According to a study published in Pharmacoepidemiology & Drug Safety, the rise in gabapentin diversion seems to be related to the opioid epidemic as indicated by law enforcement descriptions of gabapentin misuse in combination with opioids

While some epidemiologic and case reports have suggested that gabapentin has become a target for misuse, particularly among individuals with a history of substance abuse problems, no studies have reported law enforcement data on the diversion and misuse of gabapentin. 

For this study, researchers used data from the Drug Diversion Program of the Researched Abuse, Diversion, and Addiction-Related Surveillance System, which includes “a voluntary quarterly survey of prescription drug diversion completed by a national sample of law enforcement and regulatory agencies who engage in drug diversion investigations.” Using this data, the authors were able to calculate the rates of gabapentin diversion (per 100,000 population) for each quarter from 2002–2015. 

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A total of 407 new cases of gabapentin diversion were documented during this period with rates increasing steadily from 0 cases in the first half of 2002 to a high of 0.027 cases (per 100,000 population) in the 4th quarter of 2015. Qualitative data, drawn from a questionnaire completed by survey respondents, suggest that gabapentin misuse is occurring in conjunction with prescription opioid misuse. Moreover, the data also reveal the first known reports of gabapentin and heroin being combined and ingested together. 

The authors note that “taken together, the findings serve as a sentinel data point illustrating an aspect of newly emerging prescription drug misuse practices.” Given these findings, they believe additional research into gabapentin misuse is warranted as well as “postmarketing surveillance to systematically monitor gabapentin diversion”.

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