Baclofen is a medication commonly used to help treat those struggling with alcohol addiction. Alcohol is a drug that is normalized in our society and is a way that we engage in socializing, celebrating, and even relaxing. Alcohol is a potent drug and can have overpowering effects on its user. Throughout its long history, there has been a failure to understand and manage that power. Some of the questions that are asked are how much is too much? Why does it affect others one way and then others another way? How do some consume massive amounts and not become addicted, while others a lot less but develop an addiction?
A study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) shows that in 2015 86.4 percent of people aged 18 or older reported that they drank at some point in their life. Another 70.1 percent indicated they drank in the past year and 56.0 percent said they drank in the past month. In that same study, 26.9 percent of people 18 or older disclosed they participated in binge drinking in the past month. An estimated 88,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes making it the leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide. Alcohol abuse cost the United States $249 billion in 2010.
A new study that was published recently found that alcohol kills more people globally than once anticipated. Drinking alcohol was linked to nearly one in 10 deaths in those aged 15 to 49. For those over 50, cancer was the leading cause of alcohol-related deaths.
Clearly, alcohol consumption causes not only grief for those trapped in the cycle of addiction but a burden on those around us trying to cope with addictive behaviors. The effect on our economy is expensive, and solutions are always sought to help deal with these problems in new and innovative ways.
There are other prescribed medications such as Disulfiram that help treat alcohol addiction, but the drug does not suppress cravings such as Suboxone would for heroin addiction. Disulfiram is more of a deterrent to drinking based on the adverse effects that can occur when consuming the drug and drinking alcohol. Baclofen is a medication that interacts with our gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. The effects have been shown to help reduce cravings for alcohol and could be a vital solution to alcohol abstinence. Below we will examine more about the drug and how it works.
What is Baclofen
Baclofen was developed in 1962 by a German pharmaceutical company known as Ciba Geigy. It was initially used to treat epilepsy in children, but during the testing phase, it demonstrated its ineffectiveness in treating the disorder. Fortunately, however, during testing, researchers learned that some of those patients with the epileptic condition known as spasticity were relieved of their painful muscle spasms. It resulted in the patients becoming much more comfortable.
During this span, the only medication available that offered similar effects was Diazepam (Valium), but the drug made it difficult to function as one side effect is drowsiness. Baclofen showed that it could relax muscles without causing so much drowsiness, and the drug began its use as a muscle relaxer.
The drug went into widescale production in 1974 and had since been used to treat millions of people with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and strokes. Those who are put on Baclofen take the drug for the duration of their lives which gives us plenty of information about the drug. The safety is known because it can be taken for decades without harmful effects, and we also know that it needs to be gradually stopped to mitigate withdrawal. The results typically last around three to four hours, and it must be taken three times daily.
How Does Baclofen Work?
Baclofen acts on the receptor in our brain GABA-B, and the reason it works for alcoholism is that alcohol also works on GABA receptors. GABA is a neurotransmitter present in vast numbers throughout the brain. Unfortunately, the link between GABA and alcoholism is unknown, and how Baclofen works for alcoholism is not explained. Baclofen does appear to affect alcohol addiction as well as many other effects causing indifference to alcohol.
Baclofen Side Effects
While the drug has demonstrated its safety during its 40-year course of use, that does not mean there are no side effects. The United States National Library of Medicine shows that the side effects of Baclofen include:
- Muscle weakness
- Upset stomach
While rare, more severe side effects can occur that include:
- Difficulty breathing
If either of those side effects were to occur, medical assistance must be sought out immediately. Side effects are minimal and typically occur when beginning treatment.
Some people who use the drug may be more susceptible to side effects, including the elderly, and those with impaired renal function. Someone who is galactose intolerant has active peptic ulceration, or porphyria should not use the medication. Baclofen should be prescribed with caution with any one of these following disorders:
- Anyone with severe psychiatric disorders
- Anyone with seizure disorders
- Anyone currently receiving antihypertensive therapy
- Those with liver disease or diabetes mellitus
Does Recreational Baclofen Lead to Abuse?
According to Masters In Health Care, Baclofen is one of the most abused prescription medications. The drug falls under the category of muscle relaxers, and those who abuse these substances may actually use the drug in conjunction with alcohol. While there are therapeutic benefits and several decades of success under its belt, there are still risks as well. Users report about how Baclofen creates feelings of euphoria and pleasant relaxation similar to the high narcotics produce. This could lead to abuse and addiction.
Those who consume the drug recreationally put themselves at high risk of an overdose due to the large doses required.
There are the select few who may only need 10 milligrams to experience a high, but others often require 20 milligrams when they are abusing the drug. When Baclofen is used in conjunction with another central nervous system (CNS) depressant, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, they place themselves at high risk of a fatal overdose.
Therapeutic doses of Baclofen vary based on facts such as age, the condition being treated, the severity, and the initial reaction to the first dose. When someone begins using the drug, they will be prescribed 5 milligrams three times daily, and the dose can gradually be increased.
Overdose is possible, and signs of overdose include:
- High blood pressure
- Slowed reflexes
- Stopped breathing
- Bradycardia (a heart rate that is too slow)
There is not a single way to determine how much Baclofen will lead to an overdose because of variable factors the patient exhibits. It must be taken as prescribed.
If you or someone you love is struggling with Baclofen and don’t know where to turn, it’s time to take precautions and stop using it. It is in your best interest to attend medical detoxification that ensures you stop using the drug safely, and mitigate any dangers that could be involved. If you are using alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms are notoriously dangerous and add to the list of reasons why you need to detox.