New Anti-Anxiety Drug Linked to Increase in Overdoses

( – An investigation has revealed that over 3,000 people in the UK have died of overdoses from the drug pregabalin.

Commonly recognized by its brand name Lyrica, pregabalin was initially developed as an anti-seizure medication. It was approved by the FDA in 2004 for treating epilepsy. Over the years, it has been prescribed for various painful conditions, touted as a safer alternative to opioids and sometimes even called a “wonder drug”.

Nearly nine million prescriptions were written for the drug in the US in 2021. A similar amount was observed in England and Wales in 2022, sparking concerns in the UK about its misuse to enhance the euphoric effects of other substances.

Although the drug is helpful for many people, there are also a lot of known side effects from its usage. These effects include insomnia, extreme fatigue, and brain fog.

Pregabalin is quite popular among illegal drug users, therefore it frequently pops up in overdose toxicology reports. Fatal overdoses in the UK involving pregabalin have surged by almost 12,000% since 2011, accompanied by a nearly 4,000% increase in gabapentin-related drug deaths. Both pregabalin and gabapentin belong to the same class of nerve medications, and their exact effect on the brain and central nervous system remains unclear even 20 years after their approval for medical use.

This trend in the UK aligns with a recent US analysis of drug tests. These revealed gabapentin’s presence in nearly 15% of urine samples testing positive for fentanyl, surpassing the number of tests detecting prescription opioids.

Although the presence of a medication in a drug test or its involvement in an overdose does not always indicate addiction or cause causality, doctors stress the need for more caution when administering pregabalin. They advocate for comprehensive patient warnings about potential side effects and withdrawal risks and recommend prudence in its prescription practices.

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