Long-Term Effects of Soma Abuse
It is available on its own as monotherapy or, as generic carisoprodol, combined with aspirin and codeine.3 When taken as prescribed, it can be a safe and effective medication, but some people abuse it in order to get high. Common street names include Dance, Soma Coma, and Las Vegas Cocktail.3 Soma is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance, meaning that it has a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence.4 However, research indicates that abuse of Soma is on the rise, particularly in the last 10 years.2
Why do People Abuse Soma?
Soma is abused for its sedative and relaxant effects, both of which can be enhanced by using it in combination with other substances.5 Due to several potentially severe side effects of carisoprodol, using Soma in ways other than prescribed, such as in larger or more frequent doses, and in combination with other substances, can be very dangerous.
The side effects of Soma abuse can be debilitating and continuing to misuse it in the long-term can have additional harmful consequences.
Consequences of Chronic Use
There hasn’t been a lot of conclusive research conducted on the long-term health effects of Soma abuse, though several physiological consequences are known.
For example, an important phenomenon to be aware of is tolerance. Research indicates that it is possible to build a tolerance to Soma, meaning that the user needs to take larger amounts of the substance in order to achieve the same effects that were once achieved at lower dosages.8 This could increase the likelihood of overdose as a person consumes increasing amounts of the drug in an attempt to overcome tolerance. Soma overdose can result in profound respiratory depression, coma, and death.7
Another significant long-term effect is that of Soma dependence, which results in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when someone attempts to quit.
What Dependence Looks Like
Physiological dependence develops as the neurons in the brain adapt to the presence of a substance, causing a person to eventually “need” the drug in order to function optimally.9 Once this occurs, people will often continue using the substance to avoid the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous symptoms of withdrawal.9
The withdrawal symptoms listed above range from uncomfortable to potentially very dangerous. Because of the safety concerns associated with Soma withdrawal, it is important to seek professional detox treatment. Professional detox programs can keep the person who is attempting to quit safe throughout the detoxification process. Participating in a detox program has additional benefits as well. Detox is often the first point of contact for substance abuse treatment and may lead to additional long-term treatment programs that can help with fighting addiction and working towards recovery.
In order to understand the detoxification and recovery process, it is important to know what addiction is.
Developing an Addiction
Addiction occurs when someone spends a great deal of their time and energy obtaining and using a substance. They continue to abuse the drug regardless of negative consequences and their drug use causes significant impairment and distress within important areas of their life.10 For example, they might experience the following setbacks:
- Poor performance at school
- Job loss
- Loss of important relationships
- Extreme financial stress
- Legal problems
Also, while the presence of tolerance and/or dependence do not necessarily denote an addiction, they are often components of a developing substance use disorder. For example, if someone needs higher doses of Soma in order to achieve the effects they once achieved while using smaller amounts, they may spend more time and energy on obtaining Soma. Furthermore, a user may continue to use Soma in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms, which again can lead to spending significant resources on obtaining the drug. A person may begin to choose Soma over other important activities or previously enjoyed hobbies and may neglect household, work, or school responsibilities. All of the above behaviors of point to the development of a Soma addiction.10
Soma addiction and the accompanying, chronic carisoprodol exposure may be associated with characteristic brain changes, particularly within the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter system.11 By interacting with GABAA receptors, Soma increases GABA activity, resulting in increased inhibitory brain signaling, sedation, and a sense of calm. Soma’s mechanism of action is similar to that of benzodiazepines and barbiturates, and its addiction potential may be similar as well.8
The functional and structural brain changes caused by repeated Soma abuse can make it difficult for a person to quit when they attempt to, thus, leading to a cycle of repeated Soma abuse and withdrawal. This is why addiction treatment can be very beneficial, and even life-saving in some circumstances.
Prevention & Treatment
It is never too late to seek help for your Soma addiction. The sooner you are able to enter treatment, the sooner you can quit exposing yourself to the potentially dangerous effects of Soma use, both short-term and long-term. Searching for a detox program is your first step towards a sober and healthy life.
Detoxification is the process of ridding the body of a substance. Detox programs aim to reduce the physical discomfort and harm caused by substance abuse.12
Ultimately, the main goal of a detox program is to help people safely and comfortably withdraw from drugs. This may lead to intervention in the event of complications or the use of medications to ease discomfort and potential dangers associated with withdrawal.12
Detox can take place in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Inpatient settings may take place in a hospital, a detox center, or as part of an addiction treatment program, and users are typically medically monitored. Usually physicians and other professional medical personnel are available to intervene if any issues or concerns arise. Outpatient settings may occur in a clinic and typically include visits to a physician or therapist who can help monitor the detox process and address any related concerns.12
Again, detox is often the first point of treatment, and it is extremely important to transition into a comprehensive addiction treatment center after the detox process is complete. In a comprehensive treatment setting, you will likely participate in a variety of activities, including:
- Individual therapy.
- Group counseling.
- Support groups.
- Family therapy.
- Social/recreational activities.
- Aftercare planning.
The goal of Soma abuse treatment is to rectify harmful behaviors and coping mechanisms, such as substance use, and learn how to apply new, healthy coping skills when faced with stressors and triggers that might have led to substance use in the past.
Furthermore, if you have a mental health disorder and/or a physical condition, you will likely be able to address these co-occurring problems as well, including how they have impacted your substance use and ability to stay sober in the past.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Soma use, please know that it is not too late. You can still get help. Finding a detox program, followed by a treatment program that fits your unique needs, will provide you with a solid start on your recovery journey.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. (2018). Carisoprodol.
- U.S. Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration. (2014). Carisoprodol (Trade Name: Soma®).
- Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. Soma Carisoprodol.
- U.S. Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Scheduling.
- Reeves, R.R., & Burke, R.S. (2010). Carisoprodol: Abuse Potential and Withdrawal Syndrome. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 3(1), 33–38.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubChem. Carisoprodol.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2009). Highlights of Prescribing Information: Soma.
- Gatch, M. B., Nguyen, J. D., Carbonaro, T., & Forster, M. J. (2012). Carisoprodol Tolerance and Precipitated Withdrawal. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 123(1–3), 29–34.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007). The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction: Definition of Dependence.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association Publishing.
- Gonzalez, L. A., Gatch, M. B., Forster, M. J., & Dillon, G. H. (2009). Abuse Potential of Soma®: The GABAAReceptor as a Target. Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology, 1(4), 180–186.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2013). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: A Treatment Improvement Protocol.