Baclofen: General Use
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Baclofen primarily treats symptoms associated with spinal cord disease or injury, muscle spasm, and multiple sclerosis. It has also been widely prescribed to manage alcohol, opioid, cocaine, and tobacco abuse symptoms.
Despite the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved its use as a medically safe and effective treatment for alcohol and drug addiction, it is still used to treat those addictions. However, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) does not recommend the use of baclofen in a clinical patient setting. However, research is still needed to confirm and predict favorable responses to baclofen in these situations.
How Does Baclofen Work?
Baclofen, also known under its brand name Lioresal, is prescribed to treat muscle spasticity. It’s specifically used to treat cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries. As was mentioned above, there has been off-label use to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, but there isn’t enough research to back this up. Baclofen derives from GABA neurotransmitters, and like benzodiazepines, it activates GABA receptors in the central nervous system to calm nerve activity. With its calming effects, you might wonder – is baclofen addictive? Well, there is potential for abuse with the drug. Individuals have reported a sense of well-being and relaxation when using the medicine, indicating that it might be used in higher doses than prescribed. Those who abuse the drug put themselves at risk of baclofen withdrawal.
Unfortunately, dependence and addiction are possible when using baclofen. Even worse, baclofen withdrawal symptoms are severe upon cessation, especially when used in higher doses than prescribed. Baclofen withdrawal is the result of your brain becoming dependent on the medication’s effects on the GABA receptors. Baclofen withdrawal side effects can also become severe, and it’s vital to seek professional treatment when you stop using it.
Signs and Symptoms of Baclofen Withdrawal
Typical baclofen withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, agitation, confusion, delusions, and hallucinations, insomnia, visual changes, psychosis, dyskinesia, hyperthermia, and increase spasticity. Severe cases can result in delirium that triggers a series of seizures. Baclofen Withdrawal Symptom (BWS) can also be mistaken for alcohol withdrawal. Assuming you suffer from alcohol withdrawal, you will usually be given a dosage of benzodiazepines that will ease your withdrawal symptoms to some degree. However, confusion and agitation might reign for about seven days, after which, your BWS will usually resolve itself without necessitating a further need for treatment.
How Long Does Baclofen Stay In Your System?
The half-life of baclofen, on average, is around two to four hours. However, some people might eliminate the drug faster than others. With that being said, how long does baclofen last? It depends on the person and their unique body chemistry. The drug’s half-life is very short. Because of its short half-life, most people take the medication several times throughout their day to ensure it controls their spasticity. The half-life indicates the drug takes around ten to 20 hours to entirely clear itself from your system, which is relevant when anticipating when the withdrawal symptoms will present themselves.
Age is one of the most significant factors to determine how long baclofen stays in your system. Older individuals tend to eliminate the drug slower than their younger counterparts. Body mass and dose consumed also play a vital role in how long it takes to be totally eliminated from your system. If you’ve been using baclofen for a prolonged period, it’ll take longer to remove it entirely from your system because of how it accumulates in your body. Another factor is the person’s metabolism rate – those with faster metabolisms will eliminate it quicker.
How Long Does Baclofen Show Up On A Drug Test?
Standard drug screens don’t test for baclofen. Since it’s a muscle relaxant, there must be specific testing for the drug to determine you’re taking it. However, if that occurs and it’s tested for, it’ll remain in your blood for a day or less. The drug is eliminated through your urine and can be detected on a urine test for up to two days. If someone overdoses on the medication or takes a substantial amount, it can remain in the blood and urine for longer. In some cases, this can be up to ten days.
Someone who’s looking to stop baclofen can expect withdrawal symptoms similar to that of benzodiazepines. Withdrawal from the drug can be severe and even deadly in some cases. For that reason, if you’re expecting to be drug tested and you’re trying to stop using the drug in a rush, the responsible decision would be to seek professional treatment. You’re most likely to go through baclofen withdrawal if you’ve used the drug for a few months. It can occur whether you are taking high or low doses.
Warning Signs of Baclofen Withdrawal
Early warning signs for withdrawal include:
- Increase or return of spasticity
- Low blood pressure
- Tingling sensation
If these withdrawal symptoms are not treated, other advanced withdrawal symptoms can occur including high fever, agitated mental status, and stiffness in the muscles. In rare cases, a withdrawal may be as life-threatening as a loss of vital organs or even death. This is why it’s important to recognize early baclofen withdrawal symptoms and act as soon as possible to prevent any life-threatening effects on your central nervous system.
Warning Signs of Baclofen Overdose – What You Should Do
Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following warning signs.
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness or coma
Lower than normal body temperature
To ensure a successful recovery, it is highly recommended you undergo a medically supervised baclofen detox. Do not attempt to go cold turkey! You might risk a dangerous withdrawal reaction should you discontinue baclofen without any medical supervision which could potentially result in life-threatening baclofen withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations and seizures.
Baclofen detox should ideally take place at a recovery center that can support you throughout the withdrawal and recovery process, including medical treatment and therapy. Detoxing at home isn’t recommended as you won’t benefit from a medical staff who has experience with baclofen or muscle relaxants. At a recovery center, staff will map a treatment plan to reduce your withdrawal symptoms and promote long-term recovery. The success of overcoming baclofen abuse can never fully happen at home.
During a baclofen detox, the following happens:
- Your drug dosage will be tapered off slowly while you’re under close medical supervision
- You will be monitored for your physical and emotional safety
- You will undergo a mental and physical diagnosis and receive simultaneous treatment
Baclofen Detox Centers: What to Look For
If you’re looking to detox from baclofen, the best kind of drug rehab program would be equipped to handle a wide spectrum of substance abuse problems including:
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Emotional and psychological issues
- Lifestyle issues
- Specific categories of drug abuse
- Mental health issues and other withdrawal symptoms
- Home/environment/social/community concerns
Specifically, an excellent rehab facility can save your life. And yet, not enough people are seeking out the care of a drug facility. Just 2.5 million of those people actually sought help according to SAMHSA.
A drug rehab program that can treat your addiction to baclofen shouldn’t be a cookie cutter solution. It should customize treatment for each individual seeking medical help and support. The best drug rehab programs are those that treat mental health disorders and provide rehab programs customized to treat a specific drug being abused. If you are visiting a drug recovery program, ask how they might support your addiction to baclofen with specific knowledge and expertise.
You should not be urged to sign on for a “quick-fix detox” drug withdrawal. It’s important to understand which programs get to the root cause of addiction by treating the emotional, lifestyle, and psychological factors that contribute to addiction, not just the addiction itself.
Baclofen Withdrawal Timeline
Depending on the amount of time you’ve been on baclofen, expect your timeline to vary. You might experience symptoms of high fever, muscle stiffness, and mood swings. Sudden baclofen withdrawal can lead to organ failure and death.
Symptoms generally start within a few hours after one discontinues the last dose, and it can also take up to forty-eight hours for baclofen withdrawal symptoms to appear. At 72 hours, baclofen withdrawal symptoms generally peak before disappearing gradually. In other cases, such physical and mental symptoms might persist for weeks or even months until they completely subside.
Older patients need more time to get rid of the drug’s presence while others may metabolize the drug faster. Factor also your body mass, dosage amounts, duration of time and your metabolism rate. Quicker metabolisms tend to get rid of drug toxins quicker.