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Can You Snort Gabapentin?

box of gabapentin

Since its approval by the FDA in 1993, gabapentin has been presumed to have zero abuse potential and is regularly prescribed for off-label uses despite increasing reports of gabapentin misuse. 40% to 60% of individuals with gabapentin prescriptions abuse their medication, and 15% to 22% of individuals who abuse opioids also abuse gabapentin.

When people begin abusing their prescription medications, they likely look for ways to increase or speed up the effects using the quickest route possible. Some individuals put their gabapentin pills in a glass pipe and heat them until they can be smoked or crush them into a powder and snort them. Although it’s different than opioids, alcohol, and benzo, abusing gabapentin can lead to withdrawal symptoms, negative side effects, addiction, and overdose.

This article covers everything you should know about snorting gabapentin, including how it works, how it compares to opioids, the side effects of abusing prescription medications, and what to do if someone becomes addicted to gabapentin.

gabapentin pills

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin, also known as Gralise, Horizant, or Neuraptine, is an anticonvulsive medication used to treat epilepsy, restless leg syndrome (RLS), and postherpetic neuralgia (lasting nerve pain from having shingles). Gabapentin is designed to be taken orally and is sold as capsules, immediate-release oral tablets, and a liquid solution. Users have been known to break open the oral capsules and snort the pill powder into nasal passages.

Gabapentin is also used as an off-label treatment for nerve pain, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. One 2015 study reported that a daily dosage of 1,800 mg of gabapentin was a safe and effective drug for treating alcohol use disorder (AUD), especially when it’s used in conjunction with naltrexone, another FDA-approved AUD medication. However, this increases the risk of substance abuse by individuals already struggling with alcohol addiction.

Gabapentin Vs. Opioids

Due to the influx in opioid overdoses and addictions, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that gabapentin and pregabalin, both gabapentinoids, should be considered for chronic pain treatment before prescribing opioids. This led to gabapentin prescriptions skyrocketing to 64 million in 2016 as doctors dolled out gabapentin for migraines, hot flashes, and almost any time of mild or moderate pain.

However, gabapentin has tranquilizing and pain-reducing effects, making it a possible addictive substitution for opioids. One article in 2018 reported that gabapentin sold on the street is as cheap as 75 cents to $1 per pill. As of 2022, the CDC released an updated guideline for prescribing pain medications that highlighted the dangers of combining gabapentin with opioids, including the increased risk of side effects and overdose. However, gabapentin is not a controlled substance in the US as of 2024.

Read more about some of the hardest addictions to quit here.

How Does Gabapentin Work?

Gabapentin is functionally similar to benzodiazepine, another medication commonly used to treat seizures, and alcohol. All three substances target gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter that controls anxiety, stress, and fear.

  • Gabapentin increases the activity of GABA and slows the release of excitatory neurotransmitters. This reduces the amount of pain signals sent around your body.
  • Benzodiazepines bind directly to GABA receptors and increase the effects of existing GABA.
gaba synapse graphic

Can You Snort Gabapentin?

While it’s physically possible, medical professionals and addiction specialists strongly discourage individuals from snorting gabapentin. Additionally, it can take a significant amount of gabapentin and an additional drug to induce any euphoric effects beyond moderate pain relief. Snorting gabapentin might induce relaxation or calm the first time, but these effects can diminish over time as your body develops a tolerance to the drug’s effects. This can also cause users to take more and more without considering the immediate or long-term consequences.

Taking a dangerously high dose of gabapentin or other substances can induce side effects and possible overdose.

Side Effects

  • Irritation or damage to nasal passages, throat, and respiratory tract
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Nosebleeds and dried-out mucus
  • Damage to the nasal septum (with chronic use)
  • Lung, throat, and nasal infections
  • Risk of addiction or dependence
  • Lung tissue damage

Gabapentin Overdose Symptoms

  • Extreme drowsiness or sedation
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Slurred speech
  • Coordination problems or stumbling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Unresponsiveness or coma
  • Seizures (in severe cases)

Looking For Gabapentin Abuse Treatment?

Despite its medical uses, gabapentin can be addictive and dangerous, especially to individuals who currently struggle with substance abuse. If you or a loved one needs help overcoming addiction, it’s time to take the next step.

young man struggling with gabapentin abuse

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

While gabapentin is not considered as addictive as substances like opioids or benzodiazepines, there have been 18 reports of individuals developing a dependence on the drug, and all the individuals had a history of substance misuse or addiction. On average, those individuals were taking more than 3,000 mg of gabapentin daily. Some individuals develop a psychological dependence on gabapentin, craving its effects and feeling unable to function without it.

Medical professionals typically taper patients off gabapentin because abruptly stopping, especially if someone is taking a higher amount than usual, can induce uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Gabapentin

Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms reportedly occur within 12 hours to 7 days after quitting and can include:

  • Flu symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain or stiffness
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Seizures (in severe cases)

Signs of Gabapentin Abuse

If you suspect you or a loved one is abusing gabapentin, watch out for these signs of drug abuse.

  • Social isolation
  • Secretive or nervous behavior
  • Increased anxiety
  • Compulsive behaviors (such as searching for their prescription bottle before leaving home)
  • Defensiveness
  • More pill bottles than a month’s supply
  • Memory issues and forgetfulness
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • Slow motor skills and coordination problems
  • Slowed speech
  • Mood changes
  • Financial issues, including stealing or borrowing money

Read more about the signs of of another popular illicit substance, cocaine.

Treatment For Gabapentin Abuse

If you or a loved one is abusing gabapentin, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. The longer you wait to address gabapentin abuse, the more dangerous the side effects and their effects on your body get. The most effective ways to treat gabapentin addiction include the following:

  1. Medical detox: Medical detox programs can help reduce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and cravings that make the initial decision to quit abusing gabapentin difficult. Some substances don’t require 24/7 medical care, but it’s best to be safe since withdrawal symptoms can affect people at different levels.
  2. Residential or PHP treatment: Once you’ve detoxed from gabapentin, the next step is to enter an addiction treatment program that provides structure and support. The desire to get clean can be overwhelmed by cravings and beliefs that using again will provide relief. However, true relief and wellness aren’t found in short-term prescription medications but in understanding and community. In residential or PHP treatment, you’ll be surrounded and comforted by staff members and others in recovery who want to overcome addiction together.
  3. IOP & Aftercare: Residential and PHP programs are not long-term, and most people find it easier to transition into daily life through an outpatient program and aftercare plan. Outpatient programs allow individuals to attend treatment and therapy during the day, return home, and practice newly learned skills with their family or friends. An aftercare plan provides individuals with long-term support and care for as long as individuals need.

Contact Oasis River Recovery

If you or someone you know is abusing or snorting gabapentin, contact Oasis River Recovery in Ocoee, Tennessee. Our addiction treatment center focuses on healing and recovery through experiential therapy methods, some of which include hiking, breathwork sessions, kayaking, group excursions, and more. If you’re unsure if Oasis River Recovery is right for you, call anyway. Our admissions agents can help you find the right treatment center among our five partnered facilities across North Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts.

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