Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy “Improve the UK’s Living Standards if You Really Want to Stop Addiction,” Rehabs UK Founder Says 

“Improve the UK’s Living Standards if You Really Want to Stop Addiction,” Rehabs UK Founder Says 

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As news spreads of an almost 9,000% increase in pregabalin-related deaths in the last decade, Rehabs UK founder Lester Morse, calls for government aid to tackle the root cause – the mental health and cost of living crisis across the UK.

Pregabalin, sold under the brand names Lyrica, Alzain and Axalid, has been linked to nearly 3,400 deaths in Britain in the last five years. This includes 779 fatalities in 2022, according to ONS data – an increase of over 8555% from the nine seen in 2012.

As seen with other substances, reclassifying pregabalin under the Misuse of Drugs Act in 2019 has failed to reduce misuse, with addiction and related fatality rates continuing to rise despite the drug now being a Class C.

Despite being illegal to purchase without a prescription, pregabalin is available to buy online at the time of writing via a number of websites accepting payment in crypto currency, where no prescription checking is in place.

Pregabalin is a gabapentinoid medication that continues to be available on prescription for those suffering from anxiety, epilepsy and a range of other conditions. Following years of safety concerns around opioid drugs and benzodiazepines, UK doctors increasingly prescribe gabapentinoids as alternative options. 

Ian Hamilton, associate professor of addiction at the University of York, notes: “The dramatic rise in prescriptions for pregabalin has happened in part due to the increase in people with mental health problems such as anxiety. Unfortunately, many people are given these drugs without any psychological support, such as counselling, as there are long waiting lists for talking therapies.

“In poorer areas where access to these therapies is difficult, GPs have little choice but to prescribe pregabalin as a way of ensuring at least some treatment. What would clearly make a difference would be ensuring timely access to specialist mental health support, but that requires investment and there is no sign that the government will reverse its squeeze on public services.”

Though promises have been made around increased, ring-fenced funding for NHS mental health services, addiction recovery experts say the shortfall left after more than a decade of cuts doesn’t stop at primary care. Rehabs UK’s Lester Morse also highlights the flaws in treating criminalisation as the solution to addiction issues.

“The government continues to fail to understand the root cause of the problem,” Morse says. “All the evidence they have around drugs shows them that things get worse when you make substances illegal. At best, the government offers half the solution – tackling the symptom, rather than the cause, but never tackling the whole issue.

“The UK needs provisions to improve social mobility and quality of life – the root causes of many substance issues – rather than attempting to drive change through punishment and control.

“As many struggle to pay rent and bills and to heat their own homes and businesses, these pressures drive people to turn to substances to deal with the stresses of life.”

Warning signs of pregabalin addiction

According to Rehabs UK, warning signs of a pregabalin addiction include:

  • Exaggerating medical symptoms in order to get additional prescriptions or a higher dose
  • Social isolation and/or being withdrawn while around others
  • Irritability and hostility when asked about pregabalin use
  • Financial difficulties arising from buying pregabalin 
  • Deliberately consuming alcohol at the same time as pregabalin, a form of “polysubstance” abuse

If you or someone you know needs support with a prescription drug addiction, contact Rehabs UK for a free assessment today. Rehabs UK has experienced treatment advisors who support those facing addiction in finding the right rehabilitation services for their needs, with options specific to pregabalin, tramadolcodeine and a range of other prescription drugs.

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