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Some Opioid Users May Be Taking Gabapentin Without an Rx

Findings reveal need for more robust testing

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Opioid users may be misusing and abusing gabapentin, according to research presented at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry’s (AACC) Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo, held from July 31 to Aug. 4 in Philadelphia.

Researchers looked at test results of 323 patients who were prescribed opioids. The patients were being treated at pain or rehabilitation clinics, primarily in Arizona, Indiana, and Massachusetts.

About one in five of the patients tested positive for gabapentin, but didn’t have a prescription for the drug. Of the patients taking gabapentin illicitly, 56 percent were taking it with an opioid, 27 percent with an opioid and muscle relaxant or anxiety medication, and the rest were taking it with other substances.

“The high rate of misuse of this medication is surprising and it is also a wake-up call for prescribers,” study author Poluru Reddy, Ph.D., medical director of ARIA Diagnostics and ARCTIC Medical Labs, said in an AACC news release. “Doctors don’t usually screen for gabapentin abuse when making sure patients are taking medications, such as opioids, as prescribed. These findings reveal that there is a growing risk of abuse and a need for more robust testing.”

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