Why Is Pregabalin Overdose on the Front Line of First Responders
Why Are Pregabalin (Lyrica) Addiction and Overdose Statistics on the Rise?
Pregabalin is a prescription-only drug used to treat fibromyalgia and epilepsy. The most common brand name is Lyrica. Some of its effects are still being researched by scientists and doctors, but the reason for improvement seen in these conditions is thought to be linked to the effect pregabalin has in limiting the number of signals sent to nerve cells. This helps patients dealing with fibromyalgia, epilepsy, and anxiety to control symptoms.
However, pregabalin is on the rise on the black market. It is a very similar drug to gabapentin, which is an older medication used to treat similar conditions. Both drugs are more popular than ever, causing rates of addiction and overdoses to skyrocket. The high from pregabalin purportedly feels like a pleasantly drowsy euphoria. For some, this high turns lethal. What makes pregabalin (as well as gabapentin) so dangerous is how unaware users are of side affects, or cross-medication risks.
Pregabalin and Opioids
There is an even bigger risk for individuals who take multiple drugs at once. Pregabalin is statistically more lethal when mixed with opioids. Heroin, morphine, and fentanyl are incredibly popular on the black market. The popularity of fentanyl, in particular, contributes greatly to the opioid epidemic in the western world. Commonly cut with other medications like Xanax, an amount of fentanyl equivalent to a few grains of salt has the potential to be lethal.
When a user takes pregabalin with heroin, fentanyl, or other opioids, the risk for overdose – and therefore, lethal overdose – increases significantly. Sadly, users are extremely tempted to do so because pregabalin has a reputation for intensifying the euphoria some experience with opioids. Though the risk is high and the combination frequently lethal, individuals continue to use the substances together due to addiction, lack of knowledge in the risks, or the pursuit of a stronger high.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
Individuals who are suffering from pregabalin addiction, also known as lyrica addiction, show physical and emotional symptoms. Though the drug itself is not hyper-addictive when used as prescribed, some users become addicted to the feeling of relaxation and euphoria, as well as the intensifying effect it has on opioid use.
Here are a few examples of physical addiction symptoms:
Lack of coordination
Drowsiness and lethargy
Emotional symptoms of pregabalin addiction include:
Hiding and hoarding pills
Loss of interest in social interaction
Lying to physicians to get medication
Refusing to quit
Exhibiting a different personality
These symptoms also apply to many other types of addiction and, more specifically, to a similar reliance on gabapentin. In fact, it is possible for users to become addicted accidentally. If the drug is originally prescribed for epilepsy, anxiety, or fibromyalgia, it is possible for users to abuse the substance until dependent on it to function. Withdrawals include racing heart, vomiting, emotional instability, and more.
How First Responders Treat Pregabalin Overdose
A pregabalin overdose receives the same treatment as most pill overdoses. However, if opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl are in the patient’s system, the first responders treat the situation with even more urgency. Patients who have overdosed on pregabalin (or gabapentin) likely have their stomach pumped, get treated with medicine to stabilize heart rate and blood pressure, and have fluids replaced.
There are pregabalin and opioid risks beyond overdose and the risk of fatality. These include:
Vomiting as a side-effect of pregabalin or opioids while unconscious and aspirating
Staying unconscious long enough to cause permanent brain damage
Research in the UK shows that pregabalin users in need of an ambulance were also using another substance more than two-thirds of the time. These secondary substances include opioids, alcohol, and sedatives. Almost all of these ambulance dispatches require in-depth medical care, and some patients did not survive.
Help for Pregabalin Addiction
Maryland Recovery has programs that treat prescription pill addiction and opioid addiction. Additionally, we offer long-term care for drug-addicted individuals seeking help. We understand the difficulty addicted individuals face, as well as the fears and struggles their families are met with. We have the experience and expertise to help you or your loved one on the path to recovery and freedom from addiction.
Dr. Bhalavat is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, and provides inpatient evaluation and consultation services at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, Maryland Recovery Partners, and Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Bhalavat’s background includes treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and dementia.
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