Neurontin, Gablofen Increasingly Used In Suicide Attempts: Study
Suicide attempts involving the use of Neurontin and Gablofen are on the rise, according to the findings of a new study.
Amid a continuing opioid epidemic in the United States, more doctors are prescribing Neurotonin and Gablofen, instead of narcotic-based painkillers. However, researchers now warn that the drugs are increasingly being used during suicide attempts.
The findings were published in the medical journal Clinical Toxicology on December 1, involving a retrospective review of data collected by U.S. Poison Centers for the National Poison Data System, which identified all cases of exposures to gabapentin from 2013-2017 and baclofen from 2014-2017, among patients over 18 years and over.
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Gabapentin, commonly sold under the brand name Neurontin, and baclofen, sold as Gablofen and as a generic, are increasingly prescribed as an alternative to opioid pain medication in an attempt to curtail opioid prescribing. Both drugs are less likely to lead to a fatal overdose, but both are linked to dependence, misuse, and other side effects, warn researchers.
In this recent study, researchers with the University of Pittsburgh found more than 74,000 gabapentin poison exposures, indicating that the problems linked to Neurontin and generic equivalents increased by 72%. North Dakota led the nation with a 762% increase in Neurontin poisoning calls. Additionally, abuse and misuse exposures, including suicide attempts, increased by 120%. Intentional suicide attempts, not just unintentional overdoses, increased by 80% over the five-year study period nationwide.
A study published earlier this year linked Neurontin use to increased risk of suicidal behavior, unintentional overdoses, and other violent behavior, including head and body injuries, road traffic accidents and arrests for violent crimes.
Researchers had similar findings for Gablofen and other baclofen-based drugs, indicating that during the four-year study period, there were more than 15,000 poison exposures. Exposures involving Gablofen increased by 36% and abuse and misuse increased by 32%. Intentional suicide attempts involving the drug increased by 43% over the four-year period.
Study authors indicated taking sedatives and opioids with one or both of these drugs was also common among users. Furthermore, admissions to a hospital was required in nearly 20% of Neurotonin incidents and more than 50% of Gablofen incidents.
Neurotonin is a widely prescribed seizure medication. Following the heightened attention focused on narcotic painkillers from the opioid epidemic, doctors began prescribing it off label as an alternative pain medication. The same was done with Gablofen, which is a muscle relaxant.
Prescriptions for the two drugs have been increasing as a result. However, both drugs also carry other risks. The FDA added the risk of suicidal thoughts to all epilepsy drugs in 2008.
In some states, both drugs were added to mandated reporting in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program because of the potential for abuse and misuse.
Careful consideration should be used before prescribing these medications for patients because they carry serious risks, the researchers warned.
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