Baclofen

Baclofen is a muscle relaxer and is used to treat muscle spasms.

The drug is prescribed for various reasons, including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury.

Baclofen may be taken orally or given intrathecally (injected into the spinal cord).

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What is baclofen used to treat?

People take baclofen to treat spasticity, a condition where muscles become tight and difficult to move. It can also reduce pain and improve movement in people with conditions such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.

Baclofen works by relaxing the muscles and reducing the number of messages sent from the brain to the muscles.¹ This makes it easier for people to move their muscles and reduces the risk of muscle spasms.

How do you take baclofen?

The starting dose of baclofen is typically 5mg three times a day for three days by mouth² for treating spinal cord injury and spasticity of multiple sclerosis in adults and children over the age of 12.

The maximum daily dose for adults and children over the age of 12 is 80mg per day taken in 20mg doses four times per day.²

Baclofen can be taken with or without food. Taking baclofen with food reduces the risk of an upset stomach.

Seeing results

Most people begin to experience the effects of baclofen within an hour of taking it. The drug has a short half-life of two to six hours,² so it should be used regularly to get the best results.

Potential side effects of baclofen

There are some potential side effects of baclofen that you should be aware of. These include:

  • Drowsiness

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Weakness

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Constipation

  • Dry mouth

Contact your doctor if you experience any of these side effects.

Long-term use of baclofen

Baclofen is safe for long-term treatment, so take baclofen for as long as your doctor tells you to.

If you have any questions about taking baclofen long-term, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Missed doses

If you forget to take a dose of baclofen, take it as soon as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and resume your regular schedule. Don’t take two doses of baclofen at once.

Overdoses

Baclofen has been linked to a small number of overdoses. Symptoms of a baclofen overdose may include:

  • Drowsiness

  • Confusion

  • Slurred speech

  • Weakness

  • Loss of coordination

  • Seizures

  • Breathing difficulties

Seek emergency medical help if you think you or someone else has overdosed on baclofen. Don’t attempt to make the person vomit unless a medical professional tells you to.

What to discuss with your doctor before taking baclofen

You should speak to your doctor before taking any new medication, and this is particularly important with baclofen.

Discuss the following things with your doctor before taking baclofen:

  • Medical history: Tell your doctor about any previous health conditions (including mental health conditions) and any past reactions to medication.

  • Other medications you are taking: Talk to your doctor about any other prescription and over-the-counter medications you’re currently taking, including vitamins and supplements.

  • Alcohol use: Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of baclofen side effects, so discuss your alcohol intake with your doctor to help them decide if baclofen is safe for you.

Stopping baclofen

If you stop taking baclofen suddenly, you may experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Headache

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Muscle cramps

  • Seizures

  • Hallucinations

  • Vision changes

  • Psychosis

  • Delusion

  • Agitation

  • Insomnia

  • Confusion

  • Dyskinesia

  • Increased spasticity

  • Hyperthermia

Don’t stop taking baclofen without first consulting your doctor to lower your risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Baclofen and pregnancy

Limited research has been carried out to explore how baclofen affects pregnancy; however, the information available suggests that it may be safe to take during pregnancy.³

Baclofen has not been shown to cause miscarriage or birth defects in babies when taken in the first trimester, but more research is needed.

Baclofen passes from the mother to the baby through the placenta, but in small amounts. It is also excreted in breast milk at very low levels. There have been no reports of adverse effects from baclofen during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding and need to take baclofen for muscle spasms, it may be safe to keep taking it. However, baclofen has been reported to cause symptoms of neonatal withdrawal. The drug works in a similar way to other medications known to cause neonatal withdrawal syndrome.

Discuss the medication with your doctor to weigh up the pros and cons and decide if it’s a safe choice for you and your baby.

Interactions with other drugs

Baclofen may interact with other drugs. These include:

Tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking, even over-the-counter drugs and supplements. This will help your doctor determine if baclofen is the right drug for you.

Allergy information

Don’t take this drug if you are allergic to it or have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

  • Rash

  • Itching

  • Swelling

  • Severe dizziness

  • Trouble breathing

If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor or seek medical attention immediately.

Clinical trial history

Baclofen was first synthesized in 1960⁴ by scientists who were looking for a drug to treat epilepsy, but it wasn’t successful. In 1971, baclofen was reintroduced and was found to be an effective muscle relaxant.

In a 1977 double-blind, five-week, multicenter trial,⁵ baclofen was compared to a placebo and found to be a more effective treatment for spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.

Tips and advice for taking baclofen

Here are some general tips for taking this medication:

  • Take baclofen exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

  • Don’t take more or less than what is prescribed.

  • Swallow the tablets whole — don’t chew them.

  • Take a missed dose of baclofen as soon as you remember, unless it’s almost time for your next dose. In that case, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular schedule. Do not take two doses at once.

  • Drink plenty of fluids while taking baclofen to avoid dehydration.

  • Don’t drink alcohol while taking baclofen.

  • If you experience any side effects while taking baclofen, contact your doctor. Some common side effects include dizziness, headache, and drowsiness.

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Disclaimer

Here at HealthMatch, we’ve done our best to ensure that the information provided in this article is helpful, up to date, and, most importantly, accurate.

However, we can’t replace the one-to-one advice of a qualified medical practitioner or outline all of the possible risks associated with this particular drug and your circumstances.

It is therefore important for you to note that the information contained in this article does not constitute professional medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or recommendation of treatment and is not intended to, nor should be used to, replace professional medical advice. This article may not always be up to date and is not exhaustive of all of the risks and considerations relevant to this particular drug. In no circumstances should this article be relied upon without independent consideration and confirmation by a qualified medical practitioner.

Your doctor will be able to explain all possible uses, dosages, precautions, interactions with other drugs, and other potential adverse effects, and you should always talk to them about any kind of medication you are taking, thinking about taking or wanting to stop taking.

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