What is Baclofen?

Baclofen was initially introduced in 1960 to treat epilepsy. This use was determined to be ineffective. In 1971 baclofen was reintroduced to treat muscle spasticity. It is now prescribed to target spinal cord nerve disorders to relieve pain and muscle spasms (muscle stiffness and tightness). Baclofen is classified as a skeletal muscle relaxant. It is most prescribed for individuals with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord diseases. This drug acts on the central nervous system (CNS) to produce the relaxant effect. Baclofen use does not cure disorders; it is prescribed to elevate symptoms, though it may help reduce problems with tight muscles, for example, so that other therapies may be used. It has mood-elevating properties, which can lead to abuse.

Baclofen is an agonist, which means it creates, artificially, a reaction to a specific receptor in or on a cell’s surface. Agonists stimulate a cell receptor’s response. For example, endorphins are natural agonists of opioid receptors. The agonist activates a cell receptor response. Baclofen, as an agonist, binds to GABA receptors. GABA is an amino acid that inhibits the CNS, which is why it is part of muscle relaxant drugs. Research indicates that drugs affecting CNS, such as baclofen, can also produce a calming effect. Sometimes, it is prescribed for treating anxiety, stress, and fear.

According to the American Family Physician Foundation, the effectiveness of skeletal muscle relaxants has not necessarily been shown to be more effective than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen. Comparative studies are limited. Additionally, adverse reactions to CNS depressants can include:

  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • weakness
  • confusion
  • headache
  • nausea
  • constipation
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • fatigue
  • frequent urination

Some patients can experience seizures and hallucinations.

Combining this medication with other medications can acerbate problems and lead to unexpected new reactions. If a person were to abuse baclofen along with tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and prescription pain medication, or benzodiazepines, for example, the side effects of those drugs together would be worse than one taken alone.

Symptoms of Overdose

  • blurred vision
  • irregular breathing
  • loss of strength
  • pale, or blue lips, fingernails or skin

In 2016, the FDA issued a drug safety alert about the serious risks of combining opioids and other CNS depressants. They determined that Black Box warnings were needed and revised warnings and precautions in the labeling sections should be added.

Alcohol Abuse and Baclofen

Recently, baclofen has been used to treat cravings in the treatment of alcohol-dependent individuals. Limited data exist, and results have been contradictory. The use of baclofen to treat alcoholic cravings is more frequently used in Europe and Australia than in the US. Furthermore, pre-existing conditions can exclude the use of baclofen in alcohol use disorder (AUD). Some data reveals that alcohol-dependent individuals with major depressor disorders use baclofen can cause baclofen-induced hypomania. This response indicates that the individual will become overly active or excited in the short term. It is a less mild mania and lasts several days instead of weeks or months.

Combining baclofen with sleeping pills, sedatives, anti-depressants, or tranquilizers is inadvisable. If at any time, while abusing baclofen one suddenly stops the medication without physician guidance, withdrawal symptoms may occur. Sudden withdrawal symptoms from baclofen use on include but are not limited to:

  • sleepiness
  • insomnia
  • lack of mental alertness
  • delusions
  • delirium
  • feeling cold
  • visual changes
  • seizures

If abusing several drugs simultaneously, additional withdrawal symptoms will also occur.

Risks of Addictive Behavior

As repeatedly stated above, baclofen is a CNS inhibitor. As such, arbitrarily mixing baclofen with other potent drugs can lead to an array of dangerous symptoms. Combining drugs that are CNS depressants can result in respiratory depression (slow breathing or difficulty breathing). According to an article in Pharmacological Research, “most patients with AUD have tried or are actively using other drugs, and more than 33% of them present a drug use disorder.”

According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse report, from 2019 to 2020, the number of overdose deaths involving prescription drugs increased to 16,416.

Treatment for Addictive Behavior

Substance abuse treatment is determined by the individual’s needs, physical history, health conditions, family history, psychological history, and more. “Treatment must take into account the type of drug used…Successful treatment may need to incorporate several components, including detoxification, counseling, and medications.”

There are two categories of treatment: behavioral (which includes a variety of therapeutic modalities and medication. Often, a person going through treatment will require a combination of treatment categories. The treatment protocol depends on the age, medical history and psychological profile, life skill analysis, and more to change unhealthy thinking and behaviors that perpetuate SUD. Sometimes family therapy is needed to address underlying issues and work-related stressors. Suppose the addict is addicted to multiple substances. In that case, the treatment approach must also address that some drugs can cause personality changes, changes in brain chemistry and function, and deepen certain mental health disorders.

As stated above, multiple therapeutic approaches are needed to support recovery. Choosing a licensed treatment facility that provides ongoing medical support (addiction physician, addiction clinicians, and technicians) who can closely monitor a client’s progress is best. The facility should also be able to provide a thoroughly thought-out aftercare plan and links to regulated and monitored sober living houses if that is needed.

Call our center today if you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse. A trained staff member can answer all your questions and put your mind at ease. Calling the treatment facility is the first step toward regaining your life.