Soma

Manufactured by Meda Pharmaceuticals in the United States, Soma is the brand name for the drug Carisoprodol-a muscle relaxant.

What is it used for?

Soma is a prescription muscle relaxant used for muscle aches, muscle spasms, tense muscles, and uncomfortable muscle tightness. A large portion of Soma prescriptions was written out to relieve back pain. It is also an analgesic. People who abuse Soma use it for heavy sedation and relaxation by taking alcohol and/or opioid-based pain relievers.

What is the common dosage for this medication?

Soma is normally available either as a stand-alone medication or mixed with aspirin, codeine, or caffeine. The usually prescribed Soma dosage is 350 mg. Soma takes about half an hour to take effect and its effects last from as little as two hours to as long as six hours. This medication has an eight-hour half life.

Why do doctors prescribe Soma?

Given the wide range of anti-pain medications available on the market, why do doctors prescribe Soma? Primarily, Soma is tolerated by a large proportion of patients. On the whole, people don't suffer any side effects. Even in the off-chance people develop an adverse reaction to Soma, it takes fairly harmless forms like sleepiness or slow reflexes. Even these side effects have a lower intensity compared to opioid-based pain medications like codeine and codeine-derived drugs. Since it amplifies the effects of opioid compounds like codeine, many doctors usually prescribe Soma together with opioid-derived pain relievers like nicodicodeine, dihydroisocodeine, acetyldihydrocodeine, benzylmorphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, dihydrocodeine, ethylmorphine, and codeine. These physicians prefer prescribing Soma with these compounds because they can prescribe fewer opioid-based pain relievers. In many cases, the combination of Soma and lower dosage opioid-based pain relieves produces the same level of pain relief as a prescription for higher dosages of opioid-based pain pills alone. The problem with this approach is that drug abusers abuse Soma to boost low-level sedative and euphoric effects of opiate-based pain medication. Looked at from a certain vantage point, Soma is a victim of its own success-it is so effective in amplifying opioid-based pain relievers' effects that abusers use Soma to get a more intense high from otherwise low-dosage opiate-based drugs.

What are its common side effects?

The most common side effect of Soma is that it can make you drowsy. Different people react differently to this medication, but it is not a good idea to operate heavy machinery, use heavy equipment, or ride a motorcycle if you have taken Soma. These effects are made worse if a patient drinks alcohol or takes depressants after taking Soma. In relatively rare and unlikely situations, people who take Soma can experience a euphoric feeling. This great feeling doesn't last long though. On the flip side, some users of Soma can feel somewhat sad or depressed. As mentioned above, these effects aren't as pronounced as opiate-based pain drugs. Another key factor to consider about Soma's side effects is that they tend to be decline in intensity as the patient's Soma therapy progresses. Since some drugĀ  abusers use Soma to amplify the effect of opioid-based compounds, they can overdose when they use soma to boost the effect of a high dosage pain relievers Abusers have died when they combine high doses of hydrocodone (brand name: Vicodin) and Soma.

What is Soma's history?

Soma was developed by Wallace Laboratories' Frank M. Berger. Berger modified the muscle relaxant compound meprobamate to increase the compound's muscle relaxing features. He also sought to create a compound that is less prone to abuse and has a lower risk of overdose. Berger was able to transform meprobamate into the less harmful carisoprodol by switching a hydrogen atom that carried an isopropyl group into the slot taken by carbamyl nitrogens in meprobamate's structure. This switch produced a new compound with different pharmacological properties. Carisoprodol was the star of the show in a Wayne State symposium on better muscle relaxants.

Is Soma habit-forming?

The short answer? Yes and no. Soma, in of itself, doesn't produce a sustained euphoric effect that is habit forming. In fact, the more a patient uses Soma, the less likely the euphoric effect However, since Soma amplifies the effects of heavily-abused prescription drugs like hydrocodone and oxycodone, many drug abusers take Soma to boost the effect of other pain relievers. Normally, people won't get high with normally prescribed dosages for these pain relievers. Abusers use Soma to amplify these drugs so they can produce the desired effect. In short, they make an end run around doctors' low prescribed dosages to get high. Viewed from this perspective, it is possible for abusers to become dependent on Soma at a psychological level. They don't get physically dependent, but they can develop a mindset that looks at Soma as a crucial element to getting high. They are actually physically dependent on the opioid-based pain relievers' effects. Still, if a patient has been taking Soma for a long time to boost pain relievers' effects, the patient might need hospitalization or heavier medical supervision and care.

What is Soma's future/legal status?

As mentioned above, Soma itself is not habit-forming. However, it does have a powerful amplifier effect on opioid-based compounds. The abuse potential of this combination has not been lost on national drug abuse prevention and drug regulation authorities. Authorities in Europe prefer a couple of much safer muscle relaxants to pair with opioid-based compounds- cyclobenzaprine and benzodiazepines. Sweden and Norway have removed Soma from their markets due to its high potential for abuse when used in combination with otherwise harmless dosages of opioid-based painkillers. The European Union did not follow Sweden and Norway's drastic steps. Instead, EU's Medicines Agency recommends that Soma not be prescribed for acute back pain. This still leaves the door open for prescribing Soma for chronic back pain. In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Agency formally reclassified carisoprodol as a controlled substance by including it in Schedule IV as defined by the CSA (Controlled Substances Act). The reclassification took effect on January 11, 2012. This reclassification did not dramatically reduce Soma's market but it did place the medication under tighter federal regulatory oversight due to its abuse potential. Doctors are encouraged to find safer drug pairings for pain relief.