Lyrica is the brand name for the drug pregabalin. It is a synthetic drug that is similar in structure to gabapentin (Neurontin).
These medications were designed to address seizures and treat specific types of pain, such as neuralgia (pain that occurs after shingles). Lyrica was also approved for the treatment of the pain that occurs in fibromyalgia and may have other uses, such as treating restless leg syndrome.
It typically is available in capsules that contain amounts that range from between 25 mg (milligrams) to 330 mg. The recommended dose of the drug is dependent on what it is being used to address; however, for the majority of its medicinal uses, daily doses beyond 660 mg do not appear to be effective.
Typically, it is only prescribed for individuals who are older than age 18.
Because Lyrica has numerous uses in the treatment of pain, it is one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States. It is also subject to recreational use, which is unsafe.
Mechanism Of Action and Effects
Lyrica is believed to have effects similar to the benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium [diazepam] or Xanax [alprazolam]). Although the exact mechanism of Lyrica is not entirely understood, it is believed to increase levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the central nervous system (CNS: the brain and spinal cord), thus slowing down the firing rates of neurons in the CNS.
This reduction of the firing of the neurons in the CNS leads to its therapeutic effects and its efficiency in controlling seizures and pain.
Different doses are believed to be effective for different types of issues. The threshold dose is most likely between 50 mg and 75 mg. A threshold dose indicates the minimum amount of the drug used to perceive any type of effect.
The most common side effects associated with using Lyrica include:
- Dry mouth, dizziness, or drowsiness
- Constipation, swelling in the arms and/or legs, or weight gain
- Apathy or mood swings
More serious side effects can occur, including blurred vision, muscle pain, depression, agitation, hallucinations, and thoughts of suicide.
Like all drugs, a very small number of individuals may develop allergic reactions when they take Lyrica, such as difficulty breathing, hives or rash, itching, and swelling (most often of the face, tongue, or throat).
Is Lyrica an Addiction Treatment?
There is evidence to suggest that pregabalin may be effective in the treatment of withdrawal from alcohol and perhaps from opiates and benzodiazepines. Studies have suggested that it may be useful in the management of substance abuse for these drugs and perhaps several others when combined with therapy and other treatments. However, it is not formally approved for this purpose.
Nonetheless, pregabalin and gabapentin are showing up in some research reports as being misused by some individuals.
There also appears to be an increase in the sale of pregabalin in online pharmacies to individuals who do not have a prescription for the drug. Moreover, both pregabalin and gabapentin are increasingly being reported as possessing a potential for misuse, according to an article published in the journal CNS Drugs. In many cases, people who abuse pregabalin have a history of substance abuse, particularly opiate abuse, and several of the reports of abuse come from prison populations.
Recreational users of Lyrica often ingest amounts that are far in excess of recommended therapeutic doses (three to 20 times the recommended amount).
Recreational Lyrica Use
Lyrica and its sister drug gabapentin were not considered to be significant potential drugs of abuse when they were first developed. However, Lyrica does carry the potential for the development of physical dependence.
Any drug containing pregabalin is a controlled substance in the Schedule V classification, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This indicates that there is a mild risk for the development of physical dependence or the abuse of Lyrica.
Reliable figures regarding the misuse of Lyrica in the United States do not appear to be readily available at the time of this writing. For instance, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) releases annual data-driven estimates of drug misuse and use in the United States. It does not collect data or derive estimates regarding pregabalin product use in its yearly report.
How Lyrica is Misused
Pregabalin also appears to be gaining a reputation as a psychedelic type drug that may be mixed with other drugs such as alcohol or opiates. It may be misused in higher doses than normally prescribed (by snorting it after crushing the pills into powder) or injecting the drug (by mixing the powdered drug with water).
Some of the other research suggests that misuse of the drug may lead to states similar to the intoxication that occurs with benzodiazepines or alcohol. Some sources report that one of the street names for pregabalin products is Budweisers to describe its similar effects to alcohol). Tolerance and withdrawal symptoms as a result of abuse may appear rather quickly.
A recent study detailed the recreational use of pregabalin documented in a review of cases of patients in the United Kingdom who presented to the emergency department following abuse of the drug. Ten total cases were identified, and all of the cases were young adults between the ages of 20 and 35. The doses these individuals used ranged from 500 mg to 1400 mg.
Six of the 10 patients presented with seizures; five of these patients had never had a seizure before misusing pregabalin. Two of these patients required intubation and ventilation and were treated in the intensive care unit.
Is Recreational Use of Pregabalin Safe?
There are several reasons to conclude that the recreational use of Lyrica or any type of pregabalin is unsafe. There is no safe amount an individual can use without being under the supervision of a physician.
- The drug is classified as a controlled substance. This means that in the United States, anyone who possesses the drug without a prescription is breaking the law and subject to prosecution.
- Because it is classified as a controlled substance, even though it is at the lowest level of classification, pregabalin does have the potential for the development of physical dependence, which can lead to serious issues for individuals who do not use it under the supervision of a physician.
- Recreational drug users do not habitually monitor the amount of the drug they are taking. They typically use the drug in an amount that is far greater than the threshold or recommended dosage to achieve the psychoactive effects they desire. Recent findings have indicated that this practice may increase the risk of developing seizures.
- Seizures can be potentially fatal. Whenever there is a risk for seizures as a result of drug use, an individual should only use the drug under the close supervision of a physician.
In conclusion, there is no safe level of recreational use for Lyrica.