When experiencing muscle pain or spasms, some may turn to alcohol for minor pain relief. Drinking alcohol may produce some pain-relieving effects, but taking muscle relaxants at the same time as drinking is not advised. In general, it is not recommended to take muscle relaxers with alcohol due to the potential for dangerous side effects.
Muscle relaxers or muscle relaxants is a broad term that describes a group of medications that are used to treat acute muscle pain or muscle spasms.
Some examples of muscle relaxers include:
- Carisoprodol (Soma)
- Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
- Methocarbamol (Robaxin)
- Baclofen (Baclosan)
- Tizanidine (Zanaflex)
- Metaxalone (Skelaxin)
- Chlorzoxazone (Parafon Forte)
While these medications may work in slightly different ways, they all produce either muscle pain relief or muscle relaxation.
Alcohol and Muscle Relaxer Side Effects
For most people, pain relief or muscle relaxation occurs about thirty minutes after taking the medication, and the effects last for four to six hours. However, with pain relief often comes side effects.
When alcohol is consumed with muscle relaxers, it makes side effects worse. Alcohol and muscle relaxers both depress the central nervous system in similar ways.
Alcohol use can worsen the common side effects of muscle relaxers, leading to symptoms like:
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Extreme drowsiness
- Excessive dizziness
- Impaired motor control
- Unusual behavior
- Memory problems
- Dry mouth
More severe effects of alcohol and muscle relaxer use may include:
- Blurred vision
- Urine retention
- Low blood pressure or fainting
- Liver damage
- Increased risk of seizure
- Risk of an overdose
- Risk of addiction
Driving is unsafe when taking muscle relaxers alone, and adding alcohol makes it even more dangerous.
Additionally, certain muscle relaxers like carisoprodol are addictive. Mixing addictive muscle relaxant drugs with alcohol can lead to severe side effects.
Because muscle relaxers and alcohol depress the body in similar ways, their use can lead to slowed or shallow breathing that can lead to brain damage or death. An overdose is a medical emergency, so contact medical help immediately if one is suspected.
Overall, the combination of alcohol and muscle relaxers leads to dangerous side effects, is potentially addictive, and increases the risk of overdose.
Key Points: Alcohol and Muscle Relaxers
Important points to remember about alcohol and muscle relaxers include:
- The term muscle relaxers refer to a broad category of drugs that relieve acute muscle pain or muscle spasms
- Combining muscle relaxers with alcohol is not recommended because it can produce dangerous side effects and increase overdose risk
- Extreme dizziness, drowsiness, unusual behavior or memory problems may occur when drinking alcohol while using muscle relaxers
- Alcohol makes an overdose more likely
- If an overdose is suspected, contact medical help immediately
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- National Institute of Health. “Muscle Relaxants.” Published on October 30, 2018. Accessed March 30, 2019.
- Friedman B, et al. “Diazepam Is No Better Than Placebo When Added to Naproxen for Acute Low Back Pain.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, Published August 2017. Accessed March 30, 2019.
- Thompson, Trevor, et al. “Analgesic Effects of Alcohol: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Experimental Studies in Healthy Participants.” The Journal of Pain, published in May 2017. Accessed March 30, 2019.
- Citron Pharma. “Cyclobenzaprine Package Insert.” DailyMed, published in August 2018. Accessed March 30, 2019.
- Nostrum Laboratories. “Carisoprodol Package Insert.” DailyMed, published in September 2018. Accessed March 30, 2019.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medications.” Published in 2014. Accessed March 27, 2019.