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Dangers of Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol Mix, Effects, Risks, and Interaction

The side effects of muscle relaxers, such as drowsiness or dizziness, can be intensified when you drink alcohol. Continue to read more about the interaction between muscle relaxers and alcohol.

By We Level Up | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: January 19, 2023

Dangers of Mixing Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol

It is never a good idea to combine alcohol and pharmaceuticals, and this is especially true when doing so while using muscle relaxants. This reaction could be considered both a drug-drug interaction and a drug-beverage interaction as alcohol is classified as a drug.

Muscle relaxers work as central nervous system (CNS) depressants and cause a sedative effect or prevent the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. The onset of action is fast. The results typically last from four to six hours. Like other prescription drugs, muscle relaxers risk abuse and even drug addiction. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), centrally-acting muscle relaxants are a potential drug of abuse. [1]

Although skeletal muscle relaxants are occasionally the primary drug of abuse, they are often used along with other depressants, such as alcohol or narcotics. The toxic effects are respiratory depression (slow and ineffective breathing) and coma. In contrast, other drugs such as meth and heroin get much attention regarding abuse and addiction. However, the potential for muscle relaxers to become part of a user’s cocktail of preferred substance, if not the outright drug of choice, can’t be ignored.

Several treatment options can effectively treat addiction. Encourage your friend or loved one to talk to their doctor or a treatment counselor about using alcohol treatment programs, substance abuse treatmentrelapse prevention, or support groups as part of their recovery.

Types Of Muscle Relaxers

Muscle relaxers or muscle relaxants are prescription medications to treat severe muscle pain caused by muscle spasms. A muscle spasm means that one or more of your muscles is contracting, and the cramping or twitching is out of your control. Muscle spasms can occur for several reasons and can sometimes be very painful. Prescription drugs used as muscle relaxers can differ in their composition, chemical structures, and the way they work in the brain.

Muscle relaxer abuse can have several harmful effects, including behavioral changes, seizures, and withdrawal. Therefore, it is essential to recognize and understand these signs of drug abuse early because long-term use of this drug can lead to worsened side effects.

Muscle relaxers reduce activity levels in muscle cells and change how the central nervous system (CNS) transmits spasmodic messages. These chemical effects lead to the relaxation of muscle tissue and, in some situations, paralysis.

The two main classes of muscle relaxers include:

Antispastics

This class of muscle relaxers is commonly prescribed to relieve and mitigate pain from spasms and other neurological conditions. It directly affects the spinal cord or the skeletal muscles to improve muscle tightness and spasms. This drug can help with conditions that cause cramps, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries.

The three main antispastics medications are:

Tizanidine

It is sold under the brand name Zanaflex. This drug has both antispastic and antispasmodic effects. Individuals take it to help manage spasticity from spinal cord injuries. Side effects may include drowsiness, itchiness, constipation, hallucinations, and low heart rate.

Dantrolene

This medication can help ease muscle spasticity. Brand names are, Revonto, Dantrium, and Ryanodex. Oral dantrolene may damage the liver. The side effects of this drug may include breathing changes that happen due to weakness in the respiratory muscles and muscle weakness.

Baclofen

This drug is sold under the brand name Lioresal or Gablofen. It is primarily used for spasticity in spinal cord injury patients or those with multiple sclerosis. The most common side effects include drowsiness, confusion, muscle weakness, vertigo, and nausea.

Antispasmodics

Antispasmodics are used during emergencies and surgical procedures and to cause paralysis. These drugs help reduce muscle spasms via the central nervous system. They inhibit the transmission of neurons in the brain. There are two types of antispasmodics: benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines block certain chemicals in the brain, and nonbenzodiazepines act on the brain and spinal cord.

The three main antispasmodics medications are:

Carisoprodol

Carisoprodol is a nonbenzodiazepine. Adults can take this medication to relieve severe, painful muscle conditions. A common brand name for this drug is Soma. It has the potential to be abused. It can cause drowsiness and dizziness and isn’t recommended for long-term use or by those with a history of addiction. Doctors also warn people of the dangers of combining this medication with alcohol.

Cyclobenzaprine

Cyclobenzaprine is a nonbenzodiazepine. It can treat muscle spasms with severe muscle conditions when a person combines it with rest and physical therapy. Amrix, Flexeril, and Fexmid are the brand names of this drug. Its sedative properties limit its use during the day. Common side effects may include dizziness, irritability, confusion, and headache.

Diazepam

Diazepam is a benzodiazepine. Physicians may prescribe diazepam for severe muscle spasms and spasticity associated with neurological disorders. Diastat and Valium are common brand names for this drug. Common side effects of this drug include fatigue, muscle weakness, drowsiness, and loss of muscle movement.

Metaxalone

It is sold under the brand name Skelaxin. It has the lowest sedation potential and the fewest reported side effects of muscle relaxers. People cannot take it with drugs that affect the amount of serotonin in the body due to the risk of serotonin syndrome. Common side effects may include dizziness, irritability, an upset stomach, and headache.

Is Alcohol A Muscle Relaxer?

Does alcohol relax muscles? When you drink alcohol, it causes muscle relaxing and anxiety-reducing effects. Consistently using alcohol for this purpose, however, is discouraged by physicians due to the truth that people can become psychologically and physically dependent on the effects.

Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol Fact Sheet

What are Muscle Relaxers?

While acute lower back pain and muscle spasms may be temporarily relieved by muscle relaxants, these drugs may also have unfavorable side effects. Some muscle relaxants have addictive potential.

People should try to minimize their use as much as they can for these reasons. Additionally, due to potentially harmful interactions, physicians and pharmacists may advise against combining alcohol and muscle relaxants with specific drugs.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.

Mixing medications with alcohol can be harmful. Alcohol, like some medicines, can make you drowsy, sleepy, or lightheaded. Drinking alcohol while taking drugs can intensify these effects.

Alcohol Use Facts & Resources PDF Publicly Made Available by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol Abuse Statistics

If you or someone you know has developed a substance use disorder, working on a plan for sobriety as soon as possible becomes crucial. An inpatient treatment program offers an opportunity to safely detox from drugs and alcohol as a first step before individual and group therapy begins.


16.1 Million

5.8% (or about 16.1 million people) reported misusing any prescription psychotherapeutic drug in the past 12 months. Many people drink alcohol while using drugs to enhance or otherwise modify their experiences with these substances.

Source: NIDA

85,688

In 2019, of the 85,688 liver disease deaths among individuals ages 12 and older, 43.1% involved alcohol.

Source: NIDA

40%

About 40% of individuals who know they have an alcohol or drug problem are not ready to stop using, and many others simply feel they do not have a problem or a need for treatment.

Source: NIDA


Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Muscle Relaxers?

A muscle relaxer and alcohol mix intensify each other’s effects. Can you drink alcohol with muscle relaxers? No. If you’re prescribed a muscle relaxer, let your doctor or pharmacist know any other medications you are taking and if you have trouble with alcoholism.

How Long After Taking Muscle Relaxer Can You Drink Alcohol?

Muscle relaxers stay in your system longer than 24 hours. If you plan to drink an alcoholic beverage, it is best to wait 24 hours or longer after taking your last dose of the muscle relaxer to avoid any potentially harmful effects.

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Muscle relaxers and alcohol are both depressants that affect your central nervous system. Mixing the two can intensify these effects.
Muscle relaxers and alcohol are both depressants that affect your central nervous system. Mixing the two can intensify these effects.

Mixing Muscle Relaxers And Alcohol

So, why is mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol a bad idea? The answer lies in how muscle relaxers and alcohol affect your body. Muscle relaxers and alcohol both depress your central nervous system. They work to slow brain activity, which can slow functions down your breathing and heart rate as well. They can also make you feel calm or sleepy. Since both muscle relaxers and alcohol have this depressant effect, combining the two can compound their impact on your body. This means that the side effects of muscle relaxers, such as drowsiness or dizziness, can be intensified when you drink alcohol.

The Dangers Of Combining Muscle Relaxers And Alcohol

While any combination of muscle relaxers and alcohol can be dangerous, many people face more extreme risks when they intentionally use both drugs simultaneously to create a desired, pleasurable effect. Within situations of use, an individual is far more likely to use a medication in large dosages.

This means that they may take greater-than-prescribed doses of the muscle relaxer or take the pill more frequently than they should, which increases the odds of overdose, addiction, and other adverse health effects.

Mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol is a potent combination that can produce extreme sedation, decreased cognitive abilities, impaired motor functioning, accidental death, and addiction. A comprehensive inpatient treatment program should be sought to alleviate these risks if a person is addicted to one or both muscle relaxers and alcohol.

A person faces an increased risk of respiratory depression, injuries, motor vehicle accidents, drug overdose, and seizures when combining muscle relaxers and alcohol. Both muscle relaxers and alcohol slow down or depress the body’s central nervous system (CNS), an action that can lead to these and other dangers should these two substances be combined.

Can Muscle Relaxers Kill You?

When it comes to mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol, dangerous consequences can occur. The two substances combined can even be lethal. Common signs of muscle relaxer overdose include respiratory depression or trouble breathing. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Feeling very weak
  • Severely impaired movement or coordination
  • Heartbeat abnormalities, such as palpitations or arrhythmias
  • Confusion
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures

Side Effects Of Muscle Relaxers And Alcohol 

The sedation and CNS depression induced by muscle relaxers can become dangerous when amplified by the effects of other intoxicating substances, alcohol included. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) [2] reports that using alcohol with muscle relaxers may cause the following adverse reactions:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slow or labored breathing
  • Increased risk of seizures
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Impaired motor control
  • Unusual behavior
  • Memory impairments

One of the most significant risks of this combination is profound motor impairment and loss of coordination and equilibrium. Together, the combined use of muscle relaxers and alcohol can make it challenging for a person to walk and balance. This effect can cause a person to fall, especially if compounded by dizziness and impaired vision.

Injuries that result from this effect can be severe and even life-threatening. Motor impairment also makes operating heavy machinery or a motor vehicle very hazardous. Even when used separately, these substances impair a person’s reaction time, judgment, decision-making ability, and cognition.

Why Do People Mix Muscle Relaxers And Alcohol?

Muscle relaxers, including benzodiazepines, can cause euphoria and intense relaxation, which lead some to use their prescription or someone else’s. Some people may also use these prescription drugs to self-medicate to reduce the unpleasant feelings associated with alcohol withdrawal or induce sleep.

The dangers linked to this drug’s use may unknowingly occur to the users who consume one drug near the dose of the other. This may happen when an individual takes the muscle relaxers as prescribed and mix them with alcohol without realizing the harmful interactions. It can also occur if they have a drink a short time later while the medication is still in their system.

Most muscle relaxants last around four to six hours, so even if an individual starts drinking several hours after they take their dose, the medication will still be in their system. Muscle relaxers can be highly potent; even having one drink while on one can cause debilitating, uncomfortable, and dangerous side effects.

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What About Muscle Relaxers For Alcohol Withdrawal? 

In general, muscle relaxers and alcohol don’t mix. However, some experts believe there is a muscle relaxer called baclofen that might help with alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal is when a person who’s been drinking heavily or for a prolonged period quits drinking alcohol.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be possibly severe and include things like:

  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Quick breathing
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

It’s believed that baclofen may work by mimicking the effects of alcohol on a specific type of brain receptor. But so far, evidence supporting the use of baclofen for alcohol withdrawal is limited. A 2017 review couldn’t draw concrete conclusions about the effectiveness of baclofen in treating alcohol withdrawal. The researchers found that the studies reviewed contained either insufficient or poor-quality evidence. A recent review noted that baclofen is not recommended as a first-line treatment for alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

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Treatment For Muscle Relaxers And Alcohol Problems

Alcohol is the most abused addictive substance in America, as more than 17 million people in the United States are considered to suffer from addiction to alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) publishes that over 1.5 million American adults are considered to be currently abusing a prescription drug. [3]

Mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol magnifies the side effects and may promote more use. Many options are available to help the person stop taking muscle relaxers and alcohol and avoid serious side effects from polysubstance abuse. Many Soma (a brand of muscle relaxer) users respond well to Soma detox residential rehab programs. 

If you struggle with muscle relaxers and alcohol abuse, it’s crucial to assess all the symptoms accurately. When a mental health professional has evaluated the symptoms, it may be determined that another form of mental condition is present and needs a particular treatment. Very often, some combination of psychotherapy, medication, or lifestyle changes is effective for coping with functional. 

Pursuing treatment using muscle relaxers and alcohol works to protect yourself or a loved one from overdose risks.
Pursuing treatment using muscle relaxers and alcohol works to protect yourself or a loved one from overdose risks.

Medically-Assisted Detox

Medical detox is often considered the first stage of treatment. It will help you navigate the complicated process of alcohol withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug use. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

Cravings are very common during detox and can be challenging to overcome. This often leads to relapse. Constant medical care provided during inpatient treatment helps prevent relapse. Clinicians can give the necessary medication and medical expertise to lessen cravings and the effects of withdrawals.

Psychotherapy 

Several different modalities of psychotherapy have been used in the treatment of mental health disorders along with addiction, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – An effective treatment that involves changing both the patterns of negative thoughts and the behavioral routines which are affecting the daily life of the depressed person for various forms of depression.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – A comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment program whose ultimate goal is to aid patients in their efforts to build a life worth living. The main goal of DBT is to help a person develop what is referred to as a “clear mind.” 
  • Person-Centered Therapy – A strategy that allows and encourages clients to understand and resolve their concerns in a safe, supportive environment.
  • Solution-Focused Therapy – An approach interested in solutions that can be quickly implemented with a simple first step leading to further positive consequences.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Drug abuse and mental health disorders often co-occur. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in mental health disorders and substance abuse. Dual-diagnosis rehabilitation treats both of these issues together. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. This strategy treats both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend mainly on the treatment for both conditions done by the same team or provider.

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Break free from muscle relaxers and alcohol addiction. Reach out today!
Break free from muscle relaxers and alcohol addiction. Reach out today!

Medication-Assisted Treatments

Medication-assisted treatments (MAT) for substance use and mental health disorders are commonly used in conjunction with one another. This includes the use of medications and other medical procedures. During your rehab, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. Sometimes, the pressures and problems in your life lead you to rely on substances to help you forget about them momentarily.

Searching for Addiction Treatment for “Alcohol and Muscle Relaxers?”

 Contact one of our helpful treatment specialists today if you or a loved one are struggling with long-term drug abuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such as depression. We Level Up can provide information on dual diagnosis and detox programs that may fit your specific needs.

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Top 5 Muscle Relaxants and Alcohol FAQs

  1. Can you overdose on muscle relaxers and alcohol?

    Yes. The combination of a muscle relaxant and alcohol can make the effects of muscle relaxers more intense — and not in a good way. This can lead to potentially dangerous symptoms, such as an increased risk of overdose.

  2. Can you drink alcohol with a muscle relaxer?

    No. If you’re taking a muscle relaxer, you should avoid consuming alcohol. Alcohol can increase the chances of harmful side effects from muscle relaxers.

  3. Can you mix alcohol and muscle relaxers?

    No. Extreme dizziness, drowsiness, unusual behavior, or memory problems may occur when drinking alcohol while using muscle relaxers.

  4. Can alcohol and muscle relaxers kill you?

    Yes. Because muscle relaxers and alcohol depress the body in similar ways, their use can lead to slowed or shallow breathing that can lead to brain damage or death. An overdose is a medical emergency, so contact medical help immediately if one is suspected.

  5. Can you die from muscle relaxers and alcohol?

    Yes. Alcohol can increase the chances of harmful side effects from muscle relaxers. Mixing the two can also lead to impaired motor skills and cognitive function, as well as memory problems. In some cases, mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol can even be fatal.

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Sources

[1] Elder NC. Abuse of skeletal muscle relaxants. Am Fam Physician. 1991 Oct;44(4):1223-6. PMID: 1927837.

[2] Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs10/10913/10913p.pdf

[3] Alcohol and Medication Interactions – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

[4] Nehring SM, Freeman AM. Alcohol Use Disorder. [Updated 2022 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436003/

[5] Kranzler HR, Soyka M. Diagnosis and Pharmacotherapy of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Review. JAMA. 2018 Aug 28;320(8):815-824. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2018.11406. PMID: 30167705; PMCID: PMC7391072.

[6] LaHood AJ, Kok SJ. Ethanol Toxicity. [Updated 2022 Mar 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557381/

[7] Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

[8] Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health   Executive Summary

[9] Alcohol & Substance Misuse – Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

[10] Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health. Learn the facts – Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)

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