Soma is a brand of carisoprodol, a drug (C12H24N2O4) related to meprobamate, and is used as a muscle relaxant and pain reliever. Soma comes in pill or tablet form and has been available as a prescription medication since 1959. Soma is recommended for acute pain from injuries and musculoskeletal conditions in conjunction with physical therapy and rest. The drug produces a sedative effect by interfering with pain signals being sent to the brain from the central nervous system. Soma tablets contain either 200 mg or 350 mg carisoprodol combined with 325 mg aspirin and 16 mg codeine phosphate. Adults are given the standard dosage of 350 mg three times daily as well as before bed. Soma is not typically prescribed to children ages 12 and under.
Soma is rarely prescribed for medicinal purposes because it is considered to be a habit-forming drug. Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found carisoprodol to produce central nervous system depression similar to meprobamate (a Schedule IV controlled substance), pentobarbital, and chlordiazepoxide, indicating a similar potential for addiction and abuse. Carisoprodol is registered as a controlled substance in 17 U.S. states, and is currently being considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to be placed under Schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act in attempt to restrict the manufacturing, distribution, dispensing, importation, and exportation of the drug. Soma and other brands of carisoprodol are commonly diverted, abused, misused, and illegally sold on the streets or on illegitimate pharmaceutical Internet sites.
When ingested, Soma’s (carisoprodol’s) sedative effect is rapidly produced and lasts from four to six hours. When metabolized, carisoprodol converts to meprobamate and elicits similar biological effects that barbiturates produce. Soma’s metabolites are known to cause dependence. Soma is intended for short-term use and should only be taken by the patient as prescribed. Taking Soma more often or for longer periods of time than intended may cause dependence; individuals who take more Soma than as prescribed may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication. Patients should gradually decrease the amount of the medication they self-administer before ending use and should never stop taking the medication suddenly. Prolonged use of Soma has been found to cause dependence, withdrawal, and abuse. Soma should never be shared among individuals and should only be taken by the patient to whom it is prescribed.
Anyone with a history of drug abuse or addiction should not take Soma. Patients should not use Soma if they have a history of allergies to carisoprodol or meprobamate (such as medications like Equinol or Miltown for example), epilepsy, seizure disorders, kidney disease, liver disease, or if they have porphyria, are pregnant, or may become pregnant. Soma can be harmful to an unborn fetus since its sedative effects crosses through the placental barrier, and may be transmitted to the baby by breastfeeding. Soma should not be taken when operating a vehicle or performing any activity that requires alertness. Medications for colds, allergies, sleeping problems, pain, depression, anxiety, or seizures should not be combined with Soma without a doctor’s consent. Soma should never be combined with alcohol.
Soma (carisoprodol) can cause various adverse side effects. Soma may produce adverse reactions to the central nervous system causing dizziness, drowsiness, lightheadedness, poor coordination, sleepiness, and vertigo. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found carisoprodol to be associated with motor vehicle accidents. Additional central nervous system-related side effects include agitation, irritability, headache, insomnia, shaking, tremor, depression, syncope/fainting, and ataxia. Soma can also cause adverse effects to the cardiovascular system such as facial flushing, hypotension, and tachycardia; gastrointestinal system such as hiccupping, nausea, vomiting, and epigastric distress; as well as hematologic systems. More severe adverse reactions include idiosyncratic symptoms such as euphoria, confusion, poor reaction time and thinking, disorientation, extreme weakness, slowed or slurred speech, temporary loss of sight, double vision, mydriasis, and transient quadriplegia. Withdrawal systems include headache, abdominal pain or stomach problems, sleep deprivation, nausea, chills, convulsions, or seizures. Overdose of Soma can result in shallow breathing, stupor, hallucinations, shock, fainting, seizure, respiratory depression, coma, and death. Anyone who has ingested too much Soma should receive immediate medical attention.
Approximately 11 million prescriptions for carisoprodol were dispensed to Americans in 2008. According to the DEA, carisoprodol remains one of the most commonly diverted drugs in the U.S., and abuse and overdose has exceedingly been on the rise in recent years. Carisoprodol is one of the most common legal drugs attributed to prescription overdose deaths in the U.S. Thanks to exceptionally high rates of diversion efforts including ‘doctor shopping,’ stolen identities, forged prescriptions, ‘pill mills,’ illegitimate pharmaceutical Internet sites, drug trafficking, and resale of prescription drugs on the street, Soma abuse has contributed not only to the nation’s prescription drug addiction epidemic, but has also caused thousands of unintentional overdose deaths per year. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, approximately 3,600 cases of carisoprodol overdose deaths occurred in 2007. In states plagued by illegal pill mills—particularly Florida, Texas, and Louisiana—carisoprodol trafficking and abuse has surpassed opioid trafficking and abuse rates.