Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are major health concerns that continue affecting millions of Americans on a daily basis. Today, there are some medications that have been found to useful in the treatment of these conditions. Among them is Baclofen (Lioresal), a drug that is commonly prescribed for the treatment of back-related injuries and conditions. Read on to find out more:
Understanding Baclofen (Lioresal)
Baclofen is a medication that is typically prescribed for the treatment of stiffness, muscle spasms, and many other conditions affecting the back. However, the drug is still getting tested to find out just how effective it can be in the treatment of alcohol use disorders.
The drug works on the GABA - gamma-aminobutyric acid - receptors of the brain. As a result, it can be effective in lessening and managing the withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings experienced by people who are trying to overcome their alcohol addiction.
Baclofen might also have some potential in helping people to remain abstinent after a period of abusing alcohol heavily. However, more research is required to find out just how effective the drug can be in treating alcohol related conditions.
The studies that have been exploring the effectiveness of this medication have produced conflicting and mixed results. It is for this reason that the drug is yet to receive the approval of the FDA - the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, the drug does not have any governmental approval, and it cannot be used to treat any substance use disorders, including alcoholism.
Even so, researchers are still exploring the factors that are predictive in favorable responses to baclofen (Lioresal) when it is used in the treatment of drug addiction and alcohol.
Although baclofen is commonly used in the treatment of spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and other back-related conditions, the drug is still getting tested to find out just how effective it can be in the management of alcohol related disorders.
The drug was first approved by the FDA in 1977 for use in the treatment of back conditions. This is because it was found to be effective at reducing muscle stiffness, muscle spasms, and the pain linked to different conditions of the back.
The drug has effects that act on the brain's reward pathway. It is due to these effects that doctors and medical researchers alike postulate to be the reason behind baclofen's action mechanisms.
At the same time, the reward pathway is now known to be one of the important regions that are affected by drug and alcohol use. This pathway is also linked to the development of substance use disorders, as well as substance tolerance and dependence.
Baclofen shares molecular similarities with GABA neurotransmitter chemicals. It is also derived from these chemicals. Since GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it has a slowing or calming effect on the overall physical state and mood of the individual.
GABA receptors have also been found to act on the brain's reward centers. As such, it is highly likely that if baclofen is effective in the treatment of drug and alcohol dependence, it could be because of how the drug works on these receptors.
Other research studies have found that there are different neurotransmitters that underlie the various pleasurable effects produced by ongoing drug and alcohol use. Among these neurotransmitters is dopamine, which is found in the brain cells (or neurons) located along the brain's reward pathways.
When you take different intoxicating substances - including but not limited to alcohol - they will influence the levels of activity of dopamine within the brain. As a result, you will experience the pleasurable feelings of happiness and relaxation.
However, dopamine does not act on its own. There are many other neurons located along the reward pathways, and they secrete GABA. On the other hand, GABA will interact with GABA receptors, which are specialized proteins. Due to the activation of these receptors, you will experience an additional release of the dopamine chemical.
Chronic drug and alcohol use might cause these neurotransmitter systems to become acclimated to the presence of these substances. At some point, your brain systems will not be able to continue functioning normally unless you take these substances. When this happens and you suddenly stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs, you could experience disruptions in the new state of balance. As a result, there is a high risk that you will suffer some adverse withdrawal symptoms - which would be a way of your brain telling you that it needs the addictive substances you used to give it. These symptoms might include uneasiness, Dysphoria, and pain, as well as substance cravings.
The way in which baclofen works is that it will act on your GABA receptors. As a result, it could help to lessen your cravings for addictive substances. It can also potentially reduce the symptoms of withdrawal that you suffer when you suddenly stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
The systems that regulate GABA and dopamine are closely linked. As a result, taking baclofen (Lioresal) will regulate the total levels of dopamine that are produced in your brain. In the long term, the drug could potentially regulate these levels until they go back to normal.
Baclofen and Mood States
Taking baclofen for a substance use disorder can affect the mood altering properties of drugs. The drug does this by addressing the altered mood state that occurs when you have been abstinent from drugs and alcohol for a period of time after heavy use of these substances.
The ways in which baclofen acts on key neurotransmitter systems have also shown some promise. As such, addiction treatment professionals now believe that the drug might be effective at relieving the negative mood state that occurs when you suddenly stop abusing substances after a period of addiction.
The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, has pointed out that taking baclofen could potentially affect the following mood states (and their respective neurotransmitter systems):
- Arousal state: Dopamine and epinephrine systems
- Fantasy state: Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine systems
- Satiation state: Endorphin and GABA systems
Additionally, the drug can act on the brain's GABA receptors. Further, it will alter your dopamine system. As a result, baclofen might be useful in impacting your mood states if you have substance use disorders involving alcohol and other drugs.
Overall, baclofen (Lioresal) is one of the drugs that is still being studied to see how it can have positive and healing effects for people who are addicted to alcohol and other addictive substances. If you find yourself in this situation, it is recommended that you get help by enrolling in an addiction treatment and rehabilitation program that can prescribe other medications to help you manage your condition.
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