Pregabalin also known as Lyrica, as well as other names, was developed in 1990 and belongs to the class of drugs called anticonvulsants and has been described as the “new valium”.
Pregabalin is a medication used to control or treat different mental disorders such as anxiety attacks, as well as assisting with epilepsy, seizures and some muscle disorders, in particular chronic neuropathic pain.
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Also called as anti-epileptic or anti-seizure drugs, anticonvulsants are used for treating epileptic seizures. This class of drug is majorly used for treating neuropathic pain as they inhibit the damaged nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.
Pregabalin depresses the central nervous system and closely resembles the natural neurotransmitter Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), which plays an inhibitory role. The drug works by increasing the extracellular GABA concentrations in the brain, which occurs as a result of increase in the enzyme L-Glutamic acid decarboxylase (the enzyme that makes GABA).
The most renowned use of Pregabalin is for relieving neuropathic pain; the pain caused by damaged nerves in legs, arms, hands, feet, fingers and toes due to diabetes or shingles (a rash that is caused by herpes zoster). It is recommended as the first line of defence by the European Federation of Neurological Societies for central neuropathic pain, post-herpetic neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy.
But for certain types of neuropathic pain, like that associated with trigeminal neuralgia and cancer, Pregabalin is not recommended.
Pregabalin is recommended among the first line of defense medications for treating anxiety disorders by the World Federation of Biological Psychiatry. The effect of Lyrica is similar to that of benzodiazepines as it is anxiolytic, but it has less risk of dependence in comparison.
Long term use of Pregabalin has proven to be effective for treating anxiety disorders without the risk for developing tolerance. Unlike benzodiazepines, Pregabalin also effects sleep and sleep patterns in a good way. The lower risk of dependence and tolerance with Pregabalin has made it more suitable than benzodiazepines in comparison.
Epilepsy and Seizures
Pregabalin provides only symptomatic treatment for epilepsy, and does not actually cure the disease. It is most commonly used in combination with other medicines to treat seizures on the condition that those medications are not being taken for controlling epilepsy. This is so because the standalone use of Pregabalin appears to be less effective as compared to other medications for seizures.
Fibromyalgia, a condition in which an individual experiences tiredness, pain, muscle stiffness and tenderness, and difficulty sleeping, is also treated by Pregabalin. As discussed above, the beneficial effects of Lyrica on sleep and sleep patterns helps people deal with the long-lasting condition of fibromyalgia.
Other than the conditions mentioned on the label of Pregabalin, the drug is also used for:
- Restless leg syndrome
- Social anxiety disorder
- Alcohol withdrawal
The most common side effects of Pregabalin include:
- Memory problems
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Vision problems
In addition to the above, Lyrica also causes some serious side effects as follows:
- Increased risk for suicide
- Drug misuse
- Addiction (when taken at high doses for longer period of time)
How to Take
Pregabalin should always be used as directed by your doctor. You should also check the medicine label for dosage and accompanying instructions. It comes in the form of a capsule to be taken by mouth. Normally, Pregabalin is started on a low dose and gradually increased to the effective dose. Pregabalin:
- Can be ingested with or without food
- Should be taken at the same time everyday to maximize the medicine benefits
- If you miss a dose, take Pregabalin as soon as you remember. However, if your next dose is due, skip the missed dose. It is not recommended to take two doses of Pregabalin under any condition
- Should not be taken in a larger dose than prescribed
- Should not be used for longer duration than prescribed
- Should not be taken more often than prescribed
It should be kept in mind that Pregabalin does not generally cure your condition, but only controls the symptoms. The effects of Pregabalin may begin to show in a few weeks, but don’t stop the medication unless your doctor asks you to. Even if you experience some serious side effects, do not stop before talking to your doctor as you might develop withdrawal symptoms.
Overdose, Tolerance and Withdrawal Effects
Pregabalin overdose is greatly harmful for health and may develop the following conditions:
Many patients with kidney failure developed myoclonus while on Pregabalin. It is recommended to continuously monitor and test the blood of hospitalized patients for Pregabalin overdose.
If Pregabalin is suddenly discontinued, many people may experience mild to serious withdrawal symptoms. This is why it is not recommended to stop taking Pregabalin unless asked by your doctor. Your doctor will gradually decrease your dose until you can stop using Pregabalin without experiencing any withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Trouble staying or falling asleep
- Flu-like symptoms
Lyrica is moderately addictive and tolerance can develop to the depressive effects of Pregabalin if used continuously. The cross-tolerance of Pregabalin with all GABAgenic depressants causes Pregabalin to reduce the effect of benzodiazepines.
Pregabalin interacts with antidepressants and other serotonergics, analgesics, antibiotics, anxiolytics, herbs, and recreational drugs. It is recommended:
- Not to drink alcohol with Pregabalin
- Consult your doctor before taking any sleeping aids, muscle relaxers or any other kind of medications with Pregabalin
Pregabalin is a drug which is prescribed for multiple health conditions, and can interact with various drugs and medications. Follow these precautionary measures if you are taking or planning to take Pregabalin:
- Pregabalin may reduce the number of platelets in blood, so take extra care and avoid any activities that might cause any injuries
- Tell your dentist and doctors that you take Pregabalin before receiving any kind of healthcare, medications or surgery
- Pregabalin has shown to cause birth defects in animals, but it is unclear for humans. Avoid taking Pregabalin during pregnancy and consult your doctor if you are planning to have a baby
- For breast-feeding women, it is unknown whether the drug is found in breast milk. Stay on the safe side and do not take Pregabalin while breast feeding.
Pregabalin is comparatively a recent drug and is known to be effective for various physical and psychological conditions such as anxiety, fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain and epilepsy. It is also used in combination with other medications and may develop serious withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly. Pregabalin interacts with a variety of other drugs, so it should never be taken with other medications without consulting a doctor. The side effects of Pregabalin range from mild to serious, so do contact your doctor if you experience any serious side effects. Follow required precautions when taking Pregabalin and never use it if pregnant or breast-feeding.