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Pregabalin vs. Gabapentin

Pregabalin vs. Gabapentin | Just Believe Detox and Recovery

In This Article

Pregabalin (brand name Lyrica) and gabapentin (brand name Neurontin) are both medications used to treat seizures, pain related to shingles, and certain other types of nerve pain. Both drugs are classified as gabapentinoids—a class of substances with similar mechanisms of action and many common side effects. Both also have some potential for abuse and physical dependence, and their use can result in withdrawal symptoms if a user abruptly stops taking them or reduces the dose.

In terms of differences, pregabalin appears to be more rapidly absorbed, may be somewhat more effective for certain treatments, and is associated with fewer side effects overall. It is also believed, however, that pregabalin may have a slightly higher potential for abuse and dependence.

How Do These Medications Work?

Both pregabalin and gabapentin are structurally similar to the brain neurochemical GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is the primary inhibitory transmitter in the CNS (central nervous system).

The precise way that pregabalin and gabapentin work is not well understood, but they appear to bind to calcium channels in the (CNS). This action may inhibit neurotransmitter release throughout the system.

Differences Between Pregabalin and Gabapentin

As noted, in the United States, medications containing gabapentin are approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to treat seizures and nerve pain, as well as restless legs syndrome. Gabapentin also has several off-label uses, including the management of anxiety, bipolar disorder, insomnia, menopausal conditions, vertigo, itching, and migraines.

In addition to the other condition, pregabalin is also used to treat nerve pain associated with diabetes and fibromyalgia. One main difference between pregabalin and gabapentin is that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has classified the former as a Schedule IV controlled substance. This designation indicates that the drug is considered to have some potential for abuse and physical dependence.

Despite not being a controlled substance, there are both anecdotal and documented cases of gabapentin abuse. One review of instances of gabapentin abuse revealed that the main reasons people misused the drug were to get high, relieve opioid withdrawal symptoms, and enhance the effects of methadone. Other research found that the rates of abuse ranged between 40%-65% among those with a prescription for the drug and 15%-22% among populations that also abuse opioids. Many individuals who abused the drug had a history of substance abuse.

A review of the two drugs found that pregabalin appears to be absorbed more rapidly than gabapentin. Also, pregabalin may be a relatively more potent anticonvulsant and nerve pain medication.

Finally, both medications can lead to withdrawal if an individual abruptly suddenly stops taking them or dramatically reduces the dose—sudden discontinuation may result in repeated seizures in those who have epilepsy.

Gabapentin withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Poor muscle control
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating

Pregabalin withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety

Health professionals recommend that individuals who are using antiepileptic drugs wean off of them gradually to mitigate the risk of withdrawal symptoms and increased seizure activity.

A person who has been abusing either or both of these drugs could be at a higher likelihood of a complicated withdrawal and should seek the help of a medically-assisted detox program or other medical professional guidance.

Side Effects

Pregabalin vs. Gabapentin | Just Believe Detox and Recovery

Though the potential side effects of both medications are similar, some research has found that pregabalin may be associated with fewer. Drowsiness and dizziness are the most common side effects associated with both drugs, but more pressing concerns such as suicidal thoughts have also been reported.

Side effects of gabapentin may include the following:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Shakiness
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Back and joint pain
  • Fever
  • Ear pain
  • Runny nose
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Impaired coordination
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the face
  • Rash
  • Seizures

Side effects associated with Lyrica include the following:

  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Back pain
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Gas and bloating
  • Impaired coordination
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain
  • Rash
  • Memory problems

Getting Treatment for Substance Abuse

Pregabalin is generally considered to have a higher risk of abuse and dependence than gabapentin. Despite this, either drug can be abused, either alone or in conjunction with other substances, including opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol.

Persons who are dependent upon or abusing either substance should consider a medically-assisted detox followed by intensive treatment for addiction. When abused by themselves, neither drug is particularly dangerous in comparison to many other psychoactive substances. Still, when abused with other CNS depressants, which they commonly are, a much more severe problem can develop—polysubstance addiction.

Just Believe Recovery offers comprehensive treatment programs that include evidence-based services proven effective for the treatment of substance use disorders, including psychotherapy, counseling, and group support.

If you are ready to break free from the shackles of addiction for life, contact us today and find out how we can help!

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