Over the Counter Muscle Relaxer

What is an Over the Counter Muscle Relaxer?

Over-the-counter muscle relaxers are the medications that you can find while perusing the aisles at your convenience store or local pharmacy. Most of them are household names, and it’s not uncommon to keep them on hand, stored in a medicine cabinet, just in case. Even though over-the-counter (OTC) medications are easy to purchase, they’ll do the job for many pains and aches, and doctors often recommend them before prescribing more powerful treatment options.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Naproxen are some of the most common OTC muscle relaxer medications for pain in general. They might not have the same potency as high-grade and prescribed muscle relaxers, but they’re still effective and have very few side effects. 

Over the Counter Muscle Relaxer
Like all 0ver the medications, over the counter muscle relaxers should not be shared, misused, or abused.

Common Over the Counter Muscle Relaxers

Prescription muscle relaxants may help reduce pain and improve movement and range of motion, but doctors will likely recommend that you first try acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like Ibuprofen (Advil), and Naproxen (Aleve). In some cases, these over-the-counter muscle relaxers will be enough to help alleviate your pain.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Tylenol, also known under the generic name acetaminophen. It is used to treat pain and discomfort associated with strains, sprains, spasms, or other muscle injuries. Acetaminophen works by raising the pain threshold a person feels – meaning it is harder for a person to feel pain. This over the counter muscle relaxer can reduce fever by telling the heat-regulating center of the brain to lower the body’s temperature when it is too high. It is also thought to reduce the amount of chemicals in the brain that causes inflammation and swelling.

Acetaminophen was approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)[1] in 1951. While Tylenol and generic acetaminophen do not require a prescription, Tylenol 3 does. This is because Tylenol 3 is a stronger version of regular Tylenol. Tylenol 3 contains acetaminophen as well as a high amount of codeine.

Acetaminophen as a Recreational Drug

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) isn’t addictive and individuals don’t take it to get high. However, it is an active ingredient in many painkillers, such as Percocet and Vicodin, which are abused for their highs. It is the acetaminophen contained in these drugs that is often the most damaging.

Overdose from this over the counter muscle relaxer causes about 60,000 individuals each year to go to the hospital, several hundred of which die from associated liver failure. Large doses or chronic use can lead to liver damage, especially when used in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

If a person who is abusing acetaminophen suddenly stops misusing the over the counter muscle relaxer, withdrawal symptoms can occur. These withdrawal symptoms may range from bone and muscle pain and restlessness to diarrhea and vomiting. It is important for people with an acetaminophen addiction to seek out the proper addiction recovery treatment from qualified medical professionals.

Side Effects of Acetaminophen Abuse

Acetaminophen is most commonly misused as a recreational drug in combination with other medications [2].On its own, this over the counter muscle relaxer is widely accepted to be a safe drug and is easily accessible.

More powerful forms of acetaminophen, however, such as Tylenol 3, can only be purchased through a doctor’s prescription, as it also contains a significant amount of codeine, another painkilling drug. Acetaminophen alone is not particularly habit-forming, but the codeine in Tylenol 3 can lead to dependency.

The codeine in Tylenol 3 can cause feelings of euphoria, which leads some people to abuse the drug. Tylenol 3 has also been shown to enhance the effects of other drugs, such as alcohol, narcotics, tranquilizers, general anesthetics, sedative-hypnotics, and other central nervous systems (CNS) depressants. Mixing acetaminophen with any of these drugs increases the risk of experiencing the adverse side effects of each drug.

In addition to the complications posed by acetaminophen abuse, chronic overuse of painkillers can lead to psychological and physical dependence, as well as the associated withdrawal symptoms when drug use is stopped.

Acetaminophen Liver Damage

Acetaminophen poisoning in the form of severe liver damage can happen when too much of the drug has been taken. Whether intentional or accidental, an overdose of this drug requires immediate medical attention to prevent further damage to the body. Symptoms of liver damage include:

  • Fatigue
  • Yellowing of skin or eyes
  • Pain in abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dark urine and stools
  • Pale skin color
  • Unusual bruising
  • Unusual bleeding
Over The Counter Muscle Relaxer
Over the counter muscle relaxers should also never be combined with antihistamines or alcohol. Despite the severity of muscle relaxer side effects, quitting them can be difficult to do for someone who has become dependent on this drug.

More complications can occur with acetaminophen as it interacts with other drugs. Antifungals, antibiotics, sulfa drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and birth control pills, as well as medications for the treatment of cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, seizures, HIV/AIDS, and psychiatric conditions, can all be affected by this over the counter muscle relaxer.

Acetaminophen’s Reactions with Alcohol

Alcohol abuse combined with acetaminophen use can increase the risk of stomach bleeding and liver damage. Any drugs or substance, for that matter, that puts prolonged stress on the liver or kidney poses significant health threats, especially when mixed with acetaminophen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends not drinking more than three alcoholic beverages in one day if planning on taking acetaminophen.

Naproxen (Aleve)

Naproxen (Aleve) is a popular and accessible nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. It’s useful in treating muscle pain, migraines, osteoarthritis, headaches, cramps, fever, and minor injuries. The drug’s daily usage is generally safe when someone is following the instructions. However, the misuse and abuse of this over the counter muscle relaxer can lead to a risk of addiction. Naproxen abuse is dangerous and can cause severe health issues [3].

Naproxen is both a prescription and OTC medicine. One can buy a prescription Naproxen, in which case it is available as a tablet or an effervescent. Furthermore, its classification as a painkiller means the prescription is necessary, especially for patients suffering from different types of tissue inflammation.

The drug is available as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug with the brand name Aleve. At the same time, prescription Naproxen is known as Naprosyn and Anaprox.

Naproxen Abuse

Though the Naproxen “high” is not achievable, this doesn’t mean that this over-the-counter muscle relaxer is not abused. It is easy to get the Naproxen from the drugstore. One should also be aware of imprints like Naproxen 500 as different dosages have their respective imprints. This will help in recognizing the correct dosage for an underlying condition.

Someone using this over-the-counter muscle relaxer for recreational reason become so addictive that they sometimes prefer consuming the drug to experience its effect. This also leads to a dosage increase. This could lead to a dosage increase. However, the continued use of the drug may grow a tolerance to it. While one may not notice the approaching addiction to this over-the-counter muscle relaxer, the user should still know how long this stays in the system and how bad it can be for kidneys and stomach lining.

Signs Of Naproxen Abuse 

  • Defensiveness
  • Changes to habits
  • Social withdrawal

Symptoms Of Naproxen Abuse

  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Brain fog
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Use of high doses
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Low pain tolerance+

Withdrawal From Naproxen 

While the over the counter muscle relaxer can be taken when used as prescribed by the doctor, it may cause dependence and tolerance, even if taken for a short time. Anyone who is chronically abusing the drug will experience withdrawal. The process of quitting the drug is presented with a wide range of signs and symptoms.

Physical withdrawal symptoms of Naproxen can last from 48-72 hours or up to 30-60 days. The severity of Naproxen withdrawal depends upon the quantity and how long the user has used the over the counter muscle relaxer. Withdrawal symptoms happen as the body tries to recover from the interference of Naproxen within its systems.

Symptoms Of Naproxen Abuse Physical Withdrawal

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe and repeated episodes of headache that become painful to the extent that vomiting and shivering happen to be a common part of it
  • Fever and flu-like symptoms
  • Nausea with no specific reason before, during, and after having a meal

Symptoms Of Naproxen Abuse Psychological Withdrawal

  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Irritation
  • Fluctuating mood swings

Quitting the drug cold turkey or without medical help is dangerous. The management of Naproxen’s side effects and withdrawal requires proper medical attention.

Ibuprofen (Advil)

Ibuprofen (Advil) is a medication belonging to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) class and is typically used to manage mild to moderate pain, reduce fever, or decrease inflammation, stiffness, and swelling. Misuse of this over the counter muscle relaxer can lead to Ibuprofen abuse and addiction. Nonprescription

Ibuprofen may be used to relieve pain from muscle aches, backaches, headaches, menstrual period, toothaches, and the common cold. Ibuprofen works in the body by reducing the production of substances that cause pain and inflammation. This drug is available in non-prescription and prescription forms. Many overdose experiences have been reported through the frequency of life-threatening complications from Ibuprofen overdose is minimal [4].

Ibuprofen Dependency and Abuse

Someone may begin taking Ibuprofen to manage mild to moderate pain. This may lead to the risk of developing a dependency and tolerance to this drug due to feeling as though they cannot function normally without the medication.

For some individuals, Ibuprofen may be a way of “numbing” the physical pain, as well as the emotional pain. For people who have unresolved emotional issues, or have suffered a traumatic event, their dependency on this drug may result out of a psychological need to anesthetize the pain.

Without professionally treating and addressing these possible underlying issues, a dependency on this over the counter muscle relaxer can continue. While Ibuprofen is not physically addictive, the continued use of the drug can present physical risks and hazardous consequences.

Ibuprofen Dependency Side Effects & Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Gastrointestinal ulceration/blessing
  • Itching or rash
  • Constipation/Diarrhea
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Dizziness/Drowsiness
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, or extremities
  • Ringing in the ears

Ibuprofen Withdrawal

If someone has developed an addiction to Ibuprofen, they may experience mild side effects if suddenly discontinuing the OTC drug. Because Ibuprofen is not an addictive drug, these effects are minimal but may include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Agitation
  • Headache
  • Increased Anxiety
  • Increased depression
  • Increased levels of pain

Find the Right Addiction Treatment at We Level Up NJ

Someone who has become dependent on or addicted to over-the-counter muscle relaxers should seek addiction treatment. Drug treatment programs are designed to medically support addicted individuals as they detox and experience withdrawal symptoms.

over the counter muscle relaxer
Withdrawal symptoms caused by over the counter muscle relaxers happen when a person who has become dependent or addicted to the substance suddenly stops using them.

During your rehabilitation, the staff from your treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction. 

We Level Up NJ provides proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to assist your recovery through our medically-assisted Detox Program. So, reclaim your life, call us to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.


[1] FDA – https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/acetaminophen-information

[2] NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6710488/

[3] SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR2-2015/NSDUH-FFR2-2015.htm

[4] NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/most-commonly-used-addictive-drugs

[5] We Level UpPrescription Drug Abuse