Older people, defined as 65 and over, have been identified as most at risk of becoming addicted to a group of painkilling drugs called gabapentinoids.
Introduced to mass markets in 1993, the first gabapentinoid, called gabapentin, was prescribed for epilepsy. Its successor, pregabalin, also received a license for treating epilepsy and pain, and later became the first drug to treat the extreme fatigue, muscle pain and sleep problems of patients with fibromyalgia in the U.S.
According to the National Health Services of the UK, pregabalin’s uses in both the UK and the U.S. have expanded with approval by national regulators to treat generalised anxiety disorder on a schedule five classification.
The concerns surrounding pregabalin are that schedule five indicates that there is a potential for dependence. According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, patients who come off the drug may experience withdrawal symptoms.
The structure of gabapentinoids resembles the brain neurotransmitter GABA, which provides anxiety-relieving action similar to alcohol and other drugs such as benzodiazepines. This explains their high potential for addiction and misuse.
Research from the University of Hertfordshire reveals that pregabalin has considerable potential for addiction when over-consumed beyond prescribed doses. Taking pregabalin in higher than recommended doses may produce sensations of detachment and euphoria, hence the high vulnerabilities for addiction.
Research shows that tolerance to gapapentinoids develops very rapidly. When you need to rapidly increase dosage of any medication in order to reproduce the effect, addiction becomes a huge risk. Also, there is emergence of recreational users who are abusing gabapentinoids primarily for their pleasurable effects. Unsurprisingly, these recreational users who do not hold medical necessity are often also addicted to opioid painkillers and illegal drugs.
Baby boomers are most at risk of becoming initially exposed to gabapentinoids. Doctors are shifting away from prescribing opiate drugs as pain relief for end-of-life cancer care. With gabapentinoid as the alternative, concurrent with more people surviving longer after receiving a cancer diagnosis, older people are at the forefront of receiving gabapetinoid prescriptions. Healthcare professionals are well aware of the addictive properties of gabapentinoids and should carefully monitor usage amongst their patients.
Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?
One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.
But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.