Carisoprodol is one of the most widely used muscle relaxants all over the world because it not only treats, but also helps prevent muscle spasms without negatively affecting the patient’s overall muscle control. It primarily acts as a skeletal muscle relaxant and is of the carbamate class, producing effects associated with barbiturates.

Carisoprodol is a medicine marketed under different brand names, such as Soma and Pain-O-Soma among others and has been marketed since 1959.

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Soma is often described as a blanket sedative as it tends to impact the nervous system completely. The benefits that it has to offer often make it better for other uses relating to the mind. Users have experienced not only alleviation of muscular pain but also of conditions such as stress, fear and social anxiety.

Carisoprodol is a medication that is generally used as a short-term treatment for muscle pain, stiffness and discomfort caused due to sprains, strains or any other musculoskeletal conditions. Generally, the medicine is prescribed along with physical therapy, rest and other treatments.

History of Carisoprodol

During the 1950s, when the abuse of Meprobamate – a CNS depressant used to treat anxiety disorders – increased drastically and became a matter of huge concern for health professionals as well as the government, Dr. Frank M. Berger came up with a new drug. Developed at the Wallace laboratories, under the name of Miltown, the drug was a modification of meprobamate and was considered to have less abuse potential and safer than its predecessor. Furthermore, Dr. Berger expected the drug to be used to help different anxiety disorders, as well as to be a more effective muscle relaxant.

Mechanism of Action

Although Carisoprodol is widely used as a muscle relaxant, scientists and researchers have not been able to discover the drug’s exact mechanism of action, yet. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Carisoprodol is a centrally-acting drug that does not directly work as a skeletal muscle relaxant in humans. Researchers are of the opinion that its relaxing effects may be related to the sedative properties of the drug’s active metabolite i.e. meprobamate. Due to the formation of meprobamate during the process of hepatic biotransformation of Carisoprodol, the medicine is considered to have the potential for developing dependence and abuse.

Animal studies of Carisoprodol have shown that the drug alters inter-neuronal activity in the reticular formation of the brain and in the spinal cord. As a result, it reduces the perception of pain. However, the drug’s mechanism of action in human beings is unclear.

Medical Uses

While the main usage of Carisoprodol is to treat musculoskeletal conditions, it may be prescribed for:

•         Anxiety & Stress

Anxiety is a general term for a group of psychiatric disorders that cause extreme fear, nervousness, worry, and apprehension. Anxiety disorders also affect the way a person feels and behaves in certain situations. In addition to psychological effects, anxiety disorders also have an effect on a person’s physical health.

In the Australia around 3 million people suffer from anxiety or behavioural conditions.

The following are the anxiety-related disorders that a person can experience:

  • Social Anxiety – This sparks from a fear of being judged negatively by others. It can lead to avoidance of social interactions, public places and even contact with people.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – GAD – This occurs after long-standing anxiety that is related to life events and worrying over non-specific conditions. It is a chronic condition.
  • Panic Disorder – This causes panic attacks in a person in the form of cold sweats, chills, dizziness, fear or apprehension, shaking and nausea. Panic attacks can also last from minutes to a few hours.
  • Stress – Work related or caused by life events, stress can begin to manifest as body pains, particularly in the neck and back.
Benefits of Using Carisoprodol for Anxiety and Stress

There are a number of reasons why Carisoprodol is used for anxiety and stress. The following are some major benefits that it has to offer:

  • It is a pro-social drug, which eliminates anti-social feelings a person can have and helps to alleviate social anxiety.
  • It can help reduce stress, which can trigger muscle spasms in the body.
  • Carisoprodol has also proven to be very effective in reducing anxiety and unnecessary fears.
  • It is also said to not just help the body to relax but also relaxes the mind.

Carisoprodol is often preferred by users over other medications like Ritalin but it is advised to use it with caution. Classified as a barbiturate sedative, it is possible for one to develop dependency and addiction with prolonged use.

Although carisoprodol is known to have some anxiolytic properties, they are not very strong. People often confuse its sedative and muscle relaxing effects with anxiety relief. This is because when a person suffers from chronic muscle pain or experience a musculoskeletal injury, they may also experience anxiety. Anxiety, in turn, often causes insomnia. When treated with carisoprodol, the patient experiences pain relief and sedation and ultimately feels the reduction in anxiety. This way, Soma reduces anxiety without actually treating it.

•         Analgesia

Analgesia is a condition that is characterized by the insensibility to pain due to the interruption in the nervous system pathway between the brain and the sense organ. In simple words, analgesia is relief from pain without losing consciousness.

Medicines that offer pain relief are called analgesics. The analgesic properties of carisoprodol are different from other major pain relief medications, including paracetamol, aspirin and opium alkaloids.

•         Hypertonia and Muscle Relaxation

Hypertonia is a condition of the Central Nervous System in which the motor nerve pathways get damaged. As a result, they cause an increased tightness of muscle tone. The muscles become so stiff that their capacity to move and stretch is greatly reduced.

As discussed earlier, Carisoprodol’s mechanism of action as a muscle relaxant is unclear. Researchers are of the view that in the CNS, the drug slightly reduces the activity of neurons at synaptic junctions and as a result, induces muscle relaxation.

•         Somnolence

Somnolence, also called hypersomnia, is the opposite of insomnia. A common side-effect of all the major anti-depressant, it is a condition in which the person always feels sleepy. In addition to drowsiness, lethargy, headaches, nausea, irritability, and excessive sleeping are some other major symptoms of somnolence.

Although carisoprodol is generally known to have sedative effects, some research suggests that it can even be used to treat somnolence. How? It is unclear.

•         Dosage

Carisoprodol is administered orally. Usually, the dosage ranges between 250 to 350 mg, thrice a day and at bedtime. However, if required, a 500mg could be administered with a daily limit of no more than 1,400mg suggested, as the drug is very potent. Therefore, it is highly recommended to always consult a doctor before starting to consume the medicine or it may cause serious negative effects.

Even when prescribed, strictly follow the time and dosage and never change or combine dosages.

Precautions While Using Carisoprodol

Since carisoprodol has sedative effects, the drug may impair physical or mental abilities or concentration required for performing certain tasks, such as operating machinery and driving.  Therefore, it is recommended to avoid doing any potentially harmful tasks after taking the medicine.

Contraindications for Carisoprodol

Carisoprodol can cause negative effects if you have any of the following conditions:

  • Hypersensitivity to any of the drug components
  • Liver metabolism disorder or any other liver problem
  • Any kidney disease
  • Seizures
  • Lower seizure threshold
  • History of porphyria
  • Alcohol intoxication
  • Addiction to any drug or a history of drug abuse

Carisoprodol should not be administered to children under the age of 12 years. The drug’s effects on the fetus are unknown, therefore it is better that pregnant women either avoid the drug or consult a doctor before the use.

Possible Side Effects of Carisoprodol

Carisoprodol can cause a number of side-effects – some of them are:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Clumsiness
  • Agitation
  • Tremor
  • Reduced concentration
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Skin rash
  • Allergic reactions
  • Unconsciousness
  • Cold sweats
  • Trouble in breathing

Conclusion

While Carisoprodol is a highly effective muscle relaxant and pain reliever, it should only be consumed under a doctor’s supervision. This is because the drug has the potential to develop dependency and can also cause withdrawal symptoms. Furthermore, it can cause some side-effects due to which its dosage continuously needs to be administered.

So, if you are starting on Soma, make sure to talk to your doctor about your health and other medicines, supplements or herbal products that you are using. If you have any more questions about carisoprodol, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.