There may come a time in your life when you require a prescription for a muscle relaxer. These drugs are prescribed for many reasons. This is because they can be beneficial for a host of conditions.
However, like most medications, there is a risk of drug interactions occurring. When it comes to mixing alcohol and muscle relaxers, there are dangerous consequences that can occur. In fact, the two substances combined can even be lethal.
If you’re thinking about mixing these substances, it’s important to understand the risks involved. At New Directions for Women, we want you to be as informed as possible. This is so you can be empowered to live life to the fullest. In this blog, we break down the relationship between muscle relaxers and alcohol and why the two should never be mixed.
What Are Muscle Relaxers?
Muscle relaxers are prescription medications that help relieve pain. They specifically target muscle spasms and muscle spasticity. While there are many different types of muscle relaxers, they all work in a similar manner. Muscle relaxers block nerve impulses that cause painful muscle contractions. These drugs can include the following prescriptions:
- Carisoprodol (Soma)
- Tizanidine (Zanaflex)
- Metaxalone (Skelaxin)
- Orphenadrine (Norflex)
- Chlorzoxazone (Lorzone)
- Methocarbamol (Robaxin)
- Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
- Baclofen (Gablofen, Lioresal)
During a muscle spasm, muscles contract and tighten involuntarily (or on their own). This can cause intense pain and discomfort. To relieve this pain, many people take muscle relaxers which relax the muscle and prevent spasms from occurring.
When it comes to muscle spasticity, this works a little differently. Rather than a single spasm, muscle spasms continually occur. This leads to feelings of tightness and stiff muscles. For many people, this makes it hard to move or even walk. Muscle spasticity is common in people who have conditions such as cerebral palsy or in people who have had an injury to their brain or spinal cord.
Effects of Muscle Relaxers
Muscle relaxers are central nervous system depressants. They work by either blocking the nerve impulses or by narrowing the blood vessels to the muscles. When these drugs are used for an extended period of time, they can cause side effects like drowsiness and dizziness. In addition, some muscle relaxers can interfere with kidney function and even lead to liver damage if taken in high doses over a long period of time.
Further side-effects caused by muscle relaxers include the following:
- Skin rash
- Impaired thinking
- Low blood pressure
- Quickened heart rate
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Headache and vision troubles
- Upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting
- Unsteadiness, dizziness, and clumsiness
The side effects of this drug should make it clear why someone should not mix alcohol and muscle relaxers. On their own, this drug produces many side effects that affect a person’s ability to function. When alcohol is added to the mix, these side effects become even more pronounced, potentially leading to serious health problems.
The Effects of Alcohol
Since we have covered the effects of muscle relaxers, it is also important to understand the effects of alcohol. When someone drinks, alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream and quickly travels to the brain. Here, alcohol interferes with the neurotransmitters that send messages between cells. This disruption leads to feelings of relaxation and sedation.
As alcohol continues to enter the bloodstream, it begins to have other effects on the body. Muscle coordination becomes impaired, which is why people are unable to drive or operate machinery while under the influence of alcohol. It can also lead to slurred speech, vomiting, and decreased inhibitions.
Importantly, alcohol is a powerful nervous system depressant, which means that it slows down activity in the brain and central nervous system. This can alter perception, behavior, and movement in potentially dangerous ways. While alcohol’s effects may be desirable in some situations, they can be dangerous in others.
The Effects of Mixing Alcohol and Muscle Relaxers
When alcohol and muscle relaxers are mixed together, the effects can be quite dangerous. Not only do muscle relaxers and alcohol both have sedative effects on the body, but they also share common side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, and impaired coordination. When a person takes alcohol and muscle relaxers together, the effects of these drugs become even stronger.
Mixing alcohol with muscle relaxers has different effects in both the short and long term. In the short term, there are many concerning effects. These mostly have to do with impairment and motor control. Some of these effects are:
- Impaired coordination
All of these effects make it dangerous to operate machinery or drive a car. It is also easy to fall and hurt yourself if you are not careful. Poor vision and confusion are also a risk for people who mix alcohol and muscle relaxers.
The ability of these drugs to depress the central nervous system can lead to the inability to think clearly. Individuals may experience impaired judgment, dangerous mood swings, and even aggressive behaviors.
While the short-term effects of mixing these two substances together are serious, the long-term effects are even more concerning. As with any substance, a significant risk is posed by continually ingesting a drug. This goes for many prescription medications and for alcohol.
Many internal organs experience damage due to mixing these substances. Further, mixing alcohol and muscle relaxers puts women at an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder. Other dangers include the following:
- Liver damage: Mixing alcohol and muscle relaxers will cause damage to the liver. When these substances are both present in the body, the liver—which is responsible for processing both—works overtime.
- Addiction: Combining muscle relaxers and alcohol can lead to addiction. This is because both substances act on the brain’s reward center, causing a person to feel pleasurable effects.
- Overdose: Mixing alcohol with muscle relaxers can also lead to an overdose. This is especially true if a person takes more than the recommended amount of either substance. Respiratory depression can occur, causing an individual to stop breathing.
- Alcohol poisoning: Combining muscle relaxers with alcohol can also cause alcohol poisoning. This is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when a person drinks too much alcohol in a short period of time. Symptoms include vomiting, seizures, and blackouts.
- Gastrointestinal damage: Prescription medication and alcohol both cause damage to the GI tract. Over time, alcohol can cause inflammation and scarring in the lining of the GI tract. While muscle relaxers are often used to reduce intense abdominal pain, over time they can have negative side effects such as ulcers, hemorrhoids, constipation, or diarrhea.
Overall, it is clear that alcohol and muscle relaxers should not be mixed together. Whether you are taking these substances for recreational or medical reasons, the potential negative consequences far outweigh any perceived benefits.
Why Women Mix Alcohol and Muscle Relaxers
Engaging in polysubstance abuse (taking more than one drug at a time) happens for many reasons. Some people mix substances to amplify the effects of one or both drugs, while others do it to offset the negative side effects of another. Still, others mistakenly believe that combining drugs will somehow make them safer.
For women, there is often an added layer of complexity when it comes to polysubstance abuse. Many women who struggle with addiction face different risks than men. This includes a greater likelihood of being prescribed multiple medications on average and a higher rate of comorbid mental health disorders.
Some of the reasons a woman may mix muscle relaxers and alcohol include the following:
Many people abuse substances to feel “high.” This can be especially true for people who abuse alcohol and muscle relaxers. Some people may drink alcohol or use muscle relaxers in an attempt to alleviate negative feelings, such as stress or sadness.
Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is common among those who live with mental health conditions. They may drink to numb overwhelming feelings or as a coping mechanism. Muscle relaxers may also be abused in an attempt to self-medicate. Unfortunately, this is not a long-term solution and it cannot take the place of mental health treatment.
Alcohol and muscle relaxers can both increase the effects of other drugs. For instance, alcohol can make the effects of sedatives more potent. Muscle relaxers can also intensify the effects of alcohol.
Some women who mix muscle relaxers with alcohol may do so by mistake. If you’re taking a muscle relaxer for pain relief, it may not occur to you that alcohol could interact with the medication. Or, you may be unaware that your alcohol consumption is putting you at risk for dangerous side effects.
Substance Abuse Treatment at New Directions for Women
Given the dangerous nature of mixing alcohol and muscle relaxers, it is important that people understand why this should never be done. If you are struggling with polysubstance abuse, there is hope.
At New Directions for Women, we offer comprehensive care in a gender-specific environment. Our alcohol and drug treatment programs meet the unique needs of women, and we offer a variety of addiction treatment options that can help you take back control of your life.
If you or a woman in your life needs help ending the cycle of addiction, contact us today. We can help you or your loved one overcome a substance use disorder.