Baclofen

Medically Reviewed By University of Illinois Chicago Drug Information Group

Baclofen at a glance

Key highlights to know about baclofen are:

  • Baclofen is used to treat spasticity (abnormal muscle tightness and stiffness) from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, and other spinal cord diseases.  
  • Baclofen is available as an oral tablet and oral solution.
  • Do not use alcohol while taking baclofen because of the increased risk of drowsiness. The side effects of baclofen may worsen with alcohol. If you are concerned about taking baclofen while drinking alcohol, talk with your doctor.
  • Baclofen oral tablets are typically a low-cost drug, defined in this article as costing less than $30/month. Baclofen oral solution is considered a high-cost drug, defined in this article as costing more than $100/month.   
  • Baclofen oral tablets are available as a generic medication. Ozobax (baclofen oral solution) is available as a brand-name drug only.

Important safety warnings for baclofen

Users of baclofen should be aware of these safety warnings:

  • Abrupt drug withdrawal warning: Do not suddenly stop taking baclofen because of the risk of withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of stopping baclofen too quickly include hallucinations and seizures. Talk with your healthcare provider on how to slowly discontinue baclofen if needed.  
  • Driving and operating heavy machinery warning: Baclofen can cause drowsiness and reduced alertness. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery until you are familiar with the effects of baclofen and know how you will react to the medication. 
  • History of stroke warning: If you have a history of stroke, baclofen may not work as well as it could. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have a history of stroke.
  • Increase in severity of diseases warning: Baclofen oral solution can increase the severity of certain diseases, such as psychotic disorders (schizophrenia), seizure disorders (epilepsy), or spinal cord injury disorders (autonomic dysreflexia). If you have a history of any of these conditions, talk with your healthcare provider.
  • Kidney problem warning: Kidney disease may affect how baclofen is removed from your body. If you have kidney disease, your healthcare provider may start with a lower dose and will monitor you for side effects.
  • Pregnancy and infant withdrawal warning: It is not known if taking baclofen during pregnancy will harm your unborn baby. When women have taken baclofen while pregnant, their babies have been born with symptoms of withdrawal from baclofen, including tremors (shaking movements) and seizures. If you are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider.
  • Ovarian cyst warning: Baclofen can cause an increase in the development of cysts (fluid-filled sacs) in the ovaries (female organs that produce eggs). Ovarian cysts may not cause any noticeable symptoms, and often go away on their own.

Talk with your doctor about these warnings in the context of your individual treatment plan and medical history.

What baclofen treats

This medication is used to treat:

  •      Muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, or other spinal cord diseases.

Doctors sometimes prescribe medications for different uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for information about other uses of this medication.

How it works

Baclofen is a prescription drug that belongs to a class of medications called muscle relaxants. The exact way baclofen works to relax muscles is not completely understood. It is thought that baclofen acts on nerves in the spinal cord to decrease the number and severity of muscle spasms.  

Baclofen is available as an oral tablet and an oral solution. The oral tablets are available as a generic product known as baclofen. Ozobax is the brand name for baclofen oral solution. Baclofen is also available as a spinal injection (brand names Lioresal and Gablofen). If your doctor prescribes baclofen for spinal injection, it will be administered and managed by a healthcare professional in a hospital or healthcare setting.

Side effects of baclofen

Baclofen side effects are possible and may go away with continued use. Serious side effects are rare.

Common side effects

The more common side effects that occur with baclofen include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness (fatigue)
  • Weakness

Serious side effects

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Seek emergency care (call 911) if you experience life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing; chest pain; loss of consciousness; sudden vision changes; or swelling of the face, mouth, tongue or throat.

Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Overdose. Symptoms can include:
    • Coma
    • Drowsiness
    • Seizures
    • Slow or shallow breathing
    • Sudden muscle weakness
    • Vomiting
  • Serious symptoms from stopping baclofen too quickly. Symptoms can include:
    • Confusion
    • High fever
    • Seeing or hearing things that are not really there (hallucinations)
    • Seizures
    • Worsening muscle stiffness or spasms
  • Worsening of other diseases you may have. Symptoms can include:
    • More frequent seizures in people with a history of seizures (epilepsy)
    • Nervous system problems (change in heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased sweating, muscle spasms) in people with spinal cord injuries
    • Worsened mood in people with psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia

Other side effects are possible. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

Costs of baclofen

Without insurance, generic baclofen oral tablets are typically considered low-cost (defined as costing less than $30/month). Ozobax (baclofen oral solution) is considered to be a high-cost drug (defined as costing more than $100/month). You can check the out-of-pocket cash pay price for baclofen on prescription drug discount websites.

With insurance, prices can vary considerably. Individual health plans may have preferred drugs with better pricing. If the price of baclofen on your health plan is too expensive, ask your doctor or pharmacist if there is an equivalent drug you can substitute

How baclofen may interact with other medicines

Baclofen may interact with other prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements you may be taking. To help avoid harmful interactions, your doctor should manage all your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements you are taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you are taking, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

This is not a complete list of drugs that may interact with baclofen. However, examples of drugs that may interact with baclofen include:

Medications that slow brain (central nervous system) activity

Drugs that slow brain activity like baclofen may result in side effects, such as slow or shallow breathing, low blood pressure, tiredness, coma, or death. Your healthcare provider will monitor you for side effects if they prescribe you one of these medicines:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Certain drugs that help you sleep
  • Drugs that help anxiety
  • Drugs that treat mood disorders called antipsychotics
  • Opioids
  • Other muscle relaxants

Disclaimer: Since drugs interact differently in each person, this information is not guaranteed to include all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbal supplements, and over-the-counter drugs you are taking.

Other baclofen alerts

This drug comes with several alerts and warnings:

Warnings for other groupsFor children: This drug has not been studied in children under 12 years old.

For elderly people: Elderly people may be more likely to have other medical conditions including kidney, liver or heart problems, and may be more likely to be taking other medications. These factors may increase your risk for side effects related to baclofen. If you are elderly and prescribed baclofen, your doctor may start you on a lower dose 

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Seek emergency care (call 911) if you experience life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing; chest pain; loss of consciousness; sudden vision changes; or swelling of the face, mouth, tongue or throat.

For pregnant and breastfeeding women

Can I take baclofen when pregnant?

There is a chance that taking baclofen during pregnancy will harm your unborn baby. When women have taken baclofen while pregnant, their babies have been born with symptoms of withdrawal from baclofen, including tremors (shaking movements) and seizures. Inform your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant.

Can I take baclofen when breastfeeding?

Baclofen passes into breast milk. The effect this will have on your child is unknown. Talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of breastfeeding while taking baclofen. They will work with you to decide on a plan for feeding your baby.  

How and when to take baclofen

Baclofen is supplied as a tablet and solution, which are both administered by mouth. Baclofen is usually dosed 3 to 4 times a day and the dose is slowly increased until desired effects are achieved.  

Drug forms and strengths

  • Tablet
    • 5 mg
    • 10 mg
    • 20 mg
  • Oral solution
    • 5 mg/5 mL

Dosage for spasticity

  • Children and adults (age ≥ 12 years)
    • Typical recommended dosage ranges from 40 mg to 80 mg daily divided in 3 to 4 doses.
    • Start baclofen at a low dose and slowly increase every three days until desired effect is achieved.
    • The maximum daily dose of baclofen should not exceed 80 mg.

If you miss a dose of baclofen

If you forget to take a dose, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose on the regularly scheduled time. Do not take more than your prescribed dose. Do not double the dose (take two doses at one time) the next day.  

If you take too much baclofen

If you take too much baclofen, you are at a higher risk of having side effects and overdose symptoms caused by this drug. Symptoms of overdose can include vomiting, muscle weakness, drowsiness, slowed breathing, and seizures. Overdose can cause problems with breathing that can lead to death. If you think you have taken too much of this drug, call your doctor or local poison control center 1-800-222-1222.  

Seek emergency care (call 911) if you experience life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing; chest pain; loss of consciousness; sudden vision changes; or swelling of the face, mouth, tongue or throat.

Helpful tips when taking baclofen

Keep these considerations in mind if your doctor prescribes baclofen for you.

General

  • Start baclofen therapy at a low dose and slowly increase it over time.
  • For baclofen oral solution, carefully measure the solution with an oral dosing syringe available from the pharmacy.   
  • Do not suddenly stop taking baclofen. If you need to stop baclofen, talk with your doctor on how to slowly discontinue the medication.  
  • Do not use alcohol or other medications that cause drowsiness if you are taking baclofen. This may cause abnormal sleepiness or confusion.
  • Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how baclofen affects you; baclofen can cause drowsiness and reduced alertness.

Storage

  • Store baclofen tablets at room temperature between 68°F to 77°F (20°C to 25°C) in a closed container with a child-resistant closure.
  • Store baclofen oral solution in a refrigerator, between 36°F to 46°F (2°C to 8°C), in a tight, light-resistant container with a child-resistant closure.  

Alcohol

Do not use alcohol while taking baclofen because of the increased risk of drowsiness. The side effects of baclofen may worsen if taken with alcohol. If you are concerned about taking baclofen while drinking alcohol, talk with your doctor.

Refills

Your doctor will write the number of authorized refills on your prescription. Talk with your pharmacist if you have questions about refills.

Travel

When planning to travel, keep these tips in mind for packing your medication:

  • Bring enough medication for the full number of days of your trip, plus at least two days to be safe.
  • Keep medication with you, in a purse or a carry-on bag if flying. Do not put it into a checked bag in case you are separated from your luggage.
  • Keep your medications in their original containers, if possible, to reduce delays during airport or security screening. Keep all your medications together to expedite the process.
  • Avoid leaving your medication in a parked car for extended periods to protect it from extreme temperatures (hot or cold).

When traveling with baclofen oral solution (Ozobax): 

  • Pack your medication in an insulated travel cooler with an ice pack and extra Ziploc™ bags for ice.
  • For longer trips, use the Ziploc bags for ice once the ice pack is no longer solid.
  • Liquid medications, associated supplies, and ice packs are allowed through security when flying. They are also exempt from the 3-1-1 liquid rule.

Availability

Many pharmacies stock this drug. When filling your prescription, be sure to call ahead to make sure your pharmacy carries it and has it in stock.  

Prior Authorization

Many insurance companies do not require prior authorization for the generic oral tablets of this drug. Many insurance companies require a prior authorization for Ozobax (baclofen oral solution). If a prior authorization is necessary, your doctor will need to get approval from your insurance company before your insurance company will pay for the prescription.

Medications similar to baclofen

Baclofen is used to treat muscle spasticity related to multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and other spinal cord conditions. There are other medications that can be used for these conditions, but none work exactly like baclofen. Other muscle relaxants include cyclobenzaprine (Amrix, Fexmid, Flexeril), methocarbamol (Robaxin), orphenadrine, and tizanidine (Zanaflex). Each medication has its own benefits and side effects profile. Your doctor will help determine the best option for you. 

Discontinuing use of baclofen

When baclofen is discontinued, the dose should be reduced gradually to prevent serious side effects like hallucinations and seizures. Do not stop taking this drug unless instructed by your doctor.  

Healthgrades Disclaimer:

This information is for educational purposes only. It should not be interpreted as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Healthgrades takes every effort to ensure this information is accurate and up to date. This content is not intended to cover all possible uses, side effects, warnings, precautions, allergic reactions, or drug interactions. Do not assume that the absence of such information means the medication is safe for your personal use. Always consult your doctor, pharmacist, or healthcare professional before taking or discontinuing any medication.

Medical Reviewer: University of Illinois Chicago Drug Information Group
Last Review Date: 2021 Oct 16
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.