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 is the brand name for the drug carisoprodol. It is a skeletal muscle relaxant medication approved by the FDA to treat acute musculoskeletal pain. Soma is usually prescribed to patients for pain relief following muscle injuries such as sprains, strains, or muscle spasms. This prescription drug is should only be used for short-term durations (2 to 3 weeks) due to its habit-forming properties.

Soma pill

Soma is a centrally acting muscle relaxer, 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 common 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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Is Soma Dangerous?

Soma can cause significant sedation, which can result in physical and mental impairment. This may interfere with tasks requiring concentration such as driving. Soma use has been associated with a number of motor vehicle accidents.

Many users combine Soma with alcohol and other drugs to achieve a euphoric high. Codeine, hydrocodone (Lortab, Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and barbiturates often get mixed with Soma due to their sedating effects. This is very dangerous. These drugs have additive effects, meaning that your chance for serious side effects and overdose are increased immensely when combining substances.

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 get professional medical advice before taking Soma.

Two pills mixing equals dangerous

Soma Drug Interactions

Since Soma is a CNS depressant, it can worsen the sedation and impairment from other CNS depressants, such as alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and tricyclic antidepressants. Mixing Soma with other CNS depressants should be avoided.

Carisoprodol gets metabolized by CYP2C19 in your liver to form meprobamate. Therefore CYP2C19 inhibitors such as omeprazole and fluvoxamine, as well as CYP2C19 inducers like St. John's Wort and rifampin can change the way Soma works. Aspirin may also change the effects of carisoprodol.

Combining Soma with other CNS depressants is especially dangerous. Consult your healthcare provider for more information on how Soma may interact with any other medications you take.

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Soma Overdose

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.

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.

Graphic of head filled with pills

Is Soma Addictive?

Yes, soma has addictive properties. Long-term use or Soma abuse can lead to addiction and dependence. Even though it is a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning it has a low potential for abuse and addiction, it is not uncommon for people to use the drug recreationally and become addicted.

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
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Soma Addiction Symptoms

Soma abuse occurs when people use the drug without a prescription, for reasons other than its intended use, or when taken in higher doses than prescribed.

Addiction to Soma is defined by an individual having a compulsive desire or need to continue taking the drug despite negative consequences on their life. Soma addiction symptoms 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 of withdrawal 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 or financial issues because of their drug use.
Graphic of woman going through withdrawal.

Soma Withdrawal

Soma withdrawal occurs when someone who has developed a physical dependence on the drug stops using it suddenly. Common symptoms of carisoprodol withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Muscle twitching
  • Tremors
  • Chills

More severe withdrawal symptoms include tachycardia, which is a dangerous increase in heart rate, and ataxia, which results in the loss of muscle coordination.

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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 recovery 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 such as diazepam or clonezapam 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: September 23, 2020
Author
Addiction Group Staff
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