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She later turned to addictive painkillers, then anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax and eventually Suboxone, a narcotic often used to replace opioids when treating addiction. Before stepping out of the car, she decided she needed one more high before treatment. She reached into her purse and then swallowed a handful of gabapentin pills. The drug, which is not an opioid nor deated a controlled substance by federal authorities, is used to treat nerve pain.
But the board found that it was the most prescribed medication on its list that month, surpassing oxycodone by more than 9 million doses. In February, the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network issued an alert regarding increasing misuse across the state. In May, it was the fifth-most prescribed drug in the nation, according to GoodRx. Gabapentin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat epilepsy and pain related to nerve damage, called neuropathy. Also known by its brand name, Neurontin, the drug acts as a sedative.
It is widely considered non-addictive and touted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an alternative intervention to opiates for chronic pain. Gabapentin does not carry the same risk of lethal overdoses as opioids, but drug experts say the effects of using gabapentin for long periods of time or in very high quantities, particularly among sensitive populations like pregnant women, are not well-known. Athens, home to Ohio University, lies in the southeastern corner of the state, which has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic.
Despite experience in combating illicit drug use, law enforcement officials and drug counselors say the addition of gabapentin adds a new obstacle. As providers dole out the drug in mass quantities for conditions such as restless legs syndrome and alcoholism, it is being subverted to a drug of abuse. Gabapentin can enhance the euphoria caused by an opioid and stave off drug withdrawals. In addition, it can bypass the blocking effects of medications used for addiction treatment, enabling patients to get high while in recovery.
A literature review published in in the journal Addiction found about a fifth of those who abuse opiates misuse gabapentin. In the same year, the drug was involved in overdose deaths in West Virginia, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Rachel Quivey, an Athens pharmacist, said she noticed s of gabapentin misuse half a decade ago when patients began picking up the drug several days before their prescription ran out. For customers who arrive with scripts demanding a high dosage of the drug, Quivey sometimes calls the doctor to discuss her concerns.
A milligram pill sells for as little as 75 cents. That deation places restrictions on who can possess and dispense the drug. Haegele said he heard about the drug less than three months ago when an officer accidentally received a text message from someone offering to sell it. The police force, he said, is still trying to assess the threat of gabapentin.
Nearly anyone arrested and found to struggle with addiction in Athens is given the option to go through a drug court program to get treatment. But officials said that some exploit the absence of routine exams for gabapentin to get high while testing clean. Screenings are not regularly done on every client because abuse has not been a concern and the testing adds expense, he said.
Its latest round of screenings detected the drug in five of its roughly active participants, prosecutor Keller Blackburn said. Linda Holley, a clinical supervisor at an Athens outpatient program run by the Health Recovery Services, said she suspects at least half of her clients on Suboxone treatment abuse gabapentin. The restrictions give clients in recovery an opportunity to get high using drugs they legally obtained and still pass a drug test. Smith visited two separate doctors to secure a prescription. Today, Smith sticks to the recovery process.
Expecting a baby in early July, her successful completion of the program not only means sobriety but the opportunity to restore custody of her eldest daughter and raise her children. She intends to relocate her family away from friends and routines that helped lead her to addiction and said she will help guide her daughter away from making similar mistakes.
I have been on cymbalta for 20 some years and was on gabapentin for about years. I first went off of the gabapentin and now I am going off of cymbalta. Separately weaned myself from both. I will not tell you I am having a lot of pain and it is playing a on my nerves. Would never take them again. I pray I will be coming out on the other side feeling like and being a better person.
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Gabapentin: The High, Side Effects and Fatal Misuse