapentin in dosages of up to 2,400 milligrams a day. At the end of the study, participants reported a decrease in cocaine cravings overall. Another study involved a large test group-administered gabapentin in dosages that ranged from 2,400 to 3,200 milligrams a day.

At the end of the study, the participants reported little to no change in cravings, withdrawal symptoms or abstinence rates. These differences in study results may indicate other factors may be affecting how gabapentin works. Other contributing factors may involve the length of time a person has used cocaine as well as each person’s individual chemical structure.

Addiction Treatment Facility Types

When you are ready to pursue alcohol addiction treatment, you will find there are a few different facility types you will encounter:
In Addiction Treatment Facility a doctor discussing with the patient

  • Luxury rehab facilities offer 24/7 residential addiction treatment alongside a wide array of plush, resort-like amenities to make your recovery process as comfortable as possible.
  • Executive rehab facilities offer the same residential treatment and high-end amenities as luxury programs – only they also provide the resources and program structure that allows busy professionals to maintain an active involvement in the workplace throughout treatment.
  • Standard rehab programs are conducted at both residential (“inpatient”) and non-residential (“outpatient”) addiction treatment settings. Most standard residential facilities do not offer the same range of extra amenities offered by luxury and executive programs. However, they offer treatment at a lower, more affordable price for those with more limited budgets.

Learn More and Find a Gabapentin Addiction Treatment Facility

Perhaps you are ready for taking the next step in exploring the treatment options for your addiction. Or perhaps you are not quite ready – but would like to just learn more. Call us today at 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers?, and we will be happy to listen to your concerns and walk you through your the recovery options that would best meet your unique needs and circumstances.

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