Baclofen Withdrawal and Detox: Symptoms, Treatment, and Duration

Last Updated: May 28, 2021

Authored by Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Baclofen, also sold under the brand name Lioresal and Gablofen, is a muscle relaxant and anti-spasmodic used in the care of health conditions like muscle spasms, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spasticity, as well as other musculoskeletal conditions. The generic medication is also used off-label to treat alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

However, the drug itself can lead to Baclofen withdrawal symptoms which may necessitate Baclofen withdrawal treatment. It usually happens if the substance is discontinued abruptly. Withdrawal doesn’t mean the drug was abused; it can happen even to those who took the medication only as prescribed. Patients must be educated on the symptoms of Baclofen withdrawal and Baclofen withdrawal treatment.

Causes of Lioresal Withdrawal

Lioresal is a derivative of a naturally occurring GABA neurotransmitter. The drug acts in the body by activating GABA receptors in the central nervous system, and it has the direct result of calming nerve activity.

Man experiencing baclofen withdrawal, feeling bad.

It occurs when a person’s brain becomes dependent on the drug’s effects. Such effects that make a person suffer from the adverse effects of Baclofen withdrawal don’t happen just when the medication is being abused. Even using the drug exactly as prescribed can lead to difficulties with weaning off if the usage isn’t stopped in a proper and controlled manner. It can be administered via the oral route or as an intrathecal medication through an intrathecal pump inserted into the patient’s back. The use of an intrathecal pump is to increase the amount of the drug reaching the central nervous system of the patient during care (used often in severe cases of spinal cord injuries or non-responsive spasticity).

Baclofen Withdrawal Symptoms

Baclofen withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe and can often be very similar to alcohol and benzodiazepine dependence. Comparing Baclofen vs. Flexeril, the symptoms will also be almost the same even if their care is quite different. That is why a patient needs to learn how to stop taking Baclofen, and how to handle the Baclofen withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the Common Symptoms Which Can Significantly Affect the Quality of Life Include:

  • Nausea and vomiting: These are some of the initial symptoms associated with the sudden changes in the brain chemistry brought about by abrupt cessation of the drug.
  • Hallucinations: Abrupt cessation has been associated with visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations and depersonalization disorders. It is suspected to be due to the increased excitability of the GABA receptors.
  • Seizures: Abrupt cessation is also associated with an increased risk of seizures in individuals with an established history of seizures and those who have never had it before.
  • Changes in behavior: Baclofen withdrawals have also been associated with certain changes in mood such as anxiety, mania, delirium, psychosis, and various other mood disturbances.
  • Increased body temperature: Another critical sign is a sharp increase in temperature, which manifests as fever and sometimes even progresses to hyperthermia (a life-threatening condition in which the body’s core temperature exceeds 40°C).

Some other common signs include dizziness, tremors, rebound spasticity, tachycardia, memory issues, disorientation, rebound pain (for example, injuries to the spinal cord), and sleep disturbances such as insomnia.

Some signs that might help you spot Baclofen abuse include a person taking a higher dose than prescribed, sometimes searching for pain relief or simply for the psychological effect, using the medication without a prescription, or combining it with other central nervous system depressants to amplify the effects. For example, combining Baclofen with Tramadol or other opioids can cause severe respiratory depression. Users may also show drug-seeking behaviors and search for the medication even at a great social and financial cost.

How Long Does Withdrawal from Baclofen Last?

These are some factors that can affect how long withdrawal from Baclofen can last. These factors include the individual’s health, how long they’ve been using Lioresal, whether they stopped usage abruptly or gradually, why they stopped, and even how the drug was being administered, whether via an intrathecal pump device or through the oral route. Routes of administration matter a lot. Oral Baclofen withdrawal symptoms are less severe than for those patients who administer the medication intrathecally.

Lioresal Withdrawal Timeline

Some people might find themselves experiencing symptoms within a few hours after the last dose is taken. However, it can typically take up to 48 hours for symptoms to occur. Those affected will find symptoms peeking within 72 hours. Of course, this will vary from person to person and depend on many factors that need to be taken into consideration. Even though the half-life is just about 5,5 hours, symptoms can last for weeks. Psychological symptoms like anxiety can persist for months in some cases and significantly affect the patient’s quality of life.

How to Stop Taking Baclofen

It is quite clear how important it is to be aware of how to stop taking Baclofen. There is always a possibility of developing severe symptoms when weaning off the drug. Sudden abruption of Lioresal intake can result in organ failure and even death in some cases.

Woman consulting a patient about stopping Baclofen.

Due to the seriousness of this condition, one should never attempt to stop taking the medication abruptly or try to wean off the drug without the guidance and care of a health professional who will guide one on how to stop taking Baclofen. Not only do they have the expertise and medical tools to deal with any adverse effects, but they can also manage the patient for any comorbidities or changes in mental state.

Lioresal Detox

The recommended method of weaning yourself off the medication is through a professional detoxification program under the medical supervision of a qualified rehabilitation center.

Some symptoms can be avoided by merely participating in a professional detox program, where the dose is tapered off gradually under professional care. It ensures that the whole process is performed well while giving precedence to the patient’s comfort and wellbeing. It also reduces the risk of the patient relapsing.

Dealing With Lioresal Addiction

Despite Baclofen pill effectiveness, its use has several side effects, such as the withdrawal syndrome, which is noticed upon abrupt cessation. Therefore, it is advisable to gradually wean off the medication with the direction or under the direct care of a health professional. It greatly reduces the risk of developing adverse and potentially severe symptoms.’

After detox, the next step is rehabilitation. It is necessary for those who faced the problem of substance abuse and addiction.

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Page Sources

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  2. Christopher F. Terrence, Gerhard H. Fromm, Complications of Baclofen Withdrawal, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6791618/
  3. Elisa Richter, Alice Baldovini, Valery Blasco, Marc Leone, Jacques Albanese, About baclofen withdrawal syndrome, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27016853/
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Published on: March 4th, 2019

Updated on: May 28th, 2021

About Author

Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

After successful graduation from Boston University, MA, Sharon gained a Master’s degree in Public Health. Since then, Sharon devoted herself entirely to the medical niche. Sharon Levy is also a certified addiction recovery coach.

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.