Many people either believe that prescription drugs are safe enough to take along with alcohol, or they might drink while taking a particular drug to intensify its side effects. This is also the case for baclofen and alcohol. Many people mix these depressants to produce an intense sense of sedation and relaxation. There’s even a claim that taking baclofen reduces alcohol withdrawal, but it’s yet to be proven. However, mixing baclofen and alcohol is certainly dangerous, and today we’re going to take a look at the risks.
What Is Baclofen?
Also known by brand names like Lioresal and Gablofen, baclofen is a prescription muscle relaxant that’s prescribed to treat muscle pains, spasms, and stiffness in people with diseases like multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and spinal cord injury. Unlike other muscle relaxers, baclofen is not designed to treat Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, or strokes.
Baclofen acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and reduces muscle stiffness and spasms by interacting with GABA receptors. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks certain nerve signals sent from the muscles to the spinal cord. In other words, it blocks pain signaling while relaxing the body to provide the patient with relief.
Baclofen is only available through prescription and comes in a pill form of an intrathecal baclofen pump. Intrathecal baclofen therapy (ITB) consists of delivering the drug in a liquid form into the spinal fluid using a device called a baclofen pump. This form of baclofen administration is usually only used to treat severe muscle spasms or spasticity.
The ITB consists of a baclofen pump and a catheter that brings the medication from the pump into the spinal fluid. The pump is surgically implanted on the abdomen under the skin and is about 1 to 3 inches thick. The battery in the pump usually lasts around 5 to 7 years and is programmed with a wand placed over the skin.
The pump is then refilled every 1 to 6 months (depending on the person’s dose and severity of symptoms) by a trained healthcare professional. In some cases, refills are done at home, but follow-up visits are required several times a year to ensure that the medication is being administered correctly. The dose of baclofen in ITB can be adjusted at any time, but the adjustment needs to be made by medical professionals.
This form of ITB is usually reserved for patients who experience adverse reactions to the oral version of baclofen or can’t take the drug orally for any reason. Even so, regardless of how it’s taken, baclofen can produce unwanted side effects in all patients, such as:
- Weak or shallow breathing
- Twitching in the hands, feet, or legs
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nausea and or vomiting
- Upset stomach
- Frequent urination
It’s crucial to tell your doctor about any other medications or supplements you take if you’ve been prescribed baclofen. It’s also important to take the medication as prescribed, which is usually more of a risk for people who take baclofen orally rather than ITB.
Side Effects of Mixing Baclofen and Alcohol
Both alcohol and baclofen are CNS depressants, which means they both interact with neurotransmitters to create a relaxed and mellow effect, particularly GABA. For this reason, some people may take baclofen and alcohol together to achieve a more intense, relaxed, and sedated effect.
Another reason someone might mix baclofen and alcohol is to mitigate alcohol withdrawal symptoms and even hangovers. This may persuade someone who goes out to drink regularly with friends to combine their drink with the drug in the hopes they’ll be able to avoid withdrawals or a hangover the next day.
In reality, however, combining these drugs can actually produce an intensified effect. Despite any research or claims regarding the effects of drinking on baclofen, it’s important to remember that mixing any drug with alcohol can have a dangerous result.
Common side effects of baclofen and alcohol include:
- Extreme weakness
- Impaired judgment
- Impaired motor movement and coordination
A baclofen and alcohol interaction is an example of a pharmacodynamic interaction, which refers to an interaction in which alcohol enhances the effects of a medication, especially its impact on the CNS. These types of interactions can lead to various dangerous responses in the body.
For instance, in the case of a 46-year-old patient who mixed 240 mg of baclofen with alcohol, the patient experienced two seizures despite having a medical history that was free of neurological disorders of which seizures might be a symptom.1 If you or a loved one has been prescribed baclofen, it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.
Baclofen and Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Mixing drugs with alcohol is also a form of substance abuse, especially if it’s done to get high or heavily sedated. Polysubstance abuse is common among people who are currently addicted to a drug and desire a more intense high. However, both alcohol and baclofen have a potential for abuse, and taking them together increases your risk of addiction as well as uncomfortable withdrawals and other complications.
Fortunately, our Banyan rehab locations offer various addiction treatment programs, such as medically monitored detox, to help people with drug use disorders physically and mentally recover. Our nationwide detox programs are led by medical teams that administer medication to clients (as needed) to alleviate withdrawals and keep them as safe and comfortable as possible during detox.
Relapse is common during the withdrawal phase of addiction recovery, as these symptoms are often difficult to manage without help, which is why medical support is crucial. Our drug and alcohol treatment centers also offer both illicit and prescription drug addiction treatment, so we may help as many people break free from addiction as possible.