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States Consider Listing Gabapentin as Controlled Substance

(Spring 2018) Another drug is rising through the ranks when it comes to abuse: gabapentin. It has been prescribed for over two decades to combat epilepsy and relieve nerve pain (and off-label for anxiety, bipolar disorder and migraines).  Now its illegal use is increasing. More abusers may be gravitating toward it because gabapentin can be easily sourced and enhances the impact of other drugs. It is often mixed with alcohol, opioids or benzodiazepines, but the combination can be lethal.

At this time gabapentin is not a federally-controlled substance. However, due to a spike in gabapentin-related fatalities, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia have moved to list the drug as a controlled substance at the state level. Other states are recognizing the growing abuse problem with gabapentin and have, at the very least, mandated that it be included in their prescription drug monitoring programs.

A recent report finds that 40-65% of patients legally prescribed gabapentin misuse it, and around 20% of individuals with opioid addiction issues also abuse it. Study authors suggest that doctors be more thoroughly educated about the drug’s dangers and recommend that physicians avoid writing prescriptions for both an opioid and gabapentin to the same patient.

From a workplace standpoint, employees abusing gabapentin may go unidentified, as the drug is generally not part of a screening panel.

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