Lyrica and Neurontin Linked to Opioid Overdoses

Lyrica and Neurontin Linked to Opioid Overdoses — Pain News Network – May 2017

“It is important that doctors and people dependent on opioids are aware that the number of overdose deaths involving the combination of opioids with gabapentin or pregabalin has increased substantially and that there is evidence now that their concomitant use – either through co-prescription or diversion of prescriptions – increases the risk of acute overdose deaths,” said Matthew Hickman, a Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology

The idea that Lyrica and Neurontin are being abused may be surprising to many patients and doctors, but the drugs are increasingly being used by addicts.  

In a small 2016 study of urine samples from patients being treated at pain clinics and addiction treatment centers, over one in five patients were found to be taking gabapentin without a prescription.

“The high rate of misuse of this medication is surprising and it is also a wakeup call for prescribers. Doctors don’t usually screen for gabapentin abuse,” said Poluru Reddy, PhD, medical director of ARIA Diagnostics in Indianapolis. “These findings reveal that there is a growing risk of abuse and a need for more robust testing.”

“Gabapentin and pregabalin are also being abused by inmates.”
-Jeffrey Keller, MD,

“Gabapentin is the single biggest problem drug of abuse in many correctional systems,” Keller recently wrote in Corrections.com. “There is little difference (in my opinion) between Lyrica and gabapentin in both use for neuropathic pain or for abuse potential.”

Why would someone be so desperate to abuse them?

“If you are addicted, or even if you just like to get high once in a while, and you can’t obtain your preferred drugs of abuse because you are incarcerated, these are the drugs that can serve as an alternative in a pinch,” Keller wrote.

Gabapentin (Neurontin) is approved by the FDA to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain caused by shingles. It is also prescribed “off-label” for depression, migraine, fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder.

About 64 million prescriptions were written for gabapentin in the U.S. in 2016, a 49% increase since 2011. Gabapentin is not scheduled by the DEA as a controlled substance.

Pregabalin (Lyrica) is a Schedule V controlled substance, which means the DEA considers it to have a low abuse potential. Pregabalin is approved by the FDA to treat diabetic nerve pain, fibromyalgia, epilepsy, post-herpetic neuralgia caused by shingles and spinal cord injury.

It is also prescribed off label to treat a variety of other conditions. Lyrica is Pfizer’s top selling drug, generates over $5 billion in annual sales, and is approved for use in over 130 countries.

The CDC’s opioid prescribing guidelines recommend both pregabalin and gabapentin as alternatives for opioids, without saying a word about their potential for abuse or side effects.

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4 thoughts on “Lyrica and Neurontin Linked to Opioid Overdoses

  1. Kathy C

    What they left out of this Article, is the promotion of these drugs as “Pain Medications,’ Physicians prescribed these for virtually any kind of pain, in place of Opiates. Since they were advertised as “Safe,” Non Addictive, and they are not very toxic, they were dispensed like Candy. Physicians believed the advertising. The Pharma Industry Marketing was more important than their observations. To avoid “liability” or because of industry pressures, they ignored the Side Effects. Even when these drugs were new to the Market, they chose to believe the marketing over their own observations.
    Many of the people who were given these drugs were given them in place of Pain Medications. Some were Addicts, who took too many, in a desperate attempt to get high. These drugs were given out along with a list of others , of negligible effectiveness. The Addicts that were in “Treatment” combined them with Methadone, Benzos, Ativan, and whatever else they could get. There was not much of a distinction made between, what even “helped.” The people who did have Pain, were given these drugs instead of actual Medications that worked for Pain. Since the Opiates were so demonized, and prescribes were afraid, to prescribe Pain Medications, there was not much questioning of the dangers or effectiveness. The Side Effects were completely ignored. Pharma marketing and Profits were more important than Science or direct observation.

    We are post Science now. The Pharma Industry marketing is more important than the facts. So important that they got Physicians to peddle this garbage for them. Too bad none of these Physician or Healthcare Workers noticed they were being duped.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      When I took Neurontin and Lyrica they made me either zombi-tired or so dizzy I couldn’t walk a straight line and neither touched my pain. I believe they can work for some people for some kinds of pain, but they doesn’t seem to help most people.

      I’m dismayed how eager docs are to prescribe all kinds of dangerous medications for pain, like the antidepressants and antiepileptics, because they are supposedly less dangerous than those evil opioids. Yet, these medications cause far more numerous and more disabling side effects.

      Now it even looks like they are leading to the same overdose deaths they are supposed to prevent. Almost any drug/medication is dangerous in excessive amounts, so if they are looking for problems caused by any drug to treat pain, they will find them.

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      Reply
  2. Alta Hanlon

    My niece almost died from overdosing (deliberately) on an antidepressant. She was in ICU for 3 days. This was what she attempted suicide with.

    Liked by 1 person

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