Though not surprising, Gabapentin is currently among the ten most prescribed drugs in the U.S, especially for off-label uses.
The surge in its use is worrying, especially since most studies show that the drug isn’t effective for most indications that they are prescribed for.
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Prescribers often dole the drug out for several off-label uses, such as:
As such, researchers are yet to conclude if the increased prescription of Gabapentin in the last decade has contributed to the current opioid epidemic. However, as the debate continues, this article dissects Gabapentin, its use, and why most states currently consider it a controlled drug.
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is generally an anticonvulsant sold under various brand names.
Among the many brand names for Gabapentin include:
- FusePaq Fanatrex
Formally, it is listed as an anticonvulsant that is effective in controlling seizures.
However, it can also alleviate some type of pain, control anxiety in some mental disorders, remediate withdrawal symptoms, and many other uses.
Gabapentin is a synthetic or artificially made analog of GABA neurotransmitters, the primary inhibitory chemicals in the human brain and spinal cord.
Inhibitory neurotransmitters counter the action of chemical messengers in the body by slowing the activity of neurons that facilitate communication between neurons found in the brain and the spinal cord.
What Is a Controlled Substance, and Is Gabapentin a Controlled Substance?
As the name suggests, controlled substances are drugs under regulation by the Federal government due to their safety and potential for dependence and misuse.
Controlled drugs have restrictions on their purchases, filling, and refilling, and you cannot possess them without a valid prescription.
For many years, Gabapentin has been a non-controlled drug at federal levels. As such, users can easily get prescriptions and refill freely. However, some states have classified Gabapentin as a controlled drug over time due to its potential for addiction and abuse.
Gabapentin abuse has fatal effects and may require an intensive drug rehabilitation program.
Even though Gabapentin is yet to be categorized as a controlled drug at Federal levels, individual states that have responded to the rising abuse rates with legislative actions include:
- West Virginia
Other states, like Ohio, have included Gabapentin to their list of monitored drugs through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program before studies that classify Gabapentin as a controlled substance conclude. This means that gabapentin dispensation is closely monitored in the state.
What Are the Common Signs of Gabapentin Abuse?
Before highlighting the signs of Gabapentin abuse, it is worth mentioning the pathological effects on the brain.
As mentioned, Gabapentin is not classified as an opioid. However, most people have used it to amplify opioid effects, leading to intense highs. Combining Gabapentin with other opioids is an increasing trend, especially for those who abuse opioids like heroin and fentanyl.
Gabapentin has a similar mechanism of action to prescription opioids, as it slows down brain activity, leading to sedation and drowsiness. It also changes the body’s perception of pain, which makes it effective for patients with chronic nerve/neuropathic pain.
However, unlike prescription opioids, Gabapentin has no risks of overdose when used solely.
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This essentially means that Gabapentin can only be abused when combined with opioids. For instance, the risk of developing respiratory depression increases four-fold by mixing opioids and Gabapentin.
That said, common signs of Gabapentin abuse include:
- Refilling prescriptions frequently than expected
- Sourcing for Gabapentin on the street
- Changes in eating and sleep habits
- Stealing pills from other users
- Taking other drugs with Gabapentin
On the other hand, symptoms of Gabapentin abuse include:
- Troubled memory
- Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
- Frequent dizziness
- Impaired judgment
- Poor body coordination
- Double vision
- Abnormally slow heart rate
Dangers of Gabapentin Abuse
While Gabapentin overdose can be managed medically without significant complications, excessive overdose can be fatal, and abusers may experience severe reactions. However, those with impaired kidney function have high risks of developing complications compared to healthy abusers.
That aside, concurrent ingestion of Gabapentin and other drugs can lead to dire medical complications, specifically overdose death.
Those who overdose on Gabapentin combined with other drugs, especially those with sedating effects, such as benzodiazepines, opioids, and alcohol, are at high risk of developing serious effects.
When used alone, Gabapentin overdose can cause respiratory depression. Combining it with other respiratory-depressing drugs leads to deadly effects.
That said, depending on the severity of oxygen deprivation and length of time, dangers of Gabapentin abuse can include:
- Permanent brain damage
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Gabapentin Withdrawal and Detox
Like any other addictive drug, Gabapentin withdrawal often comes with several side effects.
After lengthy abuse of Gabapentin, your body will become very dependent on the drug and may need it for various systems to function normally, leading to withdrawal symptoms.
Common signs of Gabapentin withdrawal include:
Side effects of Gabapentin withdrawal may become serious, making it necessary to seek professional help. If you or your loved one is affected, the EZCare clinic has an effective treatment approach to help.
Schedule an appointment for immediate intervention.