Baclofen is a prescription muscle relaxant, used primarily to treat skeletal spasticity. Baclofen can treat muscle spasms related to Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries and spinal cord diseases. Baclofen isn’t intended to treat conditions like Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy or stroke. Baclofen relaxes muscles by interacting with GABA receptors in the central nervous system. It blocks certain nerve signals sent from the muscles at the spinal cord and is believed to be a central nervous system depressant. Baclofen is prescribed in a pill form and also an intrathecal baclofen pump. In the case of the pump, a catheter is inserted under the skin and it stores and releases a specific amount of baclofen. This is usually reserved for people who have adverse side effects from the oral version of baclofen or can’t use it for some other reason.
While baclofen has therapeutic benefits, there are possible risks and side effects as well. One of the biggest risks of baclofen is that it can cause withdrawal symptoms if someone suddenly stops using it. Baclofen withdrawal can be severe and can include symptoms such as hallucinations, psychosis and seizures. Common baclofen side effects include drowsiness and impaired balance. There is also a potential for baclofen abuse. Baclofen can cause a mild sense of well-being and relaxation, especially when large doses are taken. While baclofen abuse on its own is somewhat rare, mixing it with other central nervous system depressants is much more common. It takes very large amounts of baclofen to achieve a high, putting people who abuse baclofen are at an increased risk of overdose.
Some people intentionally mix alcohol and baclofen. Both substances are central nervous system depressants, so when they are used together they can heighten the effects of one another. For example, someone who mixes alcohol and baclofen may experience deep relaxation and a sense of peacefulness or drowsiness. Mixing alcohol and baclofen could also diminish feelings of anxiety. There is also the possibility of inadvertently combining alcohol and baclofen. Regardless of the specific situation, it’s never a good idea to mix alcohol and baclofen.
If someone mixes alcohol and baclofen, the side effects of both are going to be more profound. For example, someone who is mixing alcohol and baclofen may experience extreme drowsiness and weakness, changes in mood, agitation, confusion, and dizziness. There have been instances of people mixing alcohol and baclofen and experiencing even more severe side effects like seizures and raised blood pressure and heart rate.
On the other hand, baclofen is increasingly being considered an option to help treat symptoms of alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal. This practice is still considered to be an off-label use for baclofen, but there is some clinical evidence that this drug is effectively utilized in addiction treatment.
Along with the risks of mixing alcohol and baclofen, a baclofen overdose is possible as well. Even on its own, baclofen can cause an overdose. This is especially true when people use it recreationally and take large amounts to try to feel a high similar to that of narcotics. Both alcohol and baclofen are central nervous system depressants. When they’re used simultaneously, a person is more likely to overdose. Baclofen overdose symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, severe muscle weakness, problems breathing, seizures and coma. No one should ever mix alcohol and baclofen. It’s also important that patients let their doctor know of any substances they regularly use, including alcohol, before taking any prescription medications like baclofen.
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