Soma is the brand name of a generic prescription drug called carisoprodol, which has been available in the U.S. since 1959. It’s given to patients as a skeletal muscle relaxant, and it is part of the class of drugs known as carbamates. Soma has effects that are similar to the barbiturate drug class. In the U.S. Soma is a Schedule IV controlled substance, which means it has a low potential for abuse. Other Schedule IV substances include alprazolam, which is the generic name of Xanax, and lorazepam, which is the brand-name drug Ativan.
While the DEA may classify Soma as having a low potential for abuse, there has been recent evidence showing abuse and addiction are real risks. Soma acts not only as a muscle relaxant but also as a tranquilizer. It’s a depressant, so it slows the activity of the central nervous system much like the other drugs that are classified as Schedule IV Controlled Substances. As part of the abuse potential of Soma, people have increasingly started combining it with other substances. This can increase the drug’s effects, but it can also make the risks of overdose and addiction higher. One such combination is Soma and alcohol. The combination of Soma and alcohol may be used to help people relax, fall asleep or feel more intoxicated, but it can also be a deadly mix.
How Is Soma Supposed to Be Used?
When Soma is prescribed as a muscle relaxant and pain reliever, it is intended only for short-term use. To treat acute pain or muscle spasms, Soma should be used for no more than two to three weeks. The longer a person uses Soma, the higher the chance is that they’ll become addicted to it or abuse it. A dose of Soma is typically around 350 mg taken several times a day, and other than feeling drowsy or having a slightly elevated mood, there wouldn’t be many effects with this dose. Unfortunately, when larger doses are taken, or Soma is combined with other substances, the user may feel a sense of intoxication or euphoria. Extreme sedation is also possible with higher doses.
Another potential side effect of Soma, even when it’s used as prescribed, is physical dependence. Physical dependence is different from addiction. Physical dependence can occur even without an addiction. Dependence is a condition in which a person’s brain and body have become used to the presence of a substance. If they stop taking it suddenly, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. To help patients avoid Soma withdrawal, doctors will usually advise them to taper down their dosage as opposed to quitting cold turkey.
Due to the potential for abuse, it’s now recommended that doctors prescribe Soma sparingly. There has been a surge in emergency room visits because of Soma, and the side effects of even prescribed use can include dizziness and sedation. The FDA doesn’t approve skeletal muscle relaxants for long-term use, and Soma, in particular, is a drug that carries warnings. The current recommendation is that people experiencing skeletal pain try alternative therapies first, such as stretching, massage or yoga, and over-the-counter medicines should be the first-line approach before something like Soma.
Of course, there are cases where over-the-counter medications might not be an option. An example would be in patients with liver disease or kidney problems. They may have to take a muscle relaxant like Soma, which is when the careful prescribing guidelines should be explained. Even in cases where patients should take Soma, it’s not intended as a long-term treatment.
Soma on its own has the potential for abuse and addiction, but these issues arise more often when it’s combined with other substances. Common combinations include taking soma with opioid narcotics or anti-anxiety medications. There are even slang names given to these combinations. For example, a combination of Soma and codeine is referred to as a “Soma coma.” Much of the push to regulate and limit the use of Soma has stemmed from the prevalent practices of combining it with other substances.
The Risks of Combining Soma and Alcohol
What happens if Soma and alcohol are mixed? People may inadvertently combine the two without thinking, or they may do it purposely to increase the hypnotic and intoxicating effects of Soma. Regardless, this combination can be dangerous or deadly. Both alcohol and Soma are believed to affect the central nervous system and certain brain chemicals, including GABA. Taking Soma and alcohol together can cause thinking and judgment problems. A person may have mild side effects like drowsiness and dizziness as well. Mixing alcohol and Soma can make driving and operating machinery dangerous. This combination can cause coordination problems and can increase the chances of being in an accident or falling.
Another risk of Soma and alcohol is a fatal overdose. Both Soma and alcohol are central nervous system depressants, meaning they slow down the body’s essential functions. When the two are combined, the CNS can slow to the point that it dangerously affects breathing and heart rate. When respiration slows down too much, it’s considered an overdose, and this can be fatal.
Soma is a prescription drug that should be used with caution. Before taking Soma, it’s important to discuss your full medical history with your physician and to talk about other substances you might regularly use, including alcohol. If you or a loved one has a problem with Soma, with or without other substance abuse issues, we can help you explore your options at The Recovery Village.
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