Muscle Relaxers: a Highly Useful Class of Drugs with a Potential Downside
For people who are suffering from muscle spasms or chronic stiffness, muscle relaxers can be a true game-changer. Many serious neurological conditions, including ALS and MS, result in spasms that are often alleviated through the use of these drugs. Allowing patients to eliminate or calm their pain, relaxants can also be used after injuries such as sprains. Additionally, a great many people today suffer from lower back pain, and this class of drugs also has been proven to address these common aches. Muscle relaxers are effective because they go to work on the central nervous system, targeting the spinal cord and the brain. By signaling the body to ease up on itself and slow down muscle movements, muscle relaxers can provide patients with relief throughout their days.
Table of Contents
- Can You Become Addicted to Muscle Relaxers?
- What Exactly Are Muscle Relaxers and How Do They Work?
- How Does Addiction Work?
- “Benzos”: A Term Frequently Heard in Recovery
- What Are My Chances of Developing an Addiction to Muscle Relaxers?
- Symptoms of Muscle Relaxer Addiction
- Guidelines for Using Muscle Relaxers Safely
- Take Away the Shame of Treatment for Muscle Relaxer Addiction
Can You Become Addicted to Muscle Relaxers?
Unfortunately, as with many prescription drugs, there is a potential for addiction when patients are using these tools — even if they are using them correctly at first. Some people may find that they love the sedative nature of muscle relaxers; perhaps they tend to have an anxious nature, for example, and the calming effects are something that they grow dependent on as they continue to use the relaxant for medical purposes. There are also some patients who become entranced by the euphoric “high” they get from taking a muscle relaxer to treat an injury as simple as a sprained ankle. With the statistics indicating that more and more people — from all walks of life — have been visiting their doctors with the purpose of being prescribed skeletal muscle relaxers, this topic becomes more relevant with each passing day.
What Exactly Are Muscle Relaxers and How Do They Work?
Muscle relaxants belong to two main groups: antispasmodic agents and antispastic drugs. Some of these drugs — such as tizanidine and diazepam — actually belong to both groups. Diazepam is most commonly known as Valium. Like Xanax and Ativan, it belongs to the benzodiazepines group. For many patients, the most effective way to treat their pain is to take a pill. After being consumed, a pill will make its way to the GI tract and then be absorbed into the bloodstream. Eventually, it will travel to the brain and other areas. At this point, the patient will likely start to experience some relief of their symptoms.
How Does Addiction Work?
In our society, we tend to see a lot of news stories about addiction these days. But what exactly is addiction? When it comes down to it, addiction is basically the formation of bad patterns. A person begins to reach for something as a matter of compulsion. Suddenly, a glass of wine becomes two bottles or a love for poker spirals into playing on a daily basis and not even enjoying it anymore. The person who becomes addicted to muscle relaxers will develop a tolerance for more and more. What starts off as a treatment for a sprained ankle can become an addiction if the ankle is healed but the patient continues to take a relaxant. Now, however, one or two pills will no longer net them the desired effect. The addicted person will continue to take more in order to achieve a euphoric state. And if they stop taking the drug suddenly, they will often experience withdrawal symptoms.
“Benzos”: A Term Frequently Heard in Recovery
Although benzodiazepines are considered safe for medical use, they have been flagged as addictive by many in the medical community. People seem to report getting into the most trouble when they are mixing benzos with alcohol or even opioids — intentionally or even unintentionally. Also, it is imperative that people maintain a correct understanding of the difference between physical dependence and addiction when taking benzos. Physical dependence means that someone’s body has become accustomed to a drug. Addiction means that they have developed a mental dependence on the drug. These are two separate issues that often co-exist.
What Are My Chances of Developing an Addiction to Muscle Relaxers?
Of course, there is no way to tell right off the bat whether or not a patient will develop an addiction to muscle relaxants. As stated previously, addiction does not discriminate. An individual with a perfect public persona can develop an addiction to muscle relaxers just as easily as someone who has been in an out of the prison system. However, there are some risk factors that may lead a person down the path to muscle relaxer addiction more easily. Anyone who frequents a medical office that is more loose with prescribing painkillers, for instance, will be more at risk. People who suffer from chronic pain should be monitored carefully as well. Also, those who are taking multiple prescriptions — to treat other disorders — should exercise caution. Those suffering from PTSD or similar conditions may be more at risk, as are those who come from families that have been afflicted by addiction. Although the research is still being done, it is highly likely that there is a genetic component to such addictions. Patients with a prior history of substance abuse will need to watch out for themselves, as will those who are dealing with mental conditions.
Symptoms of Muscle Relaxer Addiction
The symptoms of muscle relaxer addiction vary with each person, but there are several telltale signs that may indicate to you that an issue has developed. First, you may find yourself fully focused on obtaining your pills to the exclusion of everything else. Work and hobbies fall by the wayside as you constantly obsess over how you can procure more pills. Maybe your doctor believes that you have hit your limit, but you keep pushing for more. Perhaps you find yourself spending a lot of money on muscle relaxers. You may also feel like you’re experiencing more mood swings on a daily basis. Some people’s spouses may feel like they are keeping secrets or not being fully open. It’s not uncommon for people who are addicted to relaxants to spend a lot of time alone or to stop taking care of themselves the way they used to. For those who have increased their tolerance and developed physical dependencies, there will be signs of withdrawal if they stop using. You may find that your anxiety is increasing or you may even experience insomnia. Because some of these symptoms can turn severe — seizures are one example — it is always recommended that such patients seek the help of medical professionals.
Guidelines for Using Muscle Relaxers Safely
It is crucial to know how to take muscle relaxers safely. First, ensure that you are getting the dosing right. Check to see what time you should be taking your medication — and don’t stray from the schedule. Inform your physician of any other meds you may be taking, even if it is over the counter. Remember that you do not know how these drugs may interact, so you need to be open and honest with your doctor about anything else you are taking that may impact how your body metabolizes the muscle relaxers. Next, make sure that you have a safe space to keep your medication. It needs to be out of the reach for children and pets — and anyone else who should not have access. It should also be kept in an area that is not affected by moisture or excessive heat. If you have been prescribed the muscle relaxers for a shorter period of time, then follow the schedule. If there are any concerns about withdrawal once you stop taking the relaxant, talk to your doctor about slowly lessening the amount that you take each day. Remember that alcohol can amplify the effects of what you are taking, so refrain from drinking. As the prescription bottle says, you also should not drive or operate heavy machinery while taking relaxants, so bear this in mind.
Take Away the Shame of Treatment for Muscle Relaxer Addiction
You have to be your own best advocate when it comes to recovering from a dependency on muscle relaxers. Even if you believe that you may be able to resolve the problem on your own, it is always better to seek some professional help. With so many risk factors in play these days, it makes sense that a lot of people have become addicted to muscle relaxers. Fortunately, it has never been easier to find help. Seeking treatment from a professional facility is the best way to take care of this issue; due to the many physical and mental withdrawal issues that may factor in, this is not a DIY situation. Facilities like Live Free Recovery Services help people root out these addictions and live their lives without the heavy burden of an addiction. For those who choose to thrive, recovery is entirely possible.
Published on: 2024-01-29
Updated on: 2024-01-29