Pregabalin Addiction & Abuse | Rehab Guide

Pregabalin Addiction

Pregabalin Addiction

Pregabalin Addiction and Abuse

This article explains the dangers of pregabalin addiction. Also, even taking a genuine prescription can lead to dependence and addiction.

Pregabalin is regularly prescribed to treat epilepsy, anxiety and nerve pain. However, there is the potential for pregabalin addiction. This can be particularly problematic in those who mix pregabalin and alcohol. The same issue can also arise if you mix pregabalin and other drugs.

Many people who take pregabalin find that they become tolerant to its effects. They then need to keep increasing the dosage to feel it working.

Unfortunately, this is one of those drugs that do nothing to address the root causes of pain or anxiety. Whilst it does offer effective relief for several conditions, due to its addictive nature, many people find themselves taking the drug for longer periods.

Symptoms of withdrawal from pregabalin are extremely challenging and uncomfortable. If a pregabalin detox is not done with medical assistance and properly, withdrawal symptoms can even become life-threatening.

Here, we look at the symptoms of pregabalin addiction, abuse and withdrawal. We also advise how to access fast and effective professional help if you or a loved one has a problem with this commonly prescribed drug. We ask why is Lyrica pregabalin addictive? What are the risks of overusing pregabalin and what can we do about it?

Legal Status (UK)

Pregabalin (Lyrica) is a gabapentinoid drug and works similarly to gabapentin. Both are Class-C controlled substances. This is because of an increasing rise in deaths resulting from the abuse of gabapentinoids.

Sold under the popular brand names of Lyrica, Alzain and Axalid, pregabalin is for nerve pain and acts as an anti-seizure medicine.

Doctors have prescribed it for other purposes in more recent years, such as for anxiety. However, if used as an anti-anxiety medication, it is important to be careful. This is because of its ability to sedate and its euphoric effects.

Pregabalin has also been trialled experimentally to treat drug and alcohol withdrawal. However, there is little evidence currently that supports any benefits of using pregabalin over traditional alcohol withdrawal medications.

The longer you use pregabalin, the more risks associated with this drug increase—the same goes for the risk of developing a prescription drug addiction.

Pregabalin Uses

Pregabalin has various suggested uses and also some off label uses.

Pregabalin can be prescribed for the following conditions:

  • Nerve pain resulting from shingles, diabetes or injury
  • Seizures caused by epilepsy
  • Anxiety – anxiety-related conditions such as social anxiety, panic disorder and generalised anxiety disorder

How Pregabalin Works

Pregabalin works in different ways depending on what doctors prescribe it for:

  • For people with epilepsy, it works by reducing abnormal electrical activity in the brain and helps to prevent seizures.
  • Works by blocking pain signals travelling through the brain and the spine in those with nerve pain.
  • With anxiety, it works by stopping the brain from releasing the chemicals that cause a person to feel anxious.

Side effects of pregabalin

  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • Increased appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced awareness and reaction time
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviour

Caution should be exercised when prescribing pregabalin for patients that are:

  • Pregnant
  • Were or are addicted to alcohol, drugs or a pharmaceutical medicine
  • Impaired kidney function or on a sodium controlled diet (some brands of pregabalin contain sodium)
  • Having breathing problems
  • Over 65 years of age

Pregabalin should not be prescribed for those that are under 18 years old.

If you are taking pregabalin and are experiencing any troubling or long-term side effects, you should speak to your doctor as soon as you can.

Increased Risk of Suicide for Pregabalin Users

A Swedish study conducted into the risk factors associated with gabapentinoids  showed that pregabalin users were at increased risk of:

  • Suicide and suicidal behaviour by 26%
  • Car and road traffic accidents. This is because of reduced awareness and response times by 13%
  • Accidents resulting in injury to the body or head by 22%
  • Unintentional overdose by 24%

The study further found that 15 to 24-year-olds were more likely to experience serious side effects.

Further results of the study compared Pregabalin and gabapentin. They found that the risks were associated specifically with Lyrica (also known as pregabalin).

Usually, with a drug that slows reactions and causes reduced awareness, you expect elderly patients to be in the highest risk category. However, this was not the case with pregabalin. Perhaps this is thanks to caution being exercised in prescribing for over 65’s.

The study concluded there were increased prescriptions for off label uses such as anxiety in the younger generation. They were the age group most likely not to take the associated risks seriously. This age group was also likely to develop a pregabalin dependence (addiction).

Causes and Risk Factors of Pregabalin Addiction

There are many risks and dangers associated with the abuse of pregabalin. Regardless of age, anyone who misuses pregabalin will be at risk of harming and developing an addiction.

The most common methods of pregabalin abuse are:

  • Taking more than one dose at once
  • Splitting the capsule and snorting the contents
  • Mixing with other depressant drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, sleeping tablets or opiates.

Mixing pregabalin with another CNS depressant increases the effects of both drugs and puts a person at serious risk of harm. It also increases the risk for Lyrica addiction.

When abused, pregabalin produces effects similar to feeling drunk on alcohol. Some people feel increased euphoria, whilst others experience drowsiness, confusion and lack of coordination. It is these effects that have earned it the nickname “Budweiser.”

A very common misuse is drinking alcohol whilst taking it. This increases the feelings of intoxication. It also increases the risk of accidents and accidental overdose.

Dependence on pregabalin happens quickly, even when following a prescription. This can cause serious psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms on stopping or trying to stop the drug.

If your doctor prescribes pregabalin and you wish to stop taking it, please always speak with them first. They can advise you of the safest way of stopping the drug.

Understanding pregabalin addiction

Rehab Guide

Pregabalin addiction is not as simple as becoming dependent. While, in most cases, dependence can be a sign of an addiction, it doesn’t paint the full picture.

Some other elements have been specified as increasing the probability that a person will go on to develop a pregabalin addiction, including:

  • a family history of substance abuse and addiction
  • a history of family mental health issues
  • an individual history of mental health issues
  • undergoing stress, trauma or challenging life circumstances
  • social isolation and withdrawal
  • an inclination to engage in risky behaviour
  • a strong wish to fit in

Addiction develops from repeated exposure to a drug and misusing it.

Pregabalin addiction occurs when taking the drug no longer triggers the brain rewards centre. This happens following over-exposure.

The lack of reward ( high) will cause a person with pregabalin addiction to take more than is considered safe. This repeated behaviour causes further lasting changes in the brain that aren’t stopped simply by stopping pregabalin.

Any addiction is a disorder of the brain. Due to the characteristics of addiction, such as craving and compulsion, if left untreated, it will only get worse.

The damage that addiction causes to the prefrontal cortex. Our reward centre and other crucial parts of the brain start to affect the way a person thinks and behaves. Everything is about feeding the addiction, whatever the possible consequences to health, work and social wellbeing.

Signs and symptoms of pregabalin addiction

If you are concerned that you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction to pregabalin (Lyrica), it is important to seek professional help and treatment without delay.

Addiction is a complex brain disorder that is life-threatening. The good news is that addiction is preventable and treatable.

Signs of pregabalin addiction include:

  • Experiencing strong cravings for pregabalin
  • Frequently taking a higher than the prescribed dose
  • Taking it without a prescription (i.e. buying from the internet)
  • Using multiple doctors to obtain more drugs
  • Continuing to take the medication once the initial complaint it was prescribed for has been resolved
  • Mixing pregabalin with alcohol, opiates or other drugs to increase the euphoric high or to sedate.
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Increased risk-taking whilst under the influence (i.e. driving whilst intoxicated, operating heavy machinery, or taking care of minors)
  • Productivity at work or school becomes negatively affected

The effects of mixing pregabalin with alcohol & other drugs

One of the most common forms of use is to mix it with other drugs for increased feelings of intoxication. This, of course, carries substantial risks. Below are some of the side effects of mixing pregabalin and alcohol or other drugs.

The effects of mixing pregabalin and alcohol:

  • Increased sedation
  • Euphoria
  • lack of coordination
  • Reduced impulse control
  • Lower inhibitions
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Reduced awareness
  • Decreased or impaired breathing
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Feelings of suicide

The effects of mixing pregabalin and opiates:

  • Increased sedation
  • Reduced awareness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Euphoria
  • Reduced inhibitions & impulse control
  • Increased risk of overdose

The effects of mixing pregabalin with benzodiazepines or sleeping tablets:

  • Increased sedation
  • Confusion
  • Reduced inhibitions & impulse control
  • Trouble breathing
  • Reduced coordination
  • Reduced respiratory rate
  • Impaired coordination
  • Increased risk of overdose

Mixing pregabalin with any illicit or recreational drug is strongly advised against the increased risk of injury, overdose and death.

Pregabalin withdrawal and detoxification timeline

If you have been taking pregabalin for a prolonged period, you mustn’t just stop the medication abruptly.

Detox options for pregabalin withdrawal include:

How you withdraw from pregabalin will depend on whether you have an addiction to the drug.

If you have a pregabalin addiction, you will likely find that you cannot control reducing the drug by yourself.

Pregabalin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Cravings for pregabalin
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Increased sweating
  • Increased heart rate, palpitations
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts

The severity and duration of your withdrawal symptoms will depend on several factors. These factors will be personal to you.

Factors that affect the length and severity of pregabalin withdrawal timeline include:

  • How long you have been using pregabalin
  • The dose you have become accustomed to (level of dependence)
  • How often you take pregabalin
  • Whether you have been abusing pregabalin or mixing it frequently with other drugs or alcohol

If you are dependent on pregabalin through a normal prescription that you have followed, your symptoms should be mild. This provides you taper off the drug and follow your doctor’s directions.

Having an addiction to pregabalin, especially where alcohol or other drugs are involved can result in more severe withdrawal symptoms. Detoxing can even cause life-threatening symptoms if not carried out medically.

The withdrawal timeline will start soon after you miss your first dose, with symptoms hitting a peak anywhere from 12 to 48 hours after your last dose. How quickly you feel the start of withdrawal will depend on how often you take the drug.

In studies on how pregabalin withdrawal works, it was similar to other CNS depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines. This is why stopping the drug too quickly can result in some very nasty withdrawal symptoms.

The method of detox used to stop pregabalin will affect how long withdrawal symptoms continue. Most cases report symptoms for at least a week after completely stopping the drug.

In cases of serious Pregabalin abuse and addiction, some symptoms can continue for a month or more after stopping.

Overcoming Pregabalin Addiction

Pregabalin withdrawal can be safely and effectively managed by doing a full medical detox. This will reduce the severity and duration of your withdrawal symptoms.

Medical detox will also reduce your risk of developing protracted withdrawal syndrome (PWS) and post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

A medically managed detox conducted within one of our CQC registered rehabs offers the following benefits:

  • Inpatient –  24/7 monitoring and support
  • A safe and temptation free environment
  • Medications and therapy to support and manage your detoxification
  • Holistic and alternative therapies to support your wellbeing
  • All meals provided and tailored to your nutritional needs
  • Support and treatment from a multidisciplinary team of professionals, including doctors, nurses, therapists and counsellors
  • The opportunity to undergo a full rehabilitation programme.

Medically managed detoxes for pregabalin are very successful. This is because of the high levels of professional support and reduced withdrawal symptoms.

Following any medical detox, a full bespoke rehabilitation programme and aftercare are strongly recommended.

Treatment for Pregabalin Addiction

Addiction is often painted as a hopeless condition, from which very few recover. Our experience is that this is not the case when a person commits to a recovery programme. Many can and do recover from addiction and lead happy and fulfilling lives.

We offer many different treatment options for those that wish to access private treatment for a pregabalin addiction or abuse problem. The most successful long term outcomes are usually in our patients who commit to an inpatient residential stay.

Treatments that we offer for pregabalin addiction are evidence-based and made up of 3 key elements:

  • Full medical detoxification
  • A comprehensive and bespoke rehabilitation treatment plan
  • An aftercare/reintegration programme and follow up support

Our residential rehab programmes for pregabalin abuse and addiction include many evidence-based therapies, with each treatment tailored to your individual needs.

Treatments that are proven to treat addiction that we provide include:

  • Group therapy
  • Individual counselling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy – CBT
  • Trauma therapy (depending on rehab)
  • Fitness programme
  • Nutrition
  • Art therapy
  • Music, drama & equine therapy (depending on rehab)
  • Yoga
  • Complementary, holistic therapies
  • Educational workshops
  • Relapse prevention techniques and strategies
  • 12 step groups
  • Family therapy programme
  • Meditation and mindfulness practises
  • Full discharge and aftercare programme

Accurately assessing your treatment needs

As there is no one method of addiction treatment that works for all, it is important that we comprehensively assess your treatment needs before making any recommendations.

We can then determine which of our rehab programmes would be best suited to you and is likely to provide the best outcome by conducting a full assessment.

All of our treatment centres are CQC registered and highly regulated. We can help you or your loved one to make a full recovery from pregabalin addiction and ensure a complete healing and immersive experience.

Call one of our friendly addiction treatment counsellors today for a free and confidential assessment.

Sources:

  • Associations between gabapentinoids and suicidal behaviour, unintentional overdoses, injuries, road traffic incidents, and violent crime: population based cohort study in Sweden https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l2147
  • Biology of addiction: Drugs and alcohol can hijack your brain. (2015, October)
    https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2015/10/biology-addiction
  • Pregabalin for the Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms: A Comprehensive Review – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5124051/
  • Pregabalin, brand names – Lyrica, Alzain, Axalid. NHS information – https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/pregabalin/
  • Pregabalin-associated Discontinuation Symptoms: A Case Report. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6284877/
  • UK Government to reclassify pregabalin and gabapentin after rise in deaths – https://painconcern.org.uk/uk-government-reclassify-pregabalin-gabapentin-rise-deaths/
  • Protracted withdrawal syndromes from benzodiazepines. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1675688/

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