Understanding motivations and use typologies of gabapentin with opioid agonist medications

Matthew S. Ellis, Rida Qureshi, Mance E. Buttram

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2 Scopus citations


Background: Prior research suggests a potential relationship between the nonmedical use of gabapentin and use of opioid agonist medications (OAMs), buprenorphine and methadone. However, this research has been limited in scope and understanding despite increases in gabapentin prescribing in opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment settings and increased detection in opioid overdose fatalities. Methods: Data were analyzed for 346 participants of a follow-up program to an ongoing national opioid surveillance program of new entrants to treatment for opioid use disorder. Data were sourced from a cross-sectional online survey distributed in July/August 2021. Results: Lifetime exposure to gabapentin was reported by 60.0 % of the sample, while lifetime history of nonmedical use was reported by 43.2 %. Of those nonmedically using gabapentin, 50.0 % did so while also on a dosage of either buprenorphine or methadone, with 28.4 % engaged in concurrent nonmedical use of both gabapentin and OATs. Motivations for concurrent nonmedical use included high-seeking (38.6 %), self-management of pain/physical symptoms (33.3 %), and self-management of OUD (22.2 %). Conclusions: Gabapentin exposure in treatment-seeking persons with OUD appears to be quite common, and use, both medically and nonmedically, frequently occurs alongside OAMs. Motivations for concurrent nonmedical use of gabapentin and OATs mirrors motivations for off-label prescribing by healthcare providers, but may also serve as a form of self-management of OUD when OAM regimens are interrupted, insufficiently prescribed or prescribed at insufficient dosages. Further research should seek to understand the risks versus benefits of gabapentin in OAM treatment settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109713
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • Buprenorphine
  • Gabapentin
  • Methadone
  • Opioid agonist medications
  • Opioid use disorder


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