Tizanidine is an oral drug that is available both in generic and brand name. The brand name version is called Zanaflex. It is a type of muscle relaxant used for very specific types of muscle spasms. These are muscle spasms caused in people with spinal cord injuries and Multiple Sclerosis.
What does Tizanidine do?
Tizanidine works on the central nervous system to stop muscle spasms from occurring. When you have a spinal cord injury or Multiple Sclerosis, you may not have full control over your muscles. Impulses from your brain can cause sudden and sometimes harmful muscle spasms. These sudden jerks have been known to be so strong that they can break bones, damaged tendons, and more.
The medication does not impact the muscle fibers directly, rather it affects the nervous system instead. This helps protect the muscles from damage, while also giving them a break. With MS and spinal cord injuries, some patients experience muscle tightening which can be painful. Tizanidine has the benefit of reducing some pain associated with muscle spasms and it doesn’t require any adjustments in dosing due to liver disease.
What is Tizanidine used for?
It is most widely used to treat muscle spasms associated with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Tizanidine is one of many drugs that act on the central nervous system to alleviate uncontrollable muscle spasms. It slows impulses in the brain that can allow the muscles to relax. This gives significant comfort and decreases the chances of injury due to muscle spasms.
Tizanidine is an oral drug that can be taken either as a capsule or a tablet. The body responds to each version of the drug differently. The absorption rates are different and can even impact the rates of muscle spasms. For people who struggle to swallow, the doctor may have that individual open the capsule and put it in something like applesauce or pudding. Because this impacts absorption it’s important to only do this under the direction of your doctor.
In some cases, doctors may prescribe Tizanidine for other ailments and purposes. There is some evidence that off-label use of Tizanidine is effective to treat other conditions. Tizanidine may be prescribed for insomnia, migraine headaches, and even back pain.
Is Tizanidine Addictive?
Just Google Tizanidine addiction and you’ll see that there are many facilities that treat Tizanidine addiction. So yes, it can be addictive. Some of the risk factors for addiction include taking it alongside narcotics, taking higher doses than prescribed, and taking it after you no longer need it. All of these factors increase the risk of addiction.
Is Tizanidine a Narcotic?
The greatest appeal to many people who need help with muscle spasms is that Tizanidine is not a narcotic. While Tizanidine is non-narcotic, it does lead some people to become dependent on it. What differentiates it from a narcotic is the way it works in your body. It blocks nerve receptors at the muscle level instead of binding directly to pain receptors. This causes a false perception that one cannot become dependent on Tizanidine.
Side Effects of Tizanidine/Dependence
Doctors are very careful to prescribe small doses of Tizanidine at first to reduce the likelihood of side effects. Some side effects are normal but should go away after your body is used to the medication. If you experience any of these side effects for prolonged periods or if they are severe, it’s important to talk with your doctor. He or she may recommend a lower dose or a different medication.
- weakness, dizziness, or drowsiness
- tingling sensation in the arms, legs, hands, and feet
- nervousness or depression
- constipation, diarrhea, or stomach pain
- vomiting or dry mouth increased muscle spasms or sweating
Additionally, the symptoms below are reasons to call your doctor right away.
- unexplained cold or flu symptoms
- extreme or constant tiredness
- abnormal bruising or bleeding
- vision changes or yellowing of the eyes
- no appetite
Signs of dependence on Tizanidine vary. Typically, if you drop your dosing below your usual amount and experience withdrawal symptoms, you’ll know your body is dependent. Some of these symptoms include dizziness, dry mouth, heart palpitations, sweating, anxiety, and more.
What Happens If I Stop Taking Tizanidine?
Most doctors will wean you off Tizanidine instead of having you quit cold turkey. Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. They can include dizziness, anxiety, blood pressure changes, muscle stiffening, heart rate changes, and more. By weaning off the medication, you may not experience any of these symptoms. In extreme cases, with some of the worst side effects, doctors may need to give you something to help you come off the medicine.
Withdrawal symptoms are typically seen in people who have been using very high doses of Tizanidine and especially those who use it alongside narcotics. It is much safer to use it at lower doses that have been prescribed by your doctor than to take it in higher doses.
Your doctor will likely use dose titration to wean you off Tizanidine slowly. This reduces the occurrence of harmful side effects.
Alternatives to Tizanidine
If you need medication to reduce muscle spasms, there are many options on the market. Your doctor will help you decide the best option for you based on your medical history, types of spasms, allergies, current medications, etc. Some common alternatives are Zanaflex, Soma, Valium, and Flexeril. These medications are all used for different purposes and help with muscle spasms in different ways. Some of them work directly on the muscle fibers, while others are like Tizanidine and work on the nervous system instead.
If you become addicted to Tizanidine and need help, contact your doctor or a facility that can help you wean off and manage withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to only use Tizanidine as directed and to use caution when pairing it with other medications. Let your doctor know about every medicine or herbal product you are taking when you start on Tizanidine. This will help them decide between tablet and capsule and the best dosing.