Baclofen Addiction Treatment

Baclofen is being investigated as a possible treatment for alcoholism with trials taking place. However, although evidence suggests that it may be beneficial in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, more studies are needed before it can be approved for this use.

What Is Baclofen?

Baclofen is a central nervous system depressant and muscle relaxant that is typically used in the treatment of spasticity and in particular, spastic movement disorders such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, spinal cord disease and multiple sclerosis. Baclofen helps to treat the pain, stiffness and spasms associated with these conditions.

Although baclofen has not yet been approved for use for alcoholism in the UK, in 2014, the French drug agency ANSM recommended that it could be used on a 3-year temporary basis for this purpose.

Studies are also taking place to determine the efficacy of using baclofen for the treatment of cocaine addiction and for the treatment of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease in conjunction with sorbitol and naltrexone.

Baclofen has been studied by researchers at the University of Sydney in relation to its effectiveness as a treatment for alcoholics with liver disease. The results of the study found that of those who took baclofen, twice as many stopped drinking compared to those who took a placebo.

Researchers found that baclofen helped to reduce alcohol cravings in participants and was also useful in the maintenance of sobriety. There was also evidence to suggest that baclofen could suppress symptoms of anxiety that are associated with alcohol addiction.

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Brand Names

  • Lioresal Intrathecal
  • Lioresal
  • Gablofen
  • FIRST Baclofen
  • Beklo
  • Baclodol
  • Kemstro
  • Flexibac
  • Liofen
  • Lyflex
  • Clofen
  • Bacloren
  • Muslofen

History of Baclofen

Baclofen was initially developed to treat epilepsy by Heinrich Keberle at pharmaceutical company Ciba-Geigy in 1962. Although the drug did not have the desired results in terms of its effectiveness in the treatment of epilepsy, it showed promise in decreasing spasticity in some people.

The effectiveness of baclofen was found to vary from one person to another. In those who were severely affected, a high dose was required to achieve the desired levels in the cerebrospinal fluid. However, high doses of the drug can lead to side effects and can also decrease the effectiveness of the it.

In 1984, it was reported that baclofen could effectively be administered intrathecally (into the spinal sac). Results showed that compared to oral administration on a dose by dose basis, this method led to a concentration of the drug in the cerebrospinal fluid to be around 400 times higher.

In 2008, Olivier Ameisen, a French-American cardiologist wrote in his book Le Dernier Verre about how he had use baclofen to treat his alcohol addiction. He had been calling for trials into the potential of using the drug for the treatment of alcoholism from 2004 but it was only after his book was published that an anonymous source donated $750,000 to the University of Amsterdam. The money was for the initiation of clinical trials into the use of high-dose baclofen for treating alcoholism.

What Substance Abuse/Addictions Is Baclofen Used to Treat?

  • Cocaine addiction
  • Alcohol addiction (prospective)

Is Baclofen Addictive?

When used as prescribed, baclofen is considered safe to take. However, because baclofen has a calming effect, there are some people who use the drug other than prescribed and this is classed as abuse. If baclofen is abused regularly or severely, it can result in an increased tolerance, which can then lead to a dependence and addiction. Taking baclofen with other drugs or alcohol can cause drowsiness, dizziness and weakness.

There is the potential for baclofen to create euphoric sensations when taken in high doses and physical addiction can result in withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, tremors, irritability and cravings when the effects of the drug wear off.

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What Is the Mechanism of Action?

The exact mechanism of action of baclofen is unclear but it is thought that the effects of the drug are the result of the brain’s GABA receptor being activated.

How Long Does It Take for Baclofen to Work?

The effects of baclofen typically take between two and four hours to work. Baclofen should be taken as prescribed by your doctor.

Does Baclofen Have Any Interactions?

Baclofen should not be taken with alcohol as doing so can increase the side effects of the drug including drowsiness and dizziness. There are 753 known drug interactions, so you should inform your doctor of any medication that you are taking. This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication and any vitamin or herbal supplements that you take on a regular basis or temporarily.

Because baclofen is eliminated by the kidneys, you should inform your doctor if you have impaired kidney function. In such cases, baclofen will only be administered if the benefits outweigh the risks. Your doctor will adjust your dosage accordingly.

Should Any Precautions Be Taken?

Baclofen should not be used if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. In studies of pregnant animals, it resulted in birth defects and low birth weight. It is not known whether or not the same would happen with pregnant women, but it is not recommended for use during pregnancy. If you become pregnant while taking baclofen, it is important that you tell your doctor as soon as possible.

Baclofen is not recommended for use if you have previously had a stroke or if you have Parkinson’s disease. If you have a history of blood clots, stroke, seizures or epilepsy, you should inform your doctor.

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What Are the Side Effects of Baclofen?

Baclofen may cause side effects such as:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness

The following symptoms could be a sign of an allergic reaction and require urgent medical attention:

  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Swelling of face, tongue, lips or throat
  • Difficulty breathing

You should also call your doctor immediately if you experience hallucinations, confusion, shallow breathing or convulsions.

Can You Just Stop Taking Baclofen?

It is not recommended that baclofen be stopped suddenly because there is a risk of withdrawal syndrome, even in those who take low doses of the drug. Symptoms are more likely to occur in those who have been taking baclofen for longer than two months. How severe withdrawal symptoms are usually depends on how quickly it has been discontinued.

To minimise the risk of withdrawals, baclofen should be taken in reduced doses. Gradual tapering of dosage will help to keep withdrawals to a minimum. In sudden withdrawals, symptoms are likely to result:

  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delirium


  • Baclofen can be taken with or without food.
  • Drowsiness is a common side effect, so driving and the operation of heavy machinery should be avoided when taking baclofen.
  • Dr Olivier Ameisen, who tested Baclofen for the treatment of alcohol, found that a dose of 3.6mg per kilo of weight caused him to become indifferent to alcohol.
  • Baclofen helped to treat Dr Ameisen’s alcoholism and anxiety disorder with a daily low dose.
  • He has been abstinent from alcohol since January 2004 and attributes this to a daily dose of baclofen.
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