If you have been wondering “Are muscle relaxers addictive”, today’s guide will highlight the potential dangers of these prescription medications.
Muscle relaxers, sometimes called muscle relaxants, are medications prescribed for the treatment of acute muscle pain and for the discomfort triggered by muscle spasms. A muscle spasm is an involuntary contraction capable of causing excessive muscle strain. Muscle spasms are typically associated with neck pain and lower back pain.
The medications prescribed as muscle relaxers vary in chemical structure and mechanism of action. Some muscle relaxers are CNS depressants causing a sedative effect, while others disrupt the transmission of pain signals between nerves and the brain.
What are Muscle Relaxers?
Muscle relaxers are used to treat muscle spasms and spasticity (muscle stiffness). These prescription medications serve to relax and calm your entire body rather than acting only on the muscles.
The onset of action is swift with effects usually lasting from four to six hours.
The most common type of muscle relaxants are known as spasmolytics or antispasmodic drugs – more on those below. Physicians typically prescribe this type of muscle relaxant for treating the pain associated with:
- Neurological disorders
- Muscle spasms
- Tense muscles
- Lower back pain
- Tension headaches
You take muscle relaxers in tablet form. Alternatively, the medication can be administered intravenously.
Muscle relaxants are most effective for the treatment of acute pain rather than chronic pain. These medications can be especially efficacious when other OTC medications like Advil or Tylenol are ineffective for reducing muscle pain.
Types of Muscle Relaxers
There are two primary types of muscle relaxers:
1) Antispasmodic medications
Also called spasmolytics or anticholinergics, this type of muscle relaxer is used to prevent, relieve, or reduce muscle spasms.
Antispasmodics stop nerve impulses in the CNS (central nervous system) or act on smooth muscles directly.
Common examples of antispasmodics include Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine) and Zanaflex (tizanidine).
2) Antispasticity medications
Antispasticity medications are used for the treatment of excessive muscle stiffness – muscle spasticity.
These medications can reduce muscle stiffness in your skeletal muscles or alter nerve transmission on your spinal cord.
Common examples of antispasticity medications include Catapres (clonidine) and Lioresal (baclofen).
Beyond these two main types, some muscle relaxants have both antispastic and antispasmodic effects. Additionally, benzodiazepine like Valium can be prescribed as muscle relaxers.
There are also muscle relaxers called NMBAs (neuromuscular blocking agents). These medications are sometimes used when administering general anesthesia or while inserting breathing tubes. NMBAs can cause temporary paralysis.
Even if muscle relaxants are used precisely as directed, they can cause the following side effects:
- Dry mouth
- GI issues
None of the above side effects are any cause for concern.
Misusing or abusing muscle relaxers, though, can bring about more severe and dangerous side effects, including hallucinations, paralysis, and seizure.
Are muscle relaxers addictive, then?
Addiction to Muscle Relaxers
Not all muscle relaxants have a high potential for abuse and addiction, although some can be very addictive.
Common muscle relaxers that can cause addiction are:
- Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine)
- Soma (carisoprodol)
- Valium (diazepam)
Most incidences of muscle relaxer abuse and addiction involve Soma and Flexeril. While Valium is highly addictive, it is less frequently prescribed as a muscle relaxant than the above medications.
Soma is a schedule IV controlled substance due to its known potential for misuse and dependence. When your body breaks this drug down, this causes the production of meprobamate, itself a schedule IV substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The relaxing and tranquilizing properties of meprobamate make it highly addictive.
Muscle relaxers like Flexeril and Soma are designed for the short-term treatment of acute pain. Long-term use or misuse of these medications often leads to dependence and addiction.
Common side effects of abusing muscle relaxants include:
- Severe allergic reactions
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart failure
- Inflammation of the liver
- Lowered immunity
Regrettably, many people take muscle relaxers – either alone or in combination with other substances – for nonmedical reasons. These drugs can trigger feelings of dissociation while intensifying feelings of euphoria. According to the DEA, Soma is among the most diverted drugs in the U.S.
How to Quit Muscle Relaxers
Many muscle relaxers cause withdrawal symptoms to manifest when you discontinue use of the medication. To mitigate this, your healthcare provider may gradually taper your dosage to lessen the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. The most common muscle relaxant withdrawal symptoms include:
- Generalized discomfort
Symptoms typically peak after between two and four days after the last dose of muscle relaxers. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms may linger for up to two weeks.
When you’re ready to stop using muscle relaxers, a supervised medical detox is the optimum starting point for recovery. A medical detox provides a safe and supportive environment as well as the clinical and emotional care you need to withdraw from muscle relaxers as comfortably as possible. Clinical counseling will help you to negotiate the psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with muscle relaxer withdrawal while also preparing you for ongoing rehab.
You have the option of either inpatient or outpatient treatment. Both offer the same services and therapies. With inpatient or residential rehab, you remain at the treatment facility for 30 to 90 days. Outpatient rehab involves therapy sessions on weekdays. Between sessions, you return home. For most cases of muscle relaxer addiction, outpatient treatment serves as the perfect platform for sustained recovery. We can help you with that here at The District Recovery Community.
Drug Addiction Treatment at The District Recovery
Whether you are addicted to prescription medications like muscle relaxers, alcohol, or illicit drugs, we offer personalized and gender-specific drug addiction treatment here at TDRC.
If you have a mild drug addiction, you may find that our regular outpatient program offers you sufficient support to initiate your ongoing recovery. If you have a moderate or more severe drug addiction, we offer the following more intensive treatment programs:
- IOP (intensive outpatient program): 12 to 15 hours of therapy each week.
- PHP (partial hospitalization program): 30 to 35 hours of therapy each week.
Whatever level of intensity makes the right fit, you’ll have access to evidence-based treatments and holistic therapies here at The District. These are the core components of all our drug addiction treatment programs:
- Counseling (individual and group)
- Psychotherapy (talk therapies like CBT or DBT)
- Family therapy
- MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
When you complete your treatment program at TDRC, you can shift down to a less intensive form of treatment or transition directly back into sober living.
To kickstart your recovery from addiction to muscle relaxers, reach out to admissions today at 844.287.8506.