Can You Get High on Gabapentin / Neurontin?
Picture this: You’ve been crushing work all day, you get home and just collapse on the couch, ready to relax for days.
If you’re like me, this is a daily routine. And, yet, with so many obligations and responsibilities in life, I find it harder to truly relax anymore. Maybe you’ve been stressed about work-related matters and you need to unwind.
Some people like drinking tea to calm their minds while others prefer to drink milk or even wine. But others need something a bit stronger.
Lately, recreational use of Gabapentin (aka Neurontin) is becoming more and more popular. If you are not familiar with Gabapentin—but curious about it—read on.
In this article:
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a pharmaceutical drug approved in 1993 as a treatment for epilepsy. It was also found to be effective when used with other anticonvulsants.
It was approved in 2004 for treating neuropathic pain, pain that comes from problems with how signals are channeled from the nerves. It has been shown to be more effective in this area than traditional painkillers.
Gabapentin is structurally similar to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), however it doesn’t bind to GABA receptors. Gabapentin is thought to be helpful in treating neuropathic pain due to its ability to bind to the a-2-delta subset of voltage-dependent calcium channels.
Although double-blind studies have been conducted, Gabapentin has not been proven to act as a mood stabilizer. Despite this fact, Gabapentin is regularly implemented in the treatment of depression and anxiety.
Additionally, Gabapentin has been approved in the US to treat seizures. It is considered to be an anti-epileptic medication that is embraced by the Epilepsy Foundation.
Because of its anticonvulsant and analgesic properties, Gabapentin is used to improve recovery by reducing post-operative nausea and easing post-surgery pains.
What is Neurontin and how Does it Work?
Neurontin might be a name that you’ve heard before (also called Gabapentin).
The drug is used to treat seizures and pain and is actually a brand name of the generic drug Gabapentin. That’s not the only use, however.
Psychiatrists have explored the use of Gabapentin for treating depression, mania, and anxiety, though it is not currently approved for this use in the United States.
Still, that mood-altering potential is what has attracted the eye of some recreational drug users.
The generic form of Neurontin, Gabapentin, was discovered more than 40 years ago by Japanese researchers with specific intentions of creating an anticonvulsant muscle relaxer.
It was later found to be useful for the treatment of epileptic seizures and has been employed for that purpose ever since. Neurontin is an anticonvulsant drug used to treat seizures associated with epilepsy.
It is also approved for postherpetic neuralgia and restless leg syndrome. There is a long list of off-label uses, several of which are psychiatric disorders.
As for how Neurontin works, it interacts with the neurotransmitter GABA, but the specifics of how it can alter the brain and body are otherwise unknown.
It is normally ingested via oral tablets of varying strengths, and dosages for the drug can get as high as 6,000 milligrams daily.
The kidneys help to filter Neurontin from the body, and lower doses are advised for those with kidney problems.
As mentioned, Neurontin has several approved uses that include controlling seizures and neuropathic pain.
Off-label, however, researchers have explored its potential for treating psychiatric and mood disorders.
Currently, it is believed that Neurontin can help ease symptoms of depression, bi-polar disorder, and anxiety as well, with relatively minor side effects when compared to other drugs used for the same purposes.
It was approved for use in the United States in 1993, and the generic form has been available since 2004. The off-label uses, however, are the ones that recreational users are more interested in.
You might recall Pfizer, the company that distributes Neurontin, getting into some hot water for marketing the drug for its off-label uses, which may account for a large majority of its sales.
These off-label uses include the treatment of bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. How do users feel about the possible Neurontin high and its potential as a mood enhancer?
GABA is a neurotransmitter in our central nervous system. Inhibitory in nature, it slows down activities in our brain and CNS (central nervous system), acting as a natural tranquilizer. Hence, the calming effect that Gabapentin can have on even casual users.
Gabapentin works via modulation of GABA synthesis.
Some studies suggest that Gabapentin is an anxiolytic (antianxiety agent) that works well because of the GABA effects.
One report even suggests that Gabapentin behaves like Valium. These factors, plus the fact that drug users are commonly attracted to substances that inhibit activities of the central nervous system, may be why Gabapentin has become a target for recreational use and abuse.
Why is Gabapentin Becoming More Popular?
Gabapentin has become a popular recreational drug over the past few years. It has already been on the market for more than 20 years now. While some take it as prescribed, many have also experimented with its dosage.
While it doesn’t have the exact effect that Valium does, Gabapentin has been used recreationally because of its subtle analgesic effects.
The rise in recreational use may seem bizarre because it is not grouped with typical substances of abuse. But its potential for abuse, tolerance and addiction are higher than most would expect and, certainly, more than has been acknowledged by the medical community.
Recreational users often take handfuls of Gabapentin at a time in order to achieve a drunken effect. When taken in excess of recommended dosage, Gabapentin leads to a loss of motor skills and can cause dizziness and sedation.
In a study of urine samples from 323 patients being treated at addiction treatment centers, 70 patients were found to be taking Gabapentin without a prescription.
It is easy to see why Gabapentin has been targeted for recreational use. Here are some of the other reasons for Gabapentin’s popularity: It’s dirt cheap.
For about 120 pills, you won’t have to pay more than $20 (less than 60 cents per pill on average). Many recreational drug users can easily afford this. Even if they get marked up, the cost will not be too high because Gabapentin is readily accessible and available.
It is easy to obtain. It is available via prescription. Plus, you can refill prescriptions electronically even without a doctor. This is another reason why it is different from those drugs which are subject to strict regulation.
It has minimal side effects. Gabapentin is not associated with lots of unwanted side effects. It has common side effects like drowsiness, dizziness and lack of coordination. However, what makes it appealing is that the side effects do not include teeth grinding or restlessness.[Caveat: Mixing Gabapentin with alcohol can result in extreme agitation and violent tendencies. Speaking from personal experience, mixing just one low milligram Gabapentin capsule with more than two 12-oz. beers can lead to irrational anger and physical violence.]
It is not a “controlled substance.” It is not classified, unlike similar drugs. Gabapentin is not documented as a drug that has significant potential for abuse. This makes it legal to take via prescription. Consequently, it is easier to get a physician to write a prescription for it compared to drugs like Oxycodone and Percocet.
It helps with drug withdrawal. Even those who are undergoing withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs can get prescriptions for Gabapentin.
For example, it is already common for someone going through opiate withdrawal to take Gabapentin because it helps in reducing the severity of symptoms. Dosage is important when kicking opiates; a proper dose of Gabapentin for this purpose is 1600 mg/d.
In some cases, those addicted to opioids turn to Gabapentin as an alternative drug if they want to achieve a “safer high.”
The “high” can be soothing. A number of users claim that the drug calms them down, boosts their moods and makes them more sociable. This might not appeal to everyone, but some enjoy the intoxication.
It is said that the “high” from Gabapentin is relaxing and this makes sense because it acts similarly to other benzodiazepines—drugs that are used primarily to treat anxiety.
It has a slow onset. It takes about an hour for the drug to kick in which will then last for several hours.
As it fades, users will often take another dose to maintain the “high.” The rate of the onset of its effects differs from person to person. And, although there is an average range, the onset is relatively slow.
Since Gabapentin can be prescribed for various conditions, many people can get prescriptions easily. Some will use it recreationally without following proper medical instructions. Some also locate those with prescriptions to buy, thus being unauthorized users.
Publications suggest that the majority of recreational users ingest as much as 900 mg to 5000 mg orally at a time. Some even say that there is no intoxicating effect for doses lower than 600 mg.
Those with high tolerance may take doses exceeding 3000 mg to experience the “high” but medical experts do not recommend this. Other modes include snorting and intravenous injection which can be problematic and may put the user at risk due to overdose.
Gabapentin has a slow onset before the effects are experienced, taking about an hour before any changes are noticed. When the “high” hits, you will experience physical sensations of relaxation. Some suggest that this relaxing wave starts subtly and gradually builds in intensity.
One user experience on Erowid suggests that doses in excess of 3000 milligrams make it hard to stand up and results in a lack of desire to move.
Recreational users attempt to maintain the “high” by taking additional smaller doses. They usually have a large supply at the ready which can be enough to keep them intoxicated for a whole day.
After the high comes the “crash” the following day which could last for a week. The withdrawal may be characterized by unpleasant symptoms such as feelings of anger, agitation, restlessness or anxiety.
In one study, it was observed that the withdrawal was similar to that of benzodiazepines: agitation, anxiety, and confusion among others. Sometimes, this can lead to a user searching for more Gabapentin in order to avoid this “crash” again.’
In 2007, it was reported that a 67-year old woman with depression and alcoholism used Gabapentin as a recreational drug. She increased her dose to 7.2 grams per day. By lying to pharmacists, she was able to get extra Gabapentin. Finally, when she could no longer get more, she developed withdrawal symptoms such as trembling, sweating, and exophthalmia (eyeball protrusion).
What Does Neurontin High Feel Like?
There’s some mixed opinion about Neurontin floating around. Some are pleasantly surprised by the high:
“The high I got was so insane, the only way I could try to describe it would be Xanax combined with DXM. I would often pass out and feel like I was awake in my dreams. When I was awake I was happy as shit stumbling around my house. It lasted a long time.”
Others were straight-up impressed by the way Gabapentin made them feel, ranking it among their favorites:
“Gabapentin gives me one of the top 5 best highs I’ve ever had and I’ve done meth, benzos (too many), heroin, other opiates, tons of psychedelics and dissociatives. Pretty much everything and gabapentin is still up there in my fav drugs.”
Some commenters, however, were quick to point out some of the dangers:
“Careful with that shit dude. It’s a slippery slope there, because it seems so innocuous. I was up to 2-3 grams a day stacked in 400mg doses. I was a complete mess after a few months of slowly escalating usage, I had no short term memory to speak of, no cognitive abilities whatsoever really.”
This user, in particular, goes on to describe how the drug wrecked this specific portion of their life:
“I can’t really remember much of that period of my life at all, and I had persisting cognitive symptoms for months afterwards. I’ve withdrawn from benzos and opiates, but the stupidity that persisted after gabapentin was the worst and most persistent, even moreso then benzos.”
So, the impression I got was that Neurontin is potent, can supply an intense high, but must be handled with care to avoid misuse. Good to know. The next step was to try it out for myself.
Neurontin was a fun and wild ride for me.
From what I had read of Neurontin, doctors have prescribed the medication in doses up to 6,000 milligrams per day in the past.
Not wanting to go all-in right away, I decided to take it easy with 2,000 milligrams.
A prudent choice, it turns out. Within the hour, I was feeling it. Hard. I didn’t feel drunk or drowsy; it was more like a breakdown of inhibitions coupled with a greatly elevated sense of ease.
I was calm, relaxed, and on “cloud 9” for the few hours that the Neurontin was working on me.
Afterwards, I took a nap and woke up feeling like a million bucks. No side effects, but I hear that they are possible. I also see why there are so many cautionary tales about this stuff.
It’d be easy to just make that Neurontin high a routine, but, not wanting to risk it, I decided once was enough for now. My verdict? Very potent stuff!
The Risks of Taking Gabapentin
Gabapentin is significantly less risky as a recreational drug than other addictive drugs. However, dangers may still occur when not used as advised by a medical professional.
Reactions such as vomiting, fainting and even comas are associated with Gabapentin abuse. When taken under medical supervision, these can be avoided.
Some have developed a habit of using Gabapentin frequently. Though it may not necessarily lead to physiological dependence, many users may display psychological dependence—the need to take more to maintain a relaxed mood.
Overdosing on Gabapentin is not likely, but it can still happen, especially to first-time recreational users. Even though the drug’s bioavailability decreases as higher doses are taken, it may not be a good idea to go overboard for new users.
Likewise, mixing substances with Gabapentin without medical permission is dangerous. It is best to take Gabapentin according to your doctor’s orders.
Tolerance to Gabapentin does occur over time. The more frequent and higher your dosage, it is more likely that you will develop tolerance.
Recreational users of Gabapentin who use it daily may not be ready for the discontinuation symptoms. Discontinuation, especially from sustained high doses, may include sweating, anxiety, dizziness or depression. Withdrawal symptoms may last long, making it difficult to function mentally or physically without the drug.
As one Reddit user said, “Gabapentin withdrawal is no joke.” In his post, this user relates an awful experience from Gabapentin discontinuation, reporting, “5 days of sweating out of my face, being anxious, exhausted and having bad aches and pains.”
Withdrawal from Gabapentin can cause a dramatic uptake in glutamate levels which can lead to excitotoxicity. Users on Longecity’s forums have recommended that those detoxing from Gabapentin take Creatine to instantly stabilize their glutamate levels.
As helpful as it may be, it is important to remember that drugs must be taken in moderation and with the advice of professionals.
Educating one’s self about the drug as well as listening to an expert will be a big help as you strive to attain a calm, relaxing experience.
Neurontin: Side Effects and Abuse Potential
Because of the potential for Neurontin abuse, there are concerns about getting hooked on the drug and experiencing withdrawal symptoms with sudden cessation.
Due to the way the drug works chemically, it can also be very dangerous for pregnant mothers and children to take Neurontin, as it affects the formation of new synapses in the brain.
Since the brain primarily forms new synapses either in utero, or in early childhood, this study suggests that pregnant women should not be taking Neurontin at all, given how easy it is for the drug to pass through the placental barrier and begin affecting the child.
While Neurontin has shown to be very effective for a large number of people who take the drug, it appears there may be a dark side of the drug which we do not fully understand.
We mentioned briefly that Pfizer, the company responsible for producing Neurontin fell into quite a bit of hot water by promoting the off-label uses of the drug.
While promoting these uses, it seems that Pfizer also went out of its way to downplay even more serious and fatal side effects as hundreds of suicides have at least been partially linked to Neurontin use.
Even when you consider that many of the patients using the drug were mentally unwell, this finding is still extremely alarming, and it certainly isn’t confined to only mental health patients.
Two well-regarded doctors who were prescribed Neurontin to cope with the pain of pre-existing injuries both traveled on similar paths to their unfortunate demise, months after they began a Neurontin regime.
Both of their wives noticed significant changes in their demeanor and actions which ultimately culminated in their deaths – both of which were extremely graphic suicides.
While their deaths aren’t necessarily directly related to the use of Neurontin, it’s certainly a compelling link.
So please, exercise caution when using the drug recreationally, and especially if you’ve been prescribed the drug and plan on taking it for an extended period of time.
The Gabapentin (Neurontin) high is very powerful, and should not be taken lightly. I say, start small and work your way up, and don’t overdo it with this drug.
While it’s important to exercise caution whenever you’re experimenting with drugs, you should take special care when using this drug.