Neurontin nerve drug
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
January 25, 2024 ·  4 min read

Popular Nerve Drugs Gabapentin, Pregabalin Linked to Serious Breathing Problems & Deaths

Virtually all medical interventions have both pros and cons. Taking medications is no different, and they always come with a risk of side effects. Usually, those side effects are less troublesome than the condition that you are trying to treat. Sometimes, however, they can be a whole lot worse. This is especially true when it comes to unknown drug interactions. U.S. Health Regulators are warning people who take certain nerve drugs that these medications can cause some very serious breathing problems when combined with other drugs such as opioids. 

Popular Nerve Drugs Are Linked To Serious Breathing Problems When Combined With Other Medications, FDA Warns

Many doctors prescribe gabapentin and pregabalin, more commonly known as Neurontin and Lyrica, for nervous system conditions. This includes conditions such as restless legs syndrome, nerve pain, and seizures. In December 2019 the FDA released a statement warning doctors to be careful to not prescribe patients taking these common nerve drugs with certain other medications that slow down breathing rate, including opioid painkillers and other drugs that depress the central nervous system. These risks, they say, also apply to elderly patients and those with pre-existing lung problems. (1)

As the opioid crisis has taken hold across the United States, doctors have been prescribing them less and therefore other medications more. These nerve drugs, Neurontin and Lyrica, are two of now the most prescribed, however, now we are facing an over-prescription problem with these drugs. Poison control centers are experiencing an increasing number of calls involving these drugs. In many cases, the problem is that they are abused alongside opioids, cocaine, and marijuana. Because these nerve drugs are considered non-addictive, however, regulators don’t monitor or track them as closely.

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Prescribed But Not Approved

Nerve drugs such as Neurontin and Lyrica are not approved by the FDA for muscle and joint pain. Still, doctors will often prescribe them to patients to help with these problems. They will also prescribe them as a migraine treatment and for certain psychiatric conditions. The FDA is now changing the warning labels and instructions to doctors to reflect their dangerous interactions with these other drugs and medications.

They are also calling for tighter regulations as to when to prescribe them and when not to. Finally, the FDA is also requiring drug makers to conduct new studies on the risks of abusing these nerve drugs. They especially will be requiring these companies to study those associated with taking the medications alongside opioids. (2)

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What Are The Risks?

What we are now seeing are people who are using these nerve drugs in combination with opioids as well as the other drugs previously mentioned are experiencing severe breathing problems. Though healthy individuals taking these drugs alone don’t seem to have the same risks, those who are combining the medications with others, have a history of drug and/or medication abuse, as well as those with preexisting breathing-related conditions, do. This includes simply being in the elderly age bracket, which also apparently increases the risk of developing these breathing problems.

The FDA is calling for doctors to only prescribe these medications if they feel it is necessary. When they do prescribe them, start with the lowest dose possible and increase the dosage from there. Practitioners are then required to monitor these patients, especially when prescribing them with other medications such as opioids and other CNS (central nervous system) depressant medications. If doctors witness any side effects whatsoever in their patients when taking these medications, whether alone or in combination with other drugs, they must report them to the FDA’s MedWatch.

This warning is also now going out to the general public so that you, as well, are aware of the potential dangers of medication interactions. If your doctor prescribes you these nerve drugs, or any other medication, truthfully, listen to their instructions. If they say not to consume other drugs such as marijuana or over-the-counter medications, or other products such as alcohol, it is for your safety. Listen to them and monitor yourself for any potential side effects you also may be experiencing from the medications you are on. If you start to notice you are experiencing adverse reactions, stop taking the medication and call your doctor immediately.

Side effects involving any of these nerve drugs should be reported to FDA’s MedWatch program.

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Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.


  1. Nerve drugs gabapentin, pregabalin linked to breathing problems, FDA warns.” NBC News.  Associated Press. December 20, 2019.
  2. FDA warns about serious breathing problems with seizure and nerve pain medicines gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant) and pregabalin (Lyrica, Lyrica CR).” FDA. January 19, 2022.