Muscle Relaxer Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment
Muscle relaxers (or muscle relaxants) are prescription drugs that act on the central nervous system to relax muscles.1 They work by depressing the central nervous system to relax and calm the entire body, not just the muscles.
The most common muscle relaxants known as spasmolytics are generally prescribed by doctors to treat pain associated with muscle spasms, tense muscles, neurological disorders, tension headaches, lower back pain and more. Other types of muscle relaxers known as neuromuscular blockers are also used while administering general anesthesia or while inserting an endotracheal tube to help a patient breathe. These types of muscle relaxers can produce temporary paralysis.
Muscle relaxants can be taken via tablet form or they may be administered intravenously through the bloodstream. Ideally, they are used to treat acute pain, not chronic pain, and may be especially useful if over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol or Advil aren’t working to reduce muscle pain.
Muscle relaxants like Soma have been used for decades and are safe when taken as directed by a doctor. In 2017, there were approximately 4.2 million prescriptions of carisoprodol products dispensed in the United States.2
When muscle relaxers are taken as prescribed by a doctor, they can produce some normal side effects, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Upset stomach
However, when people misuse muscle relaxers, side effects can be much more severe and may include seizures, paralysis, hallucinations, and more. People may also misuse muscle relaxers with other drugs like opioids, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, or alcohol to produce a stronger high.
One such drug combination known as the “Houston Cocktail” or the “Holy Trinity” is made up of hydrocodone, alprazolam (Xanax), and carisoprodol and was noted as being a popular high for drug abusers in Texas, according to a 2014 report.3
Although these drug combinations may give drug users the euphoric side effects they seek, misusing these drugs simultaneously can be extremely dangerous and is likely to cause severe side effects, coma, respiratory depression, or even death.4
Despite the risks, in 2018, about 1.7 million young adults aged 18 to 25 abused prescription muscle relaxers and about 4.3 million adults aged 26 or older were past year misusers of these drugs.5
Muscle relaxers can be very addictive. Most incidences of abuse and addiction to muscle relaxants involve the drug Soma, although Flexeril has also been linked to misuse and abuse.6
Soma is classified by the DEA as a Schedule IV drug due to its potential for misuse and dependence. When the body breaks down this drug, it produces something called meprobamate, which acts as a tranquilizer. This can be highly addictive because it makes users feel extremely relaxed.
Since muscle relaxants like Soma and Flexeril are intended for short-term treatment of pain, any misuse or long-term use of them can lead to dependence and addiction. People who become addicted may also experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using muscle relaxers.
Some common street names for muscle relaxers include:
- Las Vegas Cocktail
- Houston Cocktail
- Holy Trinity
- Soma Coma
- Wallace 200’s
Some examples of muscle relaxers include:
- Atracurium (Tracrium)
- Baclofen (Lioresal, Baclosan)
- Carisoprodol (Soma)
- Chlorzoxazone (Parafon Forte, Remular)
- Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
- Dantrolene (Dantrium)
- Metaxalone (Skelaxin)
- Methocarbamol (Marbaxin, Robaxin)
- Orphenadrine (Flexon, Norgesic, Norflex)
- Pancuronium (Pavulon)
- Succinylcholine (Anectine, Sucostrin)
- Tizanidine (Zanaflex)7
Several factors will influence how long a drug stays in your system, including:
- The type of muscle relaxer you used,
- How much of it you used
- The type of drug test used to detect it
- Biological factors like your age, overall health, and weight
A dose of Flexeril may take anywhere from 5.5 days to 16.5 days to clear out of your system.8 A dose of Soma may take about four days to clear out of your system.9
Some side effects of abusing muscle relaxers may include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Severe allergic reactions
- Heart failure
- Inflammation and swelling of the liver
- Low white blood cell count (lowered immunity)
Muscle relaxant overdose can result in the following symptoms:
- Respiratory depression
If you believe that you or a loved one is overdosing on Soma, Flexeril, or some other muscle relaxer, you must call 911 right away.
If you are addicted to muscle relaxers, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using them. Muscle relaxant withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle twitching
- Impaired balance or coordination
Detoxing from muscle relaxers on your own can be very difficult, especially if you experience severe, long-lasting withdrawal symptoms. A medical detox program can provide a safe, clinical environment as well as medical treatment and management of withdrawal symptoms. This type of professional support is often essential to a successful recovery from muscle relaxer addiction and can help decrease the likelihood of relapse.
The timeline for muscle relaxant withdrawal symptoms varies depending on the person and the type of muscle relaxant that was abused. The duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms will also vary.
In general, people who are addicted may start to experience withdrawal symptoms a few days after quitting muscle relaxers abruptly. These symptoms may persist for a few days or a few weeks.
If you’re addicted to muscle relaxers and you want to get sober, quitting cold turkey is never recommended. The safest and most effective way to stop misusing muscle relaxants is by doing so under the supervision of a doctor.
If you think that a loved one may be addicted to muscle relaxants, here are a few common signs of addiction to look for:
- Continuing to take muscle relaxants after they’re no longer medically needed
- Needing larger or more frequent doses to feel the same effects
- Feeling strange, tired, or sick when the muscle relaxant wears off
- Feeling unable to stop using muscle relaxers
- Losing interest in regular hobbies and activities
- Stealing or borrowing money to buy muscle relaxers from friends or dealers
- Hiding muscle relaxer use from others
- Major changes in sleeping habits or appetite
- Taking muscle relaxants with other drugs or alcohol11
Chronic use or misuse of muscle relaxers can quickly lead to physical dependence and addiction. It can also cause serious medical problems, overdose, or death. Although you may feel like you’ll never be able to quit, the truth is, you can. There is help available and you can get sober.
If you’re ready to take the first step, a medical detox program is a great place to start. Medical detox provides a safe and supportive environment as well as medical management for withdrawal symptoms so you can rest comfortably. Clinical counseling is also provided, which can help you cope with some of the psychological symptoms of withdrawal and prepare you for entry into a rehab program if you choose to continue your treatment.
After detox, inpatient or outpatient drug rehab is often the next step. This phase of the addiction treatment process allows for continued healing with individual and group therapy, educational lectures, recovery programming such as the 12 Step Program, Smart Recovery, etc., and professional and peer support.
Many people who are recovering from muscle relaxant addiction also choose to continue their treatment with sober living programs and aftercare services. These programs provide essential support and accountability to help newly sober individuals prevent or deal with relapse and gradually acclimate back into society after rehab.
At Nova Recovery Center, we understand your struggle. We know how it feels to be addicted, defeated, and hopeless, but we also know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re ready to take advantage of our personalized treatment services, call (512) 605-2955 today to speak with an admissions specialist and learn more about our detox, rehab, sober living, and aftercare services.
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