Alcoholism is a problem that affects countless people across the globe. Because alcohol is a legal substance that is easily accessible, many people do not consider the dangers associated with chronic use. Mainstream media glorifies alcohol consumption, and excessive alcohol consumption as a staple of young adult life. This carefree portrayal and normalization of excessive consumption has led many down a dangerous path of abuse and dependency. Young adults in particular are susceptible to these dangers, especially those who are looking for ways to ease social discomfort and more readily relate to others. But there are some prescriptions, like baclofen that can help to treat the addiction during detox.
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Alcoholism is a condition that requires extensive care in treatment. Even the process of withdrawal often requires professional intervention. In many cases, those recovering from alcoholism will experience painful, uncomfortable, sometimes life-threatening withdrawal symptoms that must be treated. Fortunately, various medications and approaches have been found to be effective methods of treatment. These are often essential to the healing process and researchers are constantly searching for ways that existing medications may be applied to the recovery process. The drug Baclofen, a medication most commonly used to treat back-related conditions, is currently being studied to determine how effective it is in treating alcohol and drug abuse. So far, these studies have had mixed results, and though the drug has not received approval yet from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), other countries are already pushing forward with it as a treatment option.
What is Baclofen?
Baclofen is a drug currently approved to treat spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis. Baclofen produces a calming, “slowing” effect on a person’s mood and physical state. It has the ability to reduce muscle spasms, muscle stiffness, and reduce pain associated with back conditions. The drug affects the reward pathway in the brain, which is why it is also being tested as an option to treat alcohol and drug dependencies. This pathway is dramatically affected by addiction because addictive substances influence activity levels of dopamine in the brain. This produces feelings of happiness and relaxation. Over time, these reward systems do not function properly without the influence of drugs or alcohol. Since Baclofen acts on the receptors in the brain, it is thought that it may lessen a person’s cravings for drugs or alcohol while simultaneously reducing withdrawal symptoms.
Researchers speculate that Baclofen’s ability to affect mood can benefit those who struggle with mental health disorders and mood disorders. It is thought that the drug may counteract negative states of mind and improve overall mood.
What’s the Risk?
With research seemingly supporting the use of Baclofen, it is hard to imagine why the drug may not yet be approved to treat alcoholism. Baclofen has been associated with a variety of side effects and is believed to undo the effects of other medications a person may be taking. Baclofen may cause:
- Changes to libido
- Varying forms of pain
- Weight loss/gain
- Memory loss
- Breathing problems
Baclofen can alter the effects of tranquilizers, sleep aids, muscle relaxants, and vitamins. People with certain health conditions may experience adverse effects. Those with epilepsy, ulcers, and heart-related conditions may also experience adverse effects.
While there is some room for Baclofen to work effectively, for most, the risks do not appear to outweigh the benefits. In treatment, people often search for a miracle cure or medication to speed up the recovery process, but this is often ineffective and the person ends up requiring more time in treatment to recover properly. While exploring new methods of treating addiction is a positive venture, green-lighting a medication for treatment that only partially works is not recommended, especially when other treatment methods and medications with much higher success rates are available. Treatment methods will vary from person to person, and for some, Baclofen may be a viable solution, but in most cases, successful recovery requires a person to make lifestyle changes to support sober living.