Gabapentin, a painkiller, is now the painkiller of choice by prescribing doctors. Indeed, in the wake of the current opioid epidemic, doctors and patients are turning to other medications to ease pain.
Gabapentin: What Does It Do?
The FDA has approved it for seizures and certain pain conditions. This includes nerve pain caused by shingles, fibromyalgia, and nerve pain linked with diabetes or spinal cord injuries. In fact, as doctors look for alternatives to the opioids, the use of gabapentinoids has skyrocketed. In 2016, 64 million gabapentin prescriptions were dispensed, compared to 39 million in 2012. Sales more than doubled from 2012 to 2016.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in February that his agency is concerned about the misuse and abuse of gabapentinoids in the wake of the current opioid epidemic and is tracking the issue.
Gabapentin: Drug History
Gabapentinoids are drugs originally developed as anticonvulsants. They control neuropathic pain caused by damaged nerves. Gabapentin stabilizes and lessens the nerve pain.
Gabapentin: Explosion of Prescriptions
Prescribers are shying away from opioids and/or reducing doses for many reasons. One is because they are acknowledging the very real dangers associated with opioids. Another it is necessary to reduce health risks, doctors are reluctant to prescribe opioids. Some fear regulatory scrutiny, and others are fearful of lawsuits. Therefore, prescribers are looking for alternative painkillers. Patients are also looking for safer alternatives.
Otheralternarive drugs that kill pain include anti-inflammatories, and certain antidepressants that are effective for neuropathic pain. These include duloxetine (duloxetine), milnacipran (Savella), and venlafaxine (Effexor). All three of these drugs are used in combination with or without opioids.
Gabapentinoids are neither physically or psychologically addicting. But, if a person takes high-doses regularly and then abruptly stops them, there can be withdrawal symptoms.
Gabapentin: What Are Safes Dosages?
Be careful and avoid taking high doses. Stay under 3,600 milligrams a day.