A forensic pathologist from Penygroes, New Zealand, determined that pregabalin, a medication used to treat neuropathic pain, was a contributing factor in a woman’s recent death.
Dr. Mark Lord noted that although physicians frequently prescribe pregabalin as a pain killer, drug addicts have misused it.
“But [pregabalin] is increasingly being used as a drug of abuse, giving a similar effect to that of ecstasy,” he said.
“It can have significant toxic effects and be made worse by alcohol.”
Since pregabalin has found uses outside of treating epilepsy, a surge in the number of prescriptions written for it was noted in another article.
Prescriptions for pregabalin and gabapentin increased more than tenfold in a decade, from 1 million in 2004 to 10.5 million in 2015, as their use was expanded outside epilepsy to treat neuropathic pain, anxiety, insomnia and other mental illnesses.
The toxic effects don’t result from using the medication for its intended purpose, but when mixing it with other drugs the results can be lethal.
Researcher Matthew Hickman, professor of public health and epidemiology, said doctors and people dependent on opioids needed to be aware that the number of overdose deaths involving the combination of opioids with gabapentin or pregabalin had increased substantially.
People using pregabalin for neuropathic pain need to be aware that its improper use can have potentially fatal consequences in extreme cases.