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Concurrent Alcohol and Carisoprodol Abuse

Carisoprodol, sold in the United States under the brand name Soma, is a centrally-acting skeletal muscle relaxant that is prescribed to relieve discomfort related to painful musculoskeletal conditions such as muscle injuries and spasms. Carisoprodol can be habit-forming and its use can result in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, especially when it is combined with alcohol.

The Problem of Alcohol and Carisoprodol Abuse

Carisoprodol has become a popular recreational drug of abuse, in part because in previous years, it was not subject to the stringent controls that apply to many other prescription drugs, such as opiates and sedatives. More recently, though—on January 11, 2012—the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) named carisoprodol a Schedule IV controlled substance nationwide in an effort to reduce the rates of abuse of this drug.

Carisoprodol is metabolized by the body to meprobamate, which is itself a controlled sedative substance with demonstrated addictive potential. Over time, the meprobamate metabolite builds up in the bodies of people who take excessive amounts of Soma.

Both carisoprodol and meprobamate act on GABAA receptors in the brain and spinal cord, and their effect at these neurotransmitter receptors contributes to Soma’s muscle-relaxing effects.

Alcohol also exerts its intoxicating effects, in part, through certain types of GABAA receptors.

Because carisoprodol and alcohol act on overlapping types of receptors in the brain, they can bolster the effects of each other and, in fact, are frequently taken together recreationally in order to intensify the central nervous system (CNS) depressant effects they produce.

The risk of tolerance and subsequent withdrawal is greatly increased in someone who regularly takes carisoprodol and alcohol together. The risk is also higher in someone who:

  • Takes larger doses than prescribed. The maximum dose is usually 250 mg to 350 mg 3 times per day and at bedtime.
  • Takes it for longer than advised. It is usually recommended to take this drug for 2 or 3 weeks at most.

Signs and Symptoms

While most people combine carisoprodol and alcohol to enhance both drugs’ sedative, euphoric effects and bring them on more rapidly, there are a number of potentially negative symptoms and signs that may occur above and beyond any potentially desired feeling of relaxation. These are similar in both drugs and include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness/vertigo.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Tremors.
  • Agitation.
  • Irritability.
  • Headache.
  • Depression.
  • Lethargy.
  • Confusion.
  • Sedation.
  • Death.

In rare cases, carisoprodol can also cause symptoms including:

  • Transient quadriplegia, a temporary, severe weakness in all four limbs.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Temporary vision loss.
  • Double vision.

Effects of Alcohol and Carisoprodol Abuse

When someone takes Soma on a recreational basis for a long period of time—especially with alcohol—they place themselves at risk for damage to multiple organ systems, including the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas.

In addition to undeniable deterioration of one’s physical health, abusers of both alcohol and carisoprodol will typically begin to experience a negative impact on their social and/or psychological wellbeing. A prolonged dependency on both carisoprodol and alcohol can give rise to:

  • Repeated drug-seeking behavior, such as compulsively visiting doctors to get Soma.
  • Depression.
  • Suicidal ideation.
  • Anxiety when the drug is not available.

Alcohol and Carisoprodol Abuse Treatment

The concurrent abuse of alcohol and soma can leave a trail of negative effects, cravings, and addiction. Substance abuse treatment is often required to help people who are abusing both substances.

It’s been understood for a long time that sudden, or “cold-turkey” cessation of alcohol can produce uncomfortable and sometimes life-threatening symptoms. However, only recently have withdrawal symptoms from carisoprodol been reported. Like the effects of carisoprodol and alcohol abuse, the withdrawal symptoms of these two drugs are similar and are reinforced when they have been abused in combination.

Withdrawal symptoms for someone getting off of both alcohol and carisoprodol can include:

  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Irritability.
  • Tremors.
  • Fever.
  • Sweating.
  • Insomnia.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Seizures.
  • Hallucinations.

Withdrawal from alcohol and carisoprodol should be done at a medical or rehab facility. Moderate-to-severe withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, even life-threatening, and medical staff can help to monitor vital signs, administer fluids, and provide sedation to ensure the individual’s safety and health.

Working through issues of dependence and coping with symptoms of withdrawal are major life challenges, and it is critical to get assistance from experts who can help. Available resources include:

  • Inpatient treatment programs that can provide comprehensive care and closely monitored supervision during a period of detox and withdrawal.
  • Outpatient treatment programs that offer intensive therapy, while still allowing you to live at home and continue to work.
  • Other non-professional recovery organizations including SMART Recovery, LifeRing Secular Recovery, or 12-Step groups, where peers who share the common experience of addiction offer each other mutual support in recovery.

If you have a problem with addiction and are ready to seek help, call us for free at and we will help you take the first step on the road to recovery.

Key Statistics

  • According to data reported by the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), carisoprodol was the 20th most abused drug in the United States in the year 2000, ranking higher than oxycodone, methadone, and LSD.
  • DAWN reported an estimated 31,763 emergency room visits resulting from misuse or abuse of carisoprodol in 2009, double the 15,830 visits reported in 2004.
  • Per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and Health (NSDUH), 3.7 million people in the US over the age of 12 have used carisoprodol recreationally at some point in their lives.
  • The majority of emergency room visits involving carisoprodol in 2009 involved other simultaneously ingested intoxicants, including 3,750 (12%) involving the combination of carisoprodol and alcohol.

Alcohol and Carisoprodol Abuse in Teens

Carisoprodol is commonly referred to by the slang terms “Ds” or “Dance“, and it is especially popular in certain areas of the country, including South Florida and Texas, according to the Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG).

In contrast to the statistics for all age groups, the number of teens aged 12-17 who have abused the combination of alcohol and carisoprodol has not risen in recent years. However, it has not declined, either.

Because there has been minimal media coverage of carisoprodol abuse compared to that of better-known prescription drugs such as oxycodone or codeine, young people may not be aware of the dangers of carisoprodol.

Preventing Teen Substance Abuse

  • Talk to them about the dangers of both types of drugs. Many teens feel that prescription medicine is far less dangerous than street drugs, so it’s important to emphasize that this is not the case.
  • Monitor your teen’s behavior. If you notice sudden changes in habits, friends, or attitude, take action.
  • Watch the levels of alcohol and carisoprodol in your home. If you’re prescribed Soma, make sure only what you’re taking is missing from the pack. Also, always monitor how much alcohol is in your home.

Learn more about teen alcohol and drug misuse.

Resources, Articles, and More Information

Check out the following articles for more information on alcohol and carisoprodol abuse and recovery:

How to Find Help for Drug or Alcohol Misuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance misuse, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional addiction treatment programs can start anyone battling a substance use problem on the path to a happier and healthier life. To learn more about rehab programs and treatment options, contact a caring admissions navigator with American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at .

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