In an effort to continue to combat the opioid epidemic in Michigan, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), with the support of the Michigan Board of Pharmacy, has modified its Pharmacy Rules to categorize Gabapentin as a Schedule 5 controlled substance.
Gabapentin — or Neurontin — is a medication commonly used to treat nerve pain and seizures. However, the drug can have potentially harmful effects when combined with opioids.According to nbcnews.com, Gabapentin is fast becoming the go-to drug for addicts in search of a stronger high — and it is not even an opioid. It is said to make already dangerous drugs like fentanyl or heroin even more lethal.
Michigan joins a growing number of states that have scheduled Gabapentin as a controlled substance.
Kentucky became the first state to classify Gabapentin as a controlled substance after the drug showed up in a third of the state’s fatal overdoses in 2016.
Police in Ohio have reported a dramatic rise in the abuse of Gabapentin, There have already been reports of 300 milligram pills being sold on the street for as little as 75 cents apiece in the college town of Athens, Ohio.
Gabapentin’s ability to tackle multiple ailments has helped make it one of the most popular medications in the U.S. In May, it was the fifth-most prescribed pain drug in the nation, according to GoodRx.
Gabapentin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat epilepsy and pain related to nerve damage, called neuropathy. The drug acts as a sedative. It is widely considered non-addictive and touted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an alternative intervention to opiates for chronic pain. Generally, doctors prescribe no more than 1,800 to 2,400 milligrams of Gabapentin per day, according to information on the Mayo Clinic’s website.
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.
“Using a data-driven approach, we identified Gabapentin as an emerging threat in our state and took necessary action to protect Michigan residents,” said LARA Director Orlene Hawks. “The scheduling of Gabapentin and improved training requirements for licensees outlined in these rule changes will continue to assist our efforts to curtail the opioid epidemic in Michigan while enhancing awareness about opioid addiction.”
The rule changes also improve training standards for prescribers and dispensers of opioids and controlled substances.