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Misuse of Muscle Relaxant a Growing Problem

By November 16, 2011

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Most prescription drug abuse involves the use of pain medications, but now health officials are finding that the nonmedical use of a muscle relaxant is a fast-growing problem. Over a five-year period, the number of emergency room visits involving the misuse of carisoprodol have doubled, according to a government study.

Carisoprodol is marketed under brand names like Soma, Soprodal, and Vanadom.

A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that emergency department visits involving carisoprodol increased from 15,830 in 2004 to 31,783 in 2009, the latest year Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports are available.

Carisoprodol is intended for the short-term treatment of acute muscle pain, especially for pain resulting from a severe injury. But use of the drug can be dangerous if combined with the use of other prescription drugs, illicit drugs and/or alcohol, the SAMHSA report said.

All Age Groups Involved

Some of the report's finding about carisoprodol-involved ER visits include:

  • ER visits increase for all age groups increased.
  • Visits tripled for patients aged 50 or older.
  • Most visits involved other pharmaceuticals (77%).
  • 35% of the visits required follow-up hospitalization.

Other Drugs and Alcohol

Most ER visits were due to use of other drugs in combination with carisoprodol:

  • 55% narcotic pain relievers
  • 47% bezodiazepines
  • 12% alcohol.

SAMHSA officials said the vast majority of these expensive emergency department visits can be avoided by using carisoprodol only as directed, safe storage of the medication and proper disposal of any unused prescription.

The full report, "ED Visits Involving the Muscle Relaxant Carisoprodol," is available online.

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