Dangers of Mixing Baclofen and Alcohol
You may be familiar with baclofen as its brand name Lioresal. This drug is a central nervous system depressant, most often used as a skeletal muscle relaxant to treat conditions like spasticity.
This drug may seem like an odd choice for someone chasing a high, as research has shown that it produces no euphoric feeling, nor does it inspire any cravings. In fact, a 2013 study from the journal European Addiction Research found that baclofen may even be an effective medication treatment for alcohol withdrawal. While baclofen’s efficacy in the treatment of withdrawal is still up for debate, there is conclusive evidence that mixing baclofen and alcohol can be incredibly dangerous.
Why Mix Baclofen and Alcohol?
Both baclofen and alcohol are depressants. This means that they lower the neurotransmission levels in the brain, creating a relaxed, mellow feeling. Some people may seek both the depressant effects that alcohol provides along with the relaxed muscles achieved by taking baclofen. Therefore, they might consider taking the two together.
Another reason one might mix baclofen and alcohol is the effect baclofen has on withdrawal. A 2009 study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research concluded that “[b]aclofen alone has minimal abuse liability in heavy social drinkers.” This research may persuade someone going out for a drink with friends to combine their drink with the drug in the hopes that they will be able to avoid overdoing it or having a hangover the next morning.1
What Will Mixing Them Do?
Despite promising research on the effects of baclofen on alcoholism, it is important to remember that mixing any drug with alcohol can produce potentially harmful effects. In the case of baclofen and alcohol, the depressant effect of both substances can cause a worrying effect in the person who mixes them. The alcohol will essentially heighten the side effects of the baclofen, which include:
- Extreme weakness
This is known as a pharmacodynamic interaction, which Alcohol Research & Health defines as an interaction “in which alcohol enhances the effects of the medication, particularly in the central nervous system.”2
Pharmacodynamic interactions can lead to dangerous responses in the body. A 2012 study in Alcohol and Alcoholism documented the case of a 46-year-old patient who mixed 240 mg of baclofen with alcohol.3 Despite having a medical history free of neurological disorders, this man suffered two seizures after drinking while on baclofen. Other studies have found that a mix of baclofen and alcohol contributes to raised blood pressure and heart rate, which can cause problems in individuals with preexisting heart problems.
Today, the scientific community is still conducting studies to conclude the safety and efficacy of baclofen for people who struggle with alcoholism. In the meantime, there is one telling key phrase from the previous 2009 study that can tell us what we need to know: social drinkers. This study found that baclofen and alcohol together was acceptable for social drinkers, but it was difficult to qualify its risks beyond social drinking or even what level of “social drinking” could be acceptable.
If you, or a loved one, have been prescribed baclofen for any condition, refrain from alcohol while taking the medication. Simply put, the risk is just too great.
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- Evans, S. M., & Bisaga, A. (2009). Acute interaction of baclofen in combination with alcohol in heavy social drinkers. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research, 33(1), 19–30. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00805.x
- Weathermon, R., & Crabb, D. W. (1999). Alcohol and medication interactions. Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 23(1), 40–54.
- Medscape. (2012). A Case of De novo Seizures Following a Probable Interaction of High-Dose Baclofen with Alcohol.