The government has launched its consultation on the reclassification of pregabalin and gabapentin.
It follows a recommendation last year by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that the drugs be reclassified as class C drugs because of the risks of “illegal diversion and medicinal misuse”.
A steep increase in the number of deaths linked to gabapentinoids, which are used for treating neuropathic pain, seizures and anxiety, prompted the decision.
Prior to 2009, there was less than one death per year attributed to the drugs, but in 2015 there were 137, the majority of which were associated with opioid use.
According to the data published in the journal Addiction earlier this year, the number of pregabalin and gabapentin prescriptions also increased from 1 million in 2004 to 10.5 million in 2015.
Gabapentinoids are increasingly being used illicitly to enhance the effects of heroin.