Law Enforcement-derived Data on Gabapentin Diversion and Misuse, 2002-2015: Diversion Rates and Qualitative Research Findings
Department of Justice and Human Services
Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety
Purpose: Recent limited epidemiologic and case reports suggest that gabapentin is being misused, especially among prescription opioid misusers. However, no apparent studies have reported data from law enforcement on the diversion and misuse of gabapentin.
Methods: Case report data are drawn from a quarterly survey of prescription drug diversion completed by a national sample of law enforcement and regulatory agencies who engage in drug diversion investigations. Rates of gabapentin diversion per 100 000 population were calculated for each quarter from 2002 through 2015. Qualitative data are drawn from a brief questionnaire completed by a subsample of survey respondents and were organized and presented by theme.
Results: In total, 407 new cases of diverted gabapentin were reported during the time period, with diversion rates steadily increasing from zero cases in the first 2 quarters of 2002 to a high of 0.027 cases per 100 000 population in the fourth quarter of 2015. Qualitative data suggest that gabapentin is being misused in conjunction with prescription opioids and that gabapentin and heroin are being combined and consumed together. Law enforcement reporters found these drug use trends to be contributing to gabapentin diversion.
Conclusions: The recent increase in gabapentin diversion appears to be related to the opioid epidemic, based on law enforcement descriptions of gabapentin being misused in combination with opioids. Yet epidemiological data related to this finding is limited and research conducted among gabapentin misusers is needed to understand this problem in more depth. Greater monitoring of gabapentin abuse and diversion appear warranted.
Buttram, M. E., Kurtz, S. P., Dart, R. C., & Margolin, Z. R. (2017). Law Enforcement-derived Data on Gabapentin Diversion and Misuse, 2002-2015: Diversion Rates and Qualitative Research Findings. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, 26 (9), 1083-1086. https://doi.org/10.1002/pds.4230
0000-0002-5001-7391, 0000-0001-5989-9354, 0000-0003-2600-0511