Gabapentin Now a Controlled Substance in Kentucky

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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The number of prescriptions written for gabapentin (Neurontin), a common medication for nerve pain, is at an all-time high, with 57 million prescriptions dispensed in 2015.

Gabapentin is not considered an addictive drug, although it does have characteristics that offer the potential for abuse. Some individuals describe varying experiences with gabapentin abuse, including euphoria, improved sociability, a marijuana-like high, a sense of calm, as well as ‘zombie-like’ effects.

Because of this potential for abuse, Kentucky has become the 1st state to make gabapentin products schedule 5 controlled substances.

What is Gabapentin prescribed for?

Gabapentin is most notably indicated for neuropathy, also known as nerve pain, caused by a physical injury, alcoholism or certain diseases like diabetes, cancer, or HIV.

Many patients with diabetes will often be prescribed gabapentin products. Diabetic neuropathy is common and is a result of high levels of sugar in the blood that damages the nerves over time. Most diabetics experience nerve pain in the feet and legs that feel like a burning, tingling or numb sensation.

In addition to nerve pain, gabapentin can also be prescribed for restless leg syndrome, shingles, and seizures.

What is a schedule 5 controlled substance?

According to the Diversion Control Division of the DEA, schedule 5 substances contain limited quantities of narcotics and have a low potential for abuse relative to schedule 4 substances.

Schedule 5 controlled substance include Robitussin AC (guaifenesin/codeine), Phenergan With Codeine (promethazine/codeine), Lomotil (diphenoxylate/atropine), Potiga (exogabine), Vimpat (lacosamide), and Lyrica (pregabilin).

Will this happen to other states?

Many healthcare professionals already recognize the dangers of gabapentin abuse. So it is only a matter of time before other states follow in Kentucky’s footsteps.

Many states have already started to keep track of gabapentin products being prescribed and distributed through their prescription drug monitoring programs. In fact, since December 2016, Ohio has been requiring pharmacies, wholesalers, and prescribers to report their dispensing. This is happening in many other states – Minnesota, Virginia, Illinois, Wyoming, and Massachusetts also have prescription-monitoring programs.

I live in Kentucky, what does this mean for me?

If you live in Kentucky, gabapentin’s schedule change may affect you in the following ways:

Has this happened to any other medications recently?

Yes. In 2014, a ruling was finalized to move hydrocodone-containing products from a schedule 3 to a schedule 2 controlled substance, thereby eliminating the ability to refill these medications.

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