Is Baclofen an Effective Treatment for Alcohol Addiction?
If you’re surprised to hear that baclofen is used to treat alcohol addiction, you’re not alone!
Baclofen is a muscle relaxer. That’s not the type of drug that you’d associate with medication-assisted treatment (MAT). In fact, it’s normally used to treat diseases that cause muscle pain, like multiple sclerosis.
However, baclofen has some properties that make it effective at treating alcohol addiction.
Are you curious if baclofen is an option for you? While it’s very effective, baclofen does have some contra-indications, so it’s not right for everyone. It might not be the best option for you if you take certain prescription drugs or have certain medical problems.
We’ve done the research for you! Read ahead to learn more about this little-known alcohol addiction treatment.
How Does Baclofen Treat Alcohol Cravings?
Baclofen’s main effect is that it loosens tight muscles. Still, it has lesser-known effects that make it ideal for treating alcohol cravings.
Those effects include an anti-anxiety effect and an anti-craving effect.
Baclofen Reduces Anxiety
Many substance abuse disorder cases have a mental health component. During withdrawal, anxiety is one of the most powerful symptoms.
That anxiety can lead to an uncontrollable desire to use alcohol. Baclofen’s ability to reduce anxiety removes one of the most ever-present triggers for alcohol abuse.
And most importantly, the anti-anxiety effects start early and at low doses. It may take a few weeks for baclofen to start affecting cravings. Despite that, the anti-anxiety effect keeps patients on their regimen until the other effects kick in.
Baclofen Reduces Cravings
At low doses, baclofen doesn’t have an effect on alcohol cravings. However, high-dose baclofen reduces those cravings. The dose needed varies from patient to patient, but it usually tops off around 60 to 120 mg.
(For comparison, a typical low dose of baclofen is 20 mg.)
This effect takes a few weeks to achieve. Baclofen causes side effects, which are more likely when you reach a high dose very quickly. Your care team will increase your dose slowly over time to avoid that.
When you stop feeling cravings, you’ve reached your ideal dose, which is different for each person.
How Does Baclofen Compare to MAT?
Baclofen is the only drug used for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that has an anti-anxiety effect. Traditional drugs like Suboxone have an anti-craving effect but no effect on anxiety.
Baclofen is not the only non-traditional drug used for MAT.
These drugs are commonly used to treat seizures and nerve pain. Like baclofen, they have a strong anti-anxiety effect at low doses.
However, baclofen is the only drug used for MAT that has both anti-anxiety and anti-craving effects.
Am I a Candidate for Baclofen Treatment?
Not everyone is a good candidate for baclofen treatment. Talk to your care team if you’re interested in using baclofen for alcohol addiction. They will be able to walk you through the risks and benefits of using this medication.
You may not be a good match for baclofen if you have:
- Cognitive problems
- Kidney disease
- A history of stroke
- A history of psychosis
Baclofen can be dangerous when taken with certain medications.
You should not take baclofen for alcohol addiction if you take:
- Antihistamines such as Benadryl or Zyrtec
- Antidepressants such as Zoloft or Cymbalta
- Nerve pain medications such as gabapentin or pregabalin
- Opioid medications such as Percocet or tramadol
- Sleeping medications such as Ambien
- Sedatives such as Valium or Xanax
There are risks and benefits to using any medication, including baclofen. Talk to your care team about baclofen for your situation.
Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction
Is baclofen the right choice for you? No matter what treatment you and your care team choose, congrats on choosing recovery!
Your alcohol addiction treatment includes a combination of evidence-based treatment and activities.
These may include:
- Group therapy: Social support is a powerful tool in recovery. These groups can take the form of an informal support group or a 12 Step group.
- 1-on-1 therapy: Different types of talk therapy can help you unlock new ways to stay in recovery.
- Medication: In addition to baclofen, other drugs commonly used in MAT include Suboxone and buprenorphine.
It’s time to make that phone call and start your recovery today. Bedrock Recovery Center is here to help!
- Baclofen. (n.d.).
- Gorsane, M., Kebir, O., Hache, G., Blecha, L., Aubin, H., Reynaud, M., & Benyamina, A. (2012). Is baclofen a revolutionary medicine in addiction treatment? Substance Abuse, 33(4), 336-349. doi:10.1080/08897077.2012.663326
- Practical protocol for prescribing baclofen in alcohol addiction. (n.d.).