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Baclofen Abuse: Addiction Signs & Treatment Options

Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that’s sometimes used to treat alcohol addiction. It’s also used for treating multiple sclerosis and muscle spasms due to spinal cord injuries. Some people develop a dependence or an addiction to baclofen. Although the Drug Enforcement Administration has described the prescription drug as non-addictive, we have come across people who use it to get high and who are seeking help to stop using the drug.

Baclofen is also known by the generic names ava-baclofen and apo-baclofen. Common brand names include Baclodol, Lyflex, Lioresal, Gablofen, Kemstro, and Beklo.

How Does Baclofen Help Reduce Alcohol Use Problems?

Researchers still aren’t entirely clear about why baclofen has been helpful in reducing alcohol use in those who are addicted to alcohol. Researchers think it’s because both alcohol and baclofen increase GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the nerve cells. When GABA is activated, it slows down certain electrical signals that are responsible for muscle pain and spasticity. When a person takes baclofen, it takes up GABA receptors that would have otherwise been activated by alcohol.

In a 2012 study of 100 high-risk alcohol users, 92 of them stopped having cravings for alcohol after using baclofen. Half of the respondents overcame being high-risk alcohol users within three months; they were now low-risk alcohol users. Before this study, all of the participants had previously tried other addiction treatment methods, but it was baclofen that helped them in overcoming their alcohol use problems. The study lasted for two years, and the drug worked during those two years for curbing alcohol use.

Very Low Rates of Addiction

It’s rare that you would develop an addiction to baclofen because it doesn’t have addictive qualities. However, marijuana is also a drug that’s not very addictive, yet some people become addicted to it. You can really become addicted to anything. Because of the low addiction rates, there aren’t many statistics surrounding baclofen addiction. Using it recreationally would increase your risk of becoming addicted because you wouldn’t be taking it in safe, regular doses. High doses of the drug also aren’t as effective in treating addiction as lower doses.

Overdosing on baclofen may cause:

  • Convulsions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular breathing
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakened muscles
  • Pale or blue lips, skin, or fingernails

You should immediately seek emergency help if you or someone you know has overdosed on baclofen.

When you have missed a dose of your baclofen prescription, you should skip that dose if the time is close to the next dose that you’re supposed to take. Double doses put you at higher risk of ill effects.

Don’t Suddenly Stop Baclofen

Baclofen can cause dangerous withdrawal effects like organ failure and death when you suddenly stop taking it. You need a doctor to guide you through the process of weaning yourself off of the medication. If you are addicted to the drug, you should enroll in a drug addiction treatment program to assist in fully overcoming your addiction.

You may have seizures, hallucinations, rhabdomyolysis, or a high fever when you try quitting cold turkey or when you decrease your dose without a doctor’s guidance. Other withdrawal symptoms include agitation, delusions, confusion, insomnia, psychosis, visual changes, rigid muscles, hyperthermia, dyskinesia, and increased spasticity.

Experiencing withdrawal is a sign that you are dependent or addicted to the substance. Withdrawal could occur even if you have been taking the medication as it was prescribed. This possibility is true of other prescription drugs as well. It’s important to know the connection between withdrawal symptoms and drug dependence or addiction in order to promptly receive help. There are varying degrees of severity with drug dependence and addiction. It’s easiest to overcome in the early stages when the addiction hasn’t gained a strong grip on you.

How you take the drug, how long you have been taking the drug, and your dosage influence how long withdrawal symptoms last when you begin to stop using baclofen. Those who receive spinal injections typically have worse withdrawal than those who take the oral form of baclofen.

The withdrawal timeline is similar to that of alcohol. Baclofen withdrawal symptoms can start just a few hours after your last dose, and they usually peak at 72 hours. It could take as long as 48 hours for withdrawal to start. Sometimes, baclofen withdrawal lasts for several weeks. The psychological symptoms can persist for months.

How Baclofen Affects a Baby

If you took baclofen while pregnant, your newborn might have neonatal withdrawal syndrome. Infants may experience tremors, shakiness, increased muscle tone, or seizures. Take them to the doctor if they have any of these symptoms.

Treatment Options for Baclofen Addiction

You will first have to go through a detox to safely wean your body off of the drug. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency. Common treatment programs for baclofen last 30, 60, and 90 days. We recommend choosing a treatment plan that lasts at least 90 days for more permanent change. It can take a person 90 days to make a new habit stick. Through rehab, you will be learning and developing various skills that you want to make into habits for enjoying better mental health. Oftentimes, it’s not knowing how to handle life’s stresses that lead to someone developing an addiction. You learn healthy coping skills in rehab.

Granite Recovery Center is an addiction treatment center that can help you with your need for baclofen. The knowledgeable staff members are skilled at guiding people through overcoming addiction, and they show compassion while they do so. You have a wide range of options at Granite Recovery Center, including gender-based rehab, dual diagnosis treatment, 12-step curriculum, inpatient care, outpatient care, aftercare, and alumni programs.

Men’s and Women’s Rehab

Studies have shown that both men and women benefit from gender-based rehab. Each gender has their unique struggles that play a role in addiction and recovery. Men often have to overcome a fear of appearing weak to society if they acknowledge their addictions and enroll in rehab. When women are in group therapy with men, it presents another barrier for those males to open up. They subconsciously want to appear tough and strong in front of women.

Sexual assault and domestic violence are major issues for women, and many women who develop a drug addiction have been victims of sexual and domestic violence. It’s easier for them to relax and to feel safe in a women’s treatment program rather than a program that includes both genders. Even if you’re not consciously aware that you’re more on guard in a group with men, you typically are when you have been a victim of male-related trauma.

Men who were victims of sexual assault may also feel more comfortable opening up in a men’s rehab. The staff understands that men take longer than women to begin discussing their emotions and past traumas, so the approach in a men’s rehab is catered to the unique needs of men.

If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, you can find LGBTQ-friendly treatment programs where you will feel safe too. You will know that the others in your group therapy aren’t going to be prejudiced against you.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you have another mental health disorder besides baclofen substance use, then you need dual diagnosis treatment to recover. The other mental health issue needs to be addressed because it influences the addiction. When you enroll in a rehab, you undergo a thorough mental health evaluation to uncover any unknown psychological disorders. Some people feel scared about getting a diagnosis, but awareness is essential for improving your life. With willingness and persistence, you can manage your symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.

12-Step Curriculum

The 12-step treatment option involves admitting that you have lost control over the drug and that a higher power could help you overcome it. Some people shy away from this option because they aren’t religious. Members don’t need to be religious, however, to go through 12-step treatment. You can interpret the power greater than yourself in the way you want. People of different religions can also receive 12-step treatment for addiction. You can be an atheist, or maybe you believe that the power greater than yourself is science or nature. All are welcome to engage in this type of treatment for baclofen addiction.

Inpatient Care

Inpatient rehab is staying at the rehab center for more than 28 days. How long you live at the center is based on the specific program you choose. Inpatient programs may last 30, 60, or 90 days. It’s not necessary to go through inpatient care for baclofen addiction if your addiction is mild. Those who have a severe addiction of any type typically need inpatient care to break the baclofen habit. It’s virtually impossible to use drugs while you are in inpatient treatment.

Outpatient Care

Outpatient rehab usually lasts three to 12 months, depending on the program you enroll in. We highly recommend that if you choose inpatient rehab, you go through outpatient rehab directly after in order to increase your chances of maintaining sobriety upon returning home. You want to put yourself in an environment where you are being encouraged to continue implementing the skills you learned in rehab to stay sober and to handle life’s curveballs in a positive way. Outpatient rehab is great for helping you stay on track with overcoming your baclofen addiction. You’ll receive treatment 10–12 hours a week in this type of rehab.

Psychotherapy

The most common type of psychotherapy used in drug rehab programs is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Dialectical behavior therapy and motivational interviewing may also be incorporated. Research has found these therapies to be effective in treating addictions. CBT helps you change your way of thinking in order to change your behaviors and feelings. There is a connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which is why you want to gain more awareness and control over your thoughts. Many negative thoughts slip by a person’s consciousness. It takes practice in mindfulness to become aware of those thoughts.

Other skills you learn in cognitive behavioral therapy are problem solving and self-awareness. Through increasing your self-awareness, you can see when your fears are playing a role in bad decisions or inaction. CBT helps you to become more confident in yourself and to take actions that move you closer to achieving your goals, whether those goals are to be a good parent or to earn a higher income.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is typically used for people who have gone through trauma or who experience self-harm problems. It’s geared at emotion regulation, stability, and relationships. DBT is similar to CBT as it branched off from that psychotherapy. Originally, DBT was developed for treating borderline personality disorder, but research has found it effective for other mental health issues, including addiction and self-harm.

When you’re addicted to baclofen, it may feel as if there’s no help because it’s not one of the common drugs like alcohol, cocaine, and Xanax. Our drug addiction treatment at Granite Recovery Center is knowledgeable about addictions to a wide range of drugs, including the well-known and the lesser-known. We welcome patients with any type of drug addiction to go through our treatment programs.