CLEVELAND — The drug, Gabapentin, has been prescribed to stop seizures and treat nerve pain for decades. But it now has the attention of federal and state authorities because officials said it is being used illegally on the streets.
“Gabapentin is the new, hot, item on the street right now,” said Carole Negus, Director of Nursing with Stella Maris Addiction Treatment Center in Cleveland.
The drug is used illegally to enhance highs and help with withdrawal symptoms from other drugs.
An emerging pattern of abuse has the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy monitoring the drug. The Drug Enforcement Administration is seeing an uptick in the drug in Ohio, Michigan and northern Kentucky.
“Gabapentin, federally, right now is not considered a controlled substance, it is something we are keeping an eye on,” said Kathy Federico is the DEA Detroit Division Program Manager.
“Ohio is considering scheduling it,” she said “They’ve been monitoring it in their prescription monitoring system for the last several years."
The state started tracking Gabapentin in 2017. During that year, there was 426 million solid oral doses dispensed to Ohio patients. In 2018, the number down slightly to 413 million.
“When you hear over and over and over again people are beginning to abuse the drug whether it be somebody taking it at a party or somebody abusing it with other drugs and it starts showing up in street drugs it’s time to start watching it,” said Richard Rosenquist, M.D. Chairman Department of Pain Management Anesthesiology Institute.
“We know people are abusing it,” said Negus.
Drug abusers are combining Gabapentin with heroin and other opioids creating a dangerous, even deadly mix.
Michigan and several other states have already made Gabapentin a controlled substance.