Muscle relaxers reduce levels of activity in muscle cells and change how the central nervous system transmits spasmodic messages. These chemical effects lead to the relaxation of muscle tissue and in some situations, paralysis.
The two main types of muscle relaxers include:
- neuromuscular blockers
Spasmolytics are commonly prescribed to alleviate pain from spasms and other neurological conditions, while neuromuscular blockers are used during surgical procedures and during emergency situations to cause paralysis.
Common names of muscle relaxers include:
- Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine)
- Soma (carisoprodol)
Addiction to muscle relaxers may develop after receiving a prescription from a healthcare professional, or after abusing them recreationally.
Habitual, long-term use, and recreational use of prescription muscle relaxers, can lead to addiction requiring inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment.
Recognizing Signs Of Muscle Relaxer Abuse
It may not be easy for friends and loved ones to identify the signs of muscle relaxer addiction, especially in cases where an addicted individual hides their use.
However, identifying early signs and intervention may help prevent prescription drug abuse from turning into an addiction.
Learning the common signs of muscle relaxer addiction may help loved ones intervene at an early stage of prevention:
1. Taking Muscle Relaxers Without A Prescription
Individuals who take muscle relaxers without a prescription are doing so at great risk of developing side effects, dependency, and addiction. Abuse of prescription muscle relaxers in a way not intended or prescribed by a qualified physician is a sign of addiction.
Anyone who uses muscle relaxers outside of the oversight of a physician should be considered as potentially suffering from substance use disorder, especially in cases of recreational or long-term use.
Federal laws prohibit the buying of controlled substances such as pain relievers, sedatives, or stimulants without a valid prescription. Using prescription medications without a prescription is not only dangerous, but illegal.
Many state laws require that prescription medications are taken with a valid prescription by a qualified doctor, and after completing a physical examination.
Individuals who take high doses of muscle relaxers, or abuse the drug for nonmedical reasons, are at great risk of overdose. When muscle relaxers are mixed with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol, dangerous side effects are likely to occur.
2. Behavioral Changes
Behavioral changes may be the first signs an individual exhibits of addiction to muscle relaxers. Initially, these signs may be subtle. Individuals who abuse muscle relaxers may begin to distance themselves from friends and family members.
As the addiction develops, it can lead to changes in an individual’s mood, obligations, physical health, and engagement with personal and professional relationships.
When an individual continues to abuse muscle relaxers, behavioral changes become more apparent.
Behavioral signs of prescription drug abuse might include:
- refilling prescription medications frequently
- using a higher dose of medication than recommended or prescribed
- switching doctors, or doctor shopping, in order to get multiple prescriptions
- obtaining prescription drugs through illegal means
- stealing or hiding funds used to cover expenses of drug use
3. Side Effects Of Muscle Relaxer Abuse
Many individuals become addicted to prescription muscle relaxers after receiving a prescription from a trusted physician.
Physicians may attempt to treat back pain and muscle spasms with over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.
If these treatments fail, a doctor may prescribe skeletal muscle relaxants for short durations with physical therapy, or alone.
Prescription muscle relaxers attach to GABA receptors and influence neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to sedative and relaxant effects.
Individuals who take muscle relaxants after treatment and others who abuse these drugs recreationally may become physically dependent on and addicted to them.
People who become addicted to prescription muscle relaxers may develop physical symptoms.
While symptoms vary depending on the type of drug, some common side effects caused by short-term muscle relaxer abuse can include:
- dry mouth
- drowsiness or slurred speech
- nausea or vomiting
Long-term side effects of abusing muscle relaxers include:
- irregular heartbeat
- heart failure
- liver damage
When muscle relaxers are abused in combination with other illegal substances, or alcohol, they may produce euphoric side effects. Muscle relaxers are commonly abused with alcohol because the mixture increases the sedative effects of both substances.
Mixing muscle relaxers with alcohol is extremely dangerous, as it puts the individual at high risk of overdose and respiratory failure.
4. Symptoms Of Muscle Relaxer Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms caused by prescription muscle relaxers occur when an individual who has become chemically dependent or addicted suddenly stops taking them. These symptoms occur as the brain and body struggle to adapt to chemical changes.
This can happen when an addicted individual simply forgets to take a medication, or cannot acquire more of the drug.
Muscle relaxer withdrawal symptoms include:
- chills and sweating
- irritability or agitation
- muscle aches
These withdrawal symptoms can last several days, upwards of a few weeks, or more. Withdrawal from prescription muscle relaxers can be physically painful and require medical assistance.
5. Drug-Seeking Behavior
Drug-seeking behavior is characterized by a person’s overwhelming urge to use prescription medications, leading to manipulative, impulsive, and other high-risk behaviors.
People who become dependent on or addicted to prescription drugs may go to great lengths to obtain them.
People with a prescription substance use disorder may exhibit signs of deceptive behavior with close friends, family members, and physicians.
Common drug-seeking behaviors include:
- scams to obtain prescription medications
- assertive requests or demands for a specific drug
- mood disturbances and suicidal thoughts
- impulsive or high-risk behaviors, such as theft
- purchasing illegal prescription medications on the street
Getting Help For A Muscle Relaxer Addiction
People who have become chemically dependent on or addicted to prescription muscle relaxers should seek addiction treatment.
Drug treatment programs are designed to medically support addicted individuals as they detox and experience withdrawal symptoms.
Habitual use of prescription muscle relaxers may quickly lead to dangerous side effects, addiction, and negative consequences that affect an individual’s personal and professional life. Identifying early warning signs of abuse may lead to early treatment and better outcomes.
If you or a loved one have a prescription drug addiction, or if you have any questions about substance abuse treatment programs, please connect with one of our treatment specialists through our helpline today.Article Sources
- Mayo Clinic — Prescription Drug Abuse
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Considerations for the Appropriate Use of Skeletal Muscle Relaxants for the Management Of Acute Low Back Pain
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Dealing with drug-seeking behavior
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — How Frequently are “Classic” Drug-Seeking Behaviors Used by Drug-Seeking Patients in the Emergency Department?
- National Institute of Health — Abuse of skeletal muscle relaxants