Baclofen Uses in Addiction Treatment: Benefits & Side Effects

October 10, 2022

Table of Contents

Baclofen, known by the brand name Ozobax, belongs to the class of medications called smooth muscle relaxants. It is prescribed to treat pain, and muscle stiffness. It is sometimes used off-label to ease stomach cramps that are associated with acute opioid withdrawal. It is prescribed as a tablet or an oral solution that is taken at evenly spaced intervals up to three times per day. 

Uses of Baclofen in Withdrawal Treatment

Baclofen is not used to help treat ongoing addiction or prevent cravings. Instead, it is used acutely,  usually short term, to treat the stomach cramping associated with opioid withdrawal. It has not been shown to treat opioid or alcohol withdrawal cravings or prevent relapse to substance use. [2] 

Benefits of Baclofen in Withdrawal Treatment

Baclofen is a relatively safe medication to use to treat stomach cramping associated with opioid withdrawal. It is also safe to use on people with liver disease, a common side effect of long-term and chronic alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

Side Effects & Risks

The most common side effect of baclofen is some drowsiness. You should avoid taking it when operating machinery or driving. Additional side effects of baclofen can include the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Nausea

Baclofen can also increase the side effects of other CNS depressant substances, such as alcohol or opioids, when used at the same time. This could contribute to a potentially life-threatening overdose. If you are using other sedating medications, talk to your doctor before using Baclofen. 

Alternatives to Baclofen

There are currently three FDA-approved forms of MAT (Medication for Addiction Treatment) which more effectively treat the withdrawal symptoms of opioids - buprenorphine, methadone, and naloxone.[4] Methadone and Buprenorphine both have the strongest evidence for treating acute opioid withdrawal. However, Baclofen can be used in addition to these medications during acute opioid withdrawal, or by itself if the patient cannot or does not want Buprenorphine or Methadone treatment. 

If you think baclofen may be a good choice for you to help support you during acute withdrawal from opioids, talk to your treatment team.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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Citations

  1. Baclofen. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682530.html. December 2019. Accessed August 2022.
  2. Is Baclofen a Revolutionary Medication in Alcohol Addiction Management? Substance Abuse. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22989277/. 2012. Accessed August 2022.
  3. Management of Heroin Addiction with Baclofen and Clonidine. International Journal of Research and Reports. http://www.enrichscholarjournals.com/international-journal-of-research-and-reports/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/IJRR10026.pdf. December 2015. Accessed August 2022.
  4. Information About Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/information-about-medication-assisted-treatment-mat. February 2019. Accessed August 2022.

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