Lyrica is a controlled substance that falls under schedule V classification. Some patients develop a dependence, requiring help to stop using it.

Lyrica is a controlled substance that belongs to a class of medications rated as having the lowest potential for abuse. Lyrica isn’t a narcotic, but it does produce similar effects. People with a history of alcohol or drug abuse are at a greater risk of abusing Lyrica. Additionally, researchers have received reports of physical and/or psychological dependence.

Every year, thousands of people abuse prescription medications at least once, according to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Understanding how your medications work and taking them according to your doctor’s instructions are two critical steps in minimizing the risk of abusing Lyrica.

Why Is Lyrica a Controlled Substance?

Lyrica is a Schedule V drug, which places it among those with the lowest potential for abuse. For this reason, research on the prevalence of Lyrica addiction has been minimal.

Studies do show that Lyrica produces psychoactive effects, such as euphoria, that are similar to those produced by other controlled substances. Reports have surfaced of patients abusing the medication. Research also suggests that although Lyrica is considered a controlled substance, it could serve as a viable substitute for medications that put patients at higher risk of abuse and addiction, including benzodiazepines and opioids.

It may be prescribed to treat conditions, such as:
  • Neuropathy (nerve pain)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Nerve pain after shingles
  • Epilepsy

Lyrica vs. Similar Drugs

Why Is Lyrica a Controlled Substance & Neurontin Is Not?

In the past, patients have asked why Lyrica is a controlled substance and Neurontin is not. Both medications belong to a similar family of drugs used to treat epilepsy, nerve pain and other conditions, and both have similar effects.

Some states, including Kentucky and Michigan, have modified their pharmacy rules to categorize Neurontin as a controlled substance. This medication is particularly powerful when combined with opioid medications, making potentially lethal drugs like fentanyl even more deadly. For this reason, many addicts are turning to Neurontin to create a stronger high, as noted by NBC News. In turn, this is creating a growing call to reclassify Neurontin as a controlled drug on a state and federal level.

Why Is Lyrica a Controlled Substance & Gabapentin Is Not?

Although an ever-growing number of states are moving to reclassify it as a controlled substance, gabapentin, the generic name for Neurontin, remains classified as a non-controlled substance on a federal level. If the current trend continues, however, more states will classify gabapentin similarly to Lyrica in the future, eliminating the need to ask why Lyrica is a controlled substance and gabapentin isn’t.

The potential abuse of Lyrica and the danger of respiratory depression when it’s combined with opioids have both been thoroughly documented. These issues are motivating some states to follow strict pharmacovigilance programs, with more states making a move to reclassify gabapentin as a controlled substance.

What Is in Lyrica That Makes It a Controlled Substance?

So, what’s in Lyrica that makes it a controlled substance? This prescription medication, known as pregabalin in its generic form, isn’t a narcotic. It’s a gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA) analog that’s roughly three to four times more potent than its predecessor, gabapentin, according to research published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It works by powerfully binding to components of the nervous system to soothe damaged or overactive nerves.

Side effects like dizziness and sleepiness could increase if you take Lyrica with alcohol or narcotic medications. Although more research on Lyrica withdrawal is needed to fully understand the risks, patients who stop taking it without tapering the dosage over time could experience various withdrawal symptoms.

Common withdrawal symptoms:
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches

Has Lyrica abuse or dependence impacted your life or the life and well-being of someone you love? Turn to The Recovery Village to begin your journey to recovery. In addition to treating addiction, comprehensive programs offer help with co-occurring mental health disorders to help their patients live their healthiest lives. Help is just a phone call away. Call today to speak with a representative and explore your options.

Renee Deveney
Editor – Renee Deveney
As a contributor for Advanced Recovery Systems, Renee Deveney is passionate about helping people struggling with substance use disorder. With a family history of addiction, Renee is committed to opening up a proactive dialogue about substance use and mental health. Read more
Kevin Wandler
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD
Kevin Wandler holds multiple positions at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founding and chief medical director at Advanced Recovery Systems, he is also the medical director at The Recovery Village Ridgefield and at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read more

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What Is the Scope of Prescription Drug Misuse?” Accessed August 22, 2019.

Filipetto, Frank A. et al. “Potential for Pregabalin Abuse or Divers[…]rug-Seeking Behavior.” The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. October 2010. Accessed August 22, 2019. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed August 22, 2019.

Healthline. “Is Lyrica a Narcotic?” Accessed August 22, 2019.

Baidya, Kumar Dalim et al. “Pregabalin in Acute and Chronic Pain.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. July-September 2011. Accessed August 22, 2019. “Neurontin.” Last reviewed October 29, 2018. Accessed August 22, 2019.

Hogan, Vera. “Gabapentin Now Classified as a Controlled Substance.” Tri County Times. January 14, 2019. Accessed August 22, 2019.

Siemaszko, Corky. “Health Officials Are Sounding an Alarm o[…]s Not Even an Opioid.” NBC News. April 1, 2019. Accessed August 22, 2019.

Peckham, Alyssa M. “Gabapentin Use, Abuse, and the US Epidem[…]or Pharmacovigilance.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. August 17, 2018. Accessed August 22, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.