Health In Focus
  • Drug Overdose and Misuse of Prescription drugs are the major cause of death in the United States. Opioid painkillers, CNS stimulants and depressants are the most common drugs that are being misused.
  • Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant agent used in the treatment of epilepsy to control seizures and other pain associated nervous disorders.
  • Researchers presented a study report of Gabapentin at the 68th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo which stated that about one in five patients from pain and rehabilitation clinics are prone to prescription misuse of gabapentin.
  • Standard drug monitoring protocols are required to reduce drug abuse and prescription misuse of drugs.

Misuse of prescription drugs and drug overdose deaths in the United States are found to be increasing every year. Drug abuse and misuse of anticonvulsant agent gabapentin was presented as a study report by the researchers.

The study results presented at the 68th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Philadelphia found that one in five patients who were using powerful opioid medications were monitored for compliance or illegal drug use. These people tested positive for gabapentin without having a prescription for the drug.
Gabapentin Medication Requires Standard Drug Monitoring Protocols
Gabapentin Medication Requires Standard Drug Monitoring Protocols

Drug Abuse and Misuse of Drugs

Drug misuse is mainly a term that is used to specify the repetitive use of prescription medications over a prolonged period of time. Opioid painkillers, Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants and stimulants are the most common type of drugs that are being misused.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has even declared that misuse of drugs in United States as an epidemic. Around 37% people in America believed that prescription drug abuse is a major form of drug abuse in the country.

Gabapentin - An Anticonvulsant

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant agent used in the treatment of epilepsy. It helps to control seizures and is also used in a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia which is mainly associated with the pain that occurs after shingles (painful rash with blisters). The drug mainly acts in the brain to relieve seizures and pain related to nervous system (neuropathic pain).

Research Study on the Prescription Misuse of Gabapentin

The research study presented at the 68th American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo in Philadelphia revealed that one in five patients were tested positive for the prescription misuse of gabapentin.

Poluru L. Reddy, PhD, DABCC, the medical director of ARIA Diagnostics and ARCTIC Medical Labs said that the high rate of gabapentin misuse seems to be surprising and is a serious wakeup call for all the prescribers. He also added that the growing risk of gabapentin abuse requires a need for more robust testing.

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, the number of emergency room visits in metropolitan areas between 2008 - 2011 have nearly increased upto five times. Gabapentin is not scheduled under controlled substances since it does not result in any serious abuse or addiction when taken alone. But when taken with diazepam or alprazolam it is found to increase a patient's "high".

Researchers at the ARIA Diagnostics tested 323 samples which came from Indiana, Arizona, and Massachusetts. The samples were mainly obtained from pain clinics (90%) and rehabilitation clinics (10%). The study results reported that about 56% of people were taking opioids with gabapentin while 27% with opioid, muscle relaxant or anxiety medications and rest of them took with other substances.

The research study mainly focuses on doctors and prescribers who need to be cautious while prescribing gabapentin and should closely monitor patients with the history of drug abuse. Patients must also know that certain medications when mixed together without consulting the doctor could be dangerous compared to the safe use of the medicine when taken alone.

Latest Drug Abuse Testing Methods:

The latest methods for drug abuse testing were also presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo in Philadelphia.
  • "Validation of a LC/MS-MS Method for Pain Management Confirmatory Drug Testing of 55 Drugs and Metabolites" (B-313) - A new test that is designed to ensure pain management patients are using prescriptions as directed by their physicians.
  • "New Emit II Plus Buprenorphine Assay with 5 ng/mL Cutoff" (B-320) - A new test to detect the presence of buprenorphine which is a semisynthetic opioid like morphine that has a high potential for addiction and drug abuse.
  • "Validation of an LCMS Method for Chiral Determination of Methamphetamine"(A-371) - A new clinical lab test to detect the use of illegal methamphetamines from legal methamphetamines that are being sold over the counter as decongestant inhalers.
  • "A Novel Dilute and Shoot LC-MS/MS Method for the Measurement of Nicotine, Cotinine, Nornicotine, and Anabasine in Human Urine" (A-351) - A urine test that helps detect the presence of nicotine from tobacco smoke and nicotine patch. It can be widely used in tobacco cessation clinics.
Gabapentin being an anticonvulsant should therefore be used only to control seizures and pain associated disorders in the nervous system. It is recommended that doctors and prescribers are cautious while prescribing gabapentin and patients should also be educated about the safe use of the drug.

Source: Medindia

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