Manufactured in the United States by Meda Pharmaceuticals, Soma is the brand name for the muscle relaxant medication carisoprodol. Its claim to fame, as well as the cause of its notoriety, is its ability to amplify the effect of pain relievers prescribed with it. It requires a prescription from a registered doctor.
Doctors prescribe Soma to patients suffering from back pain to handle their muscle spasms. Doctors have also prescribed Soma historically as a combination drug to allow them to prescribe lower dosages for pain relievers such as hydrocodone, codeine and oxycodone. These lower dosages are less habit-forming, but they might not be as effective in handling pain. Doctors prescribe Soma with these low dosage pain relievers because Soma has a proven ability to boost the pain relievers' effect. As described more fully below, Somas' ability to amplify pain medication's effects was abused and led to Soma being reclassified by the US Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule IV drug.
Physicians usually prescribe 350 mg of Soma for typical back spasms. It is a fast-acting compound that can produce results in as little as 30 minutes. As for how long it provides relief, effective duration range from as short as a couple of hours to as long as six hours after ingestion.
Doctors usually write out Soma prescriptions with opiate-based pain relievers like hydrocodone, codeine, oxycodone, and other similar pain drugs. These painkillers handle the pain that usually comes from muscle spasms while Soma handles the root cause of the pain-the muscle spasm itself. Soma works by relaxing muscles and relieving tension. While physicians could have prescribed a higher dose of pain relievers, one of the biggest selling points of Soma was that it amplifies the effect of opioid-based pain medication. Doctors concerned with the possibly habit-forming qualities of such pain medication prescribe lower doses but pair them with Soma.
Soma, by itself, can produce a level of euphoria but this disappears with continued use. Due to its relatively low amount of side effects, Soma was quite popular for a long period of time since the 1960s. However, it is abused not for any direct euphoric effect it produces but for its role as an amplifier of pain relievers' effects. Drug abuses would intentionally take soma along with medium to higher doses of opioid-based pain medication to intensify their highs. This practice is alarming since it caused overdoses in the past. This abuse has led to several governments in Europe to either ban Soma outright or severely restrict its usage.
Soma, by itself, is not physically habit-forming. Its euphoric effect doesn't happen to all patients who take it. Moreover, any such effect tends to disappear with continued use of Soma. What is addicting, however, is when drug abusers take Soma along with opioid-based pain killers like codeine-based derivatives, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and others. Abusers get physically hooked to the intense high. As for Soma itself, it is possible to develop a psychological dependency because it amplifies the effect of the pain medication the patient is actually physically dependent on. Psychological dependence occurs when the user equates a substance with a particular physical feeling which is caused by other factors. This is quite ironic since part of what made many physicians prescribe Soma in the first place was that they hoped patients would not become dependent on opioid-based compounds. Soma's amplifying qualities enabled doctors to prescribe lower doses of painkillers which they hoped would reduce the probability of habit formation. They didn't anticipate abusers intentionally using Soma to intensify otherwise non-habit forming dosages of painkillers.
Soma is a variant of an earlier muscle relaxant called meprobamate. Soma is the product of a few molecular changes to meprobamate. Researchers in the late 50s were looking for a compound that had the benefits of meprobamate without its risks. Meprobamate can be habit forming, and its users are more likely to overdose. Soma came into being thanks to the effort of a researcher with Wallace Laboratories, Frank Berger. Berger was looking to preserve meprobamate's muscle relaxing qualities while minimizing or totally eliminating its drawbacks. Berger was able to achieve this with Soma by swapping some carbamyl nitrogens with one atom of hydrogen tied with an isopropyl cluster. This simple switch changed the compound's qualities dramatically. Carisoprodol, sold under the Soma brand name, was born. It generated quite a bit of attention during a Wayne State symposium on muscle relaxants due to its improvements on meprobamate.
It is worth repeating that Soma, by itself, does not lead to physical dependency. It isn't addicting on its own. With that said, some drug regulation bodies have noticed how drug abusers abuse Soma to get a more intense high from otherwise low dosage painkillers. Drug regulatory agencies and health authorities have seized on Soma's amplification feature to reclassify, restrict, or severely restrict this particular brand of muscle relaxant. They look at the overall context of the drug's use and abuse instead of the drug's intrinsic qualities. As a result, many European regulatory or advisory bodies have recommended that doctors use other muscle relaxant compounds when prescribing medication to go along with pain relievers. Two alternatives stand out as preferred Soma alternatives: benzodiazepines or cyclobenzaprine. These regulatory or advisory bodies prefer these alternatives because they don't have Soma's amplification effect for opioid-based pain drugs. Certain countries have taken more aggressive steps in curbing Soma abuse. For example, the Scandinavian nations of Norway and Sweden have taken Soma off their local markets because of drug abusers' use of the muslce relaxant to boost the effects of opioid-based pain drugs. On the other hand, the EU's main drug advisory board, the Medicines Agency, advises that Soma be prohibited as an acute back pain medication. However, this move doesn't rule out using Soma as a treatment for chronic back pain. A third legal and regulatory approach to Soma is exemplified by the US Drug Enforcement Agency's approach-it reclassified carisoprodol as a Schedule IV drug. This requires tighter dispensing controls and tracking. Regardless of which of the alternative approaches apply to your jurisidction, it is clear that physicians are encouraged by regulatory authorities to look for safer muscle relaxant-pain reliever combinations for back spasms and pain.