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Dangers of Mixing Baclofen and Alcohol

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 2021

James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

You have probably heard of Lioresal; it is the brand name for the drug baclofen. It is a drug that depresses the central nervous system and that treats muscle spasms.

What Is Baclofen?

Baclofen is often prescribed as a skeletal muscle relaxant. This drug is often taken by athletes who are looking to recover comfortably from injuries as well as by people who experience skeletal muscle spasticity that results from various physical conditions and diseases.

Baclofen is frequently prescribed to people who have a history of multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, spinal cord disorders, or injuries, which all have the potential to cause debilitating muscle spasms. These painful and uncomfortable conditions can interfere with the activities of daily living, work, and even restful sleep. If left untreated, they can cause more severe pain or other musculoskeletal issues throughout the body.

This drug is not intended for people who have conditions such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, or strokes. Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that achieves its function by interacting with GABA receptors located in the central nervous system. The drug blocks particular nerve signals that are sent from muscles to the spinal cord and acts as a central nervous system depressant. It is prescribed in the form of a pill, and it can also be administered via an intrathecal baclofen pump.

When it is administered via a pump, a catheter implanted under the skin releases precise doses of the drug. This method of administration is only used for people who cannot tolerate baclofen’s oral version or cannot take the pill for other reasons. The catheter needs to be supervised by a medical professional to ensure its function and to avoid complications. Physicians will try other means of resolving the issue without having to install a catheter. A catheter is only a temporary solution that should not be considered long-term.

Baclofen is rarely associated with misuse when taken by itself. Research has shown that this drug doesn’t produce any euphoric effects, cravings, or other addictive behavior. In fact, a study from the journal “European Addiction Research” in 2013 indicated that baclofen may be effectively used as a medication to treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Although baclofen’s potential to treat alcohol withdrawal is still being debated, there is conclusive clinical evidence that confirms that mixing alcohol and baclofen and can be extremely dangerous, even under the supervision of a physician.

As with all drugs, baclofen has beneficial therapeutic effects as well as potential side effects and risks. One of the most major risks of taking baclofen is that it can cause adverse withdrawal symptoms if the person suddenly stops taking it. Baclofen withdrawal symptoms can include episodes of:

  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures

The Mayo Clinic reports that mild and more common side effects of taking baclofen include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired balance and coordination

A person who takes baclofen may experience a deep sense of relaxation and well-being. This is especially true when large doses of the drug are taken. It is rare to see people abuse baclofen on its own, but the drug is commonly misused by mixing it with other central nervous system depressants.

The National Library of Medicine reports that, since it takes a much higher dose of baclofen to achieve a high, people who abuse the drug are at a greater risk of overdosing.

Why Is Alcohol Combined With Baclofen?

Alcohol and baclofen are similar in that they both create a relaxed feeling. They are depressants and lower the neurotransmitter levels in the brain. This creates a mellow and comfortable feeling, mild drowsiness, or a sense of peacefulness.

Mixing alcohol with baclofen decreases feelings of anxiety. It is the main reason why both substances are combined. Those who regularly experience pain are more likely to use alcohol to potentiate the effects of the painkillers they take.

On the other hand, some people might resort to using baclofen as a relief for alcohol withdrawal symptoms because they think that they will be less likely to experience a hangover if they take baclofen when they drink. Either way, it can be a dangerous combination, and other forms of relief should be used instead.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can potentially become serious as noted by WebMD. These symptoms include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sleeping disturbances
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Nightmares

Managing alcohol use disorder and severe withdrawal symptoms is best supervised by a physician. It is not recommended to treat yourself without professional help.

What Happens When Baclofen and Alcohol Are Mixed?

Although baclofen can possibly alleviate the symptoms of alcohol use disorder, it is crucial to keep in mind that combining the drug with alcohol can have debilitating consequences. Since they both act as depressants, taking them together can increase the side effects of baclofen, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Overriding weakness
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Dizziness

A journal published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine states that the effect that takes place as described above is known as pharmacodynamic interaction, which causes alcohol to enhance effects of medications that are particularly manifested in the central nervous system.

A peered-reviewed publication by the NCBI reports that clinical studies indicate that using baclofen with alcohol raises one’s heart rate and blood pressure along with other cardiovascular changes. This can be extremely problematic for patients who have preexisting cardiovascular conditions and other major medical conditions.

According to current medical research published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, baclofen and its effects on people who are experiencing alcohol use disorder are still being studied. For now, research has concluded that “social drinking” while taking baclofen may not be immediately toxic, but it is difficult to determine how many drinks are considered to be safe because each individual can handle different amounts of alcohol. In addition, alcohol has a different effect on people, and so does each person’s unique health profile. There are too many variables involved that need to be taken into consideration before determining that drinking alcohol while taking baclofen will be safe for you.

It is best to be cautious and to avoid drinking alcohol altogether while on baclofen. If you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal, speak to your physician about the best options to soothe your symptoms during this transitory period.

Interactions and Side Effects of Mixing Baclofen With Alcohol

Aside from the dangers of incorporating alcohol into any medication regimen, a person can suffer an overdose from taking baclofen alone. Even on its own, this drug can be extremely dangerous, which is why adding alcohol to the mix is disastrous.

This is particularly the case when people use the drug above its recommended dosage in an attempt to feel high, similar to what they would achieve with narcotics. Because both baclofen and alcohol depress the central nervous system, when simultaneously consumed, it is easier for a person to experience an overdose. The symptoms associated with a baclofen overdose include:

  • Vomiting
  • Extreme muscle weakness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nausea
  • Coma
  • Seizures

It is important that you avoid mixing alcohol with baclofen for any purpose. Patients should let their doctors know about all substances they regularly use before receiving a prescription for baclofen or any muscle relaxer.

What Should You Do If You Have Already Mixed Them?

In the case that you realize that you’ve mixed alcohol and baclofen, stop drinking at once, and seek medical attention immediately. This is vital if you don’t drink often or if you had more than one drink. Know the signs of an emergency by identifying these symptoms:

  • Extreme weakness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Impaired movements
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Confusion
  • Heart palpitations

Seeking Help

Granite Recovery Center provides evidence-based treatment programs, including clinical psychotherapy, that are supervised by licensed clinicians. Our approach includes scientifically supported psychotherapeutic methods that help people identify and reprogram harmful thought patterns and behaviors.

The brain is able to recover from alcohol or substance use disorder and to form new neural pathways that are beneficial to the mind and body. As your treatment progresses, you’ll start to notice obvious changes in the way that you feel, think, and behave. The new patterns will become second nature, and you’ll notice a new way of approaching life. The brain has the ability to adapt. There is a lot of hope when it comes to recovery.

Our integrated therapies can help you overcome alcohol or substance use disorder. We provide each patient with a customized treatment plan to target their specific profiles. Our goal is to ensure that you can effectively implement solutions and that you continue to progress through any type of substance use or mental health issue.

People who have been struggling with substance use disorder for a long time will likely benefit from our inpatient program, where they will live at the facility for several weeks. Those who opt for inpatient care typically require a more comprehensive medical program that could include medication-assisted treatment and diligent monitoring in addition to a full schedule of group and one-on-one therapies. Inpatient treatment is helpful for people whose environments are not conducive to staying clean.

People who complete inpatient rehab often transition into one of our sober living facilities. Being surrounded by people who are also in recovery is a great way to build a support system as you are all facing similar challenges. Sober living can also help people rebuild their confidence in their ability to live sober lives.

Those who have a strong support system outside of the facility and a lot of family and professional commitments might benefit from our intensive outpatient program during which they only come to the facility for part of the day. Outpatient therapy still relies heavily on different types of cognitive-behavioral therapy and the 12-step program.

No matter which model you choose, Granite Recovery Center has a dedicated health team that will take you through each step while providing the best support for you to reach your health goals. Once you have completed your program, we have a variety of aftercare options that will continue to guide you on your path to living your best life.

Granite Recovery Center helps people transform themselves through our commitment to innovation, accountability, and compassionate care for a long-lasting personal change. We are leading the industry by providing the highest quality mental health and treatment services. Come experience the difference that we can make in your recovery. You are meant to enjoy life, and we are here to assist you. Give us a call, or reach out on our website for more information.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.