Soma Effects, Risks, and Treatment

Even though Soma is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance in the U.S. (meaning it has low abuse potential and low risk of dependence), it is still a commonly abused substance.
Evidence Based
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What Is Soma?

Soma (carisoprodol) is a prescription muscle relaxant medication that relieves acute musculoskeletal pain. The medication should only be used for short durations, no longer than 2 to 3 weeks. Further, Soma is usually prescribed to patients following injuries such as sprains, strains, or muscle spasms.

Soma is a centrally acting muscle relaxant, which means that it works by acting on the central nervous system (CNS) rather than on the muscles themselves. Although many people do not understand its mechanism of action, it acts as a CNS depressant, which is why it has the potential for abuse.

Soma is available commercially as a white tablet. The effects of Soma are usually felt within 30 minutes of taking the drug, and last 4 to 6 hours.

Despite its frequent abuse and dangerous side effects, Soma is a Schedule IV controlled substance in the U.S., meaning it has low abuse potential and low risk of dependence.

Graphic human body showing symptoms.

Side Effects of Soma

The most prominent side effects of Soma are due to its CNS depressant effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Memory impairment
  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo (spinning, off-balance sensation)
  • Syncope (fainting spells)
  • Ataxia (difficulty walking)

Other significant Soma side effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Drops in blood pressure
  • Facial flushing
  • Irritability
  • Seizures (especially with overdose)
  • Low blood counts
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Risks of Soma

Soma can cause significant sedation, which may result in physical and mental impairment that could affect the safe operation of motor vehicles or other tasks requiring concentration. Soma use has also been associated with a number of motor vehicle accidents.

Since Soma is a CNS depressant, it can worsen the sedation and impairment from other CNS depressants, such as alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines. As such, mixing Soma with other CNS depressants should be avoided if possible.

Soma has a risk for addiction, especially with regular or prolonged use, or in combination with other addictive substances. People with a history of substance addiction should, therefore, use Soma with caution.

Overdose on Soma usually produces symptoms of severe gait impairment, amnesia, agitation and, violent outbursts, confusion, and excessive sedation. More severe overdose can cause suppression of breathing, followed by coma and death.

Combining Soma with other CNS depressants can be especially dangerous.

Additionally, combining Soma with other CNS depressants can increase the risk of overdose. The overlap of overdose symptoms with other medications can make overdose diagnosis difficult. This is a particular concern because Soma is commonly abused to enhance the effects of other CNS depressants, particularly opioids and benzodiazepines.

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Is Soma Addictive?

As with other CNS depressants, people abuse Soma for its sedating, relaxing, and anti-anxiety effects. They often abuse it together with other CNS depressants because of its potentiating effects, allowing for a more intense “high” from those drugs with lower doses.

Repeated use of Soma can produce two of the hallmark symptoms of addiction, including:

  • Tolerance —when increasingly higher doses are required to obtain the same effects
  • Withdrawal — when stopping the medication produces uncomfortable symptoms, such as insomnia, irritability, anxiety, depression, and seizures
Graphic of head filled with pills

Soma Addiction Symptoms

Soma abuse occurs when people use the drug without a prescription. It can also form when used for reasons other than its intended use or when taken in higher doses than prescribed. On the other hand, addiction occurs when the individual cannot control or stop drug use. They also continue using it despite obvious negative effects and a genuine desire to stop.

Addiction to Soma or other addictive substances can result in symptoms that may be physical, psychological, behavioral, or social in nature:

  • The physical and psychological symptoms are related to the powerful drug effects on the body and mind, and the symptoms that develop as the drug wears off.
  • The behavioral symptoms develop as drug use increases. This is when the individual becomes increasingly focused on obtaining more of the drug to the point where it interferes with daily life and responsibilities.
  • The social symptoms of addiction develop as the consequences of drug use and associated behaviors affect job, family, and finances. Many people face legal consequences because of their drug use.
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Soma Addiction Treatment

The initial period after ceasing drug use can be difficult due to withdrawal symptoms accompanied by intense cravings. Medical detoxification can assist people through this period by providing support to help individuals through this difficult process as the body rids itself of Soma and its toxic metabolites.

Medical detoxification in a treatment facility offers advantages that make stopping Soma abuse easier and safer:

  • It allows for treatment and recovery planning and a smooth transition into a treatment program
  • Withdrawal symptoms may be greatly reduced or even averted by using medications to treat the withdrawal effects
  • Dangerous complications of withdrawal can be treated or avoided by proper medical supervision
  • It provides a safe place free from the distractions and triggers that can cause relapse
  • It provides the best chances of successful recovery

One of the core symptoms of addiction is an inability to control or stop drug use despite repeated attempts. Recovery usually requires treatment directed at the social, psychological, and behavioral causes and effects of the drug abuse.

Many people with substance addictions feel helpless and hopeless. However, with proper help, anyone is able to achieve long-term recovery and a return to good health and function, no matter how far deep they may be in their addiction.

Help is available for anyone experiencing substance addiction. Find treatment today.


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Resources

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “Carisoprodol.” (2019). https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/carisoprodol/carisoprodol.pdf

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “Drug Scheduling.” (2019). https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling

Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Highlights of Prescribing Information: Soma (carisoprodol).” (2009). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/011792s043lbl.pdf

Gonzalez, Lorie A et al. “Abuse Potential of Soma: the GABA(A) Receptor as a Target.” Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, vol. 1,4 (2009): 180-186. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2858432/

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Updated on: June 24, 2020
Author
Addiction Group Staff
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