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Restrictions on opioids pushing drug users toward gabapentin

“I need that high to carry on,” says 21-year-old Dora Walters (name changed) of Cincinnati, Ohio, as she slips her hand into a bag to fish out some pills of gabapentin, a non-opioid painkiller. Walters started abusing prescription opioids in her high school when she stole some pills from her grandmother’s medicine cabinet. By the time she turned 18, she had already dabbled with alcohol, marijuana, Xanax and a couple of addictive painkillers. But tighter restrictions imposed on procuring opioid painkillers forced her to search for over-the-counter alternatives, leading her to gabapentin. Now, she swears by euphoric effects and relaxation induced by the neuropathic pain medication on which she is dependent.

Walters is one of the many individuals who have turned to gabapentin. California-based GoodRx, which tracks medicine prices and use across the U.S., reported gabapentin as the seventh most popular prescription drug in the country in 2017. In the light of the soaring cases of addiction, states like Ohio, West Virginia and Minnesota have started monitoring gabapentin use through their prescription drug databases. In February 2017, the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network (OSAM) issued an alert about the growing misuse of the drug across the state. Further, surveys conducted in these states showed that gabapentin was one of the easy-to-get drugs at a street price of nearly $1.50 per capsule.

Known by brand name Neurontin, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved gabapentin for treating epilepsy and pain resulting from nerve damage. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the drug to be non-addictive, the recreational use of gabapentin is a legitimate concern. Additionally, toxicology studies suggest combining gabapentin with other substances like opioids, alcohol, benzodiazepines, or marijuana can be extremely dangerous. While the short-term use of the drug can produce pleasurable experiences, prolonged use can result in multiple hazardous side effects and even overdose. Some of the common outcomes of gabapentin abuse are blurred vision, panic attacks, aggressive behavior, nausea and cognitive impairments.

Action needed to curb gabapentin abuse

With increasing cases of gabapentin abuse, experts feel that doctors are pushing people toward over-the-counter drugs, as prescription medications are becoming harder to get, and this disturbing trend needs to be studied. According to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the federal drug agency is investigating prescribing patterns and misuse of gabapentin, and will soon release a report on it. In 2017, Kentucky became the first state to classify the pill as a “scheduled substance” alongside other high-risk medicines.

Research shows that about 15 to 25 percent of chronic opioid users are most likely to include gabapentin in their list of drugs, thus increasing the risk of an overdose by indulging in polydrug use. According to new laws, only health care professionals registered with the federal government can write prescriptions for gabapentin, while patients are strictly restricted to only five refills. Nevertheless, seeking timely treatment from a reputed drug abuse rehabilitation center is the key to combating the rising drug addiction crisis.

Leading a drug-free life

Substance use disorder is one of the most critical public health problems afflicting America. There is an urgent need to educate the masses about the crisis. Individuals are not born with the intention to engage in substance abuse as they grow up. But once caught in the clutches of addiction, their ability to exhibit self-control can be severely impaired with extended use. Besides, the damage caused to multiple vital organs and body functions is huge.

If you have a loved one grappling with an addiction and you are looking for a reputed drug treatment center near you, contact the 24/7 Recovery Helpline. Call at our 24-hour helpline number 855-441-4405 to get assistance from our experts. You can even use our drug addiction online chat service to talk with our representative for immediate assistance.

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