What Constitutes a Muscle Relaxant?
A muscle relaxant is a drug category that relieves acute muscle spasms or muscle pains. This can be life-changing for patients with painful conditions. But that does not mean that these drugs are without their issues, especially when muscle relaxers and alcohol are combined.
Muscle relaxants have a high potential for abuse, and long-term use or abuse can cause a variety of health complications. These complications can be both mental and physical. And the risk becomes greater when muscle relaxants are mixed with alcohol or other substances.
Common Prescription Muscle Relaxers
Some of the most common prescription muscle relaxers include:
- Cyclobenzaprine (brand name Flexeril)
- Tizanidine (brand name Zanaflex)
- Carisoprodol (brand name Soma)
Diazepam also treats muscle spasms, although it falls more specifically into the benzodiazepine category. It is more frequently used to treat anxiety, seizures, and alcohol withdrawals. Antidepressants are another drug category that may be used in small doses to relieve chronic low back pain.
They alter the levels of certain chemicals in the brain to change the way it notices and responds to pain. But muscle relaxers, despite the name, don’t work directly on the muscles either. Instead, they work through the spinal cord and brain to reduce pain.
Common Uses for Muscle Relaxers
Often, muscle relaxers are taken alongside over-the-counter pain relievers. Together, the two help reduce the symptoms of muscle spasms, back pain, or neck pain. Muscle relaxers are often prescribed after an injury.
Most medical professionals reserve them for intense pains or spasms after a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, or for another short-term need. They are meant for short-term treatments only and are rarely prescribed for more than two or three weeks at a time.
Can You Get Addicted to Muscle Relaxers?
The short and direct answer to this question is yes. You can become addicted to muscle relaxers. And many people have. This is why professionals recommend them for short-term relief rather than as long-term solutions.
Prolonged use of muscle relaxers can cause an increased tolerance and physical dependence. Increased tolerance means that, over time, you need more of the drug to achieve the same effects.
For example, when you begin taking muscle relaxers after an accident, one dose may be enough to relieve your pain or spasms and help you sleep for six hours. But after three weeks of taking a muscle relaxer, this same dose may only relieve your pain for three hours.
In a week or two, you may feel better for an hour or not at all. Your body has built a tolerance to the drug, which makes you feel compelled to take more of it. When this cycle continues for long enough, your body and brain become reliant on that little pill.
The Dangers of Mixing Muscle Relaxants and Alcohol
Taking a muscle relaxer with alcohol can cause some troubling mental and physical health impairments. Not only does it increase the risk of dangerous side effects, but it also makes an overdose more likely. And it increases the likelihood of addiction, too.
The side effects of mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol can vary. There are individual factors, like your height, weight, and medical history, that may alter the side effects that you experience. The drug itself may cause slightly different effects, too.
And the method of use, frequency, and dosage can alter your side effects, as well. But whether the combination is cyclobenzaprine and alcohol, metaxalone and alcohol, or Zanaflex and alcohol, some things remain the same.
A Warning Against Drinking on Muscle Relaxers
Drinking with muscle relaxers can be dangerous. While relief from pain and muscle spasms are two of the side effects that individuals taking muscle relaxers look for, there are other potential side effects that you should be aware of.
Muscle relaxers can also cause nausea and vomiting, confusion, drowsiness, and dizziness. You may notice a warning label on your pills instructing you not to drive or operate heavy machinery while taking them.
You will also find a section instructing you not to drink alcohol while taking them. Following these instructions may help you avoid a potentially fatal accident or health condition. Alcohol can worsen these side effects and produce new ones.
Side Effects of Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol
We have already mentioned that alcohol can worsen the dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, nausea, and vomiting that may come with muscle relaxers. But this is not an all-inclusive list. Mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol can also slow your breathing to dangerous levels, reduce coordination or motor control, and impair your memory.
Overdoses, accidents, falls, and memory problems become more likely, as do seizures. There is no safe way to combine alcohol and muscle relaxers without the care or guidance of a medical professional. Care should be taken to avoid alcohol while on prescription pills.
When in doubt, discuss your drinking habits, prescription medications, medical history, and dosages with your primary care doctor. They will be able to better advise you on how your specific medications will interact with other substances and how to remain safely medicated.
What Are the Most Severe Effects of Alcohol and Muscle Relaxers?
Nausea and vomiting, dizziness and drowsiness, and confusion are nothing to brush off. These side effects often escalate to include memory problems, accidents, and seizures. From there, there is still the potential for your side effects to become more severe.
Feeling very weak or severely impaired is common when mixing prescription pills and alcohol. You may also experience low blood pressure, which may cause you to faint. Blurry vision and shallow breathing are two symptoms to watch for.
Muscle relaxers and alcohol have similar effects on the body. Taking them together can overwhelm your body and brain to the point of causing irreparable brain damage or a fatal overdose. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or heartbeat abnormalities, stop drinking and seek medical attention.
Can You Overdose on Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol?
It is possible to overdose on both muscle relaxers and alcohol. When you take them together, the risk is heightened. In 2016, there were 14,731 emergency room visits due to the nonmedical use of muscle relaxants.
Of these hospitalizations, 78.9% involved multiple pharmaceuticals or other substances. There is no specific percentage for alcohol, but we know that mixing muscle relaxers and other prescription medications with alcohol is common practice.
Treatment for Abuse of Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol
Polysubstance addiction is what we call an addiction to multiple substances at once. If you or someone you love is addicted to muscle relaxers and alcohol, we can help. We offer a variety of inpatient and outpatient programs to ensure that our clients get the support they need.
Our treatment program options include:
- Residential addiction rehab
- Intensive outpatient rehab
- Partial hospitalization program
- Substance abuse counseling
During these programs, you will have access to the care, support, and guidance of our knowledgeable and compassionate addiction experts. Whether you choose a full or part-time program, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions here.
We will build a program and schedule as unique as you are, ensuring that we focus on the treatment methods that will help you the most. Most include behavioral therapies, support groups, and other proven addiction treatments. Call us today at 818-391-5259. Choose a better way.