Baclofen, a Central Nervous System Pain Killer

What is Baclofen?

Baclofen was developed in the early 1960s to treat epilepsy. Since that time, its usage has broadened significantly. While it is mostly used as a skeletal muscle relaxant, it has more recently been used to ease withdrawal and craving symptoms of alcohol dependence and drug cravings such as opioids and cocaine. Though some studies have shown that baclofen did not show “superior effects on self-reported cocaine use…A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in methamphetamine-dependent individuals found no statistically significant treatment effects.”

It is inadvisable to combine alcohol and baclofen as both impacts the central nervous system. Some research indicates that baclofen has positively impacted those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder while under strict supervision.

Baclofen’s main use is to treat muscle spasms, cramping, and tightness of muscles caused by medical conditions. Though it acts as a pain reliever, it is not an opioid, nor does it affect the opioid receptors in the brain; it is known as a skeletal muscle relaxant. Some of the conditions it treats are multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and spinal cord disorders. It works on the spinal cord nerves by reducing the excitatory neurotransmitters and stimulating the inhibitory neuronal signals. In other words, baclofen inhibits the nerve from sending electrical signals that transfer the message of pain to other cells. It has a short half-life, 2-6 hours, after which it is eliminated from the body through urine or feces. This drug is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract.

Like other medications taken over time, the dose will need to be increased. The regular use of this drug helps develop habituation, which in turn manifests as the need to consume more of the drug. Having grown used to the medicine, the body will require more to get close to the initial response. In time, however, the drug will cease working.

How Baclofen is Usually Taken

The drug is manufactured in tablet, solution, packet (powder), or suspension form. Sometimes, people will crush the pills and snort them like cocaine. Consuming baclofen in this manner provides the addict with a temporary sense of mild euphoria. As just stated, it is a short-lived sensation. Baclofen use in people with psychotic disorders is considered inadvisable as mental health disorders can be worsened.

Common Side Effects While Taking Baclofen

  • Sedation
  • Confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vision problems
  • Tremors
  • Fainting
  • Frequent urination

Abrupt cessation of taking this drug can cause seizures and hallucinations. Medical advice recommends against arbitrarily taking baclofen, nor should you abruptly stop taking the medication. Baclofen is easy to abuse and overuse.

Symptoms of Baclofen Overdose

  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscular hypotonia (muscle weakness)
  • Accommodation disorder (inability to focus visually and otherwise)
  • Coma
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Multi-organ failure

People suffering from renal problems, liver problems, Parkinson’s disease, pregnant or breastfeeding, those taking antidepressants, seizure medications, and tranquilizers, have a rheumatic disease, or have cerebral palsy should be hesitant about taking this drug recreationally. Other combinations of drugs with baclofen, such as cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines, increase the level of drowsiness in the brain and body and can lead to dangerous side effects.

Cognitive Deficits Related to GABAB Receptor Agonists

Research on the impact of taking baclofen, a GABAB receptor agonist, has shown that the drug has some influence on memory, learning, and cognitive function, especially when combined with other drugs, such as gabapentin. When combining baclofen with opioids, additional negative cognitive (mental) impacts include lower concentration, confusion, slowed speech, and worsening memory.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, cautions against co-prescribing muscle relaxants and opioids over concerns about combined effects on reduced brain function. The UF (University of Florida) study provides the first epidemiological evidence to support and further enhance the CDC’s recommendation.” UF researchers, who led the study, also found that using SMR (baclofen is a member of this drug group) and opioids in combination increased the risk of overdose. The study results indicated that combining baclofen with opioids was particularly problematic. The researcher also found that combining SMRs, opioids, and benzodiazepines was unsafe. “Previous studies have shown that an estimated 10-30% of opioid users also use a muscle relaxant.” (Baclofen is considered a muscle relaxant.)

Other studies are now questioning the safety of alternative drugs to opioids, such as gabapentin and baclofen.  A recent study found that people increasingly use gabapentin and baclofen to either get high or attempt suicide. From 2013 to 2017, isolated abuse misuse of gabapentin increased by 119.9%. During 2014-12017, baclofen’s isolated abuse/misuse exposures increased by 31.7%.  Entry into health care facilities because of “co-ingestion of sedatives and opioids were common for both medications with 52.1% of those admitted with isolated baclofen exposures. Toxicity and use in suicide attempts using baclofen have significantly increased since 2013.

Like other medications, baclofen should never be misused. Because of the number of conditions impacted by taking baclofen, it is advised that you be careful not to self-medicate with this drug. As mentioned above, certain conditions, such as cardiovascular and psychological, can be exacerbated when combining drugs without the supervision of a physician.

Treatment Works

To safely withdraw from drugs and alcohol, a licensed, medically staffed detox facility is considered best practice. The medical staff will be able to determine the best way to detox your body from drugs and alcohol and provide you with medical support to minimize the extreme bodily reactions of detoxification. Then, you should immediately follow detox into a drug/alcohol treatment facility to address the underlying causes of your addiction. Treatment is successful if you are willing to give up old habits, confront your feelings and learn how to make positive decisions. Treatment generally includes several types of therapies, exercise, meditation, medical management, education on mental health disorders, life skills, and more. Pick up the phone and call for help now and break the cycle and heartache of addiction. You can regain your life.

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Connor Barton
Connor Barton
2022-06-03
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Tara Payne
2022-05-20
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Bob Hawkins
2022-05-04
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2022-02-26
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