Widely prescribed drug linked to overdose deaths in Peoria

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PEORIA (WEEK) – Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood is sounding the alarm about a commonly prescribed drug called Gabapentin.

The drug is normally prescribed to treat seizures and muscle spasms and is completely safe if used correctly.

During an 11-year period from 2004 to 2015, gabapentin was prescribed approximately one million times each year in the United States, according to Harwood.

However, when combined with already dangerous drugs, gabapentin can accelerate their effects, which can quickly turn fatal.

“The problem is, it can also increase people’s propensity to decrease their breathing and stop breathing… when mixed with heroin or opioid drugs,” Harwood said.

Harwood says about 50 percent of drug overdose deaths in Peoria County in 2020 involved gabapentin. He wants to see more regulation at the federal level and that gabapentin be classified as a controlled substance.

“I think there needs to be more monitoring of gabapentin,” Harwood said. It is not a class 3 or class 2 drug, which is monitored in this way. “

The Peoria County Coroner’s Office has confiscated about 1,000 gabapentin tablets while responding to deaths in the past three months.

“I just don’t think people understand the effects this can have on their brains, the euphoria and the potential for addiction,” Harwood said.

He hopes to raise awareness of the issue to prevent it from being prescribed so often.


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