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Is Gabapentin an Effective Treatment for Opiate Withdrawal?

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Medically reviewed: 01/31/2019
Last updated: 09/17/2019
Author: Medical Review

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Recent studies have examined the effectiveness of gabapentin as a treatment for opiate withdrawal. In addition, some individuals have heard about the efficacy of the drug for treating withdrawal from opioids and choose to use this medication by dosing themselves without a doctor’s prescription, which is not recommended. It is important to understand just how effective gabapentin is in treating opiate withdrawal and how it can be safely used to do so.

Opioid Withdrawal Treatment

Gabapentin an Effective Treatment

Gabapentin may help relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology evaluated the efficacy of gabapentin as a supplemental medication for those who were already on methadone for withdrawal treatment. The drug was used in an adjunctive capacity and administered to 27 patients. According to the study, “Add-on gabapentin with a dose of 1600 mg/d is effective in reducing some of the withdrawal symptoms in patients addicted to opiates undergoing methadone-assisted detoxification.”

This study is very important to note, and others like it have had similar results. However, gabapentin has not been studied enough as an opioid withdrawal treatment to be considered an approved treatment method for this syndrome. In addition, it has only been looked at in an adjunctive sense, not as a sole treatment for opioid withdrawal; therefore, it cannot be determined if gabapentin is a safe or effective treatment for this condition, especially when used on its own.

What Does This Mean for Those in Opioid Withdrawal?

In any case, individuals going through opioid withdrawal should not take gabapentin unless the drug is prescribed to them by a doctor. It may be helpful to take the medication as a supplemental treatment to a more established opioid withdrawal treatment option (namely methadone), but gabapentin is a prescription-only drug. Taking it without a doctor’s permission can be very dangerous.

The medication can cause seizures, severe withdrawal symptoms, and other problems if not taken properly. Its side effects can be intense and may include strange thoughts, memory problems, diarrhea, headache, and anxiety. And when taken in high doses, it can cause euphoria, much in the same way that opioids do. When a person begins to abuse gabapentin––or take it in any way other than they were prescribed––they open themselves to the possibility of addiction again. This is especially dangerous to those in withdrawal who were recent opioid abusers.

Can I Take Gabapentin for Opioid Withdrawal?

You should only take this medication under a doctor’s care no matter why you are using it. And though it has not been officially indicated for the treatment of this syndrome, a doctor may prescribe you gabapentin as an opioid withdrawal treatment in addition to another medication. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, gabapentin is also being considered––and sometimes used––to treat alcohol withdrawal, so there is a strong possibility it could be effective for both syndromes under the right circumstances.

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