Cyclobenzaprine is a muscle relaxant. It is better known by one of its brand names Flexeril®. This medication works by blocking the nerve impulses sent to the brain. It is usually prescribed to treat skeletal muscle conditions, strains, or other muscle injuries. The medicine may also be prescribed to treat back or neck pain, usually for only two to three weeks. It is not a federally controlled substance.

There were 15,597,385 prescriptions written for cyclobenzaprine in 2019, representing 44 percent of the share of muscle relaxant prescriptions, according to Clinicalc. There were 2,444,451 more prescriptions for the medicine in 2018.

Below, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about this muscle relaxer.

Can You Drink Alcohol When Taking a Muscle Relaxer?

Can You Drink Alcohol When Taking a Muscle Relaxer?

Cyclobenzaprine and alcohol are central nervous system depressants. Both work to slow down brain activity, which then slows down your heart and breathing rates. Both also can cause you to feel calm or sleepy. On its Cyclobenzaprine: 7 things you should know page, clearly says, “Avoid alcohol while taking this medicine. Alcohol may potentiate the side effects of cyclobenzaprine.”  Also, “sedation is a common side effect.”

Cyclobenzaprine may produce some side effects, which may be exasperated when drinking alcohol at the same time. These are:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation

It is never wise to drink alcohol when taking a muscle relaxer. You could experience any number of adverse effects if you do, including some which could be possibly dangerous, as Healthline notes. These are:

  • Reduced motor control
  • Memory problems
  • Risk of seizures increased
  • Risk of overdose increased

Alcohol and cyclobenzaprine can be addictive if they are misused or abused and increase the risk of addiction.

How Long to Wait to Drink After Taking a Muscle Relaxer?

Muscle relaxers like cyclobenzaprine usually last around four to six hours. Cyclobenzaprine has a half-life that ranges between eight to 37 hours for most adults. The half-life of a substance is the amount of time it takes for your body to metabolize half of the medication and remove it from your body.

When determining when to have a drink, you should consider these factors, as they relate to your physicality:

  • Your age
  • How your liver functions
  • Your metabolism

Muscle relaxers stay in your system longer than 24 hours. If you must have an alcoholic beverage, it is best to wait 24 hours or longer after taking your last dose of the muscle relaxer to avoid any potentially harmful effects.

What Are the Risks of Mixing Alcohol And Muscle Relaxants?

What Are the Risks of Mixing Alcohol And Muscle Relaxants?

If you abuse alcohol and are taking cyclobenzaprine, you may feel like your body and mind are significantly slowed. Another risk you take when drinking while on a muscle relaxer is respiratory depression. Johns Hopkins Medicine indicates that this condition is marked with these signs:

Breathing rate: Increase in the number of breaths per minute a person takes means they are having trouble breathing

Bluish color: A bluish color around the mouth, inside of the lips, or on fingernails indicates a lack of oxygen.

Grunting: Grunting is heard each time the individual exhales is the body’s way of working to keep air in the lungs so that they stay open.

Flared nostrils: Flared nostrils mean the individual is working harder to breathe.

Retractions: The chest appears to sink in below the next or under the breastbone or both and indicates a struggle to bring more air into the lungs.

Sweating: Increased sweating, cool and clammy skin occurs when the breathing rate is rapid.

Wheezing: A whistling or rattle sound is heard with each breath means that air passages might be smaller, making it harder to breathe,

Body position: Leaning forward when sitting to help when taking deep breaths. This is usually a red flag warning sign that the individual is about to collapse.

Cyclobenzaprine and Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Cyclobenzaprine and Alcohol Abuse Statistics

As noted in this medical report, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) in 2011 reported: “an estimated 53,000 ED (emergency department) visits were caused by muscle relaxant misuse or abuse, and 18% of these cases involved concomitant alcohol consumption.”  Cyclobenzaprine accounted for 11,551 of those cases. Muscle relaxant abuse is not uncommon, and drinking alcohol with medication like cyclobenzaprine is also not uncommon.

What Does Cyclobenzaprine Abuse Look Like?

What Does Cyclobenzaprine Abuse Look Like?

When cyclobenzaprine is taken as prescribed, it provides pain relief, can improve sleep, raises energy levels, and improves motor functions. What it cannot do is produce a euphoric feeling or any kind of “high.” When it is misused or abused, and especially abused with alcohol, the drug can cause distressing symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Nervousness
  • Blurred vision
  • Abdominal pain
  • Urination problems
  • Liver disease
  • Chemical dependence
  • Addiction

Chemical dependence occurs when you stop taking the drug and/or alcohol abruptly and experience withdrawal symptoms. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that dependence can happen with chronic use of any drug, even when they are taken as prescribed. Dependence does not necessarily mean you are addicted to cyclobenzaprine and/or alcohol. However, the more these two substances are abused, the more likely you will become addicted to them.

Cyclobenzaprine addiction is marked by taking the drug when it’s no longer needed, taking more of it than prescribed to feel the same effects, constantly thinking about the drug, how to get more, and when to use it, not able to stop taking it, faking symptoms to get another prescription, and sudden changes in appearance.

If you notice these signs of yourself or someone else, it is a clear indication that cyclobenzaprine addiction treatment is needed.

Treatment for Cyclobenzaprine and Alcohol Addiction

Treatment for Cyclobenzaprine and Alcohol Addiction

While it is possible to become addicted to cyclobenzaprine, addiction is more likely when the drug is abused with alcohol. Addiction, also called a substance use disorder, is defined as a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain. When cyclobenzaprine and alcohol are abused together, it is called polydrug use.

Treatment for cyclobenzaprine and alcohol abuse starts with medical detox, where you will be observed 24 hours per day for as many days as you are admitted into detox. As your body starts eliminating both substances and all other toxins from it, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. Some of these may be mild, like sweating and achiness, and others more intense, such as vomiting and tremors. 

While you are in detox, you may be given other medications to ease the withdrawal symptoms and perhaps, fluids to help keep you hydrated. The attentive medical and addiction care teams at your treatment facility are there to help you through this physically and mentally challenging time.

After you are finished in detox, it is possible you will be recommended for inpatient treatment. Polydrug use often includes a strong component of psychological therapy. When alcohol and cyclobenzaprine have been abused together, you probably will need to participate in behavioral therapies and group therapy programs, like the 12-step programs.

No matter which substance you abuse more, the psychological and behavioral aspects of addiction will be treated with evidence-based and proven therapies. These include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational interviewing (MI)
  • Group, family, and couples therapy

These therapies work to help you improve coping mechanisms, find and understand your primary reason for abusing substances, and give you the time and space to heal and become stronger in mind and body.

Inpatient treatment is your best choice if you have other medical conditions that need to be treated, lack a healthy and strong home environment, or need a highly-structured and intensive program.

Other addiction treatment programs Delphi Behavioral Health Group provides are:

Partial hospitalization (PHP): This program requires you to meet with your therapist five days per week for about four hours each day. It is not a residential program, but it provides diagnostic and addiction therapies. You may find this a good option if you have underlying medical conditions that need to be treated, but you are able to live outside of the treatment facility.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP): This type of treatment requires you to attend five three-hour therapy sessions per week that can be for a month or longer. It is a good option if you have a co-occurring disorder, such as depression. You will still engage in behavioral therapies and group therapy sessions.

Outpatient Treatment (OP): This treatment type consists of therapy sessions that meet from six to nine hours per week and may run two or three times per week. It requires you to be solely responsible for our recovery and is only meant to meet minor support needs.

Aftercare – Aftercare was created because many people often need more support once they have completed substance use treatment. Delphi’s Aftercare program gives you your own support network that understands what you’ve been through. It also offers you help with any other needs you may have, like housing, legal, and financial. 

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