Baclofen - does not only work against alcohol addiction

Baclofen is a drug that was originally known primarily under the trade name Lioresal®. Meanwhile, the same active ingredient is also distributed in the form of various generic drugs, for example as Baclofen dura®. Find out more about the active substance baclofen in the following.

What is Baclofen?

Baclofen is used to reduce muscle tone, the strength of muscle tension. Baclofen falls into the drug class of antispastics and muscle relaxants. A special feature of Baclofen is its central effectiveness. This means that the active substance also migrates from the blood to the brain and spinal cord via the blood-brain barrier and therefore acts directly on the nerve cells.

How does Baclofen work?

Baclofen is an agonist at the GABA receptor, a receptor for gamma-aminobutyric acid (from English, gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA and the aforementioned receptor have an inhibitory effect on nerve cells in the central nervous system (CNS, which includes the brain and spinal cord) and also on the musculature via detours.

Baclofen in turn mimics the action of GABA and thus also achieves the described relaxing effect. Consequently, it is used as a drug in the treatment of spasticity, convulsions and sometimes alcoholism (outside the approved areas of application).

Baclofen against alcohol addiction?

So far, there is insufficient scientific research and experience on the use of baclofen in addiction in general and alcoholism in particular.

Especially case studies on the use of baclofen in alcohol dependence can be found in the literature. For example, some of the studies show that baclofen, at normal and authorized doses, does not appear to have a greater effect on alcohol dependence than placebo.

However, other studies in which baclofen was also taken in significantly higher doses suggest that baclofen has a supportive effect in addiction treatment in some cases.

How does Baclofen counteract alcohol dependence?

The study suggests that, depending on the dosage of baclofen, it might be effective against alcohol dependence. For example, the subjects with alcohol dependence described their craving for alcohol as having high-dose baclofen tablets as being less. However, there is no clear scientific recommendation in this respect.

It should also be noted that higher doses may cause more side effects. Therefore, baclofen is not approved in Germany for the treatment of addiction. Treatment can only take place if the drug is prescribed for treatment off-label, ie outside the approved areas of application of baclofen, by prescription from a doctor.

Nalmefene, another drug that has also been used for a long time in the discussion of the treatment of alcohol addiction, however, is now approved for the treatment of alcohol dependence.

Side effects of baclofen

The side effects that can occur with baclofen therapy are mainly related to the depressant effect.

  • sleepiness
  • muscle weakness
  • low blood pressure
  • dizziness
  • a headache
  • Dazed to confusion
  • seizures
  • quiet language
  • double vision
  • difficulty breathing

Caution: Co-administration of baclofen with other depressant drugs or psychotropic drugs, such as antidepressants, may result in a mutual enhancement of the effects. These groups of drugs should therefore only be taken in close consultation with the doctor and pharmacist.

Application of baclofen

When taking Baclofen, there are other points to consider:

  • When to take? Baclofen is used primarily for the treatment of severe spasticity, for example, after injury, multiple sclerosis or other diseases of the spinal cord occur. The active ingredient can be taken as a tablet, usually in 10 mg or 25 mg form. If particularly high doses are required, baclofen can also be added directly to the nerve fluid via a baclofen pump. These pumps are usually implanted directly with a small operation.
  • How long to take? Baclofen is often prescribed for the long-term treatment of severe spasticity, if well postponed, and taken daily for several years. The normal dosage is between 30 and 75 mg a day. Higher doses are recommended only under inpatient supervision.
  • How long does Baclofen stay in the body? The half life of baclofen is about 7 hours.

Can you buy baclofen without a prescription?

Baclofen is a prescription, so you can not buy it in Germany without a prescription. Only by prescription, the drug can be purchased in the pharmacy.

Alternatives to baclofen

Another drug also used in the treatment of severe spasticity is tizanidine (Sirdalud®). This works in a different way than baclofen: Tizanidine is an agonist of alpha2 receptors.

There are also other alternatives that can be used to relax the muscles: These include, for example, tetrazepam and pregabalin (Lyrica®).

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