While gabapentin isn’t considered an opioid, it was linked to a significant percentage of drug-related deaths in Kentucky in 2018. Gabapentin, which is also known by the names Neurontin, Horizant, or Gralise, was present in one-quarter of the fatal overdoses within the state.
As the opioid epidemic rages on, there have been efforts to curb the number of prescriptions for the medications. Doctors have taken an interest in opioid-free alternatives, such as gabapentin. The drug was initially approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address shingles-related nerve pain and seizures, but doctors have considered the medication to treat chronic pain.
The number of gabapentin prescriptions has risen sharply. Since 2012, the number of prescriptions dispensed by doctors increased by 64 percent, which makes it the 10th most commonly prescribed medication in the country. Researchers have also looked into whether the medicine can help reduce the withdrawal symptoms of people who are undergoing opioid detox.
Since opioid drugs have caused havoc in our society, we’ve seemingly forgotten that other medications are not harmless. Research has proven the drug to be misused by those with a history of opioid misuse or addiction. Heroin users have also described it as easy to obtain. When gabapentin is used along with heroin, it may be especially deadly and increase the odds of overdosing.
While the drug can be dangerous, it is only in those who abuse it. Can gabapentin help with opioid detox?
If you have personally gone through opioid detox or known someone who has, you understand that it is a painful experience. When someone attempts to stop drugs like heroin or OxyContin cold-turkey, their success levels are low. Unfortunately, it is dangerous to stop without medication because it can push someone into relapsing, and this can cause them to overdose if they’ve lost their tolerance of the drug(s).
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, studies have shown gabapentin was effective in reducing some opioid withdrawal symptoms in opioid-addicted patients who had methadone-assisted treatment. When the drug was administered in a controlled environment, the Subjective Opiate Withdrawal Scale (SOWS) showed a significant decrease in symptoms at the end of the intervention period.
Gabapentin was shown to decrease the severity of diarrhea, coldness, dysphoria, yawning, and muscle tension. While studies have not been conducted without the use of drugs like methadone, it has shown promise for a future in opioid detox.
If you feel that gabapentin may be right for you, it might be time to discuss your options with your primary care physician. While it may be useful for some, more testing is necessary to determine how the medication reacts on a wide scale.
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, it may be time to discuss your options. Medications are available that help reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, which is a significant barrier for some wanting to get help. Reach out today to see this treatment may be right for you.
Gabapentin: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a694007.html
Salehi, M., Kheirabadi, G. R., Maracy, M. R., & Ranjkesh, M. (2011, October). Importance of gabapentin dose in treatment of opioid withdrawal. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21869694
Khazan, O. (2019, December 9). Chronic Pain Is an Impossible Problem. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/12/yes-you-can-overdose-gabapentin/603208/
Lyndon, A., Audrey, S., Wells, C., Burnell, E. S., Ingle, S., Hill, R., … Henderson, G. (2017, September). Risk to heroin users of polydrug use of pregabalin or gabapentin. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28493329
Drug touted as a safe alternative to painkillers has been found in more Louisville deaths. (2018, March 27). Retrieved from https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2018/03/26/gabapentin-overdose-deaths-louisville-fatal-addiction/372489002/