Drug 'important therapeutic agent'
A therapeutic prescription drug being abused by people wanting to get high cannot be banned because patients need it, Government drug advisers have warned.
Pregabalin, which is sold under the brand name Lyrica to treat pain, anxiety disorders and some unusual forms of epilepsy, is being used in high doses to produce feelings of euphoria.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said abuse of the medicine was first discovered among prisoners in Northern Ireland, but evidence has emerged that the problem is more widespread.
Professor Ray Hill, who reviewed the issue for the ACMD, said: " We're getting a variety of reports now from various parts of the United Kingdom that the drug is being misused."
He added: "It's a drug that... has some similar characteristics to opioid drugs when taken in very high doses.
"It's important to stress that the drug is an important therapeutic agent. It's not just something that you could put strict legal controls on without impeding its legitimate use in patients who probably need it because other drugs don't work.
" The effects that the misusers of the drug are looking for are only seen when very high doses of the drug are taken. It's not a general problem with this drug per se. It is deliberate misuse of the drug for a non-intended purpose."
Pregabalin will now be considered by the ACMD's working group on the diversion and illicit supply of medicines, which was established following a request by Home Secretary Theresa May.
T he Home Affairs Select Committee has heard estimates that as many as 1.5 million people are addicted to prescription drugs in the UK.
MPs called on GPs to start collecting anonymous data on patients they suspect or know to be hooked on prescription drugs.
They said t here is a lack of data on misuse and supply of prescription drugs for non-medicinal purposes and the spread and scale of the problem needs to be established.