What Is Tizanidine? Zanaflex Abuse and Addiction

Last Updated: October 11, 2021

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

What is Tizanidine? This is an antispasmodic prescription medication that is taken orally to treat muscle spasticity caused by spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis. Such health issues are linked with muscle rigidity and hypertonia. In such a case, Tizanidine hydrochloride is used as a muscle relaxant. In this article, we will find out more on the question of what Tizanidine is and the possible health dangers of abusing this medication.

What is Zanaflex (Tizanidine)?

Tizanidine belongs to the class of medicines known as central alpha-2-adrenergic agonists. Its mechanism of action works by blocking the nerve impulses or pain sensations that are being sent to the human brain. This medication aids in relieving the increased muscle tone and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS a disease that affects the nerve function of patients and leads to loss of muscular coordination, weakness, vision problems, bladder control, and stroke.

To find out more about what Tizanidine is, this substance is an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist. Tizanidine hydrochloride is a white to off-white, fine crystalline powder, with a faint characteristic odor. The oral tablet of Tizanidine is available as a brand-name drug Zanaflex. Keep in mind that generic drugs may not be available in all forms or strengths as brand-name drugs.

According to NCBI research, this medication is used as a muscle relaxer for two significant reasons: it is effective and has a relatively low potential for abuse and addiction.

Moreover, the drug has a relatively short half-life, which is most often a good characteristic, especially when a person needs to start using another medicine soon after stopping Zanaflex therapy. How long does Tizanidine stay in the system? This drug will be eliminated from the system in about 2.5 hours.

The patient is suffering from a low back pain

Is Zanaflex a Controlled Substance?

This question still has been left unanswered due to its complexity. To understand this, one must understand the term. The term controlled substance can have different meanings depending on the context. When used commonly, it simply means any substance or medication that has controlled access. This refers to individuals who need prescriptions to purchase this medication. So, when one asks if Zanaflex is a controlled substance the answer is positive.

However, another way this term may be used is officially by the Drug Enforcement Agency. In such a situation, it refers to substances included on the DEA list of controlled substances. The actual cause surrounds the fact that the substance is not included in that list, therefore the answer to the question is no. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that the medication cannot be problematic or that patients do not make use of this medication for ulterior purposes.

Signs and Symptoms Of Zanaflex Abuse

Most patients who abuse Tizanidine (Zanaflex) may do so because they are experiencing pain and want to relieve it. Once a person results in taking higher doses than recommended, one of the adverse effects is addiction.

An individual can tell the signs and symptoms that come with Zanaflex abuse only when the person experiences it.

Physical Zanaflex Abuse Signs

The More Common Symptoms Include:

  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Sore throat
  • Vision problems
Woman is suffering from tiredness

Psychological Signs Of Zanaflex Abuse

Tizanidine hydrochloride may impair the reactions or thoughts of individuals. Such cases are seen in patients who may develop psychological symptoms.

Tizanidine (Zanaflex) abuse may lead to some psychological problems, which may  include the following:

  • Hallucinations: the symptoms include seeing unreal things
  • Delusions: the symptoms include believing unreal things
  • Sedation: the symptoms can include dizziness, weakness, and fatigue

As highlighted above, patients are instructed to take a dose of this drug exactly as prescribed and be in close communication with a doctor or health care provider to prevent such effects.

Is Zanaflex Addictive?

The answer to the question is Tizanidine addictive, which is a solid yes and this cannot be disputed.

Individuals who receive a prescription are at risk of Tizanidine abuse as the person may develop a strong addiction. An NCBI case study reports a case of a woman who is 31 years of age and started taking more than a single dose of the medicine after her muscular contracture therapy. This patient was advised to take only a 2 mg dose every 24 hours. Once she commenced her therapy, the woman indulged in Zanaflex abuse by increasing her dose intake to 2 mg per 3 hours. This means a patient took more than ten tablets daily. The woman experienced numerous health symptoms due to the increase in Zanaflex dose. This patient likely wanted to quickly resolve the muscular issues for which she received a drug prescription in the first place.

Nevertheless, some individuals indulge in concurrent abuse with other psychoactive drugs and substances. This can cause a plethora of health complications. To preclude this, always consult a doctor.

Although it is not a narcotic, it can still be addictive. A medical professional can tell that medicine has addictive properties, and patients who abuse this drug and use it without a prescription or approval from a doctor are likely to develop an addiction. The cause may be due to the fact that  Zanaflex affects the central nervous system and has a tranquilizing effect on individuals. Addiction may appear due to the drugs’ chronic or irresponsible usage. However, this medication can only be gotten through prescription, and it’s not available as an over-the-counter drug due to its addictive nature. Tizanidine drug class isn’t included in the US scheduling system, and it cannot be administered and self-prescribed without a doctor’s approval. All medical instructions should be strictly followed. Most drugs that act on the central nervous system may have withdrawal effects on a person’s health when stopped.

Zanaflex Withdrawal Symptoms

When an individual is using Zanaflex, the doctor will gradually reduce the dose to avoid any withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Tachycardia
  • Tremor
  • Anxiety
  • Hypertension
  • Hypertonia

While a person may still ask the question is Tizanidine addictive, when the medication is overdosed, an individual may get addicted to it.

As a result of these addictive properties, individuals who abuse this drug are likely to experience various physical and psychological symptoms.

Possible Dangers Of Tizanidine Abuse

What are the health dangers of Zanaflex? Taking a high dose of this medication may lead to severe health complications. Some individuals may experience dangerously low blood pressure levels, especially when taking it without a prescription from a  doctor or medical professional. Most Zanaflex warnings comprise dangerous withdrawal symptoms, which are practically the reverse of the main effects of this substance.

When patients immediately put a stop to this medication, dangerously high-level blood pressure may occur. Some of these effects are common. Tachycardia and other cardiovascular health problems are also the expected consequences of sudden cessation of use. There are some signs and symptoms of short and long-term abuse of Zanaflex.

Once an individual is experiencing the following physical issues, they may be suffering from the effects of Tizanidine abuse:

  • Nervousness
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Intense dry mouth
  • Chronic runny nose
  • Sporadic movements
  • Urination problem

One can tell that Tizanidine addiction may impair the thinking or reaction of anyone. The cause is due to the short-term effect of Tizanidine abuse can be tricky to identify: it doesn’t manifest easily and obviously. The dangerous part of Tizanidine abuse is the withdrawal symptoms when a long-term user stops this medication.

Some of the Related Warnings of Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Increased drowsiness
  • Liver injury
  • Hallucination
  • Hypersensitivity reactions
  • Hypotension
Psychotherapist is working with drug addicted group

Tizanidine Addiction Treatment

As with other similar drugs, treatment of Tizanidine addiction depends solely on the severity of the addiction.  Withdrawal symptoms should be supervised by a medical professional or a doctor. Individuals with this type of addiction are usually treated in hospitals, where their physical symptoms of addiction and withdrawal are given serious attention. This is why doctors regulate the process. Going off Zanaflex alone can be dangerous. For individuals who develop an addiction to this substance, it is advisable to visit a rehab institution to solve the addiction’s physiological and psychological symptoms.

Arguably, it is recommended to take drug detox course in a primary care unit, due to severe withdrawal symptoms, before moving to identify the roots of addiction.

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Page Sources

  1. Yanagita T, Yamamura H, Igarashi S. Effects of tizanidine in healthy volunteers: double-blind study compared with diazepam and a placebo. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 1988;8(2):75-94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3378856
  2. A Suárez-Lledó, A Padullés, T Lozano, S Cobo-Sacristán, M Colls, and R Jódar. Management of Tizanidine Withdrawal Syndrome: A Case Report. Clin Med Insights Case Rep. 2018; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5815413/
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Tizanidine: Medlineplus Drug Information. MedlinePlus. Retrieved October 3, 2021. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601121.html
  4. Drug scheduling. DEA. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2021. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling

Published on: February 19th, 2020

Updated on: October 11th, 2021

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.