Table of Contents

I. The Basics of Flexeril Addiction

This guide explains the effects, trends, and dangers of Flexeril use, as well as an unbiased analysis of the medicinal and behavioral treatment methods for Flexeril addiction based on current research and publicly available statistics. In some cases, usage statistics are derived from general prescription muscle relaxant use, which includes antispasmodics and antispastics.

Primary Flexeril Dangers

  • Muscle relaxant toxicity: High doses of muscle relaxants can be toxic, especially when the drug depresses the central nervous system or causes changes in blood pressure and heart rhythm. Some muscle relaxants depress the central nervous system, causing seizure-like activity and increased activity of the muscles. Others affect cardiovascular activity by lowering blood pressure to dangerous levels or causing the heart rate to slow down. These effects are especially detrimental in people who already have heart conditions.
  • CNS depression: Within 30 minutes to two hours of ingesting a toxic dose of muscle relaxants, the individual may present to the emergency department with concerning symptoms. These symptoms, which are caused by depression of the central nervous system, include slurred speech, lethargy, respiratory arrest, and lack of coordination. When large doses of Flexeril or other muscle relaxants are combined with alcohol, the individual may go into an unresponsive coma.
  • Unintended side effects: Flexeril can block the activity of certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals used to transmit messages within the nervous system, especially when taken in high doses. In medical terms, this is known as an anticholinergic effect. In some people, the anticholinergic effects of Flexeril can cause delirium and increased heart rate.
  • Legal risks: Although Flexeril isn’t a scheduled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, there can still be legal consequences for taking it without a prescription, such as a charge of illegal possession of a prescription medication. Depending on how the individual obtained the medication, there may be additional criminal charges, such as charges for stealing a prescription pad, altering a prescription, or posing as a friend or family member when picking up the medication.

Flexeril Background Information

Derived From Derived from synthetic substances; may contain iron oxide, magnesium stearate, and other inactive ingredients
Ways Used Oral tablets
Scientific Name Cyclobenzaprine hydrochloride
Slang/Street Names for Flexeril Cyclone, mellow yellow
How Long in Bodily System Half-life: 8-37 hours (average of 18 hours)
Elimination typically occurs within three days, but it may take longer in chronic users.
Punitive Legal Measures: Using/Possession Penalties vary by state, but a conviction for possession of Flexeril without a valid prescription may result in fines, jail time, and/or required participation in a drug rehabilitation program.
Punitive Legal Measures: Selling/Distributing Penalties for selling/distributing Flexeril also vary by state. In Florida, for example, selling or distributing Flexeril without a license may be charged as a felony, which is a serious offense. If convicted, an individual may be penalized with more than 10 years in jail or $10,000 or more in fines.
DEA Drug Rating Not a scheduled drug under the Controlled Substances Act

II. Signs of Abuse

Behavioral Symptoms of Flexeril Usage and Abuse

How Flexeril affects the brain

Flexeril works on the brain stem to reduce motor activity, which can affect the action of certain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals send messages from nerve cells to target cells, such as muscle cells or the cells in the glands of the endocrine system, either inhibiting or increasing electrical activity in those cells.

Researchers don’t understand exactly what causes Flexeril to relax the muscles, but some suspect that it works on a neurotransmitter called GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. When GABA attaches to receptors in the brain, it produces a calming effect. It’s this calming effect that may lead to a sense of euphoria or enhanced well-being, causing some individuals to start misusing Flexeril.

Behavioral signs of Flexeril usage and abuse

It can be difficult to identify Flexeril addiction at first, but over time, behavioral changes start to appear. Flexeril is known to cause aggressive behavior, paranoia and delusions, especially at high doses. Individuals with paranoia may believe that other people are out to get them, or they may believe that they’re being threatened even if they’re not. People with paranoia may also think that the people around them are involved in conspiracies.

In some cases, paranoia turns into full-fledged delusions, which are characterized by irrational thoughts and beliefs. No matter how hard they try, loved ones cannot persuade the individual that their thoughts and feelings aren’t real.

Flexeril abuse can also lead to changes in how an individual behaves at work or in an academic environment. An employee who abuses Flexeril may start showing up late, missing work more often than usual or having trouble completing assignments on time. Aggressive behavior may also interfere with work relationships or cause the individual to lose his or her job. In students, Flexeril abuse can cause a decline in academic performance. Students may also skip school, stop doing their homework assignments, or display aggressive behavior when communicating with teachers or classmates.

Physical Symptoms of Flexeril Abuse

How Flexeril affects the body

Flexeril affects the body in several ways, some of which depend on the dosage and whether the individual takes it with alcohol or other substances. The main effect of Flexeril is relaxation of the muscles, but taking this medication can also cause the individual’s blood pressure to drop. Because Flexeril has an inhibitory effect, it also causes drowsiness and fatigue. Chronic use may lead to headaches, dizziness, insomnia, and mood changes.

Early physical effects of Flexeril typically develop within one hour of taking the drug. These effects include drowsiness, dizziness, and muscle relaxation. Some users experience dry mouth, lower blood pressure, and a slowed heart rate within the first hour of taking Flexeril.

This table illustrates the possible short-term physical effects associated with Flexeril.
Short-term Physical Symptoms
Initial (direct effects of drug, 30 – 60 min.) Dizziness
Drowsiness
Dry mouth
Fatigue
Headache
Lingering (within an hour of taking the drug) Dizziness
Drowsiness
Fatigue
Post-Use (several hours to days after use) Fatigue
Insomnia
Dependence (more likely at higher doses of the drug)

Severe and long-term physical effects of Flexeril

Flexeril has a legitimate use as a muscle relaxant to relieve the pain associated with muscle spasms, strains, and sprains; however, long-term use of this medication can lead to severe long-term effects. One of the potential outcomes is tachycardia or an increased heart rate. In some individuals, tachycardia caused by Flexeril use can also lead to abnormal heart rhythms. Because Flexeril can dilate the blood vessels, it can also cause a serious drop in blood pressure, which may lead to fainting.

Long-term use of Flexeril can also lead to adverse events involving the digestive system. For example, some users develop diarrhea or gastrointestinal discomfort, while others experience vomiting, inflammation of the stomach, or increased flatulence. In rare cases, long-term use of Flexeril has been linked to reduced bile flow and inflammation of the liver.

Flexeril may also affect the nervous system, integumentary system (skin) and urinary system. Potential effects on the nervous system include seizures, vertigo, tremors, insomnia, abnormal sensations, and double vision. Some people experience increased sweating as a result of long-term Flexeril use. The use of this medication may also cause urinary retention or increased urinary frequency.

This table illustrates the possible long-term physical effects associated with Flexeril.
Long-term Physical Symptoms
Casual Drowsiness
Fatigue
Insomnia
Headaches
Chronic
Including all of the above effects for casual use
Fast heart rate
Dilation of the blood vessels
Low blood pressure
Seizures
Tremors
Depressed mood
Agitation
Muscle twitching
Sweating
Urinary frequency
Withdrawal Nausea
Headache
Malaise
Lethargy

Further Resources

MedlinePlus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, has more information on Flexeril, including an overview of why it’s prescribed and an explanation of how to take it safely when prescribed. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency also has more information on the illicit use of Flexeril in the United States.

III. Flexeril Usage

Flexeril use has increased steadily over the past two decades

As of 2004, approximately two million American adults used Flexeril and other prescription muscle relaxants, according to data gathered as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). In 2018 and 2019, more than 26 million Flexeril prescriptions were picked up from U.S. pharmacies, indicating a significant increase in the number of people using Flexeril to relieve pain associated with musculoskeletal conditions.

The increased use of Flexeril has also led to an increase in the number of medical emergencies involving the drug. In 2016, Flexeril was mentioned in more than 10,000 cases handled by the American Association of Poison Control Centers; more than 4,000 of those cases involved exposure to Flexeril and no other substances, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Among the single exposures, four people died, and another 75 experienced major medical outcomes. In 2017, exposure to Flexeril caused 97 major medical outcomes; the drug was also mentioned in 10,429 case reports from poison-control centers throughout the country.

Flexeril has properties similar to those displayed by tricyclic antidepressants, which may also be abused by individuals looking to achieve a sense of euphoria or make it easier to cope with stressful life circumstances. In 2010, nearly 3,900 drug overdose deaths involved some type of antidepressant. Individuals with depression are also more likely to have a substance-use disorder, increasing the risk that they’ll misuse Flexeril if it’s prescribed for muscle spasms or other musculoskeletal disorders.

Prescription Usage Demographics in the U.S.

In the United States, the use of muscle relaxants and other prescription drugs by adolescents has been increasing in some populations. This includes the use of benzodiazepines, some of which are used to relax the muscles, and skeletal muscle relaxants like Flexeril. Adolescents may combine Flexeril with alcohol or illicit substances to enhance its psychoactive properties, increasing the risk of dependence and enhancing the severity of any side effects.

According to the Monitoring the Future Study, however, overall prescription use has declined, at least among students in 12th grade who participated in the survey. In 2019, 14.6% of 12th graders reported that they had used some type of prescription drug in their lifetimes, a decrease from 15.5% the previous year. The number of 12th graders who reported using a prescription drug within the past year also declined, from 9.9% in 2018 to 8.6% in 2019, a statistically significant difference.

Adolescents may start abusing Flexeril after taking it to treat a legitimate medical condition, or they may experiment with Flexeril that was prescribed for a friend or family member.

Demographics of Prescription Usage
Past Year (2019) Lifetime 
8th grade (14-15 yo) Not collected Not collected
10th grade (15-16 yo) Not collected Not collected
12th grade (17-18 yo) 8.60% 14.60%

 

IV. How to Find Help

With long-term use, Flexeril users may develop a physical dependence on the substance, making it difficult to stop taking Flexeril. Even when someone has the desire to stop taking the drug, the physical effects of withdrawal — including nausea, headaches and malaise — may make it difficult to do so. As a result, Flexeril rehabilitation is a multistep process that aims to slowly reduce the amount of Flexeril ingested each day until the individual can safely stop taking the drug altogether.

This multistep process makes it easier to cope with the physical effects of withdrawal and reduces the risk of an adverse event occurring when the individual stops taking Flexeril. The rehabilitation process also gives the individual the tools and support needed to develop healthy coping mechanisms and reduce the risk of relapse. To learn more, read our Flexeril rehabilitation guide, which provides an in-depth overview of the process and its benefits.

Staging an Intervention

If you have a loved one who’s struggling with addiction, staging an intervention is often the first necessary step towards sobriety, but it’s important to be strategic and loving in your approach. Even the most well-meaning of interventions can have a negative effect if they aren’t handled correctly.

5 Tips for Staging an Intervention

1. Don’t Do It Alone. A professional interventionist is always the most qualified to guide a successful intervention. Also, rely on non-addict family and friends — especially those who have a close relationship with you or the addict.
2. Research Ahead of Time. It’s best to do plenty of research ahead of time to gather insight on the addiction and how it affects the addict. Also, be prepared with local resources for getting help.
3. Write Out Your Statement. During the actual intervention, emotions will likely be running high, so it’s best to have a statement of how the person’s addiction has impacted you and your relationship with him or her. These statements should be honest yet written from a place of love — no personal attacks.
4. Offer Help. It’s important for everyone attending the intervention to offer tangible help and support as the person works through detox and rehabilitation.
5. Set Boundaries. If the person refuses to seek help and take the next steps outlined, it’s important that they understand that everyone present will end codependent and enabling behaviors.

V. Sources