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Baclofen and Alcohol: Can You Safely Mix Them?

Because baclofen is a drug that targets central nervous system activity, it has adverse effects with other drugs that influence the body in similar ways. Surprisingly, baclofen does not appear to have a strong adverse impact when combined with alcohol.

Studies were conducted to see if baclofen would be an effective treatment for alcohol abuse. The findings indicated that combining baclofen with alcohol is fairly well tolerated and safe, even at consumption levels that cause intoxication.

It was also found that baclofen has minimal potential for abuse for heavy social drinkers.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BACLOFEN AND ALCOHOL

A study published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information was conducted in order to find out if baclofen would be a good treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence. The study cites that nearly 16 million Americans meet the criteria for alcohol abuse or addiction. Because baclofen had been used to treat withdrawal of other drugs such as marijuana, researchers wanted to see if alcohol would have similar results.

The study involved 18 heavy social drinkers who were not seeking treatment. The heavy drinkers averaged 28 drinks a week. The study found that baclofen alone and combined with alcohol only resulted in moderate increases in heart rate and blood pressure. No other adverse effects were reported.

The study also found that baclofen did not increase positive subjective effects, but it did increase sedation and impaired performance. While it was found that alcohol and baclofen both decreased overall performance, there was no significant increase in performance impairment when baclofen was combined with alcohol.

The study concluded that there was only minimal chance of baclofen abuse in heavy social drinkers, and taking baclofen was relatively well tolerated and safe even at inebriating levels of alcohol consumption.

Baclofen can be taken with relative safety in combination with alcohol because it has properties that help with withdrawal and relapse in other drugs. It has received a lot of attention as a treatment strategy for alcohol addiction. This is because there are only three FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of alcohol abuse despite the prevalence of the issue.

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WHAT IS BACLOFEN?

Baclofen is a prescription drug that is primarily used to treat muscle spasms that occur from multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and spinal cord injuries and diseases. Medical professionals do not recommend baclofen to treat muscle spasms that occur in cases of cerebral palsy, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke.

Primarily, baclofen is a muscle relaxer, and researchers are still not 100 percent certain how it works. It is generally accepted that baclofen blocks nerve signals from muscles to the spinal cord, and it is believed to depress the central nervous system as well.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved baclofen in 1977, and it was presented to the public under the brand name Lioresal. Shortly after, in the 1980s, the FDA approved generic baclofen. Now, generic baclofen is the only thing available on the market.

Interestingly enough, baclofen has also been found to be an effective treatment for alcohol and marijuana dependence. Baclofen was found to be particularly effective for long-term users. It was found to reduce withdrawal symptoms from both alcohol and marijuana while also lessening marijuana’s typical effects.

RISKS OF BACLOFEN USE

If you or someone you know is considering taken baclofen, there are certain risk factors you should take into account first.

Baclofen can be highly habit-forming. Once you start taking baclofen, you cannot stop on your own. You must talk to your doctor first, and they will wean you off the drug slowly, as cold-turkey withdrawal could be potentially dangerous. Sudden cessation of baclofen can cause severe withdrawal reactions, such as seizures and hallucinations.

The kidneys are responsible for removing baclofen from your system, so it is not recommended to take baclofen if you have kidney disease and/or reduced kidney function.

Baclofen should not be taken if you are expected to operate heavy machinery or drive, as it can make you drowsy.

It is also not recommended to treat muscle spasms caused by a stroke, as it has been shown to affect those with a history of stroke adversely.

Talk to your doctor before taking baclofen if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Kidney disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Mental health disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Ulcers
  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Parkinson’s disease

HOW DOES BACLOFEN WORK?

A study published by the Journal of Neuroscience found that baclofen could be effective in helping drug abuse of all kind, as it inhibits limbic activation that typically occurs in subliminal drug cues. This essentially means that baclofen has been shown to block the subconscious triggers that occur for habitual drug users, which usually cause them to relapse.

Studies have shown that triggered activation of the mesolimbic dopamine system is an essential factor in prompting a drug relapse. There are even several drug prompts that occur outside of awareness. This subliminal prompting shows how vulnerable the brain can be to certain environmental cues and triggers in the brain reward system

Baclofen has shown promise in aiding in the prevention of drug relapse by blocking these conscious and subconscious cues to the reward center of the brain.

Baclofen is a GABA receptor agonist (a chemical that binds to a receptor to produce a biological response) that was shown to reduce mesolimbic dopamine release and conditioned drug responses in lab animals.

This study ventured to see if baclofen was capable of inhibiting the mesolimbic activation that occurs through subliminal cocaine cues in cocaine-addicted individuals.

The study found that participants treated with baclofen saw a significant decrease in subliminal cocaine cues, but not sexual or aversive cues compared to the participants who were given a placebo.

The results of this study suggest that baclofen could be a promising treatment for drug abuse and aid in the prevention of relapse without a strong effect on sexual desire. This form of drug rehabilitation treatment is unique in that it prevents subliminal cues that occur before it is even brought into the awareness of the subject, allowing the management of addiction before it gets to troubling levels.

HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?

A study published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information set out to find out just how effective baclofen was as a treatment for alcohol dependence. This was a long-term study done over two years that examined 100 patients. These patients all had alcohol abuse issues and had shown resistance to previous treatments.

They were treated with escalating doses of baclofen. Cravings for alcohol were monitored before treatment, at three months, six months, 12 months, and at 24 months. The assessment was entirely reliant on the subjects’ statements.

Before participating in the study, all subjects were classified as “high-risk” users. The result of the study was that about half of the patients were classified as “low-risk” users at the three-month, six-month, 12-month, and 24-month points. The percentage of patients who were considered low or moderate risk at various points in the study were as follows:

  • 84 percent at three months
  • 70 percent at six months
  • 63 percent at 12 months
  • 62 percent at 24 months

The consistency of improvement over two years demonstrated impressive results. The average dose of baclofen taken over the study was 147 mg daily. Ninety-two percent of participants reported that they experienced the suppression of alcohol cravings while taking baclofen.

Study results found that baclofen doses result in an effortless suppression of alcohol cravings.

Based on these findings, baclofen could be a great potential treatment for alcohol-dependent individuals who have had little to no success with existing treatments in the past.

All in all, alcohol and baclofen are seen as generally safe to take together, and they can even be used as a way to limit and decrease alcohol cravings and consumption. With the proper treatment plan, baclofen could benefit some people if used under medical supervision.

Sources

(July 2014) Baclofen. Everyday Health. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/baclofen

(January 2009) Acute Interaction of Baclofen in Combination with Alcohol in Heavy Social Drinkers. National Center of Biotechnology Information. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2626149/

(April 2014) Nipping Cue Reactivity in the Bud: Baclofen Prevents Limbic Activation Elicited by Subliminal Drug Cues. Journal of Neuroscience. Retrieved February 2019 from http://www.jneurosci.org/content/34/14/5038

(2019) Suppression of Alcohol Dependence Using Baclofen: A 2-Year Observational Study of 100 Patients. National Center of Biotechnology Information. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3540966/

(2019) Baclofen. WebMD. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-8615/baclofen-oral/details

(2019) Baclofen. RxList. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.rxlist.com/baclofen-drug.htm

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