Baclofen is a medication prescribed to treat pain and specific types of muscle stiffness and tightness from spinal cord injuries and diseases and multiple sclerosis. It is in the class of medications called skeletal muscle relaxants. It eases tension related to muscle spasms and cramping by working directly with the central nervous system (CNS). It can be prescribed to treat other symptoms not directly associated with spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis.

It can also be used “off-label” to treat withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, opioid, or cocaine substance use. The branded formulations for baclofen have been discontinued.

How Baclofen Works in the Brain

How Baclofen Works in the Brain

Baclofen activates the brain neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is produced organically in the brain and facilitates communication among brain cells. Its main function is to “reduce the activity of neurons in the brain and central nervous system,” as noted by Psychology Today. When that occurs, an individual will feel relaxed, have reduced stress, be calmer, feel less pain, and have a stable mood.

Baclofen blocks the reflexes, so the excitatory transmitters are not released. It acts on the spinal cord nerves decreasing muscle spasms. It can also improve muscle coordination and works as a muscle pain reliever.

Side Effects of Baclofen

Baclofen has some side effects, which are good to know:

  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Frequent urination

Baclofen and Alcohol Interaction

Baclofen and Alcohol Interaction

alcohol and baclofen

Baclofen and alcohol are both CNS depressants. Both work in slowing brain activity, which slows down breathing and heart rates. Both can make a person feel calm or drowsy. When baclofen and alcohol interact, it heightens the side effect impact on the body, which means that drowsiness and dizziness are doubled when a person drinks alcohol while taking baclofen. This is called potentiation. Alcohol can potentiate the effects of many drugs.

Healthline reports that combining the two, a person could risk possibly dangerous symptoms, such as:

  • Increased tiredness or drowsiness
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Slowed breathing
  • Memory problems
  • Reduced coordination or motor control
  • Higher risk of seizures
  • Higher risk of overdose

 How Baclofen Works for Alcoholism

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that almost 15 million people in the United States struggled with alcohol use disorder (AUD), also called alcoholism, in 2019. They also note that about 7 percent of those with the disorder received any treatment in 2018.

Despite those statistics, there are known medications prescribed to treat symptoms of AUD. These include three U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. Baclofen is not an approved drug for AUD, even though it is prescribed for some people struggling with the disorder.

There are some research and clinical trials regarding AUD and the use of baclofen. The general consensus seems to be that despite controversies about efficacy, baclofen might be a medication to consider for those with moderate to severe AUD. 

Another study found that baclofen was a significant drug used for alcohol relapse prevention. It seems to “switch off” alcohol cravings and has anxiolytic effects, meaning it reduces anxiety. Alcohol cravings can be very strong and hard to ignore for a person with moderate to severe AUD.  If baclofen can reduce or turn off the cravings, then the person with AUD will not feel any desire to drink.

Baclofen should be administered at high or very high doses to be effective in the management of AUD. In a well-supervised medical setting, the dose, either low or high, doesn’t seem to impact side effects. The drug’s anti-anxiety effects start working at low doses to help reduce anxiety-related alcohol cravings. In addition, the drug is well-tolerated and safe to use.

Using Baclofen Safely During Alcoholism Treatment

It is essential to maintain a steady intake of alcohol when using baclofen for AUD. It is also important to start on a low dose and monitor alcohol cravings. And it is always wise to consult with your doctor before increasing the dose. As the baclofen doses increase, alcohol intake will decrease, and withdrawal symptoms will be minor.

If alcohol intake is too low, baclofen will reduce the intensity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. If these symptoms do, however, appear, an extra dose of baclofen may be needed to compensate or slow down the alcohol reduction. Your pattern of cravings and alcohol intake will determine how to adjust your baclofen dose.

The ideal setting for taking baclofen in AUD treatment is in medically-supervised detox. In this situation, medical professionals may start an individual on a low dose and then increase it as they move into inpatient or outpatient treatment programs.

How Baclofen Affects Mood

How Baclofen Affects Mood

Alcohol and many drugs have characteristics that can alter mood. People who consume alcohol regularly or heavily struggle with mood disorders. Negative or depressive moods can be a result of engaging in periods of abstinence. Baclofen’s effects on the brain’s neurotransmitter systems indicate the drug is able to relieve negative mood. Baclofen acts on the GABA receptors. It also changes the dopamine system and may impact the mood in those with AUD. Therefore,  it is reasonable to conclude that baclofen can alter mood of the individual undergoing alcohol addiction treatment.

Medication, Addiction Treatment Are Effective Treatment

Medication, Addiction Treatment Are Effective Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse outlines 13 principles of effective addiction treatment. While all of them are essential for a person with alcoholism, these are imperative to know:

No single treatment is appropriate for everyone. Each person who comes to addiction treatment is an individual with their unique background, story, history of addiction, and alcohol misuse. When treatment is matched to the individual and their underlying problems, their chances of success to be alcohol-free and return to their life as a productive person are greater.

Medications are important in the treatment for many clients, but when medications are combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, the client learns how to manage the stressors or situations that compelled them to misuse alcohol or drugs.

Medical detox is the first stage of addiction treatment. However, detox alone will do very little to change long-term alcohol or drug use.

Alcoholism Treatment at Maryland House Detox

Alcoholism Treatment at Maryland House Detox

One of the most vital criteria for addiction treatment is that it is readily available for those who want it. It is very easy to avoid treatment if there is no place close to go or a treatment center does not provide what one needs. Maryland House Detox is centrally located and provides medical detox for individuals with alcohol use disorder. 

Following detox, the individual might be placed in a residential or outpatient treatment program. Here, they will work through their problems and find the root cause of their addiction and create a relapse prevention plan. Behavioral therapies will help the person learn new ways of managing stress and other issues in their life that are more positive and promote a healthier life.

Once the individual completes addiction treatment, they will have the opportunity to join others in their same circumstance through aftercare and alumni programs, 12-step programs, and other events like these. Gatherings and meetings with others who struggle with addiction or alcoholism provide needed support, strength, and camaraderie as the newly sober person forges their path in recovery. Gatherings such as these also are strong resources in preventing relapse.  When people in recovery stay connected with others, it increases accountability and avoids the feeling of isolation, both of which can lead to relapse.

Aftercare and alumni programs also provide the addiction treatment graduate with access to crisis intervention when it is needed, volunteer events to give back to others, advice, and networking opportunities when seeking employment.

If you want to end your alcohol addiction, you only need to click this link or make one phone call. Regular and heavy drinking causes a multitude of problems in your life including, loss of income, loss of family, loss of relationships, poor health, degraded reputation, lack of respect, causing accidents that may cause injury or death to you, your passengers, or other people on the road.

Help and support are near. All you need to do is reach out. There is no reason to consider ending alcohol misuse alone.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you take baclofen with alcohol?

Yes, you can take baclofen with alcohol. However, it is best to check with your doctor beforehand. Baclofen can be prescribed for people with alcoholism, as some studies have shown it to decrease cravings and reduce anxiety.

How long do I have to wait to drink alcohol after taking baclofen?

A smart rule of thumb is not to drink any alcohol when taking baclofen. Alcohol increases the sedative and CNS depressive effects of baclofen, which could cause an alarming low heart and breathing rate. If you feel you have to have a drink, choose one that is not high in alcoholic strength.

Can you get high on baclofen?

Baclofen is not the type of drug that people go to to get high. It is a strong muscle relaxer and produces relaxation, less tension in the muscles, and can ease people into sleep. It does not cause people to feel euphoric, like some other drugs.

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