Pregabalin (brand name Lyrica) is a prescription-only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of nerve pain and convulsions. While the drug is usually prescribed for those with seizure disorders, fibromyalgia, and other disorders, it has also shown some effectiveness at relieving anxiety.
Lyrica is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule V substance, indicating that it has legitimate medical applications as well as a relatively low potential for abuse and addiction. Lyrica can be habit-forming, however, and it is believed that misuse can lead to a chemical dependence to some degree.
Pregabalin use (or even abuse) doesn’t appear to result in an intense high or result in addiction rates anywhere as near those as most other psychoactive prescription drugs. When compared to the high associated with highly-addictive prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone, the effects of pregabalin are relatively mild. Experts believe that the drug’s addictive potential is mainly due to a reduction in pain accompanied by feelings of relaxation and generally mild high.
How Pregabalin Works
Pregabalin works to relieve neuropathic pain by blocking the release of excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain and increasing levels of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid). This combined effect makes the user feel very relaxed and mildly sedated.
GABA is a key neurotransmitter in the central nervous system (CNS) that helps to control anxiety and stress. High levels of GABA help to inhibit and regulate many major functions of the CNS, such as respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Pregabalin abuse can occur in several different ways. Firstly, patients with a legitimate prescription can use it more often or in higher doses than prescribed. Secondly, it can be used in conjunction with the abuse of other prescription or illicit drugs or alcohol. Thirdly, tablets can be crushed, and the residual powder snorted, which can deliver the drug into the system faster and with more intensity than is intended for legitimate medical use.
Unless directed by a physician, pregabalin should not be combined with alcohol or any other drug that represses activity in the CNS, because it can cause excessive drowsiness and CNS depression. Other CNS depressants include antidepressants, sedative/hypnotics, anxiolytics, painkillers, and muscle relaxers, among others.
When used in conjunction with anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan, pregabalin can compound the drowsiness they cause—using Lyrica while drinking alcohol can also intensify intoxicating effects.
Potential Side Effects of Lyrica
- Weight gain
- Fluid retention
- Edema (swelling)
- Suicidal thoughts
- Vision problems
- Impaired speech
- Dry mouth
- Muscle twitches
More serious side effects may include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sore throat
- Mouth ulcers
- Muscle pain
- Breathing problems
Pregabalin dependence is most common among people who have been using it for a prolonged period. Dependence is a biological condition that develops as the brain and body grow accustomed to a substance’s presence and require continued use in order to function properly.
One hallmark sign of dependence is the onset of withdrawal symptoms when a person who is using a substance tries to quit. Withdrawal symptoms associated with pregabalin use are said to be similar to those of other depressants, albeit milder than many. These may include the following:
- Drug cravings
- Mood changes
- Nausea and vomiting
The intensity of withdrawal is affected by factors such as the duration of use and the average amount used. Also, stopping the use of other drugs or alcohol at the same time as pregabalin can dramatically impact the overall severity of withdrawal for all substances involved.
Signs of Lyrica Addiction
Addiction can have both chemical and psychological components. Physical dependence is often accompanied by an emotional need to continue using a substance, despite the adverse consequences that it may be causing. This, along with compulsive drug-seeking behavior, are hallmark signs of full-blown addiction.
The following are possible warning signs of pregabalin addiction:
- Engaging in drug-seeking behaviors despite experiencing negative consequences
- Lyrica is no longer effective for its intended medical purpose, but the person continues to use it anyway
- Withdrawal symptoms occur upon discontinuation of use
- Multiple attempts to quit or cut back on the use of pregabalin have failed
- Lyrica is being used in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol as a means to avoid emotional pain or stress
Treatment for Addiction
Pregabalin abuse and addiction are somewhat uncommon, but they are possible and occasionally do occur. Furthermore, the abuse of pregabalin often happens in combination with the abuse of other drugs, such as opioids or alcohol. Polysubstance addiction is a severe condition and should be treated by medical or addiction professionals in a clinical environment.
Just Believe Detox offers specialized treatment for substance abuse in both residential and partial-hospitalization formats. Our programs include evidence-based therapies clinically-proven to be essential to the recovery process, such as psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, group support, and more.
If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse, please contact us today! We are dedicated to helping people liberate themselves from the chains of addiction, prevent relapse, and foster long-term sobriety and well-being!