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Flexeril Addiction & Abuse: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine) is a prescription medication that eases muscle tension and relieves severe back pain. While it isn't as addictive as opioid painkillers like Vicodin or OxyContin, Flexeril's relaxing effects can trigger abuse in some people. And sometimes, people combine Flexeril with stronger drugs to get high, and they risk overdose.

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Flexeril is meant for short-term use, not long-term abuse. But quitting the drug isn’t easy, as withdrawal symptoms could push you toward relapse. The right treatment program can help you get sober and maintain it for a lifetime. 

What Is Flexeril?

Flexeril is the brand-name formulation of the generic muscle relaxant cyclobenzaprine. For people with significant muscle pain, it’s very helpful. 

Doctors combine Flexeril with rest and physical therapy to treat patients struggling with sore, strained, or torn muscles. It’s safer than over-the-counter options like aspirin, as it doesn’t cause significant liver damage at high doses. And it’s effective because it forces muscles to relax and stop twitching. When they do, people can heal. 

While Flexeril is considered both safe and effective, it’s not designed for use lasting more than a few weeks. Researchers point out that muscles often twitch and spasm when first injured, and the problem disappears quickly. Since Flexeril eases spasms and does nothing else, it can’t offer relief when the muscles are no longer tightened. 

Who Abuses Flexeril?

Flexeril works by reducing signals from your brain to your muscles. Anyone who uses the drug feels relaxed when the dose starts to work. But some people abuse the drug for its relaxation properties.

Law enforcement officials say mixing Flexeril with the following substances can make it more powerful, and in some cases, cause euphoria:

  • Alcohol
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Narcotics

A mix of Flexeril with a benzodiazepine (like Valium) and an opioid (like Vicodin) is called a Holy Trinity on the street. Each drug depresses the central nervous system, and some spark the release of euphoric brain chemicals. Mixing them leads to profound sedation and a sense of calm and well-being. 

While most people mix Flexeril with something else, some people abuse the drug independently. Sedation and relaxation are common side effects, but some people experience euphoria too. 

What Are the Causes of Flexeril Addiction?

Researchers say close to 40 percent of people taking 10 mg of Flexeril three times per day develop sedation and sleepiness. Very few of these people quit taking the drug due to this side effect. Sometimes, people become psychologically attached to the relaxation their doses bring, and they start using the drug recreationally. 

Addiction risks are higher in people with the following characteristics:

  • Underlying mental illness: Depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns can enhance your risk of abusing any prescription drug, including Flexeril. 
  • Use of other substances: Mixing Flexeril with substances like alcohol or benzodiazepines increases sedation and euphoria. One powerful dose like this could set you up for recurring cravings, and this makes addiction more likely
  • History of substance abuse: Some people opt for Flexeril because they know they’ll abuse opioids for pain. While Flexeril works differently than opioids, a history of substance abuse could raise your risk of recreational Flexeril use. If you combine this use with opioids, risks increase.

Anyone who takes a mind-altering prescription medication can develop an addiction. These drugs are powerful, and it’s very easy to get hooked. But some people have a higher risk than their peers. It’s even more important for these people to guard against substance abuse.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Flexeril Addiction?

Flexeril is sedating, and people with an addiction take the drug often. They may seem sluggish, slow, or confused most of the time. When their doses wear off, they may seem anxious or distracted, as they’re wondering how to get more Flexeril. 

Other symptoms commonly associated with addiction include the following:

  • New connections: Doctors won’t refill Flexeril indefinitely. Some people try doctor shopping, where they visit multiple doctors in an attempt to get many prescriptions. When people can’t get the drug from pharmacies, they turn to dealers.
  • Performance problems: Poor grades, negative reviews, and colleague reprimands could all stem from drug abuse. 
  • Secretive behaviors: Some people swallow Flexeril, but others crush and snort their pills. They may want to do this in private and get upset or defensive when asked what they are doing. 
  • Change in appearance: Some people stop bathing, brushing their hair, or washing their clothes as the addiction deepens. Eventually, it begins to affect every aspect of life.

Know that some people are adept at covering up their substance abuse and addiction. You may not see these signs, but that doesn’t mean a substance abuse issue isn’t occurring. 

How Does Flexeril Change Your Mind & Body?

Flexeril is a tricyclic amine salt that depresses the central nervous system, easing hyperactive muscles. It’s closely related to antidepressant medications, as it works on the same receptors.

Flexeril doesn’t cause brain cells to release euphoria-causing chemicals like dopamine. But it does depress the nervous system, meaning it slows your lungs. You can feel relaxed, but this medication’s impact can put you at risk for a coma.

Can You Overdose on Flexeril?

An overdose is a life-threatening event caused by a too-large dose of medications. Flexeril can cause an overdose.

A Flexeril overdose can be fatal. It’s more common in people who mix the drug with other substances, including alcohol and opioid painkillers. But you can overdose on Flexeril alone. 

If you suspect an overdose, call 911 and tell the operator what is happening.

A Flexeril overdose causes the following symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fast heart rate
  • Tremor
  • Agitation
  • Coma
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures

Someone overdosing needs immediate medical attention in a hospital from a trained medical doctor. If you suspect an overdose, call 911 and tell the operator what is happening. Follow the operator’s instructions carefully until help arrives.

What Does Flexeril Withdrawal Look Like?

After long-term Flexeril use, your body becomes accustomed to the drug. Try to quit abruptly, and you can experience withdrawal. 

Flexeril withdrawal often causes headaches, nausea, and fatigue. Some people also experience significant cravings for drugs, and they may not feel strong enough to resist them. 

Treatment Options for Flexeril Addiction

No medication can ease Flexeril addiction and obliterate it for good. But medications can help to ease withdrawal symptoms so people can get sober without feeling sick. And therapies (like cognitive behavioral therapy) can help you learn how to maintain that sobriety despite triggers you might face in the future.

If you’re struggling with Flexeril addiction, talk with your doctor about a program like this and how you can get started.

Updated December 16, 2023
Resources
  1. Flexeril (Cyclobenzaprine HCl) Tablets. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  2. Cyclobenzaprine. (March 2020). U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
  3. Denver Doctor Pleads Guilty to Illegally Prescribing Controlled Substances. (October 2019). U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
  4. Cyclobenzaprine for Acute Back Pain. (December 2015). Canadian Family Physician.
  5. Cyclobenzaprine. (September 2022). StatPearls.
  6. Comparative Risk of Opioid Overdose With Concomitant Use of Prescription Opioids and Skeletal Muscle Relaxants. (July 2022). Neurology.
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