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Updated 11 February 2013

Baclofen

Baclofen is a muscle relaxant with a selective action on the central nervous system.

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Baclofen is the active ingredient of Lioresal and Bio-Bacloven.

General information

Baclofen is a muscle relaxant with a selective action on the central nervous system (CNS). It was originally designed to treat epilepsy, but its effect was disappointing. Today it is used mainly to treat muscular spasms, cramps and rigidity that originate in the spinal cord. It is useful in treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury.

It should be understood that baclofen does not cure any of these conditions, but reduces symptoms to allow for other treatment, such as physiotherapy.

How does Baclofen work?

In the spinal cord, there are specific cells that affect reflexes responsible for muscle contraction. These cells are sensitive to the neurotransmitter gamma-amino-butyric-acid (GABA) which slows them down. Baclofen has an effect on muscle contraction because it mimics the effect of GABA.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 4

Available as: Tablets

What does it do? Reduce muscle spasm

Overdose risk: Medium

Dependence risk: Low

Available as a generic? Yes

Available on prescription only ? Yes

User information

Onset of effect: 1-3 hours. The full effect of baclofen may only be noticed after a few weeks

Duration of action: Up to 8 hours

Dietary advice: None

Stopping this medicine: Baclofen should not be stopped abruptly - therapy should be gradually withdrawn (over 1-2 weeks) as abrupt withdrawal may worsen spasticity and trigger hallucinations and convulsions.

Prolonged use: No special precautions required with prolonged use.

Special precautions

Alert your doctor before using this drug if:

  • You have a kidney or liver disease,
  • You have epilepsy,
  • You have a stomach ulcer,
  • You have diabetes,
  • You have difficulty passing urine,
  • You have any breathing problems or disease affecting breathing, or
  • You are taking any other medication.

Pregnancy: Avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: Avoid. This medication may cause serious adverse effects. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: This medication is safe for use in children at the recommended dose for children.

Elderly: Caution is advised in the elderly as they may be more susceptible to the side effects of baclofen. This may be more apparent during the early phase of treatment. A reduced dose may be needed.

Driving and hazardous work : Caution is advised as use of this medication may lead to dizziness, light-headedness and/or sedation. Avoid such activities until you know how this medication affects you.

Alcohol: Avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication as it may increase the sedative effects of baclofen.

Possible side effects

Side effect

Frequency

Consult your doctor

Common

Rare

Only if severe

In all cases

Drowsiness/ dizziness

x

x

Muscle fatigue/ weakness

x

x

Nausea

x

x

Constipation/ diarrhoea

x

x

Headache

x

x

Skin rash/ itch

x

x

Depression

x

x

Hallucination

x

x

Confusion

x

x

Euphoria

x

x

Interactions

Drug interactions

Drugs used for Parkinsonism

Confusion and hallucinations may occur

Drugs used for epilepsy

Increased risk of convulsions

Drugs used for high blood pressure

Blood pressure may fall too low

Tricyclic antidepressants

Increased risk of baclofen toxicity

Alcohol

Increased sedative effects

Antihistamines

Increased sedative effects

Benzodiazepines

Increased sedative effects

Disease interactions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have a kidney or liver disease, epilepsy, a stomach ulcer, diabetes, difficulty passing urine, any breathing problems or disease affecting breathing, or if you are taking any other medication.

Overdose action

A small overdose is no cause for concern. In case of an intentional large overdose seek immediate emergency medical attention. Symptoms may include vomiting, weakness, drowsiness, slow breathing, seizure and coma.

Recommended dosage

Adults: 5-25mg 3 times a day (max dose 100mg/day)

Children: 1-1.5mg/kg/day. Max dose: 2-7 years: 30-40mg/day;

8 years and older: 60mg/day

Interesting fact

Baclofen is sometimes used in the treatment of addiction, amongst others cocaine addiction. Addicts say that once they were treated with baclofen their desire for cocaine plummeted significantly.

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

 
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