New Reports Show Rising Gabapentin Misuse and Abuse

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Recent studies show increasing misuse of gabapentin, with prevalence as high as 68% among those with opioid use disorders. Novus Medical Detox Center urges the DEA and FDA to classify the drug as a controlled substance and halt its abuse.

Mounting evidence reveals that the prescription drug gabapentin is increasingly prone to misuse and abuse, particularly among those with opioid use disorders, even though it is not classified as a controlled substance and was believed to have a low risk of abuse.(1, 2) In light of these findings, Novus Medical Detox Center—a leading Florida-based drug treatment facility—maintains that federal authorities should reclassify gabapentin as a controlled substance and take proactive steps to prevent illicit use.

Gabapentin, marketed under the brand name Neurontin, is an anticonvulsant medication that is primarily used to treat seizures, neuropathic pain and vasomotor symptoms. Though the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not list the medication as a controlled substance, several states have reported rising incidences of misuse.(1) A recent analysis by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy found that gabapentin was the most-prescribed drug in the state; it was dispensed at a 30% higher rate than the second-ranking medication, oxycodone,(2) surpassing it by more than 9 million doses.(1) As of May, Neurontin ranked as the fifth most-prescribed medication nationwide.(1)

A number of Ohio law enforcement officers have reported widespread misuse of gabapentin, especially among those with a history of opioid abuse.(2) In West Virginia, gabapentin was linked to 109 fatal overdoses in 2015—nearly 15% of all overdose deaths statewide.(3) A 2017 research review determined that while gabapentin abuse is 1.6% among the general population, its prevalence is as high as 68% among opioid abusers.(4) Another study found that 1 in 5 patients taking gabapentin do not have a prescription for it, and more than half of them were using it with an opioid.(5)

“Though gabapentin has been touted as a ‘safer’ alternative to opioid medications, the latest findings suggest it poses significant risks,” warned Kent Runyon, Vice President of Community Relations for Novus Medical Detox Center. “The fact that it is not classified as a controlled substance—coupled with its low cost and widespread availability—has made it attractive to those with opioid use disorders, who take it to enhance their high. It can also induce a high when used with methadone, Suboxone or other opioid treatment medications. Some people are prescribed gabapentin to mitigate withdrawal symptoms, and end up using it recreationally.”

Runyon believes federal agencies should add gabapentin to the U.S controlled substance schedules as the first step in curbing misuse and abuse. He also encourages state lawmakers to classify the drug as a controlled substance so that pharmacies can track it via state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), and he advises physicians to watch for signs of gabapentin misuse, particularly among patients who are also prescribed opioids or medication-assisted treatment.

Finally, Runyon calls for expanded access to detox and drug treatment programs. “When regulators crack down on one drug, people with substance use disorders will simply seek another way to get their high,” he explained. “Prescribing methadone, Suboxone or gabapentin to patients with opioid use disorders replaces one risky substance for another, when the focus should really be on helping patients permanently overcome addiction and dependency.”

Runyon advocates for medically supervised detox and drug treatment programs that are individually customized for each patient. He maintains that users should be allowed to fully detox from drugs rather than transitioned to another medication, as Novus’ experience has shown that this approach is the most effective way to help patients achieve successful long-term recovery.

For more information on Novus Medical Detox Center and its medically supervised drug treatment programs, visit https://novusdetox.com.

About Novus Medical Detox Center:
Novus Medical Detox Center has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Behavioral Health Care Accreditation as an inpatient medical detox facility. Licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, Novus provides safe, effective alcohol and drug treatment programs that are based on proven medical protocols and designed to minimize the discomfort of withdrawal. The facility is located on 3.25 acres in New Port Richey, Florida, in a tranquil, spa-like setting bordering protected conservation land. Intent on proving that detox doesn’t have to be painful or degrading, Novus set out to transform the industry by bringing humanity into medical detox with individually customized treatment programs and 24/7 access to nursing care and withdrawal specialists. Today, Novus is renowned as a champion of industry standardization and a staunch advocate of patients fighting to overcome substance use disorders. Frequently recognized for its contributions to the industry and local community, Novus has become a regular source to media publications such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and has ranked in the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Fast 50, the Florida Business Journal’s Top 500 and the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. For more information on Novus’ medically supervised detox programs visit https://novusdetox.com.

1.    Heredia Rodriguez, Carmen. “New on the Streets: Drug for Nerve Pain Boosts High for Opioid Abusers”; Kaiser Health News; July 6, 2017. khn.org/news/new-on-the-streets-drug-for-nerve-pain-boosts-high-for-opioid-abusers

2.    Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “Neurontin Widely Sought for Illicit Use”; OSAM-o-Gram; February 2017. mha.ohio.gov/Portals/0/assets/Research/OSAM-TRI/Neurontin-OSAM-O-Gram_Feb2017.pdf

3.    Eyre, Eric. “Opioid Alternative Linked to Spike in WV Overdose Deaths”; Charleston Gazette-Mail; January 21, 2017. wvgazettemail.com/news/20170121/opioid-alternative-linked-to-spike-in-wv-overdose-deaths-

4.    Evoy, Kirk E.; Megan D. Morrison; and Stephen R. Saklad. “Abuse and Misuse of Pregabalin and Gabapentin”; Drugs; March 2017. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28144823

5.    AACC. “Study Finds One in Five Pain or Rehab Patients Taking the Medication Gabapentin Without Prescription”; press release issued August 3, 2016. aacc.org/media/press-release-archive/2016/august/study-finds-one-in-five-pain-or-rehab-patients-taking-the-medication-gabapentin-without-prescription

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