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Concern over street use of epilepsy drug in Dublin and Limerick

Pregabalin – a prescription drug – is being sold by street dealers as ‘Gabbies’ or ‘Budweisers’.

FRONTLINE WORKERS SAY they’re concerned over a rise in use of an epilepsy drug by habitual drug users in Dublin and Limerick.

Pregabalin – a prescription drug used to manage a range of conditions including epilepsy, neuropathic pain and anxiety – is being bought online or from street dealers and used for its sedative effects and to enhance the euphoric effects of other drugs.

In some cases, other adulterated or counterfeit tablets are being sold as pregabalin.

The prescription drug is marketed under the name Lyrica (amongst others) but is sold on the street as ‘Gabbies’, ‘Budweisers’, and ‘Bud Light’.

It’s supposed to be taken orally – but among drug users it’s being injected, snorted or taken rectally.

drug Source: Drugs.ie

An increase in use was noted by workers with the Ana Liffey Drug Project in Dublin and Limerick in the last few months. Its misuse has been reported internationally too – and a study in 2014 by the National Drug Treatment Centre’s (NDTC) Drug Analysis Laboratory found that it was an attractive drug to opioid dependent drug users.

That study also suggested that misuse of the prescription drug was a serious emerging issue which should be monitored carefully.

“The problematic use of pregabalin amongst our client group in Dublin and Limerick was identified by frontline workers a number of months ago,” Tony Duffin of Ana Liffey Drug Project said.

Frontline services responded immediately by providing as much information and harm reduction advice as we could to people.
However, this was a newly emerged drug trend and there was little accessible health promotion information available about the misuse of pregabalin.

As a result an awareness campaign has been launched by Ana Liffey in conjunction with other groups working in the area, and a fact sheet and poster on the drug are available on the HSE-funded Drugs.ie website.

According to online forums, pregabalin is reportedly taken in combination with benzodiazepines, alcohol, heroin, cannabis, LSD, amphetamines or other substances. In Ireland, according to frontline workers, it’s predominantly being taken orally – although there have been reports of some people injecting the drug.

In addition to sedation and euphoric effects, it can also induce hallucinations, cause vomiting, result in fits and seizures and induce psychosis. Stopping use suddenly can be dangerous, according to the recently-released fact sheet – instead, slow medically-supervised withdrawal is recommended.

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In Ireland, pregabalin-related deaths increased by 86% from 14 in 2013 to 26 in 2014 – the latest year for which figures are available.

Looking at the wider picture, there has been a surge in polydrug deaths - deaths resulting from a cocktail of drugs being taken – in the last decade or so.

In 2014, according to Health Research Board figures, there were 235 deaths resulting from polydrug use. In 2004 the comparable figure was 118.

Concern has also been raised in Dublin recent months over an apparent increase in crack-cocaine use. Paraphernalia used to smoke the drug has been found in areas frequented by habitual drug users in the city.

Crack-cocaine is a smokeable form of cocaine made by chemically altering cocaine powder to form crystals or rocks. It can quickly become both physically and psychologically addictive.

Read: How would a Dublin drug injecting room operate? We spoke to the boss of the Sydney centre >

More on this subject: Dublin’s injecting alleyways >

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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