Cyclobenzaprine is the active compound in brand name medicines like Flexeril, Amrix, and Fexmid. It is prescribed primarily to treat muscle spasms and does so by relaxing the muscles. Physicians generally prescribe rest and physical therapy along with the medicine. It is intended to be used for a very short term – two to three weeks at the most.
Patients who are given cyclobenzaprine usually have muscle spasms and pain. There are many reasons, including that they had accidents or surgery. So, it is important to realize that the patient is already in pain and may find it increasingly difficult to live with the pain and muscle spasms. These conditions make the patient at risk for abusing cyclobenzaprine.
The goal of taking cyclobenzaprine is to quickly alleviate muscle spasm pain. This allows the patient to be more successful with physical therapy in handling the pain and correcting the physical reason for the spasms.
Generally speaking, adults should take this medication no more than every eight hours as needed. Cyclobenzaprine can cause a greater increase in side effects in geriatric patients. It may also not be safe for those patients younger than age 15.
Taking this medication more frequently than prescribed, or increasing your dose without your doctor’s knowledge, will not increase its benefits. Since some people feel relief and even relaxation to an extent, they need to realize that more does not equal better when taking this medication. In fact, it can be quite dangerous.
Cyclobenzaprine is not a narcotic or opioid pain killer. It works by suppressing pain signals to receptors in the central nervous system. This suppression is what dulls or calms the pain and spasms and allows the patient to work through physical therapy. It brings them needed pain relief.
Research shows the cyclobenzaprine suppresses pain in the first two weeks, but after three weeks, no evidence shows a long-term benefit. This is why the medication should not be used for longer than three weeks.
After the three-week mark, users may try to take a higher dosage or take the medicine more frequently to maintain pain relief. They may even have heard the doctor talk about how increasing the medication will not help matters, but they try it anyway. This can lead to dependence very quickly.
Cyclobenzaprine works similarly to certain antidepressants. It helps you to feel calm and relaxed. This feeling of relaxation and calm is certainly a state of being that you and others enjoy. But is that feeling causing people to become addicted to the drug?
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that in 2011, more than 25 million prescriptions were written for cyclobenzaprine. The drug is easy to obtain and easy to abuse. It can be taken orally, mixed with alcohol, or even snorted.
Additionally, if users are in tremendous physical pain, they may develop a tolerance to this medication. In turn, they increase the dosage they take. Before they realize it, they may need to take a much higher dose of the medication to get relief. It becomes a vicious cycle for them.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the demographic with the highest rate of prescription drug abuse are those who are 18-24 years of age. There is also evidence that shows that patients who are prescribed cyclobenzaprine by their doctors are more likely to become dependent on the medicine. This means they need more frequent and higher doses to get the same relief.
People who do not need cyclobenzaprine but choose to abuse it do so for a few reasons. With internet access, it is easy for people to look up how to mix cyclobenzaprine with alcohol or other drugs to obtain certain feelings or a “high.” Recreational use of this medication is dangerous.
Cyclobenzaprine has many side effects, and mixing the medication with other drugs or alcohol can only magnify or complicate these effects.
There is a difference between being addicted to a drug and being dependent on it. Health experts assert that you can become dependent on cyclobenzaprine. This means that a change occurs in your brain as you continue to take the drug, causing you to feel the need to keep taking it to get your desired result: relief. Your body gets used to the drug, becoming dependent on it.
Even if you take the medication exactly as the doctor prescribes, you may still develop a physical dependency on it. This means that you need it and may need more of it to maintain your physical well-being.
Cyclobenzaprine is similar in structure to tricyclic antidepressants, and anyone can become physically dependent on drugs containing this ingredient. If you think you have become dependent on cyclobenzaprine, consult a physician for help. Withdrawal symptoms are real and may be challenging for you when it’s time to stop taking the drug. You should be monitored during the process.
If you’ve become addicted to a drug, remember that it is behavioral as well as physical. When it comes to addiction, drug abuse can change your brain structure, causing you to feel strong cravings for more of the drug. It may be necessary to get medical help for both drug dependency and/or drug addiction.
Cyclobenzaprine, when used correctly, can be a safe and effective tool for pain management by reducing muscle spasms. While it has a low chance of causing a physical dependency, the chance is there.
Regarding addiction rates, the numbers are low according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It seems the more serious problem occurs when people take cyclobenzaprine and mix it with alcohol or other drugs. Any medication that is mixed with other drugs or alcohol to give you a feeling or high has the potential to be abused. It is the abuse of medications in an off-label manner that is a concern.
Because cyclobenzaprine is easy to obtain with or without a prescription, it can be abused by mixing it with other drugs, including opiates and benzodiazepines. In fact, between 2004-2011, there was a reported 87 percent increase in emergency room visits related to Flexeril abuse. And, the American Association of Poison Control Centers says that in 2010, more than 10,000 calls came in regarding cyclobenzaprine.
DEA. Cyclobenzaprine. Retrieved from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/cyclobenzaprine.pdf
FDA. Flexeril. Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2003/017821s045lbl.pdf
Medline Plus. Cyclobenzaprine. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682514.html