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Healthcare Provider Alert: New Study Reveals Yet Another Potentially Addictive Med


Is Gabapentin the new OxyContin? Gabapentin is FDA-approved to treat nerve pain and non-addictive, according to the FDA. Today, it is the fifth most prescribed medication in the U.S. However, a new clinical study has flagged the drug for the potential for abuse and addiction. This article discusses the results of a recent study that indicates a risk of addiction associated with the use of Gabapentin, a nerve pain medication and anticonvulsant sold under the brand name Neurontin and others. What does this mean for prescribing physicians? Why is more research needed?

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A 2017 JAMA Surgery article cited gabapentin as an alternative to opioids for pain relief after surgery. However, a new study in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors recorded the potential abuse of anticonvulsant and analgesic gabapentin, which the FDA has labeled as “non-addictive.” The study tracked 33 individuals and their use (and abuse) of gabapentin as their “high of choice” to produce relaxation. The study red-flagged the drug, citing other published research that suggests the addictive nature of the substance, despite the FDA’s non-addictive labeling. This is nothing new to addicts, who, according to a STAT article last year, have been seeking gabapentin along with opioids to get high. The article followed the incidence of usage in one state – Ohio – where the Board of Pharmacy has been following gabapentin prescribing, even though the drug is not an opioid nor designated as a controlled substance under federal law. It turns out that gabapentin is one of the most prescribed medications in the state, exceeding even oxycodone by more than nine million.
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Gabapentin is most often prescribed for patients with epilepsy.

This despite studies such as the one in 2016, that showed one in five U.S. opioid users might be abusing gabapentin. The study followed more than 300 patients who were prescribed opioids for pain. Fully one in five of these patients tested positive for Neurontin but did not have a prescription for the drug. Fifty-six percent of participants were taking gabapentin in addition to an opioid. Subsequently, the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network issued an alert to addiction treatment professionals that gabapentin, sold under the brand name Neurontin, has big potential for abuse. The alert suggested that Neurontin is being taken as self-medication to mitigate the effects of withdrawal as well as being combined with other substances for the small high it produces. The STAT article pointed out that Ohio is not alone; last May, gabapentin was the fifth most prescribed drug in the country. While the potential for overdose is less when compared with opioids, the drug does produce a feeling of euphoria that could lead to addictive behaviors. Gabapentin is still widely prescribed for seizures and restless leg syndrome, according to Disorders such as shingles can produce severe nerve pain; Neurontin provides relief. Gabapentin is also being used for off-label treatments of alcohol withdrawal, fibromyalgia, or other types of nerve pain. Some of the side effects of the drug are dizziness and fatigue. This new information should raise red flags for addiction treatment specialists and healthcare clinicians around the nation. If you have patients suffering from addiction, contact us to find out more about referring patients to our facilities.
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