Muscle relaxers or muscle relaxants refer to a group of medications that affect skeletal muscle functioning and reduce muscle tone.
These medications are usually prescribed to alleviate symptoms like muscle spasms, pain, and hyperreflexia. The term muscle relaxant refers to two major drug groups: neuromuscular blockers and spasmolytics. Common types of muscle relaxers include Baclofen, Soma, Lorzone, Cyclobenzaprine, Dantrium, and various types of benzodiazepines. As with other medications, a major concern among prescribed patients is the risk of overdose, so today, we’re looking into whether you can overdose on muscle relaxers.
How Do Muscle Relaxers Work?
Muscle relaxers work by reducing stiffness and tension in the muscle, reducing pain and discomfort. Muscle relaxants like Baclofen, diazepam, methocarbamol, and tizanidine act on the central nervous system (CNS).
Specifically, muscle relaxers bind to acetylcholine receptors (AChR) in the brain. Acetylcholine is the primary neurotransmitter in the parasympathetic system, which plays a major role in smooth muscle contraction, blood vessel dilation, increasing bodily secretion, and reducing heart rate.
Muscle relaxers are designed to reduce cramping, spasms, stiffness, and other similar muscular issues that may produce pain or discomfort.
Causes of Muscle Relaxant Overdose
To be clear, yes, you can overdose on muscle relaxers. Although a muscle relaxer overdose is different from a heroin or cocaine overdose, it’s both risky and possible, nonetheless.
Muscle relaxant overdose symptoms can occur if the person takes a higher dose than prescribed. Other factors that can increase one’s risk of a muscle relaxer overdose include increased tolerance, age, gender, polysubstance use, and recreational use.
Tolerance and dependence can occur when taking muscle relaxers regularly. When someone has developed tolerance to a drug, they may require a higher dose to experience the same effect.
Additionally, physical drug dependence occurs when the brain and body are unable to function normally without the drug. As tolerance and physical dependence grow, a person taking muscle relaxers may increase their dose to experience relief from their symptoms, thus increasing their risk of overdose.
Age is a big contributing factor to overdosing on muscle relaxants, as those who are elderly are more likely to be heavily affected by higher doses of these drugs due to a slowed metabolism. This also means that the elderly are more likely to overdose on lower doses of muscle relaxants compared to younger adults.
Drinking alcohol with muscle relaxants can also affect the medication’s efficacy, causing the person to take higher doses to feel relief from their symptoms. This also increases the person’s potential for overdose.
What Happens When You Overdose On Muscle Relaxers?
How many muscle relaxers it takes to OD depends on the factors mentioned above, as well as the person’s regular dose and how long they’ve been taking the medication. Generally, taking 3 to 5 times the prescribed dose of any drug can lead to overdose.
This means that adults who are supposed to take 30 mg of Cyclobenzaprine per day can overdose if they take 60 mg or more. Common signs of muscle relaxer overdose include:
Respiratory depression or trouble breathing
Confusion and lethargy
Hypotension (low blood pressure)
Drowsiness or dizziness
Rigidity or stiffness
Muscle relaxant overdose symptoms may also vary depending on the dose and type of medication taken. Combining muscle relaxants with other drugs, such as alcohol, can intensify the side effects of muscle relaxants, making overdose symptoms more severe and dangerous.
If you recognize the signs of muscle relaxer overdose in anyone, call 9-1-1 immediately. This is a dangerous reaction that requires medical attention.
Help for Muscle Relaxer Abuse
Although overdose is unlikely in people who take muscle relaxers as prescribed, it can occur accidentally if the person happens to drink alcohol or take another medication with the muscle relaxant still in their system. Additionally, muscle relaxers are also addictive for some people.
Muscle relaxant abuse refers to taking higher doses than prescribed, taking them without a prescription, and mixing them with other drugs or alcohol. Engaging in muscle relaxer misuse can not only lead to addiction but also increase your risk of overdose.
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