Prescription drugs that are used as muscle relaxers work to relieve pain and relax contracted (tightened) muscles. Damage to the muscles can occur as a result of overexertion due to physical exercise, or because of certain illnesses.
Spinal cord and other injuries can also result in muscle damage or can cause muscle spasms.
Types of Muscle Relaxers That Are Abused
There are several different types of prescription drugs that act as muscle relaxers. Some of these are intended specifically for use as muscle relaxers; three of them are listed below. However, there are others that are intended for other uses, but have been found to also act as muscle relaxers. One example of this is listed below.
A brief explanation of how each listed drug works is provided first. Then, the ways in which these muscle relaxers can be abused, and the effects of abuse on a person will be discussed.
How Muscle Relaxers Work
Baclofen: Is designed to act on the nerves that are located in and around the spinal cord. It relieves pain and eases muscle spasms. Spinal cord injuries often cause muscle spasms and pain. Many people who are suffering from spinal cord injuries usually suffer some degree of paralysis – either partial or complete. For this reason, other people may mistakenly believe that since one cannot feel or move one’s limbs or part of the body, there is no other sensation or any type of movement whatsoever in the affected area.
This is not true. Even though they may not be felt, muscle spasms can occur. And, loss of movement in a body part does not mean loss of pain sensation. Many people who suffer spinal cord injuries have what is known as “phantom” pain.
In addition, the fact that a limb or body part can’t be moved means that muscles will atrophy or “waste away”. As this occurs, a condition called “contracture” can occur. This is why people with spinal cord injuries often have curled fingers or toes, or their hands or feet may be curved to one side or the other.
Muscle spasms can also occur when there is a disease to the spinal cord, such as multiple sclerosis. In spinal cord diseases, however, sensation or movement may not be completely lost; however, the movement may be involuntary (it can’t be controlled), and all pain and other sensations can be felt.
Tizanidine (Zanaflex): Is considered a skeletal muscle relaxer. This means it works on those muscles that are connected to or in close proximity to bones and bone structure in the body. It is effective in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative muscle disease that can cause many problems, including numbness in the affected areas, loss of smooth muscle control (smooth muscles are found in organs such as the bladder), and the ability to coordinate the movements and actions of muscles. Tizanidine works by relieving muscle spasms that this disease can cause, while increasing muscle tone.
This drug can also be used in stroke patients for whom the stroke has affected a limb or body part. In some instances of stroke, muscle contracture – a condition whereby the fingers curl inward, or hands, feet, arms, or legs become turned inward or outward – is often a side effect. Because Tizanidine can improve muscle tone, it may be possible for the effects of muscle contracture to be improved or even reversed to a great extent, especially when physical therapy is part of the stroke recovery protocol.
Diazepam (Valium): Is recognized as a very well-known anti-anxiety drug. This is the drug that was mentioned earlier as having been designed to treat certain specific conditions, such as anxiety, but was found to work on muscle spasms as well. Diazepam slows down brain and nervous system function, which in turn helps muscles relax.
Carisoprodol (Soma): Is designed primarily to treat muscle injuries such as strains and sprains. It also has other uses. Soma can prescribed in at least three different forms—by itself, combined with Aspirin, or combined with Aspirin and Codeine.
How Can Muscle Relaxers Be Abused?
The most common ways of abusing any type of prescription drug that has the propensity for this is by taking more than the recommended dosage or continuing to take the drug after it is no longer needed. In muscle relaxers, this can occur when the prescribed medication is used to treat a temporary condition, such as pain after overexertion or injury. In the case of the drugs used to treat chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, or those for which there will be no resolution, such as spinal cord injuries, however, there may never come a time when the drug is not needed.