Flexeril, the trade name for cyclobenzaprine hydrochloride, is a drug that is used as a muscle relaxant in the treatment of skeletal muscle disorders. It typically relieves spasm of skeletal muscles by acting locally within the muscle without affecting its function in anyway. It does not have any action on the neuromuscular junctions and neither does it have any action within the central nervous system per se.
In this article, we shall briefly review the uses of Flexeril in clinical practice.
What is Flexeril used for?
In clinical practice, musculoskeletal disorders are commonly encountered. These disorders are characterised by pain and difficulty moving the muscles for different purposes. Musculoskeletal disorders can present as acute muscle spasm which can be extremely painful and debilitating to the patient. Patients experience pain in the muscle, diffuse tenderness i.e. pain when the muscle is attached are pressed upon, restriction in movement of the muscle and a consequent restriction in performing activities of daily living.
When prescribing Flexeril, it is given in doses of 5 or 10 mg three times a day over a period of 2 to 3 weeks. Prolonged treatment courses are not recommended as clinical evidence does not suggest any additional benefit of using them for such periods of time. Short-term use has got a significantly positive effect on the patient and can restore normal muscle movement and reduce pain significantly.
There are certain clinical conditions that are characterised by muscle spasm such as cerebral palsy, spinal-cord disease, spinal muscular atrophy and cerebral disease. In these conditions, the muscle spasm is not acute but instead increases over a prolonged period of time. In such patients, Flexeril does not have any significant effect and is therefore not recommended.
Cyclobenzaprine recreational use
There is some concern about using Flexeril for recreational purposes. However, the available anecdotal evidence does not suggest that Flexeril is addictive in anyway. The long-term use of Flexeril has demonstrated the development of withdrawal symptoms if the drug is stopped abruptly. This may indicate that patients become used to the drug but as such does not indicate the use of cyclobenzaprine hydrochloride for recreational purposes. Having said that, there are patients who have overdosed on the drug accidentally, and one may have previously read of the case of Whitney Houston, the American singer, who died of an overdose of multiple drugs that included cyclobenzaprine. If taken in high quantities for recreational purposes, Flexeril can cause drowsiness, irregular heart beating, convulsions, hallucinations, vomiting, difficulty breathing and an alteration in body temperature.
It is therefore important for both the patient and the health care professional to monitor the use of Flexeril and prescribe it only for a short period of time. The usual duration of 2 to 3 weeks of treatment is rarely addictive and is more often safe than dangerous.
Flexeril is a commonly used drug in the management of acute muscle spasms. While it rarely has a recreational benefit, it appears that patients who have been on the drug for a fair bit of time may develop withdrawal symptoms. It is therefore essential that the drug is prescribed for a short period of time by registered health care practitioners.