PRegabalin addiction &
treatment

What is Pregabalin?

Pregabalin is an anticonvulsant used to treat seizures and is also commonly prescribed for pain caused by diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia and spinal cord injury. It is widely known by the brand name Lyrica and comes in three forms: a capsule, liquid solution, and an extended-release tablet. 

What is Pregabalin addiction?

Pregabalin addiction refers to the compulsive need to use the drug as a result of physical or psychological dependence. 

Addiction is largely associated with people who obtain and use drugs illegally. However, many people are unaware that Pregabalin addiction can occur even when taken as directed by your doctor. Taking any kind of substance for a prolonged period increases the likelihood of developing tolerance and physical dependence. 

People taking Pregabalin as prescribed may find that even after a short period of complete cessation they begin to experience discomfort brought on by withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are usually what motivates people to use more Pregabalin to relieve these symptoms. Some individuals find that their seizures and medical issues become worse if they stop taking their anticonvulsant medication.

In addition to legal use, Pregabalin also has the potential to be abused recreationally due to its effects which are said to mimic those of Valium. It is known to produce feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness, while also enhancing the euphoric effects of other drugs, like heroin and other opioids. 

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Symptoms of Pregabalin Addiction

Like many other drugs, long-term use of Pregabalin can lead to the manifestation of various psychical and psychological symptoms. If you’ve been taking Pregabalin for long periods and are concerned about the effects this drug is having on your health, you must familiarise yourself with the possible signs of addiction. Denial and addiction go hand in hand, so while you may not be aware of the impact of your Pregabalin use those around you can often identify tell-tale signs that indicate something is wrong. 

One of the most prevalent signs of addiction is dishonesty and denial. If you find yourself going to great lengths to conceal your Pregabalin use, you have likely developed an addiction. Lying almost becomes a necessity where Pregabalin abuse and addiction is concerned. In addition to these behavioural signs, other symptoms of Pregabalin addiction you should be aware of include: 

    • Inability to stop taking Pregabalin despite the consequences 
    • Concealing the true nature of your habit 
    • Obsessing over finding more Pregabalin 
    • Changes in behaviour 
    • Social isolation
    • Impulsivity leading to risky behaviour 
    • Irritability
    • Agitation
    • Hostility
    • Anxiety
    • Panic attacks
    • Lying about medical symptoms to get more Pregabalin 
    • Financial difficulty 
    • Stealing money to fund your addiction 

The physical symptoms of Pregabalin addiction may occur later on, but the most noticeable ones include:

  • Fever
  • Heart palpitations
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired memory and judgement 

In addition to the more common psychological and physical side effects of Pregabalin addiction, you should be aware that serious abuse of Pregabalin can lead to more severe issues that could cause long-term damage if not treated:  

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm
  • Muscle pain, weakness or tenderness
  • Fever
  • Vision problems
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Swelling in hands or feet
  • Rapid weight gain

If you’ve been taking Pregabalin on prescription and suspect you may have developed an addiction to your medication, you should speak to your doctor about slowly tapering your dose to see if your symptoms improve. However, if you have been taking Pregabalin recreationally and abusing it for its effects, you may require a supervised detox to eliminate the build-up of toxins from your system. 

If you feel as though your mental and physical health is deteriorating, or you notice these unsettling symptoms in someone you care about, you must seek medical help immediately. 

Pregabalin Withdrawal Symptoms

A common misconception surrounding withdrawal symptoms is that they can only occur as a result of illicit drug abuse. Anyone who takes a controlled or illegal substance for an extended period is at risk of developing dependence and therefore experiencing withdrawal symptoms once they stop. 

The symptoms of Pregabalin withdrawal may vary depending on several factors, such as age, gender, weight and overall health. The side effects of cessation can range from mild to severe and affect you both mentally and physically, with acute withdrawal symptoms beginning around 24 hours after your last dose and continuing for at least two days. 

Some of the most common Pregabalin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting 
  • Nausea 
  • Diarrhoea
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Cravings for the medication
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures

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Side Effects of Taking Pregabalin

Pregabalin, like any other anticonvulsant medication, comes with a range of potential side effects that may occur as a result of regular consumption These are not to be confused with the side effects of Pregabalin addiction as mentioned earlier on. When abused outside of your doctor’s advice, the risk of experiencing any of these side effects increases. Some of the most commonly reported adverse reactions to Pregabalin include: 

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Loss of memory 
  • Impaired judgement 
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Edema
  • Breast swelling
  • Tremors
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight gain

What to Do If You Overdose on Pregabalin

If you have taken too much Pregabalin and think you may be experiencing an overdose, you should dial 999 as soon as possible. Tell the switchboard that you need an ambulance, and they will transfer you to the ambulance operator. Try and stay calm as you’re speaking to the operator as they will need to take some important information from you. 

Try and describe your symptoms as accurately as possible to help paramedics gain a clear understanding of what type of treatment you’ll require. The symptoms of a Pregabalin overdose may not always be obvious, to begin with, so any change in physical or mental health must be addressed immediately.

Pregabalin and Alcohol: What Are the Risks?

Taking Pregabalin with alcohol doubles your risk of abusing both substances on a long-term basis. While Pregabalin’s appeal is that it can produce feelings of calmness and relaxation on its own, mixing it with alcohol can bring about intense euphoria and heightened intoxication. Using Pregabalin with another CNS depressant such as alcohol could have devastating consequences, the result of which could be life-threatening.  If more than one CNS depressant is used in combination with Pregabalin e.g. alcohol, even in small doses, there is still a high possibility of respiratory failure, coma or death.

Potential side effects of mixing alcohol and Pregabalin include:  

  • Drowsiness
  • Sedation
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Impaired judgement 
  • Reduced alertness
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue and throat

Whilst some of these symptoms on their own might not be enough to alarm you, they could lead to far more serious consequences if you experience them whilst driving or operating other heavy machinery that could endanger the lives of others as well as your own. 

Treatment for Pregabalin Addiction

Addiction to any substances, whether legal or illicit, usually require a medical detox combined with intensive psychological therapy. Detox is needed to ensure the body is flushed of all toxins until there is no longer any Pregabalin left in the system. The length of detox will differ from person to person; however, it typically takes around seven days. 

Following your detox, therapy is recommended to tackle the psychological aspects of addiction and address any underlying issues that could have contributed to the addiction. Some of the most popular Pregabalin addiction treatment therapies include CBT, DBT, group therapy, one-to-one counselling, meditation, mindfulness, and music therapy. 

While residential rehab is considered the safest and most effective form of Pregabalin addiction treatment, there are various recovery options available to suit your circumstances, such as outpatient rehab, free drug and alcohol services and support groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. 

FAQs

Pregabalin is a controlled substance not available to buy over the counter and can only be legally obtained through a prescription from a doctor. However, like many prescription medications, Pregabalin is often sold illegally on the dark web or by street dealers. 

While the symptoms of Pregabalin are not dangerous, they can be extremely agonising as they usually exacerbate some of the symptoms they are used to treat. If Pregabalin has been abused long-term, it increases the risks of suffering from suicidal thoughts and tendencies once stopped. 

The two most common side effects of Pregabalin are dizziness and sleepiness. Other side effects in these studies include dry mouth, swelling of the hands and feet, blurred vision, weight gain, trouble concentrating. These side effects were generally mild to moderate. However, you should remember that abusing Pregabalin recreationally can increase the likelihood and severity of these side effects. If you experience any of these, you should seek medical attention immediately. 

Anyone taking Pregabalin for long periods is exposed to the risk of addiction, whether they are taking it as part of a prescription or have obtained it illegally to abuse for its effects. 

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A page revised the 6 of July of 2021, by Danielle Byatt, a Level 4 addictions counselling, Level 5 in Leadership & Management, BA applied social work. and Treatment Director at Step by Step Recovery.

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