Operation Clean Recovery

Non-opioid drug Gabapentin becoming part of the heroin epidemic

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ALBANY -- Gabapentin is used by a lot of people to help with seizures, and for diabetic neuropathy, among other things. However, now it's also becoming a part of the deadly heroin epidemic as addicts look for something to give them a stronger, bigger high.

It's got other names, like Neurontin, and it's been around for a while. It's not an opioid, but the drug is showing up in a lot of fatal overdoses.

"We'll see fentanyl in the levels, they'll see opioids of some sort, and in the majority of cases they'll see Gabapentin, as well," said Assemblyman John McDonald, who is also a practicing pharmacist.

Gabapentin is a big problem in states like Kentucky and Ohio right now. Kentucky was the first state to designate it a controlled substance.

Assemblyman McDonald is proposing legislation to add Gabapentin to the Prescription Monitoring Program.

"So we're trying to create a new category. Not to restrict its use. That's an important component because Gabapentin is a drug, when used appropriately, serves a very important purpose," said McDonald. "By the same token, we want to make sure it's registered in the prescription monitoring program that all prescribers are required to look at and say hey, why are you taking Gabapentin? Do you have seizure issues? Do you have neuropathy? If not, maybe there's a problem."

Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says he hasn't seen a problem with Gabapentin in this area.

"It's kind of like Xanax. It's always out there. It ebbs and flows. We may get a bunch of arrests with it. It'll kind of fall off the radar for a little bit, and then it's back. Unfortunately, the heroin just hasn't fallen off," said Sheriff Apple.

But the sheriff said he's seen something else troubling.

"Actually, believe it or not, we've been making a lot of meth arrests, and it's decent meth," he said. "It's not like the 'Breaking Bad' meth that's all nasty stuff. This stuff is pretty clean meth."

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