Gabapentin is the generic name of a drug used to treat nerve pain and seizures. The brand name of this drug is Neurontin, and it also has off-label uses for conditions ranging from alcohol withdrawal to diabetic neuropathy. In short, gabapentin is a versatile non-narcotic drug that helps many people treat a variety of health conditions.
Physicians have been fairly liberal in prescribing gabapentin because it is not an opioid and is thought to be non-habit forming. Because it does not pose as many risks as opioids and other drugs, it is not a controlled substance in most states and is fairly easy to get. A recent study found that gabapentin was the fifth-most prescribed drug in the U.S. for at least part of 2017.
Misuse of Gabapentin Increasing
Some medical professionals are beginning to be concerned about the widespread use of gabapentin, however, as evidence begins to surface that it may be increasingly misused. A study in Kentucky in 2016 found that in one-third of fatal opioid overdoses, gabapentin was also in the victim’s system, which led to Kentucky being the first state to put gabapentin on the controlled substance list.
Both Kentucky and Ohio pharmacists reported increasing numbers of patients trying to get gabapentin refills early, which is a classic sign of misuse. So why is a drug that is considered harmless and non-addictive being misused at all?
What Gabapentin Does When Misused
On its own, gabapentin often gives a feeling of relaxation and extreme calmness, which for some people is similar to marijuana use. This may be enough of an effect for some to misuse the drug, but that is not the extent of its effects. When combined with alcohol, opioids or heroin, gabapentin intensifies the effects of these drugs, boosting the high felt when taking them but also making them more dangerous when it comes to overdoses.
In addition, gabapentin can block the effects of medications that prevent people from getting high, making it possible to get high while in recovery. Most drug tests do not include testing for gabapentin, so people may be able to use it unnoticed. As a result, gabapentin has become widely available on the street in many areas, with 300-mg pills selling for as little as 75 cents each.
This is not to say that gabapentin is a bad drug. It is still considered safer than opioids, but closer monitoring for safety, especially when combined with opioids and other drugs, is a good idea to make sure people stay safe while taking the drug.
When gabapentin is suspected of being misused, specific testing is available to confirm the suspicion. If gabapentin misuse is causing difficulties and you are finding it challenging to stop using more of it than has been prescribed, or using it when it is no longer needed for a medical condition, Colorado addiction treatment programs are available to treat gabapentin addiction.
The Recovery Village Palmer Lake is a comprehensive treatment facility with a number of different treatment options available, including inpatient, partial hospitalization, outpatient and intensive outpatient programs. Contact us today to discuss your options.