Cyclobenzaprine, also known by the brand name Flexeril, is a type of muscle relaxer that is chemically similar to tricyclic antidepressants. Doctors might prescribe it for someone who is experiencing muscle tension or spasms. It is typically used to treat an acute injury for the short term.
When someone uses more Flexeril than prescribed, or they use it without a doctor’s prescription, there is a risk for serious consequences. It is not safe to use cyclobenzaprine recreationally. Doing so can result in various negative effects on the mind and body.
What is Cyclobenzaprine Abuse?
Taking this drug when it is not prescribed and using more than a doctor prescribed are both forms of abuse.
As with any drug, there is a possibility of side effects with Flexeril use. When someone abuses this drug, their risk of experiencing adverse effects increases.
In 2011, roughly 11,551 people had to go to the emergency room because of issues they experienced after taking cyclobenzaprine, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. This figure is based on non-federal hospitals that have emergency rooms that operate 24 hours a day. The research was derived from data from certain metropolitan areas.
People abuse this drug to experience its relaxing and sedative effects. Some people say they also experience a sense of euphoria when they take it. Users mostly snort or take this drug orally when they abuse it. However, in some cases, the pills are broken up and mixed in a shot of alcohol. This form of polysubstance abuse increases the likelihood of negative effects occurring.
Abuse of Flexeril may cause:
- Nausea or stomach upset
- Dry mouth
- Tiredness or dizziness
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Sudden weakness or numbness
- Balance issues
- Slurred speech
- Pressure or pain
The more of this drug a person takes, the higher the likelihood of experiencing adverse side effects. These effects also range greatly in severity. For some people, they may be just a minor nuisance, while for others, they may be disabling.
When someone is abusing this drug, many of these effects are noticeable. For example, people can see them dozing off, losing their balance, or hear them slurring their speech when they talk.
Can You Develop a Tolerance?
It is possible to develop a tolerance to cyclobenzaprine when it is used in high doses or for the long term. When tolerance starts to develop, the person will find they need to take more of the drug to get the effects they desire.
Once a person takes an oral dose of cyclobenzaprine, they start to experience the effects of the drug in about one hour, according to Medscape.
Doctors usually start adults at 5 mg (milligrams) per dose. This is generally taken up to three times daily.
As someone continues to take this drug for several weeks, they may develop a tolerance and need more Flexeril to get the effects.
Doctors may increase the dosage, or they may switch the patient to a different medication.
Each dose works for about four to six hours. The immediate-release form of this drug remains in the body an average of 18 hours, and the extended-release form of this drug has a half-life range of 32 to 33 hours.
There is no set time for how long it takes a person to develop a tolerance for this drug. For some people, it can take weeks; for others, several months may pass before a tolerance occurs. The more frequently a person takes this drug and the higher the doses they take, the quicker one’s tolerance develops.
Is Cyclobenzaprine Addictive?
This muscle relaxer is not generally viewed as addictive by physicians; however, there is some controversy surrounding this. Cyclobenzaprine can foster abuse due to the relaxation it produces, and thousands of people do abuse the drug.
When someone has a dependence on cyclobenzaprine, it is possible to experience withdrawal effects once they stop using the drug. Not all people will experience withdrawal symptoms, but those who have engaged in high-dose or long-term use likely will. When they do occur, they can include malaise, nausea, and headache.
In addition to the potential for withdrawal symptoms, the following may occur when someone is struggling with drug abuse:
- Feeling the need to use the drug on a regular basis
- Needing higher doses to get the same effects
- Focusing on having a constant supply of the drug
- Slacking on responsibilities because of the drug
- Stealing and other negative activities to get the drug
- Not being able to stop using the drug on their own
- Experiencing intense urges to use the drug
- Taking more of the drug than planned
- Spending money one does not have to secure the drug
- Using the drug even though it is a major source of problems in life
- Engaging in risky behavior to get the drug
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects
When someone uses Flexeril, it is possible to experience anticholinergic side effects due to how this drug acts on the body. According to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, these effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced sweating
- Dry eyes
- Increased heart rate
- Memory impairment
- Extreme excitement
The degree to which the symptoms affect a person is highly individualized. They tend to get worse or more frequent as someone continues to increase their dose of Flexeril.
As someone increases their dose of cyclobenzaprine, they put themselves at risk for experiencing a potentially lethal condition known as serotonin syndrome. Possible effects of serotonin syndrome include:
- Overactive reflexes
- Loss of coordination
- Agitation or restlessness
- Rapid blood pressure changes
- Vomiting and nausea
- Increased body temperature
- Increased blood pressure
- Abnormal eye movements
- Fast heartbeat
There is a risk for overdose when someone keeps increasing their dose of this drug. The risk increases substantially when cyclobenzaprine is combined with alcohol or other drugs.
There is not an exact dose that can lead to overdose, but the general recommendation is not to exceed 60 mg of Flexeril in a 24-hour period, according to the Mayo Clinic.
One report states that a toxic overdose is possible when someone takes more than 100 mg of this drug in one dose, according to research published in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology.
Many variables can affect when an overdose occurs, so it’s important not to take more than prescribed.
Potential effects of overdose, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Extremely low blood pressure
- High blood pressure
- Cardiac arrest
- Fever, altered mental state, and muscle rigidity
- Loss of muscle control
Recreational Flexeril use isn’t safe. Any person who struggles with cyclobenzaprine abuse should not hesitate to seek treatment. The sooner a person stops using this drug, the sooner they can reduce their risk of dangerous effects.