What is Baclofen?
Baclofen, also known under the brand names Lioresal® and Gablofen®, is a special type of muscle relaxing medication. Many different types of patients could take this medicine. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis or other spinal injuries, such as spasms, cramps, and muscle tightness can be relieved by this drug. This medicine comes in two oral forms: powder to be dissolved in liquid and in a tablet.1
Dosage depends on the condition that it is being used to treat. The usual dosage is 5-20 mg three times a day, increasing incrementally as directed. No more than a total of 80 mg should be consumed in one day. Baclofen may help relieve cerebral and spinal spasticity in adults in children, with amount per dose varying based on age, condition, and individual person.2 The medication can be taken with or without food. It is important to keep a schedule and take the medicine at the same times each day. If a patient misses a dose, they should take that dose as soon as they remember. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, they should skip the missed dose. A patient should not take a double dose to try to make up for the missed one.3
Before taking this medicine, the patient should tell a doctor about any allergies that they have to medications, foods, dyes, preservatives, and animals. Other medical conditions, like type 2 diabetes, epilepsy, kidney disease, brain diseases, and mental problems may not interact well with baclofen. Be sure to always weigh the pros and cons before taking any kind of medication. Age, especially in those who are older, may also be a factor in increasing the odds of side effects when taking the drug.4
Common baclofen side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, and muscle weakness. Chest pain, fainting, and hallucinations are just a few of the less common side effects of baclofen. It is important to keep a doctor informed of any side effects. Symptoms of overdose include seizures, trouble breathing, vomiting, blurred or double vision, and severe weakness in the muscles.5 The use of other drugs that cause sleepiness or affect the breathing in addition to this drug is discouraged, as more dangerous side effects can result from the mixture. Even over-the-counter and herbal medicines may interact with baclofen. Consult with a doctor to find out what is safe to take with this drug.6
According to some studies, this medication can be used to help treat addiction. It mimics the increase in dopamine levels of addiction, “thereby lessening cravings for the addictive substance”. It shows promise in some areas of addiction, though it is still considered experimental to be used as a treatment for addiction. The dosage should be decreased incrementally over the course of 1-2 weeks to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which include anxiety, psychosis, convulsions, and arrhythmic heartbeat.7
Is Baclofen a Narcotic?
Baclofen is not a narcotic, nor is it addictive. It has been chemically compared to gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a supplement that is naturally made in the brain and can be taken to improve mood. These effects are found in baclofen in the form of supposed addiction relief. Despite its status as a non-narcotic medication, there are withdrawal symptoms associated with the medicine, as previously mentioned.8
Comparison to Flexeril
A medication that shares similar effects with baclofen is Flexeril. Both medications are used to treat muscle spasms. Baclofen works in the nervous system while Flexeril works in the brain. The benefit of baclofen over Flexeril is that the former can be used long-term while the latter is a short-term treatment. Both are available as generic medications, as well. Flexeril could probably be taken during pregnancy while the mother-to-be might have to weigh the risks and benefits with baclofen, which has shown harmful effects on unborn babies in animals.9
Alternative Treatments for Muscle Spasms
Medications are not necessarily the first place to start when it comes to muscle spasms. Physiotherapy could help a patient resolve their pain without the side effects and risks of drugs. Regular chiropractic adjustments may help realign the body and loosen the muscles to prevent spasms. Chiropractors have many tools that they can use to assist in the adjustment and realignment of the body. A chiropractor may also recommend massage therapy. Massage could also relax the muscles and reduce inflammation caused by cramps and spasms, and it can be regularly paired with chiropractic care and at-home maintenance.10
A chiropractor can recommend stretches to do at home to help prevent spasms and strengthen the body. There are many useful exercises and stretches a patient can try. Some helpful stretches include prayer pose, the cat/horse backstretch, hamstring stretch, and seal stretch.11 Downward dog, pigeon, triangle, and upward dog are all yoga poses that may be performed. Be sure to maintain good posture when stretching and posing so as not to create more issues. It is good to stretch and relax the muscles after physical activity. Take breaks from activities such as reading or using the computer or phone for extended periods of time, and use these breaks to stretch out the inactive body parts. Staying properly hydrated can also help prevent muscle spasms.12
Find out more about causes and treatments of muscle spasms.