Baclofen Addiction and Abuse

What Is Baclofen?

Baclofen is the generic name for a prescription muscle relaxant with the brand names Gablofen® and Lioresal®. It is most commonly used to treat conditions involving the muscles, such as muscle spasms, muscle pain, and stiffness. It is also used to treat some neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Recently, Baclofen has also been prescribed to aid in the treatment of substance use disorders, although this is considered an “off-label” use.

Unfortunately, due to its pain-relieving qualities, the medication eventually became the subject of abuse on its own. When any drug is given to those already more sensitive and susceptible to developing an addiction, the chance for misuse and abuse increases drastically. If he or she cannot stop taking Baclofen, this can signal a sign of dependence. If someone increases his or her amount against the prescribed dosage, this can also signal a substance use disorder. Lastly, if someone with a Baclofen suddenly stops, there can be an onset of withdrawal symptoms.

Effects of Baclofen Addiction

Abusing Baclofen, by either taking it in excess or in addition to other drugs and alcohol, can produce a feeling of euphoria (a high similar to that of marijuana or being drunk). Baclofen users seeking this sensation often mix the drug with opioids, alcohol, or amphetamines.  When taken as prescribed, Baclofen has not been found to be particularly addictive.  However, as with almost any substance used to induce a “high,” when misused it can become addictive. Over time, the user will need to take more and more of the drug to experience the same sensation as the body begins to develop a tolerance.

Side effects of Baclofen can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea

More severe side effects of Baclofen abuse include:

  • Weak or shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Severe side effects of a Baclofen addiction are potentially life-threatening.

There is a high risk of overdosing on Baclofen, especially when used recreationally. Signs of an overdose include muscle weakness, vomiting, drowsiness, dilated or pinpoint pupils, and weak or shallow breathing. If untreated, an overdose can result in possibly fatal seizures, hypothermia, a dangerously slow heart rate/bradycardia, coma, and in some cases death. Additionally, combining Baclofen with alcohol or other drugs can create more dangerous side effects and increase the rate of overdose.

Baclofen Withdrawal

People who have previously misused Baclofen report that a tolerance can be developed easily. Withdrawals symptoms are severely uncomfortable and potentially dangerous when not treated by a medical professional.

Baclofen withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increase in or return of spasticity
  • Itching
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tingling sensations

When untreated, early symptoms of withdrawal can progress to more severe and unpleasant symptoms. Advanced symptoms include high fever, changed mental status, muscle stiffness, and in rare cases the loss of function of many vital organs and possibly death.

When dealing with withdrawal from Baclofen addiction, it is important to seek the care of medical professionals at a detox facility or addiction treatment center.