ClickCease Muscle Relaxers: Abuse Signs, Withdrawal & Treatment Process - Granite Recovery Centers

Muscle Relaxers: Abuse Signs, Withdrawal & Treatment Process

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: September 22nd, 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.

Muscle pain can make it impossible to relax and have a good time. When you experience severe pain that limits your mobility, the problem may be dire. Muscle spasms can emerge from spine-related issues such as low back strain or whiplash. You might find yourself in great pain and discomfort whenever you try to move with tense or stiff muscles. The silver lining is that muscle spasms are treatable by using muscle relaxers, but the medication brings along the danger of abuse. When used correctly, the drugs can help to alleviate your pain and get you back on your feet. However, abusing the medication can lead to a substance use disorder.

Muscle Relaxers Explained

Involuntary contractions can create extreme strain in your muscles (spasms), and neck pain and lower back pain can accompany muscle spasms. If you tried over-the-counter drugs to relieve muscle pain, but they didn’t work, your doctor might prescribe muscle relaxers. This medication can also treat pain relating to tension headaches, neurological disorders, and tense muscles.

Muscle relaxers work on the central nervous system (CNS), depressing it and creating a soothing effect, such that your nerves stop transferring pain signals to your brain. The result is calm and relaxation of your muscles and your entire body. The drugs come in various chemical structures and vary in how they affect the brain.

Muscle Relaxer Examples

The typical muscle relaxers include:

  • Carisoprodol, also known as Soma – A Schedule IV drug with the potential for abuse, Soma can cause dizziness and drowsiness. Physicians strongly advise against long-term use or use by people with an addiction history.
  • Cyclobenzaprine, sold under the brand name Flexeril – With sedative properties, this drug has limited use during the day.
  • Metaxalone, or Skelaxin – The drug has a low sedation potential and may have a few side effects.
  • Methocarbamol – Going by the brand name Robaxin, methocarbamol usually treats back pain and is less sedating.
  • Baclofen – You will get this drug under the brand names Lioresal or Gablofen. The medication primarily treats muscle stiffness in patients with multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries.
  • Tizanidine – Typically known as as Zanaflex, this drug relieves muscle pain for people with cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.
  • Orphenadrine – Also known as Norflex, this medication treats muscle spasms and relieves stiffness and pain in muscles.

There are various ways that people use muscle relaxers. The two standard methods include orally by tablet form and intravenously via the bloodstream. Like everything else that alters the chemical composition of the brain, muscle relaxers bring about side effects.

The Side Effects

Whenever you take muscle relaxers, even as prescribed by your doctor, there are side effects that can occur. The appearance of these outcomes can be nearly immediate, and side effects can persist between four and six hours. Here are some common side effects that you might encounter after using muscle relaxers:

  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Depression

When you misuse muscle relaxers, you can experience severe side effects such as paralysis, hallucinations, seizures, and liver damage.

Muscle Relaxer Misuse

Muscle relaxers have a potential for misuse and subsequent addiction. You can develop a tolerance and even physical dependence if you rely on muscle relaxers to get through your day-to-day activities. That’s why the medication use should be on a short-term basis for approximately two to three weeks.

There are many ways that people misuse muscle relaxers, and the most common is using drugs for non-medical purposes, such as for gaining a euphoric feeling. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Soma is one of the most frequent muscle relaxers people misuse, either by forging prescriptions or by doctor shopping to acquire multiple medications.

People misuse muscle relaxers by combining them with other drugs such as opioids, tranquilizers, benzodiazepines, or even alcohol to obtain a euphoric high. The dangers affiliated with muscle relaxer abuse are numerous, top among them being the risk of overdose that can cause:

  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Stupor
  • Shock
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Coma
  • Respiratory depression
  • Death

Regardless of the warnings that drug companies and physicians provide patients regarding muscle relaxer misuse, countless people fall victim to addiction. With long-term use, you’re likely to become dependent and to exhibit withdrawal symptoms if you stop using the medication. That’s when it becomes difficult to quit.

Combining Alcohol with Muscle Relaxers

Alcohol works like muscle relaxers by depressing the CNS. Therefore, the side effects can worsen if you are taking both. You might exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Urine retention
  • Blurred vision
  • Memory problems
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Liver damage
  • Respiratory distress
  • Blackout
  • Seizures

There is also the possibility of an overdose if you combine muscle relaxer drugs and alcohol. Whereas some people take alcohol and muscle relaxers in combination to achieve a more potent high, others may be oblivious to the repercussions. Doctors recommend that you don’t operate heavy machinery, drive, or drink while on muscle relaxers.

Signs of Misuse

A lot of people go through behavioral changes after developing an addiction to drugs. There are general things you can look out for if you suspect muscle relaxer misuse or dependence:

  • A need for a larger dose or frequent medication to get the same sensation as before
  • A lack of appetite
  • A vast shift in sleeping habits
  • Borrowing money or stealing it to get drugs from dealers
  • Lacking an interest in activities or regular hobbies
  • Having the desire to quit muscle relaxer use but being unable to
  • Continuing to use muscle relaxers even when you don’t need them anymore
  • Having a strange and unpleasant feeling when the relaxant starts to wear off
  • Faking back pain or injuries to obtain muscle relaxant prescriptions
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about the drugs or plotting how to get a steady supply

People addicted to muscle relaxers may find it hard to admit that they have a problem, even if they are aware that they are misusing the drugs. Sometimes, facing the problem might be a daunting thing to do. That’s why you, as a loved one or concerned friend, should have the above signs in mind so that you prepare beforehand to get such people into an addiction treatment program whenever they’re ready to quit. On the other hand, if you are the one who is misusing muscle relaxer drugs and noticing the above symptoms, it’s never too late to get help.

Withdrawal and Detox

If you are misusing muscle relaxers and want to stop, the safest way is by enrolling in a detox program where a medical professional can supervise the detox process. That is because quitting these drugs can come with severe and long-lasting withdrawal symptoms that can be uncomfortable to endure. Muscle relaxer withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle twitching
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Impaired coordination or balance

If you choose to let the professionals guide you, then you will experience a more comfortable detox as professionals can use medications to manage your withdrawal symptoms. Granite Recovery Center provides a safe environment where you will get the support you need to get sober. In addition to eliminating all traces of the drugs from your system, the experts on staff will ensure minimal risk of relapse from withdrawal symptoms. 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.

The time it takes for withdrawal symptoms to subside or for detox to complete will vary depending on the type of muscle relaxant you used. Generally, you might start to experience withdrawal symptoms in a few days after your last use, but they can persist for days or weeks.

When it comes to detox completion, factors that may affect the withdrawal timeline include the amount of drug you used and biological factors like weight, age, and overall health.

Overcoming Muscle Relaxer Addiction: The Treatment Process

Detox is the first treatment step toward your recovery, which can also involve clinical counseling to help you with mental or psychological withdrawal symptoms. Supervised detox is also vital in preparing for a transition into the comprehensive rehab program that you choose.

You have the option of undergoing treatment in an inpatient setting via the inpatient rehab program. The treatment option involves living on site and taking part in the activities that physicians schedule. Granite Recovery Centers has residential drug treatment facilities for men and women. The staff strives to see you through your recovery by providing 24-hour monitoring and support. We also teach you the skills necessary to avoid relapse. Such programs essentially treat the psychological and physical effects of abusing muscle relaxants.

Intensive outpatient treatment is another option that you can consider. People who do not have a life-threatening muscle relaxer use disorder can undergo the detox process on an outpatient basis, commuting from home. Additionally, anyone who goes through the inpatient treatment program can transition into outpatient care. Addiction recovery is a continuous process, and you can still get the support that you need to go back to your everyday life.

Another treatment option available for those who misuse muscle relaxers is sober living homes. At Granite Recovery Centers, we understand that not everyone has a safe place that is conducive to a drug-free life. If you’re finished with inpatient care and feel like you might relapse at home, our apartment-style residences will be perfect. Its purpose is to help you acclimatize to the challenges or stressors of the real world. Another benefit of such a setting is that you’ll live among fellow recovering peers. You can also form bonds that can last long after you leave the program.

Why Choose a Rehab Center for Treatment?

Substance use disorder can take a toll on you, especially if you have no clue how to regain your sobriety. Rather than risk a relapse by quitting cold turkey, it’s best to leave the process to the experts. That’s why Granite Recovery Center exists. Whenever you’re ready to seek help for muscle relaxer use disorder, submit a rehab brochure request, and we will mail you a brochure containing our services. You can also contact us, and one of our admission specialists will guide you through the process of receiving treatment.

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.