A new drug threat, gabapentin, a non-opioid painkiller used by some addicts to give their other drugs a boost, has become a cause for concern among health officials in several states.
The drug is touted as a non-addictive painkiller and is commonly prescribed for patients as an alternative to opioids for treating nerve pain and seizures.
However, emerging statistics link gabapentin to increased drug use, addiction and even fatal overdoses, which is why Kentucky has become the first state to classify the drug as a controlled substance, NBC News reported.
Patients are combining gabapentin with other drugs and alcohol for a higher kick.
Informational website Addict Help noted, for example, that alcohol and gabapentin potentiate each other, increasing the effects caused by the other drug.
“For alcohol, this means that the alcoholic high is stronger and kicks in with less alcohol. It also means, for both drugs, that unfortunate side effects common with these drugs are equally heightened,” the website said.
Health experts are finding an increase in the overall use of gabapentin.
Ohio’s Board of Pharmacy reported the drug was the most prescribed medication on its list for May last year, surpassing oxycodone by more than 9 million doses, and nationwide it was the fifth most prescribed pain drug, USA Today reported.
The drug, also known as Neurontin, Gralise and Horizant, is readily available on the street, with reports of 300 milligram pills being sold for about 75 cents apiece in Athens, Ohio.
A report by The Louisville Courier said gabapentin was present in about one-third of all drug deaths in 2016.
To control public distribution, Kentucky lawmakers voted to classify gabapentin as a Schedule 5 drug, which means doctors can still prescribe it but the prescription must be logged on a prescription monitoring database.
“We started hearing from pharmacists about people trying to get early refills,” Van Ingram, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, told NBC News. “That is usually a sign that something is being abused.”
Ingram acknowledged that the drug has a medical purpose but it could become hazardous when combined with other drugs and alcohol.
A 2017 study found an increased risk of death among opioid users who were also consuming gabapentin.
Researchers noted that because both drugs are used for pain management, co-prescription commonly occurs, but when when combined the drugs could be fatal.
Dr. James Patrick Murphy, a pain specialist based in Louisville, said the same thing happened with opioids.
“It got prescribed so much that everybody taking an opioid for chronic pain was also taking gabapentin,” he said, per NBC News.
“People have a tendency to want to abuse anything that is mind-altering and a lot of time it is what is readily available to them.”
And while Murphy noted that the drug was relatively safe, “some people will take a valium with opioids and some people will take a handful of gabapentin.”
© 2018 Newsmax. All rights reserved.