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Baclofen: Is It Addictive or an Addiction Aid?

Body of a person explaining baclofen is addictive and also an addiction aid

Is baclofen addictive or an addiction aid? You may have heard of this drug before during addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one. Baclofen is a popular prescription muscle relaxant approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Increasingly preferred for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome and other illicit drug dependencies, the off-label use of baclofen has been causing a stir. To learn more about baclofen and Northpoint Seattle’s programs, including those for prescription drug addiction treatment, contact our knowledgeable team online or call 888.483.6031 today.

What Is Baclofen?

Baclofen is a potent, prescription muscle relaxant primarily prescribed for the treatment of spasticity brought on by conditions such as multiple sclerosis and other disorders affecting the spinal cord. Introduced in 1971, baclofen was initially created to treat severe epileptic seizures.

The Neurochemistry and Pharmacokinetics of Baclofen

A stereo-selective gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-B receptor agonist, baclofen is a drug that directly affects GABA’s activity—a major inhibitory neurotransmitter that acts on the central nervous system. By activating GABA, baclofen works to effectively minimize the exaggerated reflexes and muscle tone during spastic reactions caused due to traumatic spinal lesions and spinal degeneration and damage. Furthermore, it directly inhibits the release of excitatory neurotransmitters and inhibitory synaptic transmission.

Baclofen Prescription Information

Baclofen is commonly taken orally but can also be administered intrathecally for cerebral spasticity. It is quickly absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and reaches peak plasma concentration within one to three hours. The drug has a plasma half-life of two to four hours and undergoes minimal liver metabolism. Baclofen is also available as compounding powders and oral suspensions.

Lioresal, Glabofen, and Kemstro are different brand names for baclofen, a medication primarily used to treat various conditions. These conditions include spinal cord injury, spinal nerve damage, brain injury, trigeminal neuralgia, hypoxia, dystonia, cerebral palsy, and nocturnal myoclonus. Baclofen is prescribed to alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals facing these challenges.

Baclofen as an Addiction Aid

Baclofen was first used as an addiction aid in 2004 when French cardiologist Olivier Ameisen tested its effectiveness against alcohol addiction on himself. Subsequent research experiments confirmed that this GABA-B receptor agonist could suppress dopamine release stimulated by increased alcohol consumption.

Moreover, high doses of the muscle relaxant were found to significantly inhibit the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Baclofen has also shown promise in reducing alcohol cravings. Additionally, baclofen has proven effective in detoxification, treatment, and management of other illicit substances like opioids and cocaine.

The Potential for Abuse

The issue with treating any kind of addiction with baclofen is trifold:

  • One downside is that it only treats addiction symptoms, not the addiction itself. To achieve a true cure, patients need adequate complementary therapy and adjunctive rehab to fully eliminate addiction.
  • There is a high possibility of baclofen replacing the addiction modality instead of treating it.
  • There are grave adverse effects of its treatment through small doses prescribed for long-term use, with the possibility of developing extreme baclofen toxicity and even overdose at higher doses.

Despite the positive results and indications of the drug for addiction and other drug dependency treatments, it was found that baclofen abuse is a definite possibility.

The Adverse Effects of Baclofen Treatment

Baclofen, though a very effective medication for the treatment of muscle spasticity, has severe adverse effects that can be particularly debilitating for patients:

  • Profound, generalized weakness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Muscle contractions and trembling
  • Palpitations
  • Water retention
  • Cramping
  • Photosensitization
  • Vomiting
  • Sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Paresthesia
  • Sexual changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Memory loss
  • Urine incontinence
  • Mental confusion
  • Tinnitus
  • Increased sugar cravings
  • Weight loss
  • Skin rashes
  • Increased generalized itchiness
  • Bowel changes
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Due to baclofen’s therapeutic use, off-label use for addiction treatment, and high potential for addiction and abuse, there is a definitive possibility of a baclofen overdose.

Connect with Northpoint Seattle and Ask About Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment in Washington

If a loved one is suffering from baclofen addiction or is displaying drug abuse behavior, it is highly recommended that they seek formal treatment to overcome the addiction. Contact our team online or call 888.483.6031 today to learn more.