Britain’s Own Prescription Drug Problem on the Rise

By Victoria Kim 01/20/15

The rise in abuse of certain prescription drugs indicates a U.S.-style epidemic.

Union Jack pill

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in Britain, according to a report on the UK drug scene that interviewed frontline drug workers and police across the country.

The 2014 annual DrugScope Street Drug Trends Survey reported that the UK drug scene is “ever more complex and dangerous,” heightened by a significant increase in the use of the anti-convulsant drugs, pregabalin and gabapentin.

The drugs, which are prescribed to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and anxiety, are used with alcohol and opiates such as heroin, methadone, and diazepam to enhance the euphoric effects.

The significant rise in the recreational use of pregabalin and gabapentin, especially prevalent among heroin users and prison inmates, is a sign that a U.S. style prescription drug epidemic is emerging in Britain.

“We have seen a big rise in the illicit use of pregabalin and gabapentin. The effects are horrendous and life threatening,” said one drug worker in York who is quoted in the report. “People become so heavily intoxicated because they are mixing several drugs at a time.”

These medications and other central nervous system depressants such as opiates and alcohol are a dangerous combination, which significantly increases the risk of overdose. “The drugs can reduce the heart rate and if taken with methadone can be extremely dangerous, so we now have to consider whether people are using these drugs when we prescribe methadone,” the drug worker added.

In conjunction with rising recreational abuse, deaths involving pregabalin and gabapentin are on the rise. “Both drugs are readily available and certainly have a street value attached to them,” the drug worker said in the report. “We have sent a letter to GPs asking them not to prescribe it so much.”

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