Is Lyrica Addictive? – Commonly referred to as the “new Valium” for its ability to promote a relaxed and peaceful state similar to that of other sedatives or alcohol, Lyrica (pregabalin) has also been abused for the mild high it can induce.
Lyrica is a prescription drug indicated for the treatment of nerve pain. It is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule V controlled substance due to its relatively low potential for abuse and addiction. Despite this, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2016, an estimated 2 million Americans reported misusing the medication at the time of the survey.
This drug has the potential for addiction, as it alters brain chemistry and interacts with motivational and reward pathways. With regular, long-term use of Lyrica, physiological dependence can develop, which is a key component of addiction. Addiction is hallmarked by the inability to control substance use and compulsive drug-seeking behavior, in addition to the onset of withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use.
How Addiction Develops
Pregabalin, the active ingredient in Lyrica, works to relieve nerve pain by blocking the transmission of excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain and increasing levels of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid). This combined effect makes the user feel mellow and relaxed, and it’s responsible for Lyrica’s abuse potential.
GABA is one of the brain’s primary neurotransmitters that help to control anxiety and stress response. Elevated levels of GABA help to suppress some functions of the central nervous system (CNS), reducing activity such as heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure, all of which are increased by stress.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a high dose of pregabalin might induce effects comparable to those associated with diazepam (Valium), which is another common drug of abuse. The high may be mild when taken alone, but Lyrica is frequently abused with other drugs, including opioids and alcohol.
Lyrica can be misused by taking the drug too frequently, in higher doses than required, or without a prescription or for any non-medical reasons. In addition to swallowing a tablet, Lyrica can be crushed and ingested by snorting it.
Lyrica Abuse and Addiction
Repeated, long-term use of Lyrica can result in the development of tolerance, which means the person will need to take increasing amounts of the drug for it to induce the desired effects. The way Lyrica interposes and interacts with chemical messengers in the brain can result in physical drug dependence in addition to psychological dependence.
Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely unpleasant, and for those enduring this process, more drug use often seems desirable. Continued use and escalating dosages can rapidly lead to addiction.
As noted, addiction occurs when a person is no longer able to control the frequency and/or dose of the drug they are taking and can be difficult to stop using the drug without professional help. Drug use becomes compulsive and adverse consequences, such as those related to work or family, begin to manifest in a person’s life.
Is Lyrica Addictive?: Statistics
NSDUH reported that in 2016, more than 600,000 persons in the U.S. struggling with an addiction involving a tranquilizer.
Gabapentinoids, which include pregabalin and gabapentin, are considered to have a relatively low addiction potential when used at prescribed doses. This means that if a person takes Lyrica as directed for legitimate medical reasons under doctor supervision, they are much less likely to struggle with dependency issues or addiction than those who intentionally abuse it.
Gabapentin (Neurontin) is also a nerve pain medication and anticonvulsant, similar to Lyrica. However, pregabalin is more potent, has higher bioavailability, and absorbs more rapidly than gabapentin.
Is Lyrica Addictive?: The Risks
Lyrica is generally considered to be less addictive as other CNS depressants drugs such as Valium and other benzodiazepines, which are classified a bit higher as Schedule IV drugs. However, it still comes with the potential for addiction.
Indeed, the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology reported that pregabalin is indeed more addictive than gabapentin, and addiction is most prevalent among those with a history of drug abuse who use multiple substances in combination.
Although there is some risk of drug dependence from the long-use of Lyrica, dependence does not equate to addiction, which is also characterized by compulsive drug-seeking. A medical professional or addiction specialist can devise a schedule to taper the dosage safely, mitigate withdrawal symptoms, and minimize the potential for escalating use into misuse and addiction.
Treatment for Addiction
People who abuse or become addicted to drugs such as Lyrica routinely abuse other more dangerous substances, and commonly suffer from co-occurring mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. Recovery By The Sea offers integrated treatment for substance abuse that includes research-based services essential for recovery from addiction. Our therapeutic modalities include psychotherapy, counseling, and group support delivered in both partial-hospitalization and outpatient formats.
If you or someone you love is abusing Lyrica or other substances, contact us as soon as possible! We are dedicated to helping people unchain themselves from addiction by providing them with the tools and support they need to achieve sobriety and experience long-lasting happiness and wellness!