As a survey of UK drug use reveals a ‘significant increase in misuse’ of two of the most important drugs for chronic pain, pregabalin and gabapentin, Pain Concern is urging prescribers to ensure that these often life-changing treatments remain available to people living with pain.
The charity behind the survey, DrugScope, say that this worrying trend has developed mainly among those already misusing opioids and in prison populations. The drugs are being used to enhance the effects of other drugs, including alcohol and heroin, and are cited by drug workers as being responsible for an increase in risky behaviours and overdose among drug misusers.
However, when used as prescribed for neuropathic pain, pregabalin and gabapentin are regarded as safe drugs with a low risk of serious side effects. They are highlighted as ‘front line’ treatments for people with neuropathic pain in the official guidance issued by NICE to healthcare professionals working in primary care. Neuropathic pain is often difficult to treat so it is important that GPs and other healthcare professionals are not afraid to make use of one of the key tools available to them. Heather Wallace, Chair of Pain Concern, said: ‘While we recognise that there is a problem of misusing these drugs among a small section of the population, this should not mean that thousands of people are left to face neuropathic pain – already an underdiagnosed and undertreated condition – without the treatment that can help them to lead a full life.’
Heather also stresses the importance of continuing to provide effective pain management to people in prison and those with a history of drug addiction: ‘Everyone has the right to pain relief.’