A drug widely used to treat anxiety has “devastated” the life of a woman whose partner died of an overdose.
Haley Selby said Brian Rees took pregabalin in capsules bought from one of his “accomplices”.
Wales had 33 pregabalin or gabapentin deaths last year, ONS saidCompared to 10 in 2019 when medicines were made prescription only,
One GP said she was on the “front line” of prescribing pregabalin antidepressants because of consultation waiting times.
Ms Selby, 38, of Tonyrefail in Rhondda Cynon Taf, said her partner had been buying so-called “street pregab” in 2020, describing how it was “easy” to get his prescription from people selling it.
“Brian made a bad mistake and he took pills that weren’t prescribed to him and it killed him,” she said of her partner of 21 years.
“He would take a lot, not just one or two, he would take a strip.”
Pregabalin, similar to gabapentin and sometimes known by the brand name Lyrica, is prescribed to treat epilepsy, nerve pain, anxiety, and depression.
It can be addictive and cause breathing difficulties, which can lead to death and heart problems, and is a Class C drug, making it illegal to take without a prescription in the UK.
“If you’re just taking them [pregabalin] To discuss, it’s not worth it,” she said.
Anxiety over Brian’s death caused her to become dependent on diazepam – another drug prescribed as an antidepressant.
Ms Selby said she was “hated” by the impact pregabalin has had on her and others’ lives.
And since Brian’s death, he said the cost-of-living crisis has prompted more people to sell their prescriptions.
The pair were among five suspects arrested in an unsolved murder investigation that began on 1 November 2017, when the bruised body of 41-year-old former boxer Jamie Perkins was found dumped in a culvert in Gilfach Goch.
He had amphetamines and pregabalin in his system.
In 2021 a coroner found Mr. Perkins killed unlawfullyBut no one has been charged.
Doctors in Wales prescribed pregabalin and gabapentin 607,885 times in 2022, up 14% from 533,833 in 2019. Welsh Government prescription data,
Newport GP Dr Mohan de Silva said the drug, first used in the US in 2004 to treat epilepsy, is now on the “frontline” of antidepressant treatments.
“You see almost everyone taking pregabalin for chronic pain issues, anxiety issues,” he said.
Five years ago diazepam was at the top of the “GP’s prescription pad” for depression, now it’s pregabalin, he said.
“We’re rearranging the deck chairs,” he said. “We have removed the opium, [which were] Causing significant harm and addiction.
“Prescriptions for benzodiazepines have almost disappeared, so I think there has been a gap as a result and pregabalin has taken its place.”
He said it’s also being used to treat pain, especially in patients with what he calls “rapid growth.” fibromyalgia symptoms.
“Obviously there’s going to be an increase in prescriptions, and there will be a temptation to use them if there’s some money to be made,” he said.
Dr. de Silva said pregabalin is sought after by opiate users because it “amplifies the effects” of heroin.
But it’s also a respiratory depressant, he said, “so you get high very quickly.”
ONS said The increased deaths associated with pregabalin and gabapentin in England and Wales in 2021 were the result of the drugs being taken with heroin or morphine, increasing the risk of overdose.
The Home Office has not published Statistics on police seizures of pregabalin or gabapentin separately from other Class C drugs since their reclassification in 2019.
But Kiel University researchers A paper published in the Lancet medical journal said the measure had a “limited” impact on abuse.
Jody Davis, 42, a recovering heroin addict from Tonirefle, said she takes pregabalin for fibromyalgia.
She said it was a “kick” to need the pills after “all the work I’ve done to get through everything.”
But having a prescription also means strangers coming to her door asking if she wants to sell.
“They are keeping an eye on the chemists and seeing who is being given what medicine,” he said.
“This is definitely the next epidemic of prescription drugs like diazepam,” she said. “I know people are going to doctors now and saying they are in pain and selling their strips because they can’t pay their rent.
“They don’t know how much damage they’re doing, because it’s so addictive… worse than quitting heroin.
“I can’t walk in the morning unless I take my pregabalin,” she said, “but in the wrong hands they are dangerous.”
Can doctors limit pregabalin?
Dr de Silva said GPs would be left trying to find something else to prescribe.
“I hope this is not another pill, but an honest effort to replace it by non-drug routes such as talking therapy and other psychological interventions, to get at the roots of why people experience pain and trauma in their lives. To reach the reason.”
Overall, there were more than 7 million antidepressant prescriptions distributed in wales In the year to March, up 17.5% from 5.9 million in 2019.
The number of patients waiting eight weeks or more for mental health counseling reached 451 in September stateswells said – There is an increase of 247% in 130 patients waiting for such a long time as compared to the same month five years ago.
Dr de Silva said timely consultation can help doctors write better prescriptions.
“People are struggling to cope with the difficulties and hardships of modern life,” he said. “We need to help them get through the day without reaching for a tablet.”
The Welsh Government said it is “committed to improving access to mental health services” and has increased investment by almost £67 million in tackling substance misuse this year.
“We expect GPs to use their clinical judgement,” it says. “Anti-depressants are effective treatments that, when used appropriately, help a large number of people.”
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