Gabapentin: Change is in the Wind
In the midst of a national opioid crisis, Americans have a heightened awareness of the potential for prescription drugs that can be abused. One drug—gabapentin—is frequently prescribed in long-term care facilities for seizures and postherpetic neuralgia, and its use is a growing concern globally. Approved for two uses, but used off-label for many others, gabapentin can induce euphoria at high doses. In older adults, clinicians prescribe it for seizures, pain, migraine, and aggression associated with dementia, among other things. Gabapentin's rapid onset of action, side effect profile, limited drug-drug interactions, and extensive pharmacokinetic data in renal impairment have made prescribers comfortable using it in older adults. This gabapentinoid—a cousin to the Schedule V drug pregabalin—has seen widespread recreational abuse and has led to its reclassification in the United Kingdom and in several U.S. states. Consultant pharmacists need to be aware that the evidence behind off-label use is scant; withdrawal is likely after as few as three weeks of treatment; and drug diversion is possible, even likely. In addition, it is the tenth-most prescribed medication in the United States.
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