Baclofen is a muscle relaxer that is sometimes used off-label to treat cravings in people with alcohol use disorders. Baclofen can be useful for treating some medical conditions and helpful for people recovering from alcohol abuse when they’re also closely monitored by a physician. Baclofen can be dangerous in certain situations.
Baclofen is a muscle relaxer that’s approved by the FDA to treat muscle spasms associated with conditions including:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Huntington’s disease
- Spinal cord injuries
Baclofen is sometimes prescribed off-label to:
- Manage alcoholic liver disease
- Decrease cravings for alcohol
- Decrease alcohol-withdrawal-related anxiety
- Ease gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Treat cerebral palsy symptoms in children and adolescents
- Alleviate chronic hiccups
- Treat facial nerve pain
It’s well established that baclofen is effective at helping to alleviate pain, reduce muscle spasms, and allow for greater mobility. It works by depressing the central nervous system and relaxing your muscles. Baclofen is not the first line of defense for certain issues, such as lower back pain, because of its potential for abuse and side effects. It’s usually prescribed for short-term use to minimize the risk of addiction.
Whether you’ll tolerate baclofen varies on an individual basis. Potential side effects include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Trouble sleeping
- Overly tired
Potential Dangers of Baclofen
Studies have shown that baclofen can be useful in treating alcohol withdrawal, but there is much debate over how effective baclofen is for long-term treatment of alcohol use disorders. Some healthcare professionals argue that it can become addictive. Regardless of short- or long-term use, research shows that baclofen in combination with active, heavy drinking can be dangerous.
Under the supervision of a physician and taken as prescribed, baclofen can be safely used to treat alcohol use disorders. But taking baclofen with alcohol can have serious side effects. Mixing baclofen and alcohol is a dangerous and sometimes deadly combination.
Combining alcohol and baclofen can:
- Impair motor function
- Decrease cognitive abilities
- Cause extreme sedation
- Lead to addiction
- Cause overdose and death
It is imperative to seek help if you abuse both substances.
Baclofen and alcohol are both depressants. Depressants lower the neurotransmission levels in your brain, which creates a mellow, relaxed feeling. Some people like the feeling of lowered inhibitions from alcohol together with muscle relaxation from baclofen.
People may mix baclofen and alcohol because a doctor prescribed baclofen for alcohol withdrawal. Baclofen can ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This sometimes gives people the misconception that they can drink heavily and not have a hangover or overdose.
Any combination of alcohol and baclofen can be dangerous. Combining the two can be even more critical when used to create a pleasurable effect. This can lead to addiction and consuming more substantial quantities of both substances.
Side effects of mixing baclofen and alcohol include:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Higher risk of seizures
- Higher risk of overdose
- Dangerously slow breathing
- Impaired motor control
- Unusual behavior
- Memory problems
A significant effect when you combine alcohol and baclofen is motor impairment and lack of coordination. Taking alcohol and baclofen together can make it difficult to walk or even stand up. This can lead to falls and serious injuries.
Impairment of motor skills can make it dangerous to operate a vehicle or machinery. When used alone, both alcohol and baclofen cause adverse effects on reaction time and decision-making. Mixing the two makes these problems worse. Getting behind the wheel can be hazardous and even deadly.
The intense sedation effects of combining the two puts you at higher risk for overdose. Combining the two substances can depress your breathing and cause:
- Cardiac arrest
If taken in high quantities, baclofen can lead to overdose. Baclofen overdose symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Trouble breathing
- Severe weakness
- Muscle pain
- Pale or blue lips
Muscle relaxers can be addictive. If you take them in large quantities, you may develop a tolerance to their effects and therefore use more. You can also become psychologically addicted to the feeling from the drug’s effects and take more to achieve that feeling.
Abusing baclofen and abusing alcohol puts you at a higher risk for addiction. Alcohol alone affects your ability to think clearly. The inability to make smart choices when intoxicated can make it easier to use another drug or consume more than usual. These behaviors increase the risk of addiction.
A randomized, controlled study found that baclofen’s efficacy in reducing alcohol consumption and helping people remain alcohol abstinent is typically 30 to 90 mg a day for women and 90 mg a day for men. Using more than these baclofen doses as prescribed by your doctor is problematic.
People who abuse alcohol and baclofen may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop these substances, which is another sign of addiction. Alcohol and baclofen withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Breathing problems
- Mental disturbances
- Aggravation of spastic conditions
- Angry outbursts
- Severe anxiety
You should never attempt to detox from baclofen and alcohol on your own. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can become severe and even lead to death. Undergoing medical detox with the help of physicians and detox specialists is the safest way to eliminate these substances from your body.
Baclofen can have benefits for people withdrawing from alcohol. It can reduce cravings to drink, which can be especially strong during this period. Some research shows baclofen is significantly better than other pharmaceuticals at reducing alcohol cravings.
There are some healthcare providers that may use baclofen as a long-term treatment. At Footprints to Recovery, we believe the risks of long-term use outweigh the benefits. The potential for baclofen abuse is too significant. We have found that baclofen can be helpful during alcohol withdrawal as clinically and medically appropriate. It can provide comfort during detox, so you are more likely to stay in treatment.
Baclofen can help ease the anxiety that comes with alcohol addiction and withdrawal. Severe anxiety makes it more challenging to stay sober. Alcohol has been the go-to substance for people addicted to alcohol, and without it, anxiety can feel overwhelming.
If used as prescribed, most people aren’t at risk of becoming addicted to baclofen. That is not the case for everyone. For example, maybe you were prescribed baclofen to help with muscle spasticity but hid the fact that you drink daily. Perhaps you were prescribed baclofen to help you stop drinking, but instead you are abusing both.
It can be complicated to identify baclofen abuse. It’s used for other issues, so it can be difficult to know if the signs of abuse are from baclofen or other substances. There are a few telltale signs of baclofen drug abuse, which include:
- Visible symptoms of withdrawal without it
- Taking higher doses of baclofen than prescribed
- Mixing it with alcohol or other drugs
- Doctor shopping – having more than one doctor prescribe it
- Taking it in large amounts and more often
If you’re abusing alcohol and baclofen, addiction treatment will begin with medical detox. You’ll be under the care of nurses around the clock who will regularly check your vital signs and provide medications to ease withdrawal symptoms.
Following detox, a professional addiction treatment program will help you stay sober. With the help of intensive behavioral therapy, you’ll address the reasons why you abuse substances. You’ll also learn healthy ways to cope with challenges when you feel the urge to use drugs and alcohol.
Looking for Help?
Footprints to Recovery treatment centers provide comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. After your initial assessment, our team will create a treatment plan that fits your unique needs and situation. Don’t wait to get help. The short- and long-term effects of baclofen and alcohol can be dangerous. Call today and start on the path to recovery.