Baclofen Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, & Detox Treatment Options
Baclofen is a prescription drug that many people use for legitimate purposes. It is usually found under the brand name Lioresal and is prescribed by physicians to treat a variety of conditions. As a treatment for muscle spasticity, it’s often used by patients with spinal cord problems or injuries.
It’s also often given to patients with MS (multiple sclerosis) and cerebral palsy. The drug acts as a relaxant, activating the GABA receptors in the central nervous system. Because of this effect and the fact that it causes pleasant feelings when taken, it does have abuse potential. People may begin to abuse baclofen to increase these feelings, either after initially taking it for legitimate use or obtaining it illegally.
The way baclofen acts on the body means that dependency and addiction are possible. The brain can become dependent on the positive effects it has on the GABA receptors. This can lead to the user experiencing baclofen withdrawal symptoms when they discontinue use. Some people may have severe baclofen withdrawal symptoms, while others may not. If you think that your baclofen consumption is problematic, then it’s a good idea to seek help. Continue reading for more information about baclofen withdrawal and addiction.
What Are the Symptoms of Baclofen Withdrawal?
If you take baclofen regularly, then you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you lower your dose or discontinue use. These symptoms will likely be more severe if you have developed an addiction to the drug and have become highly dependent on it. The symptoms of withdrawal can be similar in nature to those experienced with other drugs, particularly benzodiazepines or alcohol. Like alcohol and benzodiazepines, addicts should not stop taking baclofen suddenly. Withdrawal can be fatal if not managed correctly. Therefore, detoxing should always be done under medical supervision.
Not everyone will experience baclofen withdrawal symptoms. The most severe symptoms will usually be experienced by people that have consumed the drug for a long period. Although symptoms can be worse for those that have abused baclofen, even those that use the drug for legitimate reasons can experience withdrawal. Usually, those that are used to taking a higher dose will experience greater baclofen withdrawal symptoms, but low-dose users can also experience withdrawal.
Although baclofen withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable and distressing, they are often part of detoxing. Remember that if you can avoid relapsing, you’ll only need to put yourself through detox and withdrawal once. Knowing what to expect can be helpful, and remember that you may not experience any of these symptoms. However, there are some common withdrawal symptoms that people experience.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Confusion and delusions – Finding things hard to understand or believing things to be real when they are not.
- Feeling disorientated – You may feel off-balance, wobbly, and as if your coordination isn’t as it should be.
- Sleep difficulties – Sleep troubles are a common withdrawal symptom of many substances, including baclofen. You may start to experience insomnia or strange dreams and night terrors.
- Hallucinations – Someone withdrawing from baclofen may experience different types of hallucination, including tactile, audio, and visual. This means you may see or hear things that are not there or feel touches or sensations on your skin.
- Memory issues – Memory can be greatly affected when withdrawing baclofen. You may find it difficult to remember simple details or access long-term memories.
- Nausea and dizziness – You may experience general feelings of sickness and dizziness or episodes of vomiting.
- Anxiety – Feeling very anxious and on edge, finding it hard to relax and possibly feeling as if something bad may happen.
- Manic episodes – Baclofen withdrawal can result in manic episodes. This is where the user may act overexcited and experience delusions but fail to see that anything is wrong.
- Behavioral and mood changes – Changes in behaviors and mood can appear as if the user has a different personality.
- Body temperature changes – Withdrawal may cause changes in body temperature, meaning the user may develop a fever or experience hypothermia.
- Tremors and seizures – Withdrawing from baclofen can take its toll on the body. Because of these, users may begin to feel tremors that are impossible to control. In some cases, these can lead to seizures.
- Heart changes – Tachycardia (a fast heart rate over 100bpm) or an irregular heartbeat.
- Psychosis or depersonalization – These can both be frightening withdrawal symptoms associated with baclofen. Depersonalization means feeling as if you are observing your body from the outside or beginning to feel as if things are not real.
- Muscle spasticity or rigidity – Due to the nature of the drug, you may begin to feel stiffness in your muscles or strange spasms that you are unable to control.
What Causes Baclofen Withdrawal?
Baclofen withdrawal is caused by the body building tolerance and becoming dependent on the substance. Once the user becomes dependent, the body will have difficulties adjusting when the dose is lowered or stopped. Essentially, the brain and body become dependent on baclofen to function.
Users often develop a tolerance after taking baclofen over an extended period. Because of this, they may increase their dose to experience the same effects from the drug. This is where dependency and addiction can grow.
Once tolerance builds and the body becomes dependent, the user may start to notice withdrawal symptoms once the drug leaves their body. These baclofen withdrawal symptoms will subside when the user takes the drug. This can encourage them to continue taking the substance or increase their dose. During this process, the user can develop a strong addiction after repeated behaviors resulting in pleasant feelings in the brain and body.
As a rule, the more of the substance someone takes, the greater their withdrawal symptoms will be when they lower their dose or stop using. Baclofen can be addictive because of the way it affects the brain, relieves pain, and provokes pleasant feelings in users. Taking baclofen will send signals to the brain that associate the drug with pleasure. Once the drug is taken away, the body and brain will find it difficult to find this kind of pleasure elsewhere.
This issue isn’t unique to baclofen. Most substances will affect the brain in the same manner. Dopamine levels are affected by substance abuse, and, as such, the brain begins to crave the rush of dopamine that the drug provides.
The brain and body begin to fight back when this source of dopamine is removed, resulting in baclofen withdrawal symptoms. The user can start to feel a range of physiological and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Although many of these withdrawal symptoms will subside over time, the psychological effects of addiction can be long-lasting. Even after detoxification, a user may find overcoming the psychological withdrawal a challenge.
Detoxification is a comparably quick part of the recovery process. Although the withdrawal symptoms from baclofen can be very uncomfortable, the psychological side of addiction can be much harder to recover from.
When someone develops an addiction to a drug such as baclofen, they are not only developing tolerance and physical dependence. The psychological bond someone can have with a substance is created through a series of learned behaviors. These can often be very difficult to change, and a user may experience withdrawal symptoms relating to these for much longer. Often, a user will require various forms of therapy to deal with these.
How Long Does Baclofen Withdrawal Take?
The length of time withdrawal takes often depends on many factors. These include the individual, the dose that they are taking, and how long they have been taking baclofen.
The method of discontinuation can also make a difference. For example, if the user tapers off the drug slowly or suddenly stops taking it. Withdrawal can also be more severe depending on the form of the drug that is taken. Those that take a spinal injection over a tablet form will often find withdrawal more intense. Detoxification should always be done under the supervision of medical professionals due to the nature of the drug. Going “cold turkey” is very dangerous and can be fatal as it can lead to organ failure.
Although the timeline of withdrawal varies, there is a rough guide of what to expect. Some people will start to feel baclofen withdrawal symptoms within a few hours of their last dose. In other people, the start of withdrawal may take longer to surface and may take up to 48 hours.
As baclofen affects GABA in the brain, the withdrawal timeline can be comparable to alcohol. Peak withdrawal symptoms usually begin to happen within 72 hours and may last for several weeks, depending on the individual. The psychological symptoms can be much longer-lasting, with users experiencing mental health problems for months after they’ve stopped using.
How to Safely Manage A Baclofen Detox
Detoxing from baclofen can be very dangerous and should not be done without the right support. Many users can feel the urge to go “cold turkey” when they make the decision to stop using, but this is rarely successful and can be extremely dangerous. Baclofen detox should be supervised and undertaken in a safe environment.
Many users require a medicated detox to withdraw from the drug safely. Because of the way baclofen affects your brain and body with GABA production, it’s important to have professionals monitoring the process. They will be able to provide medication and support as needed to ensure a safe detox.
Professionals will normally recommend a tapering approach, where the user slowly reduces the dose under supervision. This can help reduce the severe withdrawal symptoms that can come with a baclofen detox. Often, the user will need additional medication to help the body cope with the changes it experiences through a detoxification program. Medical detox provides users with the resources they need to be as comfortable as possible during withdrawal. Medical professionals will continually monitor vital signs and ensure the user is safe throughout withdrawal.
A medical detox program is usually short (around a week). During this time, the user will be presented with a range of treatment options. This can include medication to help with withdrawal and an individualized program based on lifestyle changes and therapies.
Once all traces of baclofen are expelled from the body, many users will need to continue treatment to avoid relapse. Relapse rates among addicts are high, so taking steps to avoid this is important. Professional services and having a strong support network can be a good way to reduce the risk of relapse. It’s important to remember that detoxification from a substance should be seen as the first step to recovery.
The complexities of addiction often require an individualized holistic approach, including a range of therapies to help users stay clean. An addict may need to meet regularly with medical professionals, attend a range of individual or group therapy sessions and work on rebuilding their life. Addiction can affect many areas of someone’s life, so rebuilding can be a challenge.
Realizing you have an addiction to baclofen can be tough. Many addicts remain in denial over the grip a substance has on them for a long time. If you want to get help, then you’re already one step closer to living a drug-free life. It’s important to remember that many people with substance use disorders have been in your position. Many of these have gone on to live their lives free of substances. Making the decision to stop taking baclofen is a big step.
If you have noticed baclofen withdrawal symptoms after taking the drug for some time, you’ll likely need professional help to detox safely. Never try to withdraw from baclofen alone. Doing so can be very dangerous. Instead, contact us and learn more about the detoxification programs we offer. We understand that not everyone is the same, so we always provide individualized treatment plans tailored to your needs.