As with many medications, side effects can occur and baclofen is no different. Although, the side effects of baclofen are dwarfed by the positive gains one can receive in the treatment of their addiction.
Also, you have to realise that most of the side effects of baclofen can be reduced or eliminated by reducing the dosage or if necessary stopping the medication altogether.
I had plenty of side effects on the higher dose. At 300 mg a day of baclofen I experienced, breathlessness, aching joints, somnolence and loss of libido.
But the worst side effect of baclofen at the high dose was without a doubt the depression that I experienced. This diminished after reduction.
However, at my dose of 50mg a day that I now take and have done over the last 10 years I do not have any undesirable side effects at all.
Side Effects of Baclofen
The possible side effects other than the ones I have mentioned are varied but can include…
- Urinating more often than usual.
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Low blood pressure
- Slurred speech
- Weight gain
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling unwell, flu like
- Racing Heart beat
Now I understand that the list can be quite a frightful read… but it is very unlikely that you will experience them all and some people may experience none.
But you should be prepared nonetheless.
How to Avoid Baclofen Side Effects
I think that my side effects were possibly caused by the rate at which I was increasing my dose.
My dose was increased by 20mg every 3 days [or thereabouts].
However, at the time I was just happy to be getting some help and taking positive steps towards being free from addiction. I was in a desperate state and wanted to stop drinking so badly that anything in the way of side effects was acceptable if the treatment worked.
Basically I was impatient along with the fact that the treatment of addiction using baclofen was so new and there was little in the way of guidelines. So I was more than happy to keep going with what we knew then.
I do however remember thinking on occasion that being drunk was better than being as depressed as I was. I was just so low at one stage during my high dose treatment that I thought I couldn’t do it and see the treatment through. However, that passed and I made it.
Also, during my initial stages of treatment, Dr. Olivier Ameisen [the Doctor that introduced baclofen for the treatment of addiction], liaised with my own GP and offered much needed advise in regard to dosage and my side effects. Dr. Ameisen also emailed me frequently and read my original blogger blog/diary that I wrote in 2009.
So how do you avoid the side effects of baclofen?
My opinion is that it may be safer to increase your dose at a slower rate.
If I had increased my dose by 20 mg every week or 10 days then maybe I could have avoided most of the side effects I had?
I understand that for some of you [like I did too] you just want to stop craving alcohol as quick as possible and become free from addiction. Impatience therefore plays a part in the rate of dosage increase.
But to avoid unpleasant side effects it may be far wiser to take things slowly.
Hence, my personal opinion that if you increase your dose to start with every week by 20 mgs that side effects of baclofen can be reduced. If at this rate of increase side effects appear, then one should consider raising the dose every 10 day and if necessary every 2 weeks.
If raising the dose at these stages [10 days-2 weeks] still present side effects, then reducing the dosage back down and staying on the previous dose even longer should be considered.
Baclofen therapy for addiction is a marathon and not a sprint.
The positive effects of baclofen, namely an indifference to alcohol, happen very quickly in most cases and this seems to be concurrent with the recent documented studies. So there is actually little need for haste.
I personally noticed changes to my view of alcohol very quickly too; even though I went on to taking 300 mg each day for around 6 weeks.
Maybe I didn’t need to take such a high dose? But I honestly don’t consider it to have been a burden in the grand scheme of things, as today, 10 years later; I am still living the impossible dream of being free from cravings.
Baclofen for Patients with Renal Dysfunction
Obviously, many drinkers may already have some liver dysfunction due to alcohol intake. Fortunately, baclofen is mainly excreted via the kidneys. This means that it largely safe to use in patients with existing liver problems.
However, if you have current issues with kidney function then it is reported that dosing with baclofen should be introduced at a far slower rate than what is considered normal like in the above example.
Safety and self-treating with Baclofen
If you are fortunate enough to have been prescribed baclofen by your GP then all of the above information can be discussed with them.
If however you are self-medicating in your attempt to become free from alcohol addiction then even asking your GP about anything that you are unsure of can still be beneficial.
The point is not to be disheartened if your GP is unwilling to advise you. Your road to become free from cravings will just take a different route if you remain dedicated to the cause.
It is ironic that the damage alcohol and even other readily available over the counter drugs can have on your body is barely considered when one is trying to explain the idea of treating alcohol addiction with a drug that is largely safer than drinking alcohol in the first instance.
I feel this is a very valid point that you should always highlight to your GP if you are finding resistance from them.