In the United Kingdom, pregabalin and gabapentin prescription drugs are being reclassified. Now, following advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, these two substances are going to be reclassified as Class C controlled substances.

In June 2018, National Health Services in Scotland released data showing gabapentinoids were prescribed before one-fifth of drug-related deaths in the country in 2016. In the United Kingdom, it’s illegal to possess a controlled substance without a prescription or to sell or supply these substances to other people. With the new classification, pharmacists won’t be able to accept electronic prescriptions for gabapentin or pregabalin. These medications will be limited to enough treatment for 30 days without repeat prescriptions. When someone receives a prescription for either, they have to fill it within 28 days.

The President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said the restrictions and reclassification are intended to improve safety. Health policy advisors in the United Kingdom went on to say the abuse of gabapentinoids is becoming more prevalent, particularly in combination with opioids.  

In the United Kingdom in the past five years, prescriptions for pregabalin have gone up by 350%, and prescriptions for gabapentin by 150%.

With the new classification, people are wondering, “Is gabapentin addictive?” While it’s not thought of as being as addictive as opioids, the medication has certain risks, particularly when people use it with other substances or to self-medicate psychological symptoms.

Reasoning Behind Gabapentin and Pregabalin Classification

Gabapentin is approved as a treatment for epilepsy and nerve-related pain by the Food and Drug Administration. It also has sedative effects, and federally in the U.S. gabapentin is not a controlled substance. It’s also very commonly prescribed. Some states are taking steps to make gabapentin a controlled substance, even though it’s not classified as such at the federal level. Ohio and Kentucky are two states that have taken these steps.

Is gabapentin safe to take? The answer is typically “yes” if gabapentin is taken as prescribed and not combined with other substances. Gabapentin doesn’t have the same risk of a deadly overdose as opioids. However, when it’s used in large quantities, the effects aren’t as well-studied. When it’s combined with opioids, the risk of overdose goes up significantly.

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Gabapentin isn’t as addictive as other substances, but increasingly officials are reporting its use as a drug of abuse. When someone takes gabapentin, it can increase the euphoric high of opioids. Gabapentin can also bypass the blocking effects of medications used in addiction treatment settings so people can get high while they’re in recovery.

In a 2015 study of adults abusing opioids in Kentucky, 15% said they’d used gabapentin in the past six months as a way to get high.

Recognizing Gabapentin Addiction Symptoms

The dangers of gabapentin stem from using incredibly high doses, using it without a prescription or using it with other substances. Gabapentin addiction symptoms are more likely to appear in people with a history of other types of substance abuse. Gabapentin addiction symptoms are often similar to other symptoms of prescription drug addiction, including:

  • Attempting to get early refills
  • Claiming lost prescriptions to get more of the drug
  • Taking larger doses because of a tolerance
  • Using gabapentin with other substances
  • Doctor shopping
  • Being unable to stop using gabapentin despite negative outcomes

The United States may opt to follow in the footsteps of the United Kingdom and make gabapentin and pregabalin controlled substances federally, particularly if current trends continue. For now, though, it’s up to states to make these decisions.

If you’re struggling with gabapentin abuse or any substance abuse, contact our team of caring and compassionate professionals at The Recovery Village.