Mixing Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol

The Dangers of Mixing Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol

Last Updated: May 9th 2022

Reviewed by Laura Riley

It is likely that you have heard the term “drug interaction” before. This is when a drug—usually prescription—has a reaction to another drug, food, or beverage and a change in pharmacokinetics occurs. This means that the medication’s function is altered. This is seen with combinations of drugs such as sedatives and antihistamines, which both can cause extreme drowsiness making it impossible to operate a vehicle.

There are also drug-food or drug-beverage interactions. This is commonly seen with medications and grapefruit juice, where grapefruit juice lowers the effectiveness of certain drugs. This is why drinking grapefruit juice while on certain prescriptions is not advised.

Mixing alcohol and drugs is never advised, this is especially true of mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol. This reaction could be considered both a drug-drug interaction and a drug-beverage interaction as alcohol is classified as a drug. In this blog, we cover what happens when you combine alcohol and muscle relaxers and why you should never mix these two substances together.

What Are Muscle Relaxers?

Muscle relaxers are a type of prescription medication. They are prescribed to help relieve pain caused by muscle spasms and muscle spasticity. There are a variety of muscle relaxers on the market, but they all work by blocking nerve impulses that cause these painful muscle contractions. They can include the following prescription drugs:

  • Cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
  • Carisoprodol (Soma)
  • Metaxalone (Skelaxin)
  • Methocarbamol (Robaxin)
  • Tizanidine (Zanaflex)
  • Baclofen (Gablofen, Lioresal)
  • Chlorzoxazone (Lorzone)
  • Orphenadrine (Norflex)

When someone experiences muscle spasms, the muscle contracts and tightens involuntarily. This can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Muscle relaxers help to relieve this pain by relaxing the muscle and preventing these spasms from occurring.

Muscle spasticity is a little different. When this occurs, it means that a continuous muscle spasm is occurring. This causes stiffness and tightness that makes it hard to move. The rigidity caused by muscle spasticity can even make it hard for some people to walk. This is common in people who have conditions like cerebral palsy or in people who have had an injury to their brain or spinal cord.

Muscle Relaxers and Their Side-Effects

Muscle relaxers work by depressing the central nervous system (CNS). This produces feelings of sedation and relaxation. But, because muscle relaxers work on the CNS, they can also cause some pretty severe side effects. The side-effects caused by muscle relaxers include the following:

  • Skin rash
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Unsteadiness, dizziness, and clumsiness
  • Headache and vision troubles
  • Impaired thinking
  • Low blood pressure
  • Quickened heart rate
  • Upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting

Other drugs such as benzodiazepines are used as muscle relaxers, on occasion. But, these muscle relaxers are not as commonly prescribed because they can be habit-forming. These include: diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and alprazolam (Xanax). Similar to muscle relaxers, these medications should never be mixed with alcohol.

What Happens When You Mix Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol

Similar to muscle relaxers, alcohol is a depressant. Depressants are substances that slow down the central nervous system, which both muscle relaxers and alcohol do. When muscle relaxers and alcohol are combined, they magnify each other’s effects.

Despite being consumed at events and socially, alcohol is a depressant. In fact, the side effects of alcohol mirror many of the side effects of muscle relaxers. The side-effects that alcohol causes include the following:

  • Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting
  • Altered vision
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Confusion, an inability to think clearly
  • Dizziness, problems with balance, and trouble walking
  • Impaired judgment and poor decision-making skills
  • Motor skill impairment
  • Poor memory and trouble concentrating

When muscle relaxers are mixed with alcohol, the chances of experiencing these side effects greatly increase. Additionally, when muscle relaxers and alcohol are mixed, the effects of each substance are intensified. This can be extremely dangerous, as it can lead to serious health problems, such as respiratory depression and even death.

Why People Mix Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol

People mix muscle relaxers and alcohol together for different reasons. Some people may have been prescribed muscle relaxers and be simply unaware that a drug interaction is possible. Others may purposefully engage in mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol for the desired effect. These are a few reasons that people may end up mixing alcohol and muscle relaxers:

To Counter Side Effects

After being prescribed muscle relaxers, the side effects can be difficult to deal with. They may drink alcohol believing that it will provide relief from nausea or headaches. In short, people may take muscle relaxers with alcohol because they believe that the two substances will counteract each other’s effects. However, this is not the case, and mixing muscle relaxers with alcohol does not counteract the effects of either drug.

By Accident

Combining alcohol and muscle relaxers can also happen unintentionally. Someone may drink alcohol after taking a muscle relaxer, unaware that a drug interaction will occur. Drinking alcohol a few hours after taking a muscle relaxer can also cause undesirable effects as the drug may still be in their system.

It’s important to ask your doctor if there is anything you should avoid consuming when placed on a new prescription. The easiest way to avoid harmful drug interactions is to be informed and cautious before drinking alcohol with any prescription medication.

To Feel “High”

Muscle relaxers and alcohol combined cause feelings of intense relaxation and euphoria. People can find this appealing after accidentally discovering this effect or purposely seeking it out. This can occur as a means to self-medicate with substances or to simply induce “high” feelings.

The Dangers of Mixing Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol

Intentionally mixing drugs or engaging in polysubstance use is highly dangerous.  As previously mentioned, muscle relaxers depress the central nervous system (CNS). Alcohol is a CNS depressant as well. When muscle relaxers and alcohol are combined, it magnifies these effects on the brain and body. This can lead to harmful effects such as:

  • Dizziness and drowsiness
  • Risk of seizures
  • Risk for overdose
  • Slowed or difficulty breathing
  • Impaired motor control
  • Unusual behavior
  • Memory problems

Another concern is the increased risk for overdose due to the sedative effects of both depressants. Muscle relaxers can slow down breathing, and when combined with alcohol, this effect is amplified. This can lead to difficulty breathing or even stopped breathing, which can be fatal.

Short-Term Effects of Mixing Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol

In the short term, there are many concerning effects of mixing these two drugs. Coordination and motor impairment are among the chief concerns when it comes to the dangers of mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol. This is because both muscle relaxers and alcohol can cause lethargy, confusion, and poor coordination.

Mixing the two substances can amplify these effects and make it difficult to think clearly or move correctly. As a result, people who mix muscle relaxers and alcohol are at an increased risk for falls, car accidents, and other injuries. Poor vision due to these two substances also contributes to the increased risk of accidents.

Additionally, because both muscle relaxers and alcohol are central nervous system depressants, mixing them can lead to a decreased ability to think clearly and make decisions. This can be extremely dangerous, and individuals have reported engaging in risky activities they normally would not have had they been sober.

Long-Term Effects of Mixing Muscle Relaxers and Alcohol

Engaging in the abuse of both muscle relaxers and alcohol at the same time produces many concerning long-term effects. These can include damage to the liver and kidneys, as well as problems with cognitive function and memory.

Many people also report digestive issues such as dry mouth and constipation from mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol. Some of the most dangerous long-term effects of mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol include:

  • Liver damage: Mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol can put a lot of strain on your liver. The liver is responsible for processing both substances. When they are consumed together, they have to work overtime.
  • Addiction: Taking any substance for a prolonged period of time can cause physical dependence that makes quitting impossible without experiencing withdrawal. This can lead to an addiction to muscle relaxers and alcohol.
  • Increased Risk for Alcohol Poisoning: Mixing muscle relaxers and alcohol can cause dangerous interactions. For example, muscle relaxers can make the effects of alcohol more potent, which can lead to alcohol poisoning.
  • Gastrointestinal Damage: Alcohol on its own causes intestinal damage, making it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. Prescription medications also cause damage to the GI tract. By combining these two drugs, GI damage is likely to occur over time.

Fatal conditions are a major concern when it comes to mixing alcohol and muscle relaxers. Mixing prescription drugs and alcohol causes major damage to the liver and kidneys, which are essential for ridding the body of toxins. This can lead to fatigue, jaundice, and the retention of toxins. As toxins build up in the kidney and over, which normally filter them out, damage and eventual failure can occur.

Treating Substance Abuse with North Jersey Recovery Center

If you are struggling to stop abusing alcohol and muscle relaxers at the same time, help is available. Addiction and substance abuse don’t have to stop you from living a happy, healthy, and productive life. Here at North Jersey Recovery Center, we offer prescription drug and alcohol addiction treatment to free our patients from the grips of addiction.

Each of our addiction treatment programs includes a variety of therapeutic interventions, skill-building, and counseling to address every aspect of your addiction and mental health. Contact us today. Our admissions team can walk you through our effective and compassionate programs.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Medical Reviewer

Laura comes to NJRC with 23 years of vast clinical experience in hospital, residential, outpatient, and community outreach settings where she has worked, supervised clinical teams, and volunteered. She has provided substance abuse and mental health counseling, clinical coordination, and advocacy to individuals, families and groups, and specializes in co-occurring disorders for both adults and adolescents.