Medications aren’t always required in a fight against addiction. In fact, some people are adamantly opposed to the idea of using any medication at all as they attempt to live a sober life; these people view taking of any sort of medication as a violation of the ideals inherent in the new life they’re trying to pull together. It’s an understandable point of view, but this approach isn’t right for everyone. There are times when medications can help to soothe symptoms of detox, allowing people to accomplish sobriety without enduring pain, and there are times when medications can ease mental distress, reducing cravings for drugs. Baclofen, sold under the brand names Lioresal and Gablofen, is designed to help in both these areas. For those in recovery from some kinds of addiction, this medication can provide vital support.
A Powerful Drug
Baclofen was originally developed to help people with pain due to spinal cord injuries or abnormalities. The medication can soothe tense and jumpy muscles by boosting the production of specific chemicals within the brain and spinal cord. These chemicals can slow out-of-control electrical activity within the nervous system, and while the drug may not feel sedating, it can help people to feel more relaxed, calm and at ease.
The unusual electrical activity produced by spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis can also be caused by specific addictive drugs. People who drink large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time, for example, can develop electrical storms during detox, and they may develop seizures as a result. Other people who use addictive drugs feel anxiety and cravings due to the chemical damage the drugs have caused, and they may also have unusual brain activity when they feel cravings. Both of these groups of people may benefit from baclofen therapy.
As the body adjusts to the lack of drugs in detox, the brain can interpret the lack of drugs as an alarming situation, and symptoms of physical pain or mental distress can follow. Abnormal electrical activity in the brain is sometimes to blame, and baclofen can assist with this issue. In a study of the efficacy of baclofen in helping people withdraw from opiates, published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, researchers found that baclofen was effective in treating the physical discomfort typically experienced during a “cold turkey” withdrawal, and the medication also helped to ameliorate the symptoms of depression and anxiety that can develop during withdrawal. For some people, this medication can be quite helpful during detox.
After detox, people are asked to access rehab programs, in which they’re provided with:
- Individual therapy
- Family therapy
- Group therapy
- Support groups
- Alternative medicine techniques
- Relapse prevention planning
Despite the intensive help these treatments can provide, some people feel an intense and overwhelming need to take substances. They simply cannot get through the day without wanting the substances they were once addicted to, and relapse remains a very real possibility as a result. There is some evidence that suggests that baclofen could help to soothe these cravings, allowing people to participate in therapy while feeling a little less anxious and upset.
In one study of people with cocaine dependence, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers found that people who took baclofen were able to reduce their cocaine use, even when they’d been chronic users in the past, and they were more likely to stay in therapy as a result. An article about baclofen in Forbes suggests that alcoholic people have had the same results with this medication, reducing their cravings for drinks and drinking less as a result.
It’s possible that the soothing and calming aspects of baclofen make the drug a good partner for people with addictions. If they are using addictive substances in order to sedate minds that are already overactive, perhaps baclofen ameliorates the underlying condition that led to the addiction. It’s also possible that the drug just makes the brain less excitable, so it doesn’t respond so dramatically when it has access to drugs. This reduced ability to react might also make the drugs a little less attractive.
An Individual Choice
Baclofen therapy isn’t right for everyone, and not everyone who has an addiction will be offered this medication as part of a healing program. Studies do seem to indicate, however, that some people find baclofen to be an important partner in the fight against addiction. For that reason, it’s a good tool to have available when a person wants to achieve sobriety.
To find out more about baclofen therapy or to ask specific questions about how the therapy works, please call us here at Axis. We have counselors available to discuss your questions.