Baclofen is a muscle relaxant and antispasmodic drug that helps alleviate muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. Doctors may also prescribe baclofen for multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord injury, and other conditions of the central nervous system.
The drug inhibits the transmission of nerve impulses to reduce muscle contractions and pain.
In this article, we describe baclofen in more detail, including its uses, how to take it, and the potential side effects and drug interactions. We also answer some frequently asked questions about baclofen.
Baclofen has various effects on the body that make it suitable for the treatment of several conditions. It works by:
- alleviating muscle tightness and stiffness
- reducing the severity and frequency of muscle spasms
- improving muscle movement
- alleviating pain
Doctors may prescribe baclofen to help treat the following conditions:
Baclofen is not suitable for everyone, as it may interact with certain medications or worsen an existing condition. A person should notify the prescribing doctor of the following:
- any allergies they have to medications or common medication ingredients
- any medications they are currently taking, including the following:
- antidepressant, antianxiety, or antipsychotic medications
- anti-seizure medications
- sleeping pills, sedatives, or tranquilizers
- any current or previous health conditions, particularly:
- psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia
- Parkinson’s disease
- substance use disorder
- respiratory impairment
- hypertonic bladder sphincter
The doctor will also need to be aware if the person is pregnant, planning on becoming pregnant, or breastfeeding. Baclofen may not be safe to take during pregnancy. Doctors will only prescribe the drug if the benefits of doing so outweigh the risks.
Baclofen is available in various forms, including tablets, oral suspensions, and injectables.
The suitable baclofen dosage for an adult will depend on the type and severity of their symptoms. Doctors will start the person on the lowest dosage and
- Muscle spasm pain: A person will typically take 5–10 milligrams (mg) three times per day.
- Chronic severe muscle spasticity: The dosage may initially be 5 mg three times per day, gradually increasing to 20 mg three times per day. If a person does not experience symptom relief within 6 weeks, the doctor may increase the dosage up to a maximum of 80 mg per day.
- Chronic severe muscle spasticity unresponsive to oral medication: Initially, a healthcare professional will administer a dose of 25–50 micrograms (mcg) via intrathecal injection, which is an injection into the cerebrospinal fluid. They will then increase the dose in increments of 25 mcg up to a maximum of 100 mcg to determine the lowest effective dose. A person may then receive an infusion pump, which is a device in the chest wall or abdomen that delivers a daily maintenance dose of between 12 mcg and 2 mg.
An individual should take baclofen according to the prescribing doctor’s instructions.
What to do about a missed dose
If a person misses a dose of baclofen, they should take the dose as soon as they remember. However, if the next dose is due, a person should skip the missed dose and take the next dose as planned. A person should not take a double dose of baclofen.
Is it safe to drive?
Baclofen may make some people feel drowsy or sleepy. A person should not drive or operate heavy machinery unless they are certain that the drug does not affect them in this way.
Below are some common side effects of baclofen and the ways in which people can alleviate them:
|A person who is feeling faint should sit or lie down until the feeling has passed.|
If dizziness occurs, a person should remain seated until it has passed and then stand up very slowly.
Anyone who feels faint, dizzy, or drowsy should not drive, ride a bike, or operate dangerous machinery or tools.
|A person can avoid nausea or vomiting by taking baclofen with or after a snack or meal and avoiding rich or spicy foods. |
Sipping water regularly can help prevent dehydration due to vomiting. Signs of dehydration include reduced urine output and dark, strong-smelling urine.
|diarrhea||A person should drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration due to diarrhea. They should not take over-the-counter (OTC) medication for diarrhea without first talking with a doctor or pharmacist. |
In some cases, a person may need to come off baclofen for a short while. However, they should only do this if the prescribing doctor advises it.
|headaches||A person can take acetaminophen to alleviate headaches. They should also stay hydrated and limit their alcohol consumption. |
It is important to talk with a doctor if the headaches are severe or last longer than 7 days.
|insomnia||Relaxing before going to bed can help alleviate insomnia. This may involve taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to calming music.|
People should also avoid screen time, large meals, and caffeine and alcohol before going to bed.
|dry mouth||Sugar-free sweets or sugar-free gum can help counteract a dry mouth.|
difficulty focusing the vision
rapid eye movements
|Visual disturbances tend to occur early in the treatment and should resolve as the body accustoms to the medication. A person should consult a doctor if the symptoms last longer than a couple of days. |
Anyone experiencing visual disturbances should not drive a car, ride a bike, or operate machinery or tools.
|A person who experiences a skin rash or sweating should wear loose clothing and use a small electric fan to cool the skin. Taking an OTC antihistamine may also help. |
If the rash does not clear up, it is important to speak with a doctor for further advice.
|increased need to urinate|
pain when urinating
|These effects should only last the first few days. A person may need to consult a medical professional if they last longer.|
Serious side effects
In rare instances, a person may experience a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis while taking baclofen.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis can include:
- skin rash or hives
- pallor or discoloration of the face or body
- swelling of the throat or other body parts
- tightness in the chest
- wheezing or coughing
- hoarse voice
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- stomach cramps
- a feeling of impending doom
A person who develops any of the above symptoms after taking baclofen or any other medication should seek emergency medical attention.
Baclofen can interact with other drugs, and this may increase the risk of side effects.
Medications that may interact with baclofen include:
- other muscle relaxant medications
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen
- medications to treat high blood pressure
- the mood stabilizer lithium
- the antidepressant medication amitriptyline
- the Parkinson’s disease medication levodopa
People should also notify the doctor if they are taking any dietary or herbal supplements, as some of these products may interact with medications such as baclofen.
Below are the answers to some commonly asked questions regarding the use of baclofen.
Can baclofen make you sleepy?
Baclofen can make some people feel drowsy or sleepy. Unless a person is certain that they do not experience this side effect, they should not engage in the following activities:
- riding a bike
- operating heavy or dangerous machinery or tools
Is baclofen addictive?
Symptoms of withdrawal
- sleepiness, drowsiness, or sedation
- lack of mental alertness
- delusions and hallucinations
- confusion or agitation
- feeling cold
- visual changes
- increased muscle stiffness and spasms
Is baclofen good for anxiety?
Doctors do not prescribe baclofen to treat anxiety alone. However, a 2017 study notes that doctors may prescribe the drug off-label to help treat comorbid alcohol use disorder and anxiety disorder.
Baclofen is a muscle relaxant and antispasmodic drug that helps alleviate muscle stiffness, spasms, and pain. Doctors may prescribe it to help treat symptoms of multiple sclerosis and other diseases and injuries of the central nervous system.
Baclofen may not be suitable for everyone. Before taking this drug, a person should notify the doctor of any underlying health conditions and any medications or supplements they are taking. They should also tell the doctor if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Baclofen can cause side effects. As such, doctors will introduce the drug slowly to find the minimum effective dosage. If a person later needs to come off the drug, the doctor will taper the dosage gradually to minimize the risk of withdrawal.
Anyone who experiences side effects while taking baclofen should notify the prescribing doctor immediately.