Baclofen: 6 things you should know
Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm Last updated on Aug 21, 2018.
1. How it works
- Baclofen is a muscle relaxant.
- Experts are not sure exactly how baclofen works to relieve muscle spasms but research suggests it inhibits nerve impulses in the spine, which relaxes and relieves muscle contractions.
- Baclofen is used to relieve muscle spasms such as those caused by multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury due to damage or disease.
- Particularly effective for relieving flexor spasms (involuntary muscle spasms involving the ankle, knee, or hip) and the pain, contractions, and rigidity associated with these.
- May help restore some muscle function.
- Baclofen is not effective for muscle spasms caused by rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, stroke or Parkinson's disease.
- May also be used off-label to treat other conditions such as hiccups or Tourette's syndrome.
- Generic baclofen is available.
If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:
- Drowsiness, dizziness, or sedation, which may affect your ability to drive or operate machinery or perform other hazardous tasks. The sedative effect of baclofen may be enhanced by alcohol or by other medications that also cause sedation (such as benzodiazepines, opiates).
- Weakness, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, constipation, low blood pressure, headache, and confusion have also been reported.
- Sudden discontinuation of baclofen has been associated with hallucinations and seizures. Baclofen should be withdrawn slowly unless it is an emergency.
- May not be suitable for some people, including those with a history of stroke or who rely on spasticity to maintain an upright position, balance, or for increased function. The dosage of baclofen should be reduced in those with kidney disease.
- People with a history of seizures or epilepsy should be monitored regularly for changes in seizure control or EEG recordings.
- Not recommended during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks.
- May cause an increase in the risk of ovarian cysts.
Notes: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. For a complete list of all side effects, click here.
- Baclofen may be taken with or without food.
- Treatment should be started at a low dose and increased gradually as directed by your doctor. Take baclofen as directed by your doctor. Do not take more than is recommended.
- Do not drive or operate machinery, or perform hazardous tasks if baclofen makes you drowsy, dizzy, or sleepy.
- Avoid alcohol while you are taking baclofen.
- Do not stop taking this medicine suddenly. If you feel you are not gaining any benefit from this drug, or the side effects are intolerable, talk with your doctor about slowly discontinuing it.
6. Response and Effectiveness
- Baclofen is rapidly absorbed, although absorption may be reduced with higher dosages. There is a wide variation in the way individuals respond to baclofen, with some people reporting a reduction in symptoms of muscle spasm within a few hours, whereas for some others it may take several weeks.
Baclofen [Package Insert]. Revised 02/2018. Upsher-Smith Laboratories, LLC. https://www.drugs.com/pro/baclofen.html
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use baclofen only for the indication prescribed.
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