Excerpts from “Wakeup Call for Neurontin Abuse”
Pain News Network
“Both pregabalin and gabapentin are increasingly being reported as possessing a potential for misuse. When used in combination with other depressants, they can cause drowsiness, sedation, respiratory failure and death,” said Professor Les Iverson, ACMD chairman, in a letter to Home Office ministers.
Gabapentin – which is sold by Pfizer under the brand name Neurontin — is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain caused by shingles.
It is also prescribed “off-label” for a variety of other conditions, including depression, migraine, fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder.
In a study of urine samples from 323 patients being treated at pain clinics and addiction treatment centers, 70 patients were found to be taking gabapentin without a prescription.
Researchers found that of those patients taking gabapentin illicitly, over half (56%) were taking it with an opioid, about a quarter (27%) with an opioid and muscle relaxant or anxiety medication, and the rest with other substances. The urine samples came primarily from pain clinics in Indiana, Arizona, and Massachusetts.
Gabapentin is not scheduled as a controlled substance and when taken alone there is little potential for abuse. But when taken with other drugs, such as opioids, muscle relaxants, and anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax, researchers say gabapentin can have a euphoric effect.
Between 2008 and 2011 the number of emergency room visits for misuse or abuse of gabapentin increased by nearly five times, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. Side effects from gabapentin include weight gain, dizziness, ataxia, somnolence, nervousness and fatigue.
[G]rowth in gabapentin prescribing is drawing scrutiny in the UK, where the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommended earlier this year that gabapentin and pregabalin (Lyrica) be reclassified as Class C controlled substances, which would make them harder to obtain.
“Pregabalin causes a ‘high’ or elevated mood in users; the side effects may include chest pain, wheezing, vision changes and less commonly, hallucinations. Gabapentin can produce feelings of relaxation, calmness and euphoria. Some users have reported that the ‘high’ from snorted gabapentin can be similar to taking a stimulant.”
Gabapentin is “one of the most abused and diverted drugs” in the U.S. prison system, according to Jeffrey Keller, MD, the chief medical officer of Centurian, a private company that provides prison healthcare services.
“Unfortunately, the abuse potential of gabapentin is not recognized much outside of jails and prisons. Community prescribers are generally unaware that gabapentin can be misused and (in my experience) are often incredulous and even disbelieving when told about ‘the dark side’ of gabapentin.”
In Friends Lab’s continual partnership with drug addiction recovery and screening, we are now offering Gabapentin and Pregabalin testing. These are qualitative assays able to detect at 100ng/mL by LC/MS/MS. For more information, please contact our Customer Service Department. (James Shiplet or Bonnie Behrendt)