In an earlier article we reported that following a recommendation to the Home Office by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), Pregabalin and Gabapentin were set to become controlled drugs. The ACMD had warned that both drugs “present a risk of addiction and a potential for illegal diversion and medicinal misuse.”
Now, a memo leaked recently to a national newspaper suggests that the doctors’ professional body and trade union, the British Medical Association (BMA), is backing the Home Office plans to classify both drugs as controlled ‘Class-C’ substances. This would mean that possession of either drug without a prescription would be a criminal offence potentially carrying a custodial sentence.
Effect on people suffering chronic pain
Across the UK, hundreds of thousands of people, myself included, take Pregabalin or Gabapentin as part of their daily medication regime. Most of us find ourselves taking them following considerable trial and error in exploring what type and combination of medication best suits us and our condition, including the ‘pain versus side effects’ set off. Once settled on our established regime, finding an alternative will, at best, prove difficult.
I know from personal experience that these drugs can be horrible. Initially I was prescribed Gabapentin. The side effects were dreadful; I suffered headaches, nausea and much of the time felt almost catatonic. My doctor then switched me to Pregabalin. Not only was the pain relief wonderful but there were fewer side effects. I was even able to reduce the amount of my opioid medication, Tramadol. The point of course is that it’s a case of what works for the individual.
Quite how this seemingly inevitable re-classification will affect doctors’ attitudes towards prescribing these drugs is yet to be seen. I suspect it will come down to a lottery as to the attitude of particular GP surgeries or even individual GPs within those surgeries. Probably those in the worst position are those who are currently in blissful ignorance, ie those yet to develop chronic pain. It seems certain that going forward, doctors will be considerably less inclined to prescribe Pregabalin or Gabapentin afresh.
There are clearly a minority of people misusing these drugs for a variety of purposes. However, for the vast majority of us who depend upon the pain relief that these drugs provide, the uncertainty caused by this re-classification will cause considerable anxiety over the coming months.