Having multiple sclerosis (MS) can mean experiencing muscle tightness to such a degree that you can’t move your limbs.

It may also mean suffering painful spasms that can occur at any time.

It could also result in discomfort and tightness in and around the joints.

It’s why people with MS use a muscle relaxant medication like tizanidine because it imparts a sedating effect on the body.

However, this useful medication has a double life as a substance of abuse.

Recreational drug use can bring about a narcotic-like high and produce a host of harmful effects. Recreational users will take tizanidine with alcohol, which can prove fatal.

Learn more about the dangers of tizanidine, particularly as a recreational substance of abuse.

What is Tizanidine?

Tizanidine is a skeletal muscle relaxant. Doctors prescribe tizanidine to patients who have muscle spasticity from stroke, MS, spinal cord, or brain injury. It can be prescribed off-label for insomnia, chronic migraines, and symptoms from fibromyalgia.

Zanaflex is the brand name for tizanidine, which is available as a capsule or tablet. The capsule comes in 2 mg, 4 mg, and 6 mg forms and the tablet as 2mg and 4 mg pills.

Tizanidine is a short-acting medication. The maximum single dose for tizanidine is 16 milligrams (mg), and in 24 hours, the maximum recommended amount is 36 mg.

Tizanidine produces a calming, soothing effect like a narcotic medication because it works to slow down the activity in the brain and central nervous system (CNS), which allows the muscles to relax.

People under the effects of tizanidine should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery.

Does Tizanidine Have a High Abuse Potential?

Abuse potential refers to the likelihood that a drug will be misused and abused, often for recreational purposes. Abuse potential may be noticed in scientific research before the drug is released, but medications are often not systematically evaluated for abuse potential until they are released. Tizanidine hasn’t been specifically evaluated for abuse potential in human studies. However, the drug is very similar to clonidine, which has been known to be used for recreational misuse. 

But does tizanidine get you high? Drugs with central nervous system depressant qualities might be used to achieve a relaxing high or alcohol-like intoxication. Prescription drugs may be used in other ways than in pill form. For instance, recreational users may crush or snort tizanidine. They may also be used to mix with other drugs like alcohol or opioids, which can be extremely dangerous. Tizanidine has also been shown to cause chemical dependence, which means you can experience uncomfortable withdrawal when you try to quit. These uncomfortable symptoms may reinforce your need to continue using, which can lead to a severe substance use disorder.

Dangers of Recreational Tizanidine Use

Tizanidine is a highly potent drug that can quickly produce dependence and addiction. Recreational users will manipulate the pills by crushing them into a powder so they can snort it. What’s more, they could take tizanidine with alcohol, which can lead to devastating outcomes, including death.

Tizanidine Side Effects

This drug comes with a range of side effects, both common and severe, according to MedlinePlus.gov.

Common Side Effects of the Drug Include:

  • Tingling in the legs, arms, hands, and feet
  • Increased muscle spasms
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Nervousness
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash
  • Sweating
  • Stomach pain
  • Back pain
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Heartburn

As with other substances of abuse, prolonged tizanidine use can lead to serious side effects, like:

  • Slow heartbeat
  • Unexplained flu-like symptoms
  • Seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist
  • Changes in vision
  • Nausea
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Lack of energy
  • Pain in the upper right part of the stomach
  • Liver damage (Yellowing of the skin or eyes, unusual bleeding or bruising)
  • Appetite loss

Tizanidine Withdrawal Symptoms

As with any potent substance of abuse, tizanidine produces withdrawal symptoms after someone abruptly stops taking it.

If you have abused tizanidine recreationally over a long period or in high doses, you will need a doctor to help you taper off the medication. Otherwise, you can suffer disastrous symptoms such as:

  • Muscle spasticity
  • Rapid/elevated heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Muscle cramping
  • Hypertension

Tizanidine and Alcohol

You should never use tizanidine with alcohol. Doing so can amplify the effects of the drug, leading to memory and vision loss, difficulty breathing, confusion, and drowsiness.

When you’re taking prescription medications, it’s important to check with your doctor or pharmacist before drinking alcohol. For many people, alcohol is a normal part of their social lives. You may not realize that your normal routine may be dangerous when you’re taking tizanidine. 

Alcohol and tizanidine may be dangerous when taken at the same time since both drugs have some central nervous system depressing qualities that can combine to increase your risk of uncomfortable side effects. When taken at the same time, you increase your risk of side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, low blood pressure, falls, and impaired alertness. The two substances can also increase your risk of a dangerous overdose, including symptoms like respiratory depression, loss of consciousness, coma, and death. 

The same danger may occur when you mix tizanidine with other depressants like benzodiazepines, barbiturates, prescription, sleep aids. And, while opioids are not in the same drug category as depressants, they can be dangerous to mix with tizanidine. 

Using the medicine in this manner can also result in overdose, which can kill you.

Tizanidine Overdose

Tizanidine is generally safe to use when you use it as prescribed, but it may be dangerous in high doses. Whenever you take any new drug, it’s important to consult with your doctor to find the right dose for your needs. It’s generally good practice to take medicine at the same time of day every time you need a new dose. You should also avoid increasing your dose without first speaking to your doctor. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there have been cases of both intentional and accidental tizanidine overdoses since the drug was first released. Some of these cases have been fatal, leading to deadly side effects. In high doses, tizanidine can slow important nervous system activity that controls your breathing and heart rate. Slowed breathing is often called respiratory depression, and it’s a common cause of death in overdoses of depressants and opioids. 

In some cases, fatal tizanidine overdoses involved the simultaneous use of tizanidine with other central nervous system depressants like benzodiazepines and alcohol. 

During a tizanidine overdose, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. If a person passes out or their breathing slows down, it’s important to call emergency services immediately. Another sign of oxygen deprivation is hypoxia, which shows up as blue lips and fingertips. 

The FDA recommends making sure the person has clear airways so they can get as much air as possible. If the person can’t sit up, roll them onto their side and avoid allowing them to lay face down. Remain with a person that’s experiencing an overdose until help arrives. Keep them in one spot that’s safe and quiet.

According to Healthline and DrugsDetails, the following symptoms can result from tizanidine overdose:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficult or troubled breathing
  • Severe decrease in blood pressure
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness
  • Pale or blue lips, fingernails, or skin

Why a “Cold Turkey” Detox is Dangerous

If you have been using tizanidine recreationally or for a long time, the safest means of detoxing from the drug is by undergoing a medically-supervised process. Why?

Suddenly stopping tizanidine can result in experiencing those withdrawal symptoms mentioned above.

The pain and discomfort of withdrawal can compel you to relapse and retake tizanidine, which can cause an overdose. If you are serious about ridding yourself or tizanidine abuse and addiction, then you must consider professional addiction treatment.

How Professional Treatment Can Help You

Professional treatment offers a medically and clinically supervised process that is the safest and most effective means of achieving drug abstinence.

A treatment program will begin with medical detoxification where you are tapered off the tizanidine and provided medical treatment for any withdrawal symptoms that arise.

A team of doctors, nurses, and other medical staff oversee your detox and provide 24-hour supervision and care.

Once you are physically and mentally stabilized, you can receive addiction therapy and counseling through residential or outpatient treatment.

If your case is severe and you abuse tizanidine with alcohol or other substances, you will be recommended for residential treatment.

Residential treatment is exactly as the name implies: you will become a temporary resident at the facility where you will be treated.

You will enroll in a full-time program that provides an array of therapy and care aimed at uncovering the root of your substance abuse.

This crucial recovery step addresses the psychological and emotional aspects of addiction.

If your case is considered mild, you will be recommended for outpatient treatment, which is a part-time program that allows you to live independently.

Outpatient still provides you with proven, evidence-based therapy that treats your addiction.

Treatment Services Include:

  • Mental health treatment
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • 12-step programs
  • Relapse prevention training
  • Transitional living facility referrals (including sober living homes)
  • Anger management
  • Random drug testing
  • Life skills
  • Substance abuse education
  • Cravings and triggers management
  • Spirituality

A reputable, professional treatment program can address the ravages of tizanidine abuse and addiction while offering services aimed at restoring the mind, body, and spirit.

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