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Are Muscle Relaxants Addictive?

Are Muscle Relaxants Addictive? How Do They Effect You?

Muscle relaxants do not work directly on the muscles. Rather, they depress the central nervous system to relax and calm not only the muscles but the entire body. It is thought that this relaxing effect relieves pain, but are muscle relaxants addictive?

What Are Muscle Relaxants Prescribed For?

The most commonly prescribed muscle relaxants are spasmolytics and neuromuscular blockers. Spasmolytics are used to treat pain caused by spasms and neurological conditions. Neuromuscular blockers are used to create temporary paralysis in certain surgical procedures. When people talk about muscle relaxants, they are usually talking about spasmolytics.

Muscle relaxants are generally prescribed as an initial short-term treatment for tension headaches, myofascial pain, back pain, lower back pain caused by tense muscles, and muscle spasms. They are also used to treat serious neurological disorders that cause spasms such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, motor neuron disease, and fibromyalgia.

What Are The Different Types of Muscle Relaxants?

The most common muscle relaxants are Soma (carisoprodol) and Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine). Soma is biochemically similar to tranquilizers like meprobamate (Equinal). Flexeril is biochemically similar to tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil. Other muscle relaxants include:

  • Dantrolene (Dantrium)
  • Baclofen (Lioresal)
  • Chlorzoxazone (Paraflex)
  • Methocarbamol (Robaxin)
  • Orphenadrine (Norflex)
  • Tizanidine (Zanaflex)
  • Metaxalone (Skelaxin)

Do Muscle Relaxants Have Side Effects?

Anyone taking muscle relaxants should be monitored by a physician. When taken as prescribed, muscle relaxants are effective pain relievers, although there can be side effects. The most common side effects are sedation, drowsiness, loss of muscle tone, dry mouth, upset stomach, vomiting, urinary retention, and dizziness. To keep side effects to a minimum, muscle relaxants should be taken before going to sleep.

When muscle relaxants are abused, there can be hallucinations, irregular heartbeat, severe allergic reactions, paralysis, seizures, convulsions, disorientation, anxiety, psychosis, and heart failure. Abusing muscle relaxants can even cause coma and death. This is especially true when the drugs are combined with other mood-altering substances. Muscle relaxers are often mixed with alcohol, tranquilizers, or narcotics to produce a euphoric high. The problem is that the drug interactions can be deadly.

Because of the potential for toxicity and abuse, muscle relaxants should be taken only for short-term pain relief. Flexeril, even at recommended doses, can cause hepatitis, jaundice, and blockage of bile flow from the liver to the intestines. Soma can cause a reduction in the number of red and white blood cells which, in turn, can lower immunity.

Are Muscle Relaxants Addictive?

Habitual use can make muscle relaxants addictive. They should be used only for short-term pain relief. These drugs relieve pain quickly, so it’s easy to get into the habit of using them when faced with any kind of stress, anxiety, or discomfort. Most substance abuse specialists would call muscle relaxants addictive with a strong potential for abuse. That being said, they should not be prescribed for anyone with a history of drug or alcohol addiction.

Is Withdrawal From Muscle Relaxants Dangerous?

What makes muscle relaxants addictive is long-term, habitual use. If the medication is abruptly discontinued, severe withdrawal effects like anxiety, tremors, insomnia, hallucinations, and seizures can occur. Soma withdrawal can result in coma and death. Flexeril withdrawal can cause seizures, convulsions, hallucinations, disorientation, anxiety, and psychosis. Because of the dangers involved, withdrawal from muscle relaxants should only be undertaken in a supervised medical detox facility.


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