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Gabapentin Recreational Use: Growing In Popularity

Gabapentin (Neurontin) is a pharmaceutical drug that has received a lot of mainstream attention in part due to the fact that it is frequently prescribed “off-label” or to treat conditions for which it is not FDA approved.  The drug was originally approved in 1993 for the treatment of epilepsy, and has been found to be an effective adjunct when used with other anticonvulsants.  The drug would later get approval for the treatment of neuropathic pain in 2004.

Due to the fact that the drug has both anticonvulsant and analgesic properties, it has been commonly dispensed to help mitigate post-surgery pain and improve recovery efforts.  The drug functions via modulation of GABA synthesis.  GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that slows activity in the brain and central nervous system; this leads to reductions in arousal.

Some studies suggest that prescribing Gabapentin as an anxiolytic works extremely well, likely due to its GABAergic effects.  One published report went as far as to suggest that Gabapentin behaves similarly to Diazepam, the benzodiazepine more commonly known as “Valium.”  Due to the fact that drug users are often drawn to substances that inhibit CNS activity, Gabapentin has become a target for recreational use and abuse.

Gabapentin Recreational Use: Growing in Popularity

In the 1990s, Gabapentin wasn’t subject to significant recreational use nor abuse.  Those prescribed Gabapentin in the ’90s took it as directed for epilepsy.  When the drug was granted approval for the treatment of neuropathic pain in 2004, the number of Gabapentin prescriptions skyrocketed.  During this time, doctors also began doling out more off-label prescriptions for conditions like drug and alcohol withdrawal.

The fact that the drug has been on the market for over 20 years indicates that many people have used it.  While most of those individuals have taken the drug as directed, many people have experimented with doses greater than recommended (supratherapeutic) and have allowed friends to “try” the drug.  Since the drug can be attained for an extremely low cost in generic format (just over $10 for 90 pills), it makes it a popular recreational drug.

While Gabapentin certainly won’t pack the same overall punch as benzodiazepines or opioids, the fact that it has subtle analgesic effects and acts on GABA makes it appealing to some.  In fact, certain recreational users have gone as far as to suggest that Gabapentin or Neurontin is their new “drug of choice.”

Why Gabapentin’s Recreational Use Has Increased

There are several reasons why Gabapentin (Neurontin) has become a target drug for recreational use.  Perhaps the most common reason is that it is available via prescription and is commonly prescribed off label.  The drug is also extremely cheap and therefore is relatively easy to obtain by individuals with a variety of conditions.

Alternative to benzodiazepines: Gabapentin is believed to elicit an effect on synthesis of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter.  While its exact mechanism of action hasn’t been fully deciphered, many believe it acts on voltage-gated calcium channels, just like benzodiazepines.  This has lead early researchers to compare its effects to Diazepam (Valium).

The fact that it is closely related to benzodiazepines means that the effect may be similar in terms of anxiety reduction.  Many studies suggest that using Gabapentin for anxiety may be an effective intervention.  This may appeal to those seeking a recreational “relaxation” effect similar in some ways to that derived from benzodiazepines.

Cheap cost: The drug is manufactured in several dosing formats including: 100 mg, 300 mg, and 400 mg.  For a 120 count of pills, you probably won’t pay more than $20 for generic Gabapentin.  If we do the math, this averages out to less than 60 cents per pill; a price most recreational drug users can afford.  Even if they are “marked up” – the cost likely won’t be that steep due to the fact that Gabapentin is widely available.

Drug withdrawal: Many people are able to attain prescriptions for Gabapentin while undergoing withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs.  It is common for someone to take Gabapentin during opiate withdrawal to help reduce the severity of symptoms.  In some cases, individuals that were addicted to opioids may turn to Gabapentin as a new drug of choice to attain a “high.”

Easy to obtain: The widespread off-label use of Gabapentin has made the drug easy to obtain.  It is not classified as a “controlled-substance” and is therefore available via prescription.  The prescriptions can be refilled electronically without an additional doctor visit – this makes the drug different than other substances that are subject to strict regulation.

High (Intoxication): While the “high” associated with Gabapentin may not appeal to everyone, some people really enjoy it.   The high that can be attained from Gabapentin is said to be filled with relaxation.  This makes sense due to the fact that it acts similarly to various benzodiazepines.  Certain recreational users claim that the drug makes them feel calm, boosts mood, and even makes them more social.

Minimal side effects: Gabapentin is also appealing to many recreational drug users for the fact that it isn’t associated with many unwanted side effects.  The most common side effects include some drowsiness, dizziness, and lack of coordination.  The fact that no significant agitation, teeth grinding, restlessness or weight gain from Gabapentin makes it appealing to recreational users.

Noticeable “buzz”: Despite the fact that Gabapentin is regarded as being less potent than its successor (Lyrica), it is still a potent drug – especially when taken at high doses.  Most recreational users take doses exceeding 900 mg to attain an intoxicating high.  Though the bioavailability decreases as the dose increases, some anecdotal reports have documented taking up to 5000 mg at a time.

Legal classification: The drug isn’t regarded as a “controlled substance” like other similar drugs, including Lyrica which is classified as a “Schedule V” substance.  Gabapentin is not formally documented as having significant potential for abuse.  Therefore the drug is legal to take via prescription as directed by a medical professional.

Safety: Compared to other prescription drugs used recreationally, Gabapentin is thought to be safer.  As long as recreational users aren’t trying to inject it, snort it, or mix it – the drug is regarded as relatively safe when taken within a therapeutic dosage range.  In addition, the drug is not considered to be addictive.  That said, there are always health risks when taking any drug recreationally rather than as directed by a professional.

Slow onset: Though the drug will not “kick-in” immediately, it typically only takes about an hour to feel some sort of an intoxicating effect.  This feeling of intoxication usually lasts several hours, and as it fades, recreational users often will ingest another dose in effort to maintain their already-established “high.”  While a slower onset of effect may not be appealing to everyone, the intoxication is said to last several hours.

Is using Gabapentin recreationally dangerous?

Many would agree that Gabapentin is significantly less risky to use recreationally than other addictive drugs.  That said, whenever a person fails to use a prescription drug as directed by a medical professional, danger may result.  Especially if the individual mixes Gabapentin with another substance or overdoses by taking a dose significantly higher than medically approved.

  • Adverse reactions: Like any pharmaceutical drug, adverse reactions can occur with recreational Gabapentin users. Adverse reactions associated with Gabapentin include things like: vomiting, faintness, and even coma.  When taken under medical supervision, serious adverse reactions are more likely to be avoided due to the fact that patients aren’t taking super high doses of the drug like recreational users.
  • Dependence: Despite the fact that Gabapentin is not thought to be “habit forming” this doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people have clearly developed a habit of using Gabapentin as frequently as possible.  Though the drug may not lead to physiological dependence, many recreational users may display signs of psychological dependence; needing the drug to maintain a happy, relaxed mood.
  • Overdose potential: Though most people are unlikely to overdose on Gabapentin, it can occur – especially during first time recreational usage. Someone who has never used the drug before won’t have any tolerance, and may ingest a high dosage (e.g. 900 mg to 5000 mg) and end up in a coma.  While many people know that the drug’s bioavailability decreases as higher doses are ingested, the sheer potency of a supratherapeutic dose may not bode well for an new user.
  • Interactions: Gabapentin may interact with other drugs, increasing the likelihood of adverse reactions that could lead you into the emergency room. Sometimes recreational drug users may “mix” other substances with Gabapentin thinking they will achieve a more noticeable “high.”  While the increased “high” may occur for those that mix drugs with Gabapentin, it could also result in death.  Mixing other substances with Gabapentin without medical permission should be considered dangerous.
  • Lack of medical instruction / supervision: It is dangerous for someone without medical instruction and supervision to be taking Gabapentin. Without medical instruction, you won’t know if the dosage you’re taking is safe, nor will you know whether the drug could be interacting with any other substances you commonly ingest.  The lack of medical instruction and supervision may lead some recreational users into the emergency room.
  • Tolerance: It is possible to become tolerant to the effects of Gabapentin over time. As you continue to take high recreational doses, the intoxicating effect becomes minimized with each successive usage.  The more frequent the usage and the higher the dose, the more likely you are to develop tolerance.  Should you become tolerant to the effects of Gabapentin, you may find it difficult to function when your supply “dries” up.
  • Withdrawal: Recreational users of Gabapentin that use the drug on a daily basis may not be prepared for (or even knowledgeable of) discontinuation symptoms. Discontinuation from this drug, especially from a high dose may be more than you bargained for, including things like sweating, depression, anxiety, and dizziness.  Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms may be protracted and long-lasting, making it difficult to function mentally or physically without the drug.

How Gabapentin is Used Recreationally

Below is a brief breakdown of how people use Gabapentin on a recreational basis.

1. Prescription or Unauthorized Purchase

Due to the fact that Gabapentin is prescribed for a variety of conditions, many people are able to get prescriptions.  Of individuals getting prescriptions, some are going to use the drug “recreationally” without following proper medical instruction.  Other individuals are going to locate the individuals that have managed to get a prescription and request to purchase and/or steal their supply or a portion of it.

2. Oral Ingestion

After the recreational user has attained the Gabapentin, they generally take the drug orally at a relatively high dose.  Various circulating publications on the internet suggest that a majority of recreational users are ingesting between 900 mg and 5000 mg at a time.  Some anonymous users claim that doses under 600 mg have no intoxicating effect.

Most users will ingest a minimum of 600 mg orally (in pill format).  The amount ingested often depends on how “tolerant” an individual is to the drug’s effect.  Someone who has established a tolerance to Gabapentin may take supratherapeutic doses (exceeding 3000 mg) to attain a high; this is not medically recommended.

Other modalities of Gabapentin administration have been discussed including: snorting, intravenous injection, etc.  Most experts agree that these alternative modalities of administration are problematic and may result in various adverse reactions – leading to an emergency room visit.  Additionally these alternative methods of administration are more likely to result in an overdose – which could put an individual in a coma.

3. Person experiences a “high” (intoxication)

Gabapentin has a relatively slow onset of action, taking approximately an hour before a recreational user notices any effect.  When the drug’s intoxicating effect “hits,” a person tends to notice physical sensations of relaxation.  Some have suggested that the effect is like a “wave of relaxation” starting off relatively subtle, and ramping in intensity.

This intoxication is maintained for several hours and may be accompanied by a mood boost.  For some users the mood-boost is characterized as a light euphoria, while for others, no noticeable mood boost is reported.  Many people report the “high” as being pleasant and promoting socialization and laughter.

Perceived mood boosts and pro-social effects are largely subjective and subject to individual variation.  The intoxicating effect of Gabapentin is thought to last several hours before it begins to fade.

4. “High” Maintenance

After several hours, recreational users often attempt to maintain their initial high by taking another dose of the drug.  After the initial dose, most users will take smaller consecutive doses (e.g. 300 mg) to keep the high that they’ve established.  Many users have suggested that taking higher doses may not be necessary due to saturation of the amino acid transporter.

Saturation of this transporter results in decreased bioavailability, which some users have suggested can be enhanced via consumption of food.  The maintenance of the initial high is often done by those with a large supply of the drug, as to keep them “intoxicated” for an entire day.

5. Crash

Followed by the intoxicating high, a recreational users may “crash” or experience withdrawal symptoms the next day and/or week.  This may be characterized by unpleasant symptoms that were the exact opposite of the “high.”  In other words, a person may start to feel angry, agitated, restless, anxious, and possibly depressed.  This often leads a person to seek out more Gabapentin as a means to avoid this miserable “crash” in the future.

Have you used Gabapentin on a recreational basis?

If you’ve personally used Gabapentin on a recreational basis, feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.  What was appealing about Gabapentin compared to other drugs? Did it produce an intoxicating “high” that you found pleasurable and/or addictive?  Be sure to share how frequently you used Gabapentin recreationally and the typical dosage you ingested.

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{ 110 comments… add one }
  • Cheryl February 3, 2018, 7:57 pm

    I was prescribed this for nerve pain and frankly I am struggling just to take the dose my doctor prescribed. He put me on 300mg 3 times a day, and it was a struggle to stay awake. Now he wants to raise the dose and get me up to 900 mg 3 times a day. I haven’t noticed any kind of a high.

    It makes me drowsy, it’s hard to think, I just want to lie down. Its a struggle to do anything. It gives you a weird feeling in your head, not a headache but unpleasant. I can’t really imagine people wanting to take this recreationally.

    It does help the nerve pain in my feet which is the only reason I’m suffering through it. I can’t say anything super about it.

  • Adam February 10, 2017, 3:00 am

    Love it TBH… It’s a miracle drug in my opinion. Speaking junky wise, it’s very cheap (around $1 a pill on the street) and it lasts for 4-6 hours. It makes you feel not only like socializing, but thankful and content. Gives you a little brightness, not quite euphoric or anything like an upper, but on the other hand the come down can really fluctuate. I’ve had experiences where it feels like an ambien trip (almost out of body, really dissociative) but usually only after high doses consumed at once. Rate: 7.5/10

  • Steve January 31, 2017, 9:42 am

    I’m addicted to Gabapentin and I would like to get off of it. I started out taking it as prescribed for neuropathic symptoms from neck and back surgery. I am now up to over 6000 milligrams per day over 24 hours. As long as I take it I feel great I go to the gym everyday have no trouble sleeping and have boundless energy, but I know I’m addicted to it and I want to get off of it I’m afraid of the withdrawal symptoms I was a recovering addict until I got hooked on this.

    I’m on Social Security disability and have a very limited income. the doctor I have now I don’t feel comfortable talking to. I know he would not be very receptive. I’ve tried to stop on my own several times but the symptoms are pretty bad and I’m a big wimp. I really don’t want to live like this anymore.

    I know that all the happiness and the energy I have is not real. I am also on Suboxone and have been for several years. I’ve managed to cut my dose in half and take 4 milligrams per day sublingually, so now I’m addicted to two drugs. I know that sooner or later I am going to run out of the Gabapentin, or not be able to get in the amounts I need.

    I’m not sure where to go or what to do. There are no treatments that I know for a gabapentin withdrawal. Everything I read says decrease your dose 10% at a time. I think I’m going to run out way before that. I have read that taking n-acetylcysteine, and magnesium can help. Advice would be greatly appreciated thank you.

  • Steven January 28, 2017, 8:11 pm

    I was prescribed Gabapentin for Neuropathic pain in my foot. I was prescribed 240 capsules at 300mg a month supply. I was instructed to take 3 300mg capsules 3 times a day. I was also prescribed opioids for pain. Since then I have decided to stop taking the opioids and started taking high dosages of the Gabapentin.

    It has helped very much with the withdrawal of the opioids. I experience relaxation and I feel sociable feelings. I also feel slight euphoria. I have always been an abuser of pharmaceuticals. I enjoy Gabapentin very much. I usually take a 3000mg dose but I have taken a larger dose in the past.

  • Kir January 4, 2017, 9:13 pm

    I got some Gabs given to me by a friend she told me to take 7 and I’d feel great. So not knowing what it was I looked them up and they’re 600mg pills. After reading comments I decided to not take 7 at once. I’m a recovering opiate addict and I use suboxone daily. So I’m assuming my tolerance will be higher. As of right now I took one 600mg and waited an hour…

    Took another, still not feeling any “high” then popped another 30 minutes later. I feel pretty relaxed but that’s about it. Probably gonna take another one. Why not? I just can’t imagine doing 5000mg. Seems like a lot.

  • THOMAS December 27, 2016, 5:54 am

    I have been taking it for neuropathy for 3 years. I have never felt a high of any sort. I have taken as much as 15,000 mg and felt nothing. Also I get little relief.

  • Jill Bowman December 14, 2016, 6:14 pm

    I have been on neurontin for years and was shocked when my Doctor told me that they are now concerned with people abusing it. Great. Another drug I need for medical purposes that is now going to eventually be re-classified.

    If someone is going to abuse a drug, I say, then they are going to abuse ANY drug. FDA: Quit blaming the drug and re-classifying drugs that are harmless when taken as prescribed for people who legitimately need them for a medical condition; and STOP THE STIGMA!

  • Steve December 10, 2016, 6:14 pm

    I have a legal prescription for gabapentin and have used it for several years. I have several pain conditions, including diagnosed, longstanding complex regional pain syndrome (RSD) (in my arms; the condition has fortunately eased over the years but is still unpleasant enough) and osteoarthritis. The drug has been very effective in controlling my pain and enabling me to function more normally.

    Other effects I have noticed are mood lift, increased sociability, a sort of gentle good feeling (I wouldn’t call it euphoria), occasional mild mental confusion, moments of clumsiness, and improved sleep. Above all, I notice a great increase in my energy and my ability to work (I’m a farmer). This is just a huge benefit, with no downside that I can perceive.

    There is a withdrawal syndrome if I attempt to stop the drug, but tapering the dosage helps ease the unpleasantness greatly. No one should stop gabapentin suddenly. Reduce the dosage gradually. Periodically I do taper the dosage in order the restore the drug’s effectiveness, then I go back to the higher dosages. I hope the online media will not demonize yet another drug in an attempt to garner more “hits.”

  • Dmms November 25, 2016, 3:41 am

    I snort Neurontin 600-900mg to start. Snorting kicks in fast no waiting for the high and it lasts several hours. But don’t do it everyday or you build a tolerance and can have a problem you really don’t need.

  • Lyle D. Yates November 1, 2016, 2:28 pm

    I take Gabapentin for lower lumbar pain that is caused by bulging disks and Degenerative Disk Disease. I also have mild arthritis in my knees. It works great for pain relief. It’s like taking two 10/325 Percocet (as I would have to do in order to get any pain relief in my back), but without that narcotic euphoria. Though I do get a mild euphoric feeling like a mild narcotic…say one 5/325 Vicodin.

    And with that feeling, also comes a feeling as if I had a few shots of 80 proof liquor. And surprisingly it lasts for hours. And this is just my therapeutic dose of 300mgs TID. I would imagine if a person were to take more then their therapeutic dose that they would indeed experience a greater sense of euphoria. I have a very high tolerance for pain medication, especially narcotics since I have been on Percocet 10/325 for a long time before I started the Gabapentin.

    So even with my high tolerance, my therapeutic dose of 300mgs TID gives me a slight euphoric feeling. I do enjoy a euphoric feeling like a lot of people, but I don’t use any medications recreationally.

  • Rob October 30, 2016, 7:55 am

    Started out 1 yr ago @ 300mg tid. I’m now at 1200mg tid for neuropathy. Usually take it all at once in the a.m. followed by one or two 1200mg doses during the day. Love the high while it suppresses my neuropathy.

    • Rob October 30, 2016, 7:59 am

      It makes me very relaxed and carelessly sleepy when I lay down. All my problems fade away. I love it.

  • Kel October 29, 2016, 2:51 pm

    I’m so grateful for all this info on how to use GABA. I’m dealing with Fibromyalgia, severe major depression, panic disorder, sciatica. I was given 100’s to slowly bring up my dose. I was taking 300mg 2 times a day. Until I read the comments here. Yesterday I took 600mg in the am and 300mg mid afternoon. I have not experienced “pain-free” or “restful sleep” in months, perhaps years. I woke up at 730am after sleeping straight through the night. What a trip!!!! But I didn’t feel high. I felt a lightness and floating feeling.

  • Jay October 13, 2016, 1:46 am

    Massive doses are useless. Your body can only absorb so much. My way is:
    1 – Skip Breakfast
    2 – Ingest (1) 100mg capsule
    3 – Wait 45m-1hr
    4 – Ingest second pill.
    5 – Repeat 2 & 3 until sufficiently high.

    Male, 190 lbs, 6’2″

  • PJNYC October 9, 2016, 8:00 pm

    I am bipolar and suffer from anxiety. The first time I tried it I had been taking it for less than a week when I fainted three times in a row. In April I started taking it in the hospital and didn’t really think it was doing anything. Last week I was feeling particularly anxious so I thought I’d try it again.

    I definitely have a “high”. I feel relaxed, yet very interested in things. Unfortunately, I am also very sleepy. Overall I am enjoying it. BTW, it helped me with alcohol withdrawal.

  • Crystal October 9, 2016, 6:18 am

    I am prescribed 1600mg a day. I have been taking that plus another 2000mg every few hours to get high. Mixing it with 1-2mg of Xanax. The high makes you into a sleepy zombie, and memory loss and blacking out occur. I like the feeling of complete relaxation, but also the effect of arousal. It makes me extremely horny, and willing to do things, I normally would not do. Over all, it’s fun to use, but knowing the risk of overdose makes me nervous, I’m willing to take the risk.

    • PJNYC October 10, 2016, 12:31 am

      Man, I wish gabapentin would make me horny! Zoloft has rendered me libido-less. I sometimes take a Klonopin with the gabapentin so I know what you mean. Although I stick to prescribed amounts. I’m a lightweight.

  • Tracy September 30, 2016, 1:33 am

    When I get a decent amount of gabapentin. I will take at least 2000 mg to start and throughout the day will take the same amount about every 2 hours… I will do this in the day them sleep really well then so it again the next day and then be out… I have an extremely addictive personality and now that I have no narcotics to use I will use other medications to get high if it’s possible…

    For me it’s not a good thing to do because I am dangerous with it and feel if I look it up online in a site like this I’ll be ok as long as there are more good than bad comments… It relaxes me, not as well as benzos or opioids, but slightly like the feeling I get from those drugs.

  • Jane doe September 22, 2016, 5:42 pm

    The crash for me is horrible. It makes me so tired and I can’t keep my eyes open.

  • M.T.H. September 18, 2016, 9:58 am

    I’ve used Gabapentin recreationally off and on for over a decade. I’m currently 29, and I recall using it to get a “high” as early as my Junior and Senior years of High School. At that age (17-18), I was extremely addicted to opioid painkillers and often took this drug as something to potentiate the high I received (doses ranged from 100mg-3000+mg).

    Often it was, and has been in recent years, a substitute for an actual benzodiazepine. I recall feeling good about an hour after oral ingestion, though attempts to imitate the reaction in consecutive days resulted in no noticeable effects. Today I am in Methadone treatment for my opioid addiction and do not take anything to purposely gain any additional side effects.

    However, I have been prescribed alprazolam now for 7 years for several issues and though I try not to use more than prescribed, I still come up short many months and typically resort to Gabapentin as a “security blanket” to help lessen the effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal (Doses range from 400-1500mg). Overall I have found it more useful to treat both opiate and benzodiazepine withdrawals than when used to potentiate another drug. – M.H. ([email protected])

  • Joe September 17, 2016, 2:09 pm

    It only takes a few rotten apples to spoil the whole patch. I’ve been on Neurontin for almost 5 years now, 800mg 4x daily. Taken exactly as Rx and no high. Even with the opiates I’m on (morphine & norco) muscle relaxer, and antidepressant, still no high.

    I am tired throughout the day but my severe chronic pain has become tolerable. Thats a tradeoff I’m willing to accept. I personally do not enjoy any kind of buzz or high. I don’t even drink for that reason. I think this medication has been a god send for my sciatica.

    Amazing how a medication is actually used for what it’s supposed to be used for! Nerve pain! To those of you who use this recreationally, please remember that there are people who rely on this to function. Not that you really care.

    • Patty Baker October 17, 2016, 2:05 pm

      You are so right!!!

  • TKO Rich September 14, 2016, 4:24 am

    Just got my script filled after holding it for a while, previously hearing it was ‘useless’ from my father and subsequently after hearing its ‘awesome’ from you guys. Starting at 1200mgs and gonna go lay down to read for a while…will report back.

  • Mom of seven September 14, 2016, 2:16 am

    I am prescribed Gabapentin for seizures, bipolar I, and nerve pain at 800 mg 3x per day. I have come to appreciate the high of taking the 2400 all at once in the morning. It helps me take on my day as a mom. I never take more or less per day so that I am present for my family and I do not run out over the month. The high lasts till late afternoon and I sleep great. I’ve been taking this drug since 2004.

  • Nate September 13, 2016, 9:19 pm

    I’ve been using gabapentin for a while now. I might take 3000mg to 4000mg daily. I think it’s an awesome drug. I literally got rid of all my anxiety, especially socially. My depression has faded away and my sex drive is amazing.😀

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