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Gabapentin (Neurontin) Withdrawal, Side Effects, Addiction FAQs

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Gabapentin (Neurontin), released in the early 1990s, soon became one of Warner-Lambert/Pfizer’s most profitable drugs. Even after successful litigation for misleading claims and increased suicide risk, drug sales have continued to soar right up to the present day.6,11 Adverse effects during gabapentin withdrawal can be severe, requiring medical assistance.

Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin©) is a not entirely understood medication that was originally approved for treating seizures and some types of nerve pain.4 We have assembled some information on these and other topics below, to help in researching the subject. We can freely offer more information on request.

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What is Gabapentin Used For?

The two FDA-approved uses for gabapentin (Neurontin) are for the treatment of partial seizures in adults and children, and also to reduce pain stemming from nerve damage caused by shingles. A review of clinical trials authored by Wiffin et al concluded that half the patients who take gabapentin for neuropathy will not benefit, and more than half will suffer adverse effects. The review also revealed that 3 or 4 patients out of 10 will experience a 50% reduction in neuropathic pain, compared to 1 or 2 patients experiencing that level of relief in the placebo component.12

Other uses came about after uncontrolled studies were sponsored by the drug manufacturer, though the evidence did not strongly support the drug manufacturer’s claims.6

Pfizer was sued for false advertising as a result. Such marketing practices are illegal; however, the prescribing for off-label uses does not carry the same legal repercussions.

Off-label uses include:

  • Hot flashes related to menopause
  • Pain management in some cancer patients
  • Alcohol withdrawal management
  • Cocaine withdrawal
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Diabetic neurology (pain related to diabetes)
  • Hyperhidrosis (excessive perspiration)
  • Headaches
  • Fibromyalgia (a painful medical condition affecting the entire body)
  • Hiccups
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Insomnia
  • Used in dentistry as a painkiller

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal effects can begin to emerge within approximately 12 hours of the last dose, but can emerge in as little as 6 hours and can be severe, requiring careful monitoring, support, and medical oversight. gabapentin seizuresThe drug should never be discontinued abruptly, according to the medical literature.4

The body can become accustomed to having gabapentin (or any habit-forming drug) in the system, eventually requiring the drug to be present for the body to function normally. This is one of the basic drivers behind addictive behavior, as when the drug is withdrawn, physical and mental reactions turn on heavily, leading to compulsive drug-seeking.

In the years since the release of gabapentin, numerous case studies of people becoming dependent on or addicted to the drug have surfaced. Persons who have developed dependence or gabapentin addiction, and in cases of gabapentin abuse are at risk of withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued.8

Well-managed gradual withdrawal gently coaxes the body, brain, and CNS back to its natural neurochemical state, in order to diminish harsh withdrawals while becoming drug-free.

Gabapentin Withdrawal Symptoms may include:
  • Seizures, (particularly occurring one after another) which can be fatal.
  • Catatonia (inability to move)
  • Convulsions
  • Suicidal thoughts, especially in young children*
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Compulsive or strange thoughts
  • Sudden mood changes, agitation
  • Flu Syndrome, i.e., fever, sweating, nausea, aches, pains
  • Tachycardia (racing heartbeat), palpitations
  • Hallucinations
  • Restlessness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Insomnia

*According to the drug’s label, the FDA granted approval to prescribe gabapentin to children as young as 3 years old.

Gabapentin Alternative Names and Slang

gabapentin on the streetNeurontin is a trade or brand name for the generic drug gabapentin. Other trade names include Gralise, an extended-release version of the drug manufactured in the US, and Horizant, a version of gabapentin altered for more bioavailability, which was marketed to treat restless leg syndrome.

Gabapentin has become a street drug mainly due to the euphoric effects the drug causes. Neurontin is commonly referred to as “Johnnies” and “Gabbies” on the street. Gabapentin has been suggested as a “safe substitute” for opioid drugs due to its ability to relieve neurological sources of pain. This may be, in part, how the drug came to be viewed and used as a street drug substitute for opiates, as it is cheap and relatively easy to divert from legal channels.

Gabapentin Side Effects

One of the most concerning side effects of Neurontin is that the drug causes an increase in suicide, suicidal thoughts, and violent death as documented in drug studies, and as reflected in the FDA’s black box warning.1,4 The drug causes euphoric effects, which are sometimes compared to heroin or other opiates which can also leave the person in a zombie-like state.

Gabapentin side effects:
  • Euphoria
  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior
  • Sudden behavior changes, hostility
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Epilepsy in children and adults
  • Ataxia, dystonia, convulsive movements, tremors, tics, muscle spasms, movement disorders
  • Confusion, cognitive impairment
  • Kidney and stomach issues such as pain, infection
  • Slowed breathing
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Strange or unusual thoughts
  • Asthenia, weakened muscles, clumsiness, lack of coordination
  • Allergic reactions, i.e., swelling of mouth, throat, extremities, hives, welts, itching, etc.
  • Drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue
  • Amnesia
  • Nystagmus, double vision, rolling eye movement, blurred vision
  • Nausea. vomiting, dry mouth, constipation
  • Increased appetite, weight gain, edema
  • Flu Syndrome, red itchy eyes, runny nose
  • Ear pain
  • Heartburn
  • Fever
  • Viral infections

Gabapentin Withdrawal — How hard is Quitting?

It is typically much easier to withdraw from gabapentin than from benzodiazepines or opiates. Gabapentin is chemically very similar to GABA, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter. Gabapentin users seeking to taper off this medication may consider using a natural form of GABA to ease the withdrawal effects. Many active forms of GABA are available without a prescription at your local health store.5

It is much easier to successfully discontinue gabapentin if the drug is gradually reduced over time. The return of original symptoms often makes the process difficult to manage without medical support and assistance.

Never abruptly stop taking gabapentin suddenly as the results can be severe. Always seek competent medical treatment to safely taper from Neurontin.

Gabapentin Withdrawal FAQs

Since Neurontin came onto the market in 1993, ongoing research and clinical trials have been done to understand more about the properties of the drug, how it works, and how it differs from other drugs such as opioids or benzodiazepines.

Below you will find some of the most common questions we get asked about Neurontin.

Is Gabapentin a Benzodiazepine?

No. While the exact mechanism of how gabapentin works is not completely known, medical literature shows that benzodiazepine drugs function as anti-anxiety or sedating drugs by enhancing the neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a natural brain chemical that sedates by inhibiting the excitatory action of other neurochemicals.

Gabapentin is used to help people withdraw from benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines may spend and eventually diminish the body’s available reserves of GABA. Gabapentin is also thought to act on GABA and is thought to induce a higher level of GABA concentration in the brain.2

Gabapentin has also been used to treat alcohol withdrawal and to reduce the frequency of alcohol abuse.10

Notably, gabapentin does not require CYP enzymes from the liver to metabolize. This indicates that it rarely interacts with other drugs and that it is relatively non-toxic to the liver, but has been shown to present health challenges to the kidneys.3,4

Gabapentin itself resembles the structure of natural GABA, also called a GABA analog. It is theorized that by mimicking the properties of natural GABA, that is how it can prevent seizures (anticonvulsive agent), and can reduce pain after nerve inflammation or damage related to shingles (herpes zoster).

Is Gabapentin a Painkiller?

No, gabapentin can relieve pain related to nerve damage but is not classed as a painkiller. Gabapentin does create a euphoric sensation in the user, and this effect can resemble that of some other drugs classed as painkillers.

Though it does have analgesic properties in that it can reduce pain caused by nerve damage, it is classed as an anti-convulsive. It is thought to have a different mechanism of action than that of other types of painkillers.

Is Gabapentin an Opioid/Opiate?

No, gabapentin is not classed as a narcotic or opioid drug such as morphine or heroin. The mechanism of action for opiates is that an opiate attaches to opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system. Gabapentin is thought to raise concentrations of GABA in the central nervous system. Both of these mechanisms can result in pain reduction. Gabapentin is not considered addictive by regulators at the Federal level, but several states have reclassified Gabapentin as a controlled substance, due to its risk of addiction.7

Treatment for Gabapentin Abuse and Addiction

treatment for gabapentin addictionIn a review of addiction treatment centers, gabapentin abuse was involved in 22% of enrollees in addiction treatment.9 There are safe and health-restoring treatments for gabapentin/Neurontin abuse and addiction. These have been made available for a successful recovery at Alternative to Meds Center. Perhaps one of the most important first steps to conquering addiction is to be confident that there are successful methods for treatment based on scientific, evidence-based protocols.

Undesirable symptoms may have led to gabapentin addiction or gabapentin dependence. A person’s original symptoms, as well as undesirable drug adverse effects, can be addressed in ways that can determine, diminish, and even eliminate their root causes. There is no need to mechanically require further addictive drugs to numb or mask these unwanted feelings, sensations, or pains. Many techniques for reducing stress, anxiety, and tension can be learned and can lead to personal empowerment in managing these without drugs or prescription medication.

Addiction responds to a variety of treatment methods which can include:

Each person is a unique individual and an individualized treatment program is essential to help a person regain optimum health and restore peace of mind after addiction or dependence.

You can contact Alternative to Meds Center for more details on the many treatment protocols used in addressing and resolving addiction or dependence on substances such as gabapentin. You are invited to find out more about the various ways one can regain mental health naturally while enrolled at the facility.


1. Patorno E, Bohn RL , Wahl PM , et al., “Anticonvulsant Medications and the Risk of Suicide, Attempted Suicide, or Violent Death” JAMA, 2010 Apr 14 [cited 2020 Oct 22]

2. Cai K, Nanga R, Lamprou L, Schinstine C, Elliott M, Hariharan H, Reddy R, Epperson CN “The Impact of Gabapentin Administration on Brain GABA and Glutamate Concentrations: A 7T 1H-MRS Study” Neuropsychopharmacology, 2012 Dec [cited 2020 Oct 22]

3. Fudin J, “How Gabapentin Differs From Pregabalin” Pharmacy Times, 2015 Sep 22 [cited 2020 Oct 22]

4. FDA Drug label Neurontin (gabapentin) Approved 1993 [cited 2020 Oct 22]

5. Abdou AM, Higashiguchi S, Horie K, Kim M, Hatta H, Yokogoshi H. Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans. Biofactors. 2006;26(3):201-8. doi: 10.1002/biof.5520260305. PMID: 16971751. [cited 2021 April 17]

6. Lenzer J. (2004). Pfizer pleads guilty, but drug sales continue to soarBMJ (Clinical research ed.)328(7450), 1217. [cited 2023 May 30]

7. Yasaei R, Katta S, Saadabadi A. Gabapentin. [Updated 2022 Dec 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2023 May 30]

8. Mersfelder TL, Nichols WH. Gabapentin: Abuse, Dependence, and Withdrawal. Ann Pharmacother. 2016 Mar;50(3):229-33. doi: 10.1177/1060028015620800. Epub 2015 Dec 31. PMID: 26721643. [cited 2023 May 30]

9. Smith RV, Havens JR, Walsh SL. Gabapentin misuse, abuse and diversion: a systematic review. Addiction. 2016 Jul;111(7):1160-74. doi: 10.1111/add.13324. Epub 2016 Mar 18. PMID: 27265421; PMCID: PMC5573873. [cited 2023 May 30]

10. Mason BJ, Quello S, Shadan F. Gabapentin for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2018 Jan;27(1):113-124. doi: 10.1080/13543784.2018.1417383. Epub 2017 Dec 23. PMID: 29241365; PMCID: PMC5957503. [cited 2023 May 30]

11. Grandview Research Gabapentin Market Size Report published online c.2018 [cited 2023 May 30]

12. Wiffen PJ, Derry S, Bell RF, Rice AS, Tölle TR, Phillips T, Moore RA. Gabapentin for chronic neuropathic pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Jun 9;6(6):CD007938. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007938.pub4. PMID: 28597471; PMCID: PMC6452908. [cited 2023 May 30]

Originally Published Sep 13, 2018 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Gabapentin (Neurontin) Withdrawal, Side Effects, Addiction FAQs
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