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The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Muscle Relaxers

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Muscle relaxers are prescription drugs that can effectively treat muscle spasms and pain. When taken as directed, they are considered relatively safe for regular use. However, these medications have some potential for misuse, and using them with other psychoactive substances, including alcohol, can be dangerous.

If you’ve been prescribed muscle relaxers by your doctor, they might have advised you to avoid alcohol consumption. However, doing this could be challenging if you’ve been drinking excessively and have had difficulty controlling your alcohol intake. Furthermore, abruptly discontinuing use can result in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening in cases of severe dependence.

If you suspect you have an alcohol use disorder and require help with attaining sobriety, Guardian Recovery can help. Our evidence-based therapies and treatment modalities provide individuals with the tools they need to manage cravings and prevent relapse. Contact us today and learn how we can help you reclaim your life and begin your recovery journey.

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What Are Muscle Relaxers?

Muscle relaxers are a class of drugs known as antispasticity or antispasmodic agents. (1) Muscle relaxants are prescription medications that help relieve muscle spasms or involuntary muscle contractions. These are often caused by a spine-related issue, such as whiplash, low back strain, or fibromyalgia. Muscle spasms can cause severe pain and limit a person’s mobility.

Although different muscle relaxers vary somewhat in their mechanism of action, they all work to promote muscle pain relief or relaxation. If you have been prescribed one of these medications, you are advised to avoid drinking alcohol for several reasons.

Risks of Combining Alcohol & Muscle Relaxers

The short-term risks associated with drinking alcohol while using muscle relaxers are related to how each substance affects the brain and body. Moreover, they both work to depress the central nervous system and reduce brain activity. (2) This results in slowed heart rate, breathing, and other bodily functions. Because both muscle relaxers and alcohol produce this effect, combined use can compound each substance’s depressive impact on the brain and body—possibly to the point of being dangerous in some cases.

Alcohol and muscle relaxer intoxication can also impair the ability to think clearly and make sound decisions. This can be extremely dangerous, as individuals are more vulnerable to impulsivity and engaging in risky activities, such they would avoid under normal circumstances. 

Long-Term Risks 

In addition, prolonged combined use can lead to potentially lethal long-term effects, such as liver and kidney damage. It can also result in impaired cognitive function and memory. 

Although muscle relaxers are not believed to cause weight gain directly, this can occur due to reduced mobility and activity from the underlying condition. (3) When you consider alcohol’s high-calorie content and adverse effects on metabolism, unwanted weight gain could be a significant issue if not offset by exercise or a restricted diet.

Alcohol & Muscle Relaxer Side Effects

Muscle relaxers’ side effects, including drowsiness or dizziness, can be intensified when taken with alcohol. This combination can also lead to potentially dangerous symptoms.

Severe Side Effects of Muscle Relaxers & Alcohol Include:

  • Profound drowsiness/sleepiness.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Liver damage.
  • Slow or difficult breathing.
  • Reduced motor control/poor coordination.
  • Impaired cognition.
  • Blackouts or memory loss.
  • Overdose.
  • Death.

Operating a motor vehicle or engaging in actions that require alertness and coordination is associated with severe risks related to each substance independently. Drinking alcohol while using muscle relaxers can make these activities extremely dangerous and is strongly discouraged. This can result in injury to oneself or others.

Also, both muscle relaxers and alcohol can be habit-forming, and chronic misuse of either can increase a person’s risk of developing dependence on one, the other, or both.

Identifying Signs of Overdose or Life-Threatening Intoxication

Excessive drinking can lead to life-threatening alcohol poisoning. Muscle relaxers can worsen these effects and cause incapacitation before a person realizes they are in danger of an overdose. Seek emergency medical attention if you identify any of the following symptoms in yourself or someone else after using muscle relaxers with alcohol.

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning or Overdose Include:

  • Extreme drowsiness.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Vomiting.
  • Slowed or labored respiration.
  • Extreme weakness.
  • Severely impaired mobility.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Confusion and unusual behavior.
  • Hypotension and fainting.
  • Seizures.

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Why People Mix Muscle Relaxers & Alcohol

There are several reasons why people misuse alcohol with muscle relaxers. According to statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 18% of emergency department cases involving muscle relaxers were also linked to alcohol use. (4)

Other reasons for combining muscle relaxers with alcohol include the following:

To Counter Side Effects

A common reason cited for mixing alcohol and muscle relaxers is the belief that one will offset the side effects of the other. However, this is not the case, and in fact, side effects are more likely to be amplified.

By Accident Without Knowing the Risks

Many incidents of drinking with any class of medication are due to simple unawareness of the risks involved. Unfortunately, even if a person is not intentionally using interacting substances to achieve a high, this does not reduce the possibility of an overdose and, instead, may increase it. 

To Increase Pain Relief

Many people have turned to alcohol use to induce pain relief when experiencing muscle pain or spasms. However, while drinking while taking muscle relaxers may temporarily reduce pain, the short- and long-term dangers of doing so likely outweigh any perceived benefits.

To Experience Euphoria

People have reported achieving a sense of euphoria from muscle relaxers, often associated with misuse, and that alcohol can intensify it. While achieving the desired effects is possible, this habit increases the risk of severe side effects and overdose.

Other Drugs to Avoid

Many other drugs and medications are best to avoid while using muscle relaxers, alcohol, or both. (5)

Drugs That Potentially Interact With Alcohol & Muscle Relaxers Include:

  • Illicit and prescription opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl, morphine, and oxycodone.
  • Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Valium.
  • Tricyclic and monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressants.
  • Fluvoxamine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro), an antibiotic.
  • Anticonvulsants, such as Lamictal.
  • Antipsychotics, such as Seroquel.

A Word on Baclofen & Alcohol Withdrawal

Baclofen is a muscle relaxer sometimes used clinically to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which occur when an alcohol-dependent person quits drinking abruptly. It’s believed that baclofen can help with withdrawal symptoms by simulating alcohol’s effects on a specific type of brain receptor. That said, evidence supporting baclofen’s effectiveness for alcohol withdrawal is limited, and its use is only appropriate for those who have already quit drinking. (6)

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Treatment for Alcoholism or Muscle Relaxer Dependence

At Guardian Recovery, we offer integrated treatment programs designed to address addiction and the underlying factors that fuel substance misuse. If you are ready to start your recovery journey, contact us today. You can speak to an experienced addiction treatment advisor who will provide you with a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check. During our streamlined admission process, we can help you decide which level of care is most suitable for your unique circumstances. We’ll use the personal information you provide to develop your customized treatment plan. 

We are committed to helping those who need it most achieve abstinence, prevent relapse, and begin their new, drug- and alcohol-free life. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive, holistic approach to treating substance misuse and promoting health and wellness.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1) https://www.drugs.com/drug-class/anticholinergics-antispasmodics.html (2) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-cns-depressants (3) https://www.singlecare.com/blog/methocarbamol-side-effects/ (4) https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/DAWN2k11ED/DAWN2k11ED/DAWN2k11ED.pdf (5) https://www.drugs.com/article/muscle-relaxants-alcohol.html (6) https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00773/full

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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