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Misuse of Nonopioid Medications Appears to Be on the Rise in U.S.

THURSDAY, Dec. 19, 2019 -- Misuse/abuse, use in suicide attempts, and hospital admissions associated with gabapentin and baclofen have significantly increased among U.S. adults since 2013, according to a study published online Dec. 1 in Clinical Toxicology.

Kimberly Reynolds, from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues retrospectively analyzed data from the National Poison Data System to identify all cases of exposures to gabapentin (2013 to 2017) and baclofen (2014 to 2017) in U.S. adults.

The researchers found that during the five-year period, there were 74,175 gabapentin exposures, with all exposures increasing by 72.3 percent, isolated exposures increasing by 67.1 percent, and isolated abuse/misuse exposures increasing by 119.9 percent. During the four-year period, there were 15,397 baclofen exposures, with all exposures increasing by 36.2 percent, isolated exposures increasing by 35.0 percent, and isolated abuse/misuse exposures increasing by 31.7 percent. For both medications, coingestions of sedatives and opioids were common. Admissions to a health care facility were required for 16.7 percent of isolated gabapentin exposures and 52.1 percent of isolated baclofen exposures. For isolated gabapentin exposures, intentional suspected suicide attempts increased by 80.5 percent during the five-year period and increased by 43 percent for isolated baclofen exposures during the four-year period.

"We are seeing a worrying increase in harmful exposures to gabapentin and baclofen in U.S. adults over recent years, which may be an unintended consequence of the move away from opioid prescriptions for pain management," Reynolds said in a statement. "Building a better understanding of the risks carried by these nonopioid medications is necessary so that providers and patients can make better-informed decisions about their role in pain management -- and could also lead to the introduction of new public health measures."

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Posted: December 2019