Over 2 million American adults are using muscle relaxants, while 94% choose to use just muscle relaxants instead of combining them with analgesics. Most of the users are in their 40s and 16% are in their 60s.
These medications have become a go-to choice for treating back pain, muscle spasms, cramps, and more, resulting in around 6 million prescriptions a year, from 2005 to 2016. But, in 2016, the use of muscle relaxant therapy tripled, leading to 24.7 million prescriptions a year.
But, just like any drug out there, muscle relaxers can be abused. One such medication is Flexeril. This is a detailed analysis of the dangers of abusing Flexeril. Including all the different ways the drug can damage the system.
What Is Flexeril?
Flexeril (Cyclobenzaprine) is a prescription medication meant to provide short-term treatment for muscle spasms. Combined with physical therapy and enough rest, the product can control the spasms and relax the muscles.
Only a doctor can determine the right dosage. It’s an oral medication in tablet form that can be taken with or without food. A typical tablet dosage is 2 to 4 times a day. However, when patients take the extended-release capsule (Amrix), the dosage is often 1 to 2 times a day.
- Starting dose: 5 mg, 3 times a day
- Normal tablet dosage: 5 mg, 7.5mg, and 10mg
- Maximum daily dosage: 10 mg, 3 times a day.
Using more than the recommended dosage amounts can have a serious impact on overall health. Flexeril is used for preventing muscle damage and relieving the pain in the muscles. It often takes the drug around 14 days to help the pain completely subside, but it reaches the highest peak and the first couple of days, while the primary benefits can be felt in 2 weeks.
Note: The drug is not recommended for the elderly since it has an increased half-life (56%) and plasma levels (40%). It should only be used by adults and adolescents 15 years or older.
Is Flexeril Addictive?
It can be, yes.
According to experts, the drug works very similarly to tricyclic antidepressants and have the potential to be abused. In fact, it is quite like amitriptyline, a drug used for mood disorders, depression, and anxiety. The only major difference is in the central amine ring and a double bond.
In other words, it has a different structure, but similar toxicity to tricyclic antidepressants. People can get high from misusing Flexeril, which puts patients at risk of overdose. It can’t create some impactful psychoactive effects, but when paired with other drugs, it is possible to amplify its impact.
Based on one study, scientists evaluated 750 charts in five distinct regional poison centers. Although only 523 out of the 750 charts had enough data for a proper review, it was enough to study the addiction rate of Flexeril. Of all these charts, 402 displayed pure Flexeril ingestions and 121 had a multidrug overdose.
In the ingested dose, no one took more than 1,000 mg of Flexeril. However, the overdose increased the risk of seizures and dysrhythmia, which could become life-threatening.
Flexeril Addiction Symptoms
Because of its therapeutic properties, many people become addicted to Flexeril. The drug depresses the central nervous system and creates desirable results, making it an even bigger problem for those who already have some kind of addiction.
To achieve a mild euphoria, extreme relaxation, and a sedated-like effect, people will take higher doses. The drug ends up creating a range of different anticholinergic effects that alter the neurotransmitter activity inside the human brain.
Here is how people can recognize if someone is addicted to Flexeril:
- Continuing to use the drug even though the prescription is no longer needed or prescribed.
- Constantly craving Flexeril.
- Spending an unusually high amount of time focusing on the drug, rather than embarking on everyday activities.
- Obsessing over the next Flexeril dose.
- Creating a false Flexeril prescription just to get another dose.
- Drastic change in physical appearance, behavior, and mood.
What Does Flexeril Abuse Feel Like?
Flexeril induces a relaxing effect, also known as Flexeril high. It can relax the muscles, control muscle spasms, and manage pain after an injury. Although the drug is meant to improve a patient’s motor skills, energy, and sleep, when consuming more than the recommended dosage on a regular basis, it can have the exact opposite effect.
Abusing the substance can have a profound impact on physical wellbeing and can lead to many uncomfortable, dangerous, and unwanted side effects.
Some of the most typical side effects of Flexeril abuse include:
- Mental turmoil
- Dry mouth
- Blurry vision
- Acid reflux
- Pain in the abdomen
- High fever
- Urinary problems
People are relying on a recreational dose of around 20 mg to 80 mg. Compared to the recommended dose of 5 mg to 10 mg, that is a significant difference. The reason for the abuse is to obtain a pleasurable feeling; the Flexeril high relaxes the muscles and delivers a floating-like effect.
Even though the DEA doesn’t consider the drug a controlled substance, when people abuse the product for recreational purposes, it can be dangerous for the overall health. It can cause an irregular heartbeat, increased body temperature, and convulsions.
In some cases, patients can develop a physical dependence, and when that happens, it is easy to go overboard. That’s when Flexeril overdose can occur. When a patient takes extreme quantities of Flexeril, they can overdose on the substance.
One case report of a 33-year-old patient studied the impact of Flexeril overdose. Based on the reports, the patient showed symptoms of tachycardia, which lasted for 3 days. His urine output also significantly dropped, while the creatinine increased.
These statistics show that Flexeril has a direct impact on the central nervous system. When there is some level of toxicity inside the brain, patients can also experience seizures and dysrhythmias. These toxic symptoms appeared in patients who had taken more than 100 mg of the muscle relaxant.
Due to the constant abuse, patients who are addicted to Flexeril will have a hard time quitting the substance and they will go through a difficult withdrawal process before getting clean.
- Withdrawal Timeline: Withdrawal occurs in the first couple of days after the first dose. The symptoms can last from a few days to even weeks, depending on how serious the addiction is. Anyone who has trouble quitting Flexeril should consult with a doctor. Direct supervision is an ideal detoxification management strategy.
Flexeril Mixed with Alcohol
- In 2011, around 53,000 emergency department visits were the result of muscle relaxant abuse or misuse. 18% of these cases were also mixed with alcohol.
Those who are addicted to Flexeril also mix the drug with other substances. This enhances their euphoria and the effect of the drug. Alcohol and Flexeril is the most popular combination. The reason people choose alcohol is that it can enhance the side effects of both the drug and the beverage. It causes a very powerful high and intense sedation.
Others, on the other hand, will use Flexeril to decrease their need for other drugs, like cocaine or heroin. It’s less potent than cocaine. Unfortunately, very few people realize the damage it is doing to their health.
Mixing Flexeril and alcohol can have serious repercussions on brain health and could become fatal. The problem is, both the drug and the alcohol are CNS depressants, which means they have the capacity to reduce the natural processes in the human body, especially the respiratory system.
The higher the levels of alcohol poisoning, the more serious the respiratory problems become. Since the impact of alcohol and Flexeril tend to overlap, poor respiration makes breathing incredibly difficult.
People may also have trouble thinking, experience drowsiness, and dizziness. Their behaviors tend to change, which can have an impact on their psychological wellbeing. Some experience memory issues and poor motor function.
Due to a fundamental loss of control and reasoning, they are at risk of hurting themselves or the people around them. Research shows there are some fatalities due to alcohol and Flexeril combinations, which resulted in drowning. Based on the reports, 215 ml of alcohol and 1,786 mg of Flexeril proved to be fatal.
The Consequences of Flexeril Dependency and Abuse
When someone develops a dependency on muscle relaxants, they will need to use the drug more often to function better. But, when that dependency is out of control, addiction becomes a serious issue. With addiction, it’s possible to experience both long-term and short-term consequences.
Short-term consequences of addiction and abuse are linked to dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. But, it is not uncommon to experience increased heart rate and regular dry mouth. The higher the physical tolerance, the bigger the impact.
That’s when a person can experience long-term consequences. After abusing the drug for months, the addiction ends up tearing their lives apart. When mixing it with other drugs or addictive substances, it can put their lives in danger.
Experts believe Flexeril abuse can expose a user to potentially dangerous medical conditions. The drug can increase serotonin levels, alter blood pressure, body temperature, and cause numerous behavioral changes. These are all serious health problems that will have a direct impact on physical and mental health.
But, when the user is allergic to any of the compounds in the drug and still keeps abusing the substance, Flexeril can cause some serious damage with potentially life-threatening consequences.
What Happens to Users Who Abuse Flexeril for Years?
One of the biggest consequences of constant Flexeril abuse is Flexeril discontinuation syndrome. People who’ve been taking huge amounts of that medicine for many years are at risk of developing this syndrome.
After discontinuing the drug, they can experience a debilitating withdrawal, which is quite similar to that of tricyclic antidepressants. Users can have:
- Trouble sleeping
- Extreme sweating
- Flu-like symptoms
- Body and muscle pain
It’s typical for patients to experience extreme levels of discomfort, especially if they’ve been abusing Flexeril for years and have regularly taken large quantities of the drug.
How to Recognize Overdose?
Flexeril addiction is difficult to quit. But, when a person stops taking the drug abruptly and their body is not ready for it, they will immediately get back to using. This time, however, the abstention will take a heavy toll, putting them at risk of using an even higher dose. Experts call this accidental overdose and are one of the primary reasons users overdose.
When that happens, people have:
- Slurred speech
- Extreme confusion
Individuals with an already weakened cardiovascular system are prone to developing seizures and heart attacks, both of which can happen as a result of the Flexeril overdose. To stop taking the drug safely, it is vital to get treatment at a professional rehab facility, like the Flexeril detox center near Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.
Flexeril and Drug Tests: Will It Show Up During Testing?
This medicine is not a narcotic and won’t often appear on a typical 5-panel drug test. If the patient does screening for TCA levels, then the Flexeril could show up. Because the drug has the same chemical structure as some antidepressants, testing positive for TCA can happen, but it rarely does.
However, Flexeril will show on urine testing. Due to its 18h half-life, the drug will remain in the system for up to 90h. That means, in the 4 days after the last dose, the Flexeril will be detectable in the system. If it takes longer than that and a while for the liver to process the medicine, it means that the body has previously suffered some level of kidney or liver damage.
Therefore, it is critical to let a test administrator know when someone has been taking this muscle relaxant. Otherwise, they may get a false positive.
Flexeril Treatment and Recovery
Getting structured addiction treatment, like the one available at the inpatient rehab for cyclobenzaprine addiction in Texas, is the best way to get your condition under control. This is a practical treatment opportunity for those who’ve become addicted to the medicine or have been mixing it with other drugs.
But, if the dependency is the result of prescription, patients can ask their physician to discontinue the drug or alter the dosage. For those who don’t think they can handle it alone, medical supervision, group therapy, and aftercare planning will provide the ideal environment to put an end to the addictive habits.
For those who are addicted to Flexeril, there are some treatment options that can help with the health issue. These types of treatments include:
- Outpatient or inpatient recovery programs
- Behavioral therapies
- Support groups
- Addiction education
- Relapse prevention
- Family and friend support
Outpatient treatment is a typical choice for those who have a mild addiction. They want to keep their independence and maintain a normal daily routine. With additional counseling and group supports they can keep their condition under control. These are effective therapeutic properties that can stabilize a patient’s mental health.
However, when dealing with a more serious addiction, inpatient treatment is very important. Facilities, like the Flexeril addiction treatment center in Texas, provide the perfect inpatient environment for a safe withdrawal process. Patients get access to 24h structured therapy and treatment with constant medical supervision.
Getting treated by a professional has numerous benefits. First, patients get to learn from other people who have been through the same struggles and know how difficult addiction can be. They will obtain some valuable insight that will help them understand why they’ve become addicted in the first place and how others got through the experience.
But, most importantly, they will feel safe, knowing there is constant medical supervision to monitor their health status and wellbeing. The treatment can be a long and grueling process, but with a safe and specifically tailored environment, the chances of overcoming the addiction are much higher.
Seeking support from family and friends also plays a valuable role in recovery. Because the addiction has already caused turmoil in family relations, it is critical to restore that trust so that the patient will maintain their sobriety.
Family and friends can provide valuable encouragement with positive and thoughtful actions. It may be a difficult journey, but it’s worth every step of the way.
Patients who go through this kind of treatment are less likely to relapse. They can learn how to control their cravings and prevent the addiction from getting the better of them. This is a necessary step to a full and healthy recovery.
Note: It’s not a good idea to try and manage the withdrawal without expert help. Since patients can experience seizures and convulsions, it is critical to get proper detox and treatment at a medical facility with healthcare staff on-site.
What About Medications?
The FDA hasn’t approved any medications that could treat Flexeril withdrawal, but structured treatment and proper detox can provide patients with the relief they are looking for. The physician will create a detailed outline for the withdrawal. They will then reduce the dosage until the body slowly gets used to not taking the medicine.
If patients are still experiencing pain after quitting Flexeril, the doctor may suggest over-the-counter pain medication. That includes NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or any other drug with a very low potential for abuse.
Alongside the medication, patients will have physical therapy, which can help manage the pain without the use of chemicals.
Is Detox Necessary?
Flexeril addiction often results in uncomfortable withdrawal issues. As a result, undertaking a full detox treatment becomes necessary, particularly for the patients who want to make a full recovery and seek sobriety. A prescription detox at the Flexeril detox center near Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, can help patients achieve their desired results.
It is a practical approach when looking to flush out the toxins from the system and restoring normal bodily functions. With detox, the body tends to recover quicker, than what it would normally take without any form of treatment.
As the withdrawal reaches its peak, the symptoms become worse and more intense. This makes it even harder to take control of the entire body and avoid a relapse, but going through detox in a medical facility, patients can decrease the severity of the withdrawal and successfully stop taking the drug.
Depending on the level of addiction, the doctor may suggest different forms of treatments and medications. For instance, if the patient is having severe aches, then they will receive meds with non-addictive properties. Similarly, in case of nausea, they could use medications that can put the stomach and digestive system more at ease.
However, only a doctor can decide which treatment approach is the ideal one. Since the withdrawal severity can be different for every patient, it’s crucial to ask for medical advice before taking any drugs.
How Can Rehab Help Patients Overcome Their Addiction?
The purpose of rehab is to find the triggers that have caused the addiction. For example, people develop a Flexeril addiction because they had no clue it had addictive properties. They were worried about their pain, so they used the drug as the main option for relief. They kept taking higher doses to cope with the pain, without realizing they had formed a dependency.
Another reason could be the euphoria after getting high. When users want to avoid a stressful situation, they will look for any way possible to escape their reality, often resulting in Flexeril abuse.
Rehab is there to determine the cause of the problem. After they’ve located the trigger, it becomes much easier to treat the patients. However, there is one often-missed problem. Flexeril abuse can cause respiratory difficulties.
So, when a patient tries to deal with the condition on their own, it becomes almost impossible to overcome the withdrawal. As a result, they are more likely to relapse. Then, there is the quickened heart rate and cardiovascular issues that could come with the abuse. When patients pair that with breathing troubles, they have an even higher risk of relapse.
That’s why going to rehab makes for a worthwhile investment. Not only do patients learn about their triggers, but they also reduce the chance for relapse. This is the key to a successful recovery.
Even though Flexeril is not as addictive as other more dangerous substances like cocaine and heroin, it can still cause an addiction. With all the information listed here, patients will get a clear picture of the type of impact this drug can have.
This popular medication is a great option for treating muscle spasms, in conjunction with physical therapy and rest. But, when combined with other addictive substances, it can be a serious issue. Many people abuse the drug and end up experiencing dependence or even addiction. That’s where inpatient rehab can help. With proper detox and withdrawal management, anyone can overcome their addiction and get their life back on track.
John Eckelbarger is a Business Development Representative for Stonegate Center. With a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he has an interest in the neurobiology of addiction as well as the pharmacology of drugs. He hopes to bolster Stonegate Center’s status at the forefront of addiction medicine through bold, innovative content creation. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance from Texas Christian University.