Conditions the medication is used for: Alcohol withdrawal, Alcoholism, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

Other names for the medication: Lioresal®

Is the medication addictive: Baclofen is not addictive but can cause withdrawal symptoms if stopped suddenly. You should stop it gradually.

What is this medication used for?

Baclofen (also known as Lioresal®) is mainly used to help as a muscle relaxant in people with some brain disorders. Some studies have also shown that baclofen can help some people with alcohol dependence. This is an "unlicensed use" i.e. it is not officially approved but research has shown that it helps some people with craving and anxiety where other medicines have not helped and if the person has liver damage.

What is the usual dose for this medication?

The usual starting dose is 5mg (half a tablet) three times a day. The dose may then be increased, and higher doses like 10-20mg two or three times a day may be needed. Some people need even higher doses.

How and when should I take the medication?

How to take:

The tablets should be swallowed with at least half a glass of water whilst sitting or standing. There is no problem taking baclofen with or after food.

When to take:

Spread the doses out throughout the day. Three times a day is usually at breakfast, afternoon and either teatime or bedtime.

What are the alternatives to this medication?

There are many other medicines (e.g. disulfiram, nalmefene, naltrexone and acamprosate) and talking therapies for alcohol dependence. See our “Handy charts” for alcohol dependence to help you compare the other medicines.

How long does the medication take to work?

Baclofen will usually start to work about 30minutes after taking the dose, but this may vary from person to person.

How long will I need to keep taking this medication for?

Baclofen is part of a treatment package and so there is no set answer to this. You should probably take it for at least 3 months but some people may find taking baclofen for longer helps them.

Can I just stop taking this medication?

Baclofen should be reduced gradually over 1–2 weeks. Ask for advice from your doctor or pharmacist. You should not take baclofen if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or are breast feeding.

What should I do if I forget to take a dose or overdose?

Take the baclofen dose as soon as you remember, if this up to about 4 hours late. But do not take a double dose to make up for a missed dose.

Can I drink alcohol while on this medication?

Do not drink alcohol while you are taking baclofen. Alcohol may increase the sedative effects of baclofen and the baclofen won't work as well. Baclofen does not stop you getting intoxicated (drunk) and you would not be safe to drive or operate machinery. You should avoid drinking again if you have managed to stop drinking. If you are still drinking alcohol and are physically dependent on alcohol do not stop drinking suddenly.

This is dangerous and can lead to fits, hallucinations, confusion and even death. Talk to your doctor, keyworker or nurse about this.   Baclofen is not an adversive treatment like disulfiram (Antabuse)

Will this medication affect my other medications Including the Contraceptive pill?

Baclofen has some interactions with other medicines.

  • Baclofen can make you feel sleepy and this can be made worse by anything else that makes you feel very sleepy e.g. some antidepressants (e.g. the tricyclics), antipsychotics, opiates, benzodiazepines and other anxiolytics or hypnotics (to help anxiety or help you sleep)
  • If baclofen is taken with medicines to lower blood pressure this can drop your blood pressure even more, making you dizzy and more likely to fall
  • You should have no problems with "The Contraceptive Pill" and baclofen If baclofen is taken with levodopa (to help treat Parkinson’s Disease) some people have felt very confused, see things that aren’t there, and feel sick and agitated.

This does not necessarily mean for everyone that these medicines can not be used together. It is just that you may need to follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

What sort of side-effects might I get from taking this medication?

Side effect

What happens

What to do about it

VERY COMMON (more than about 1 in 10 people might get these)

Drowsiness

You feel sleepy or sluggish. It can last for a few hours after taking your dose, or longer.

Don't drive or use machinery. Avoid alcohol and other sedative drugs.

Nausea and vomiting

Feeling sick and/or being sick, feeling less hungry

Take the dose with or after food. It tends to wear off in a day or two. If it is bad, contact your doctor. It may be possible to adjust your dose.

Headache

When your head is painful and pounding.

Try paracetamol, or ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues speak to your doctor.

Dry mouth

Lack of saliva in mouth.

Try chewing sugar-free gum. If it is bad, your doctor may be able to give you a mouth spray.

COMMON (fewer than about 1 in 10 people might get these)

Sleeplessness

Difficulty in getting to sleep or waking in the night.

This usually settles over time but speak to your doctor if the problem is troublesome.

Nightmares

Unpleasant dreams that may cause alarm.

Contact your doctor if this problem persists.

Urinary problems

Increased need to pass urine or passing urine at night when you can’t control it

Discuss this with your doctor if you are concerned.

Dizziness

Feeling lightheaded.

This usually improves after the first few days. If it is severe discuss with your doctor. Take care standing up.

Low blood pressure

Feeling unsteady or lightheaded especially when you stand up.

Drowsiness

Feeling sleepy and lethargic.

Do not drive or operate machinery

Constipation

When you have difficulty passing a motion or bowel movement.

Make sure you eat enough fibre, cereal or fruit and drinking enough fluid. Keep active and get some exercise e.g. walking. If this does not help, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a mild laxative.

RARE (but important)

Skin rash

Red skin or itchy rashes.

Stop taking and contact your doctor urgently.

Breathing problems

Feeling short of breath or struggling with breathing.

Contact your doctor urgently or call an ambulance if severe.

Confusion

Not being sure where you are or not thinking clearly.

Contact your doctor or key worker as soon as possible.

Mood changes

Your mood feels low or high

Contact your doctor or key worker as soon as possible.

 

Do not be worried by this list of side effects. Some people get no side effects at all and others may get some effects that are not listed in this table. If you think you might have a side effect to your medicine, you should ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

 

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Will I need to have blood tests?

It is not always necessary but your doctor may request some blood tests before you start treatment with baclofen if you have other health issues.

Can I drive or cycle while on this medication?

Baclofen can affect your ability to drive, and it can cause you to feel dizzy and lightheaded. You should be careful as it may slow down your reaction times. Until this wears off, or you know how baclofen affects you, be careful about driving or operating machinery.

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