What we don’t know can hurt us, especially when it comes to prescription medication. The increasing popularity of the potent painkiller and anti-anxiety drug Lyrica in the Middle East has given rise to troubling reports of addiction and serious side effects.
Abuse of prescription drugs like Lyrica often starts with a false sense of security around the safety of the drug and only a basic understanding of its effects. In the past few years, Lyrica has been increasingly misused by young people in the Middle East as an easy way to feel relaxed and boost mood, without knowing the risks of addiction and long-term abuse.
Now that Lyrica has become the second most abused drug in the UAE, more people are understanding the dangerous impacts of this drug. Lyrica has also risen in popularity among drug users in Jordan and Turkey, and there are reports of Lyrica misuse by high school and college students in Saudi Arabia. Knowing the risks that accompany the use of Lyrica outside of medical supervision is critical in preventing abuse, and seeking the right type of treatment for those struggling with addiction.
What is Lyrica?
Lyrica, also known by its generic name Pregabalin, is a prescription painkiller. Used for years to treat chronic pain disorders like fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain, Lyrica works by disrupting pain signals sent to the brain, offering relief to those struggling with pain management. Lyrica is also used to treat epilepsy and generalised anxiety disorder.
Lyrica became more commonly prescribed in the wake of the global opioid epidemic, as doctors sought to treat pain with what they thought to be safer, less addictive drugs. However, rising rates of Lyrica addiction around the world along with increased Lyrica-related deaths and suicidal behaviour have underscored the potential risks of the drug, particularly when taken outside of medical supervision.
Who is Using Lyrica?
Lyrica has made its way across the globe, with rising use reported in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. Rehab clinics have been seeing the impacts of Lyrica addiction in clients from the Middle East for over a decade, especially among young adults in their 20s.
What are the Effects of Taking Lyrica?
Lyrica creates a sense of relaxation and wellbeing that has led some users to dub it “the new Valium.” However, Lyrica can also have uncomfortable and potentially dangerous side effects, particularly if it is misused, including:
- Swelling of hands and feet
- Blurred vision
- Loss of coordination; feeling “drunk”
- Dry mouth
- Confusion and agitation
- Suicidal ideation
Suicidal Thoughts: Recognising this Serious Effect
About 1 in 500 people who take Lyrica will experience suicidal thoughts and fantasies and may become a danger to themselves. Warning signs of this serious side effect include:
- New or worsened depression, anxiety, or irritability
- Aggressive or violent behaviour
- Manic behaviour; increased speech or action, unusual energy levels
- Panic attacks
- Impulsive behaviour
- Thoughts or talk of suicide or death
- Suicidal attempts
If someone you know is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it is critical to seek professional help immediately.
The Dangers of Mixing Lyrica with Other Drugs
The sedative effects of Lyrica can be particularly hazardous when mixed with other drugs like alcohol, benzodiazepines like Valium, opioids, or other painkillers. The combined effects of these drugs can lead to shallow, slow breathing, resulting in a lack of oxygen and a potentially fatal overdose.
What are Signs of Lyrica Addiction?
Being aware of the signs of Lyrica use is an important tool in assessing whether someone is under the influence of this drug, but there are different indicators that can help determine if a loved one has become addicted. Seeing some of the following signs can signal that misuse has moved into dependency:
- Regularly taking Lyrica in ways that are not prescribed by a doctor, including using Lyrica without a prescription, or taking a higher dosage or at a greater frequency than what is prescribed
- Exhibiting signs of drug tolerance; having to take greater amounts to achieve the desired effect
- Changes in sleep patterns, personal hygiene routines, or commitment to work or schooling
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities previously enjoyed
- Unexplained weight gain or loss, or other new physical ailments
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Irritability or hostility when not under the influence
If a loved one is showing signs of Lyrica addiction, it is important to seek the advice of an addiction specialist as to how you can best support them entering into treatment. Addiction is a complex disease that requires professional care and an informed plan for long-term management in order to successfully overcome dependency and return to good health.
Understanding Lyrica Withdrawal
Those who have formed a dependency on Lyrica will experience both the physical and mental effects of withdrawal. This can occur even in those who have been taking Lyrica on a prescribed basis under the oversight of a doctor. To offset the effects of withdrawal, a medical professional will generally gradually reduce the dosage to wean the body off of the medication. Withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sleep disturbances
- Gastrointestinal distress
The occurrence of withdrawal for those trying to stop using Lyrica highlights the need for this process to be done under the care of a specialist. This can make withdrawal safer and ultimately lead to a sustainable recovery.
Treatment Options for Lyrica Addiction
For those struggling with Lyrica addiction, professional treatment is critical in breaking the cycle of dependency and regaining health. Treatment programs that include medical detox as well as psychotherapeutic support are helpful for getting through the initial stage of withdrawal and beginning long-term recovery. A specialist can also offer suggestions for new, positive coping mechanisms to manage stress and anxiety and build lifelong healthy habits.
Breaking Free of Lyrica Addiction at The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab in Thailand is a long-term rehabilitation facility created to foster an environment of personal growth and healing for people who want to change their lives and overcome addiction or mental health issues.
The fundamental objective of The Dawn’s programme is for clients to achieve and maintain long-term recovery by equipping each individual with a personalised set of coping tools to use when dealing with life’s challenges – extinguishing the desire to use again. Our internationally-trained team of experts have years of experience successfully supporting clients through the recovery process.
24-hour Medical Support and Onsite Detox
The Dawn is able to offer medically-assisted detox for Lyrica addicted clients. It is facilitated by our 24-hour onsite professional nursing team. The nursing team will carefully monitor the client throughout this process under the supervision of our psychiatrist, who will prescribe medication as necessary to ease withdrawal symptoms.
We can help your loved one overcome their addiction and forge a healthy, successful future. Call us today to learn more.