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Millions of people continue to use prescription medications to manage pain, ward off infections, and control their emotions. While these medications are generally deemed safe to use, many still carry the potential to trigger addiction. One such medication is pregabalin or Lyrica, a popular anti-anxiety and painkiller drug that experts believe in carrying zero risk of abuse for a long time. However, with the latest advancements and research, the false sense of security that previously surrounded pregabalin has been cleared. We now know it as a beneficial medication with high abuse liability, a member of the DEA Schedule V category.
The pregabalin addiction potential is due to its interaction with the reward system in the brain and its ability to mess with the brain chemistry. People who use it repeatedly and regularly eventually form a dependence that soon leads to addiction. Fortunately, pregabalin addiction is completely curable, and many rehabilitation centers constantly provide support and assistance to those who wish to overcome this mental health issue.
How to Spot Pregabalin Abuse: Common Signs to Look Out For
Pregabalin, or Lyrica, is a popular prescription painkiller that many people use to manage long-term pain, such as fibromyalgia. The medicine works by suppressing the pain signals that the brain receives from a hurting body part. Experts also prescribe pregabalin to help people manage epilepsy and generalized anxiety disorder.
The use of pregabalin particularly became popular during the ongoing opioid epidemic as many people previously believed it to be a safer alternative for pain management. However, experts uncovered its abuse liability and noticed the increasing cases of Lyrica addiction, prompting them to educate people about how to spot it and seek timely treatment.
Following are some common signs to look out for to detect Lyrica abuse:
- Taking the drug in a different way than what a doctor has suggested, such as using it in higher doses or more frequently than needed
- Losing interest in activities that you previously seemed to enjoy
- Unexplained changes in the body weight
- The need to take higher doses of pregabalin with time to experience the same effects
- Mood swings
- Memory-related issues
- Increased irritability or hostility when you are not under the influence of pregabalin
- Memory loss
- A loss of interest in maintaining personal hygiene
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- A loss of interest in committing to daily obligations at school, work, or personal life
If you or someone around you has been showing the signs mentioned above, it is essential to start working on controlling the problem before it takes over your life. A mental health professional can provide the best guidance and support regarding breaking the pregabalin addiction cycle and entering into a recovery phase.
Lyrica Withdrawal: What Does it Feel Like?
Lyrica withdrawal symptoms are incredibly uncomfortable and similar to those that occur during withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines. The severity of these symptoms and duration depends on the frequency and longevity of Lyrica use. If you have been consuming this medication in high doses for a long time, the withdrawal symptoms may persist for up to two weeks. In contrast, those who use it in lower doses may recover within a week or so.
Acute withdrawal symptoms of Lyrica addiction manifest within 24 hours following the last dose and persist for up to two days. On the other hand, the residual symptoms may continue to linger for several weeks; however, they are easier to manage. The onset of these withdrawal symptoms is due to the underlying tolerance that the body and brain develop to Lyrica. In such cases, when someone quits using the medication all of a sudden, the body gets out of balance and responds by producing these painful symptoms. Some common Lyrica withdrawal symptoms include:
- Mood changes
- Suicidal thoughts
- Strong cravings for Lyrica
- Increased heart rate
What Causes Pregabalin Addiction?
The chronic use of pregabalin can alter the brain in different ways, ultimately forcing the user to abuse it for longer than the doctor suggests. This extended use for no apparent reason leads to abuse as the drug messes with the brain’s reward centers. When this happens, a user becomes habitual of having pregabalin in their system all the time and may experience withdrawal symptoms when they do not get their usual dose in time.
Experts are not sure about the exact cause of pregabalin abuse; however, most believe it to be a multifactorial issue with many factors contributing to its development. Focusing on some key areas while prescribing pregabalin can help doctors understand if this medication is safe for use in an individual or not. These key areas include the following:
- A previous history of substance abuse and addiction
- A previous history of mental health issues
- Family history of drug use or addiction
- A history of childhood abuse
- Living in a community of people who routinely abuse drugs or other substances
- An ongoing risky behavior
- A history of social isolation, i.e., withdrawal from social occasions
- Ongoing stress, trauma, or life challenge
People in only one of the abovementioned situations can be at a higher risk of developing Lyrica abuse.
How to Stop Pregabalin Addiction Through Professional Treatment
The best way to overcome pregabalin addiction is by joining a rehabilitation program. These rehabilitation programs are available at dedicated treatment centers, also called drug rehabs. Each drug rehab has specific procedures and protocols it follows to best support its clients, and in most cases, each client gets an individualized program.
A pregabalin addiction treatment program is likely to begin with an in-depth psychological and physical assessment to understand the circumstances of each client more closely. Based on the results of these assessments, the addiction specialists come up with a treatment program to help each client achieve recovery and meet their treatment outcomes.
Following are the various steps of addiction treatment for pregabalin abuse:
Detoxification is the initial and the most crucial pregabalin addiction treatment step that most people need to go through. The process involves supporting patients to slowly taper off pregabalin until they bring down their consumption to zero. Throughout the detox process, patients remain under the care of a special detox team, including psychiatrists and nurses who keep a close eye on them and monitor them for complications. The purpose of a detox is to help all addicts get rid of their physical dependence without putting their lives in danger. Only after attending a detox can an individual expect to focus on the behavioral treatment for their addiction.
Following detoxification, most people enter formal treatment to overcome the psychological aspect of their Lyrica addiction. Such treatment may take place in any one or both of the following levels.
Inpatient Behavioral Treatment
Inpatient behavioral treatment includes one or more types of evidence-based therapy and other aspects, such as holistic approaches, dietary programs, counseling sessions, and more. Depending on each individual’s unique condition and circumstances, these programs are of variable lengths but may last for months. What makes inpatient treatment different from other levels of care is its rule that confines all participants to stay on the premises throughout the duration of the program. Each client gets a dedicated accommodation where they can heal privately while engaging with other people in recovery at the same time. A team of staff members is readily available to help clients with their needs and support them throughout the program without any judgment or bias. Upon completing the program, most people transition into a lesser intensive program called an outpatient program.
Outpatient behavioral treatment also requires participants to join a rehab but with the exception that they have the freedom to return home after attending therapy. These programs take place in much lesser restrictive environments that are more flexible to accommodate people from different walks of life. Outpatient treatment also allows patients to continue with their daily responsibilities, like jobs and academics, while keeping themselves engaged in recovery programs. Keep in mind that not everyone is fit to join outpatient treatment as it is only beneficial for those who are clinically and mentally stable, come from supportive homes, and have a low risk of a relapse. Once an outpatient program concludes, the participants transition into aftercare services to maintain their newfound sobriety.
Pregabalin Addiction Treatment: The Role of Medications
Most people who undergo detox for Lyrica addiction develop painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, these symptoms are so severe that they trigger a relapse in the patients. In others, these symptoms can make it difficult to taper off the drug and can keep patients stuck at the same level of recovery for days or weeks.
To avoid these complications and keep the recovery journey going, many experts recommend adding medications to the treatment plan of vulnerable patients. The purpose is to make their journey comfortable while reducing the risk of a relapse. Highly-skilled and experienced doctors prescribe these medicines in controlled amounts. Some examples of commonly used medicines for the management of pregabalin addiction include the following:
Using clonidine helps patients keep their blood pressure stable and prevent it from rising or falling, as commonly seen during withdrawals.
As one of the most common withdrawal symptoms, insomnia can make detox difficult for many people. To control this issue, experts often prescribe non-habit-forming sleep supplements like Trazodone to patients.
This medication is used by people whose blood pressure fluctuations remain unresponsive to clonidine.
Experts prescribe other medications to people in pregabalin detox on a need basis, including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and anti-emetic medications.
Does Lyrica cause euphoria?
Pregabalin or Lyrica does not usually lead to a euphoric feeling that other painkillers like oxycodone typically produce. However, it may induce a relaxing feeling, allowing the user to take a break from the daily stressors and enjoy life for once. Some experts consider these soothing effects as a high associated with pregabalin use.
Does using pregabalin cause any side effects?
Despite being a popular and highly effective drug in controlling seizures and anxiety, pregabalin has its side effects. These side effects generally include the following:
Confusion and agitation
Swelling of hands and feet
Loss of coordination
Is pregabalin addictive?
Pregabalin is a Schedule V drug which means that it is not as addictive as other controlled substances, like oxycodone and morphine. Nevertheless, it is still on the list of controlled substances, which automatically proves its potential for dependence, abuse, and addiction. While many people may not develop proper addiction to this drug, they may strongly need this medicine to survive on a daily basis.
How long do I need to use pregabalin to develop an addiction?
Most people can safely continue taking pregabalin; however, a small number may develop tolerance to it. Experts are unsure about the exact amount of time it may take to develop this dependence and addiction, as it may vary from person to person. However, as a rule of them, you need to keep using it without any breaks in high doses. Moreover, people with a personal or family history of addiction are also more likely to develop an addiction to pregabalin in a relatively shorter time period than those without this additional risk factor.
Is it safe to use pregabalin with other medications?
If you are already using other medications, such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and opioids, consult a doctor before consuming pregabalin to your daily regime. This is because mixing pregabalin with other drugs can be extremely dangerous and may even lead to an overdose. Most of the substances available in the market are depressants of the central nervous system and can quickly intensify the effects of pregabalin.