a foot above several upright thumb tacks

Have you seen the ad blitz for Lyrica (pregabalin)? A LOT of money is being spent trying to convince the American public that Lyrica is the answer to diabetic nerve pain. One of the most compelling commercials stars a retired policeman:

“Hi, I’m Terry and I have diabetic nerve pain. I worked a patrol unit for 17 years in the city of Baltimore. When I first started experiencing the pain it’s hard to describe because you have a numbness but yet you have the pain like thousands of needles sticking in your foot.”

This sounds awful, and indeed people with diabetic neuropathy suffer terribly. Symptoms can include:

Symptoms of Diabetic Neuropathy

  • Burning, tingling or a feeling of needles sticking into your skin
  • Numbness in toes and feet; an inability to sense a needle prick; reduced sensitivity to temperature change
  • Difficulty walking because of numbness, pain or weakness
  • Intense stabbing jolts of pain, especially in the evening
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Poor stomach emptying, leading to feelings of fullness and bloating
  • Bladder problems
  • Dizziness on standing

It’s hardly any wonder that patients with neuropathy and nerve pain would be looking for help. A commercial like the one with Terry, the retired Baltimore police officer, is very appealing. When Terry says the “pain started subsiding” after taking Lyrica, we imagine that lots of viewers might think that they too might benefit from this drug. Are they paying attention, though, when the voice-over announcer says:

“Lyrica is not for everyone. It may cause serious allergic reactions or suicidal thoughts or actions. Tell your doctor right away if you have these: new or worsening depression or unusual changes in mood or behavior, or swelling, trouble breathing, rash, hives, blisters, changes in eye sight including blurry vision, muscle pain with fever, tired feeling or skin sores from diabetes. Common side effects are dizziness, sleepiness, weight gain, and swelling of hands, legs and feet. Don’t drink alcohol while taking Lyrica. Don’t drive or use machinery until you know how Lyrica affects you.”

While you listen to the on-air announcer speed through this long list of complications you see Terry working in his backyard planting and watering pretty flowers. Somehow, the scary side effects seem less worrisome in such a bucolic setting.

Here are some real stories from our website to bring the side effects into focus:

This comes from LCB:

“I started taking Lyrica 10 days ago for RLS [restless leg syndrome] and fibromyalgia. I was taking gabapentin but it had stopped working. I gained 14 pounds on the gabapentin, and now I’ve gained 5 pounds more on the Lyrica. I have edema [fluid retention] as well. I’m sleepy for most of the day and I feel like I’m dragging my body around. I have no energy. My husband tells me I’m irritable with the kids, and that I can’t seem to remember things anymore.

“All of this is quite a drastic change from my usual energetic, tireless self. I don’t like how I feel, and to make the most important point: Lyrica doesn’t seem to help much. I still have tons of pain, and RLS at night. So, I have an appointment with my doctor to ask for a change. I believe that these medicines work very well on some people, but we are all so different. It doesn’t work for me.”

T.  had a very scary story to share:

“After almost eight years on Cymbalta, it had lost the effectiveness. My doctor added Lyrica to help with fibro. Soon after, I started to have a deep depression and wanted to end the pain that I have lived with for so long. The stress of life was so great, that I attempted suicide. I was put in the hospital for four days.

“At that point, no more meds! The symptoms are what everyone has described. I feel alone and lost in my own brain fog hell. Not one of my family has a clue what a nightmare this is.”

Kathy listed these complicatons:

“I was on the drug eight months for fibromyalgia prescribed by a rheumatologist. I, too, started having problems with eyesight (my eye doctor could NOT update my lenses due to Lyrica causing severe blurriness). I also had memory loss, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. I suffer from chronic constipation due to diverticulitis, and the Lyrica was making this worse. I weaned off over a three-week period. OMG! The withdrawal was/is terrible.

“I am 9 weeks into it, and still have terrible throbbing ongoing headaches, difficulty swallowing, and went from 134 lbs to 118! I feel like I’m dying most of the time. I went to my current neurologist today and was told there were no such symptoms from Lyrica withdrawal!

“Google it, doctor! Please, if anyone reading this is considering taking Lyrica, reconsider! If you have side effects like I did, then decide to go off; you may be looking at a long recovery and NO help from a doctor. They are all denying any problems with this medication. Please read the “Lyrica Withdrawal” posts first!”

Getting off drugs that affect the central nervous system can sometimes be challenging. As we mentioned recently with our post on Abilify, the track record of psychiatry and neurology has been abysmal when it comes to studying sudden withdrawal from commonly prescribed medications. It took years for researchers to discover that when patients suddenly stopped benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium) or lorazepam (Ativan) they often experienced very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Ditto for antidepressants like citalopram (Celexa), duloxetine (Cymbalta), escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft) and venlafaxine (Effexor).

The story of Lyrica (pregabalin) withdrawal is also murky. There is very little in the medical literature on this topic. The prescribing information does mention, though, that some patients report symptoms such as insomnia, nausea, headache, anxiety, sweating or diarrhea if they stop suddenly. The advice: taper the dose over at least a week rather that stopping suddenly. We fear that such information is not always that helpful, especially since there is not much practical information about actual dosage reduction.

Lyrica Side Effects

  • Vertigo, dizziness, unsteadiness, coordination problems, abnormal gait
  • Sleepiness, fatigue
  • Confusion, abnormal thinking, difficulty with attention and concentration, accidental injury
  • Dry mouth
  • Fluid retention in hands or feet, edema
  • Blurred vision, difficulty with eyesight
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation, gas
  • Pain
  • Skin reaction, rash, dermatitis (requires immediate medical attention!)
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis), tremor
  • Blood disorders
  • Withdrawal symptoms, discontinuation syndrome, seizures

We recognize that some people with hard-to-treat neuropathy or fibromyalgia may do quite well on Lyrica and not suffer side effects. That’s great. But some patients don’t get much benefit and do suffer complications. For them, Lyrica is not a blessing.

To learn about some other approaches to neuropathy, you may want to check these links about benfotiamine (link 1 and link 2) and alpha lipoic acid.

Please share your own story about Lyrica or your experience with neuropathy and what has worked for you below so others can benefit from your experience.

 

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  1. Beres
    Reply

    Can you only take lyrica when the pain is bad instead of taking it on a daily basis? I have very bad nerve pain.

  2. Julie
    IN
    Reply

    My father suddenly showed signs that would suggest he had a stroke. Confusion, lethargic, trouble communicating, trouble swallowing, rapid weight loss from not eating, sudden problem with his eyes. Medically, the CAT scan showed no problem. They found a UTI that (after antibiotics) gave him Thrush. But found no reason for the sudden change in his health. At the onset of the UTI, everything was pushed off to that problem.

    As it got better but the symptoms didn’t improve, a nurse suggested taking him off Lyrica. The doctor did take him off of anything to help with the lethargic issue. The symptoms stayed one day, worse the next, a bit better only to be worse again. His health, however, recovered but neurologically he was in horrible shape from supporting his own weight, feeding himself, swallowing, eyes bothering him to speech problems.

    Then, suddenly, he started to show signs of improvement. We are still waiting day to day to see if we move ahead or regress. The only thing we can pin point that had happened/changed with him was being put on Lyrica and taken off of it during the month this all has went on so far. Each day we lean towards the Lyrica being the problem but it’s hard to find information supporting this. I just found this page and many of the problems here he is having.

  3. Carole
    California (CA)
    Reply

    Just started the Lyrica, as gabapentin had begun to fail me. They are related, I am told, so I just substituted Lyrica for the gabapentin. So far, so good. I am told it takes about two weeks to kick in. A little stomach stuff but I can handle that naturally. Everyone of course is different and will respond in their own way. I was told the Lyrica was a better drug, as you need less of it than gabapentin. I am also going to some lectures on pain by some Neurologists. They suggest writing about the pain, (your emotional responses) and also meditation…mindfullness especially. They say you can reduce the pain by 50% that way. If I can do that, then I will go off of the Lyrica.

    I am not sure these drugs are any different than opioids but they are certainly used instead… it will take a while for people to know how good or poor they are. Most important is to go on them with an open mind, and decide for yourself. Not a good idea to be fearful, and if necessary go off of them slowly. Just quitting anything suddenly is not a sensible idea. Also have yourself a Doctor who listens!

  4. jeanna
    Reply

    I was prescribed lyrics for anxiety , two years ago. I currently take 200mg a day. I’ve put on tons of weight and recently noticed a depressant effect of the medication. My Doctor prescribed Sertraline, to combat this. The Sertraline caused severe jaw clenching and pain and so another drug was prescribed to alleviate this.
    I am now in a complete state of distrust. What the hell have they done to me ? I’m suffering so many problems from dosage mistakes and interactions. I feel like they have all done the equivalent of kicking a faulty tv set. Its been a ‘ too many cooks spoil the broth , just prescribe a tablet to get rid of her ‘ thing.
    I’m trying to reduce the Lyrica . Its torturous. Even on a small dosage like mine. I only went Down by 25 mg and sleep was impossible. I have extreme rebound anxiety, agitation , increased loud heart beats, jumping, twitching, the lot. I have decided to tackle the anti depressant instead . I want to get my body free of all of these drugs eventualy and the only way it seems possible, is to use my own judgement and reduce my dose by tinieramounts than the doctor can or is willing to help with. This will envoke careful measuring, weighing, storing , making into suspensions and so on. I am reflective of my extreme history of depression and anxiety. I know these things. If anti depressants and anti anxiety drugs really worked , then there would be no suicides.
    We come into the world drug free and should try to achieve as much as is possible for each individual, to leave the same way. With acceptance of the fact that medicine is amazing to keep us alive, not all is good.

  5. Belle
    Australia
    Reply

    I have been on Lyrica for about 5 months for RLS and pain. My initial dose was 75mg twice a day. The first week or so it felt like I was blissfully drunk.

    However after a couple weeks my symptoms became worse. The RLS was occurring all day not just at night. I was constantly dizzy and drowsy and my energy was so low I couldn’t function on a normal level. Life just became really hard.

    My symptoms eventually got worse. I was told to step up the lyrica to 4 75mg a day which helped only temporarily.

    I became very depressed as well with outbursts of violence towards myself and others. I was put on gabapetin for about a month to try and alleviate the symptoms that lyrica was no longer helping but found that made it even worse.

    I came off gabapetin over a week as my dose was so low but found that I was getting intense stomach cramps and vomiting. I could not eat or drink as it would make me so sick.

    I’ve stepped down the Lyrica to 2 caps a day and found my symptoms improving but am still coping with stomach problems.

  6. Hugh
    England
    Reply

    I have been on Pregabalin for five years. Initially it was px for anxiety by a Consultant Psychiatrist (off label use). For the first few weeks it worked well but gradually it seemed that tolerance developed and higher doses were required to achieve the same results.

    I was on 600mg a day at its worst and am now on 300mg and tapering down over several months. Coming off Pregabalin has been a nightmare. I have tried on twelve occasions to reduce and stop but the profound anxiety and palpitations have been appalling. It is only by taking Propanolol along with tapering that I am finally able to see light at the end of the tunnel.

    My message to anyone offered Pregabalin by a Doctor is consider very carefully if you want to start this drug. Whilst some folk seem to come off it relatively easily websites are now replete with folks experience of profound withdrawal symptoms. The anxiety and palpitations (fight or flight response 24hrs a day) almost led me to end my life” I cannot describe just how crippled I was emotionally by the anxiety. I feared everything and could barely function. Please take time to think over if you want to start it. If you suffer with anxiety and are given Pregabalin you may have much more intense anxiety if for any reason you cannot get your prescription and run out. Be happy to converse with anyone who wants to discuss this topic further.

  7. Ken
    Florida
    Reply

    Lyrica is a bad drug. Period ! I have been through a lot of tough challenges in my life, but none like the challenge Lyrica has presented me. I can’t take it without getting severe side effects, and when I try to stop it, they get worse. It strips you of self. I have had racing heart, palpitations, chills, night sweats, visual disturbances, insomnia, nightmares, and on and on.

    The withdrawal symptoms are sheer terror. Nothing seems real. Paranoia settles in. This is all made worse by the fact that Pfizer knows nothing about it. My doctors don’t know. My pharmacists have no idea. Some look at me like I’m crazy, but the thousands of people reporting the same difficulties can’t all be wrong. 3,500 have a support group on Facebook because it’s so mis-prescribed and less understood. When the truth is known, the suffering will stop.

  8. bladesmith
    colorado springs
    Reply

    I have been on 300mg of lyrica for 18 months. I had broken my neck and the nerve pain in my right arm and hand are severe… my doctor refused to renew my prescription and I did not think too much about it. I stopped the lyrica cold turkey not knowing anything about side effects of quitting.

    Imagine my shock when I started feeling like I am on speed. I cannot fall asleep and it is very hard to sit still let alone lay in bed. The withdrawal started within 2 days of stopping the lyrica. it has now been 11 days and there is no relief in sight. I finally went online to see if the severe nervousness was withdrawal from lyrica. I did not have any idea that many people are having this withdrawal problem too. even though it has been 11 days the withdrawal is not any less intense.

    I have no idea how long this will last but it is really making me crazy. I do not drink alcohol but I am really tempted to. I am really beginning to think that any medication that is so hard to stop can’t really be much good for your body. I wish that there was some sign that the withdrawal will subside, but if anything it seems worse today.

  9. Maryann
    Central Coast
    Reply

    Hi all, well I’ve been in Lyrica & Celebrex for approximately 8 years for carpal tunnel in both hands and nerve damage in one shoulder and it’s definitely not the drug for me. I have suffered blurry vision, headaches, fatigue all day, can’t sleep at night, memory loss, weight gain, constipation and depression. These all started out very mildly but have gotten a lot worse over time. I have questioned the use of this drug for quite some time but it’s only recently when attending a new doctor that I have a result. In conjunction with a naturopath & a nutritionist I am now on natural remedies and have my fingers crossed that they work, so far so good. I slowly took myself of Lyrica & Celebrex by cutting them back to every second day, then I would skip wk ends & in this time I have introduced my natural medicine. This will not be the answer for everyone but I’m hoping it is for me.

    • Tina
      Uk
      Reply

      LYRICA ruind my life.I stopped it as caused so many issues stopped it dead went cold turkey sufferd withdrawals bad for 3 long years. I’m better than I was but I’ve never been how I was b4 this drug I’m still not back to the old me that I was b4 lyrica don’t think I ever will at this rate

  10. Joy
    Reply

    I have Been taking lyrica for fibromyalgia for about the past three years. I did stop taking it for about 9 months due to no medical insurance. I noticed side effects after I stopped taking it. I noticed I was less irritable, had somewhat more energy, insomnia wasn’t as bad. I also was more focused off of it. I went back on it last November and I am having same side effects.
    It also only takes away about 25-50% of pain. And that’s on my “okay” pain days. Hardly touches the pain on my bad pain days.
    I have made the decision to take the homeopathic route and do herbal remedies. Weaning myself off Lyrica which I started tonight.

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