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Alcohol and Medications

Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol: A Dangerous Mix

July 2, 2023
11 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 2, 2023
11 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 2, 2023
11 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 2, 2023
11 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 2, 2023
11 min read

Most of us will struggle with pain at some point in our life, whether acutely or at a chronic level. Muscle relaxers have become an essential companion for millions, offering relief from painful muscle spasms and aches. Derived from a broad category of medications aptly known as muscle relaxants, these drugs play a critical role in managing a range of conditions from muscular injuries, spasms, and certain neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy.

The usefulness of these medications lies in their ability to ease discomfort and enhance our quality of life, so you might be wondering: can you drink with muscle relaxers? As is often the case, there's a potential dark side to these seemingly benign pills, especially when they’re mixed with that all-too-familiar social lubricant: alcohol.

What Are Muscle Relaxers?

Muscle relaxers are a group of medications prescribed to relieve muscle spasms, pain, and hyperreflexia (overactive reflexes), which can result from various conditions. Some common causes? Back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and certain neurological disorders.

A person holding wine glass in the left hand and medicines in the right hand

These medications work by causing the muscles to relax (go figure!), which helps reduce pain and discomfort. Some work by targeting the central nervous system (CNS) to reduce muscle spasms. Others — known as neuromuscular blockers — are primarily used in hospital settings. As the name suggests, these work by blocking the transmission of nerve impulses to the muscles, preventing muscle contractions.

Why Do People Mix Alcohol and Muscle Relaxers?

Recreationally, people seeking an enhanced sense of relaxation and euphoria combine alcohol and muscle relaxers recreationally. In other instances, the combination can be unintentional, as a person might consume alcohol while on prescribed muscle relaxants, perhaps unaware of the potential dangers. No matter the reason, it's important to understand that this mix is a dangerous cocktail.

Combining muscle relaxers with alcohol can set off a domino effect of detrimental health implications. Let's dive deeper into the three most significant risks associated with this hazardous mix of alcohol and muscle relaxers.

The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Muscle Relaxers

Side Effects of Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol

Even when used separately, alcohol and muscle relaxers come with their separate sets of side effects. Muscle relaxers can lead to drowsiness, weakness, dry mouth, and other unpleasant feelings. Alcohol, on the other hand, can induce impaired judgment, blurred vision, and coordination issues. When these substances are mixed, alcohol exacerbates the impact of the muscle relaxers, creating a vicious cycle that can severely affect cognitive and physical functions.

Imagine this scenario: you've had a drink or two after consuming a muscle relaxer. Suddenly, you're feeling more than just relaxed. Your vision blurs, coordination decreases, and before you know it, you're a danger to yourself (and others — especially if you're driving). The stakes are undeniably high, and the consequences are potentially catastrophic.

Potential Respiratory Distress

Both muscle relaxers and alcohol work by depressing our central nervous system. This slowdown effect can extend to our vital bodily functions, including our respiratory system. Combining these substances slows down our breathing, potentially to dangerous levels.

Consider the dual nature of this interaction — combining muscle relaxers with alcohol is like having two heavy weights pressing down on our chest, making every breath laborious. The result? We might find ourselves struggling to breathe, our chest tightening and lungs gasping for air. In severe cases, breathing can become so slow that it could stop entirely. This, quite obviously, is a life-threatening scenario, and a potent reminder of why mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol can be such a perilous choice.

Heightened Risk of Overdose

The risk of an overdose is a grim reality when mixing muscle relaxers with alcohol. Alcohol can drastically magnify the effects of muscle relaxers, thereby increasing the likelihood of an overdose.

In the early stages, the symptoms of an overdose might seem relatively mild — perhaps a bit of extra drowsiness or a slightly unsteady gait. However, these seemingly insignificant signs can escalate quickly into a full-blown medical emergency characterized by severe dizziness, loss of consciousness, and even death in worst-case scenarios. In short: it’s not worth the risk.

What About Muscle Relaxers for Alcohol Withdrawal?

Muscle relaxers are sometimes prescribed for alcohol withdrawal, with Baclofen being the most common one. They can help alleviate some of the uncomfortable symptoms that come with the territory — specifically, muscle tremors and spasms. Baclofen can also help alleviate the anxiety many of us feel, especially in the first days after leaving booze behind. When we’re going through withdrawal, our body is going through a rough transition period as it tries to adjust to a new normal, and medications such as Baclofen can make this temporary process a bit easier.

What To Do if You’ve Already Mixed

You may be reading this article and thinking, “I’ve already mixed muscle relaxers and alcohol, what do I do?” Whether it happened by accident or because you didn’t realize the combination might be dangerous, try not to panic. First things first — stop drinking at this point to avoid adding more fuel to the fire. Stay aware of your symptoms and reach out for help if you start experiencing confusion, trouble standing, difficulty breathing, or difficulty moving. You may wish to ask for someone to check in on you regularly if possible. If you’re concerned about the side effects you’re experiencing, contact a health professional. It’s always best to be safe — you’re worth it!

Putting Your Well-Being First

So, can you drink on muscle relaxers? No! Now that we’ve laid out the risks, it's clear that the temporary high or the amplified relaxation derived from mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol is a gamble we cannot afford. The risks of drinking on muscle relaxers far outweigh any fleeting “benefits.”

It's paramount to recognize that we owe it to ourselves, our body, and our overall well-being to make informed, healthy decisions. Just as we would distance ourselves from relationships or situations that cause us undue stress, it’s an act of self-care to avoid substance combinations that are detrimental to our health.

This doesn’t mean we should stop taking our muscle relaxers so we can drink. Before modifying the way we use our medications, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional. And when we find ourselves reaching for that glass of wine while on muscle relaxers, let's remember the potential dangers and opt for a safer choice. Our future self will undoubtedly be thankful for such wisdom. After all, our health, happiness, and longevity are worth far more than a fleeting high or a temporary escape from reality. The power to make the right choice lies in our hands — let's use it wisely!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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