Gabapentin detection and involvement in drug overdose deaths were found to have increased from 2019 to 2020, according to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As use of gabapentin in the United States has been steadily increasing in recent years, researchers from the CDC analyzed data from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System to assess trends in gabapentin-involved overdose deaths. Of the 62,652 overdose deaths that occurred between 2019 and 2020, 58,362 of these cases had documented toxicology results.
Findings showed that gabapentin was detected in postmortem toxicology in 5687 (9.7%) deaths; among these overdose deaths, 2975 (52.3%) were classified as gabapentin-involved deaths. Most of these deaths involved White individuals (83.2%) and those between the ages of 35 and 54 years (52.2%).
When assessing quarterly trends, the data showed an increase in gabapentin-involved deaths, from 49.4% in the first quarter of 2019 to 55.1% during the fourth quarter of 2020. The analysis also demonstrated that opioids, particularly illicitly manufactured fentanyls, were involved in nearly 90% of drug overdose deaths in which gabapentin was detected.
“These findings highlight the dangers of polysubstance use, particularly co-use of gabapentin and illicit opioids,” the authors concluded. They added that individuals who use these drugs together should be made aware of the potential for increased respiratory depression and death.
Mattson CL, Chowdhury F, Gilson TP. Notes from the Field: Trends in gabapentin detection and involvement in drug overdose deaths — 23 states and the District of Columbia, 2019–2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:664–666. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7119a3
This article originally appeared on MPR