What is Soma?
Soma is the trade name for carisoprodol, which is converted into meprobamate (Miltown) in the body. Both carisoprodol and meprobamate are considered barbiturate-like sedatives. Miltown was originally developed to treat anxiety and hit the market in the 1950s. In 1957, over 36 million prescriptions for Miltown were written; it was the top selling minor tranquilizer that could allegedly make menopause and pregnancy a “happier experience.” In an effort to capture a piece of this market, carisoprodol was developed and originally marketed under the trade name Soma. In another marketing move, another company marketed carisoprodol as Carisoma for the treatment of muscle spasticity.1,2
Is Soma a muscle relaxant?
No, a true muscle relaxant specifically targets the skeletal muscle fibers or nerves that control the muscle. Carisoprodol is a blanket sedative that affects the entire central nervous system. Think of it as a “mental relaxer,” not a muscle relaxant. True muscle relaxants include: baclofen, dantrolene, and tizanidine. That is not to say that the muscles are not relaxed when one is under the effects of Soma, but it is a product of the mind being relaxed, also relaxing the muscles. It is just that Soma has more widespread effects.
Does Soma relieve pain?
Considering that carisoprodol was primarily developed to treat anxiety; then yes, carisoprodol can help to relieve pain. Anxiety, fear and stress are the biggest amplifiers of pain severity. Relieving anxiety, fear and stress can most certainly help to relieve pain too. However, the same can be said for alcohol-containing beverages too. And like alcohol, Soma does have a dark side.
Why won’t my doctor prescribe Soma?
Some doctors believe that the risks of using Soma outweigh the benefits. Because Soma is a barbiturate-like sedative, there is a risk of dependency and addiction. Miltown (meprobamate) was eventually pulled from the market because the people felt that the abuse potential outweighed the benefits. Now, some doctors will be even more reluctant to prescribe Soma because it is considered a controlled substance.
Why was Soma rescheduled?
As of January of 2012, Soma is now considered a schedule IV drug. Due to the abuse potential, the pressure was on to reschedule carisoprodol. According to the DEA statement:
The ALJ (administrative law judge) further noted that in 2009, FDA required that Meda re-write the drug's label to note the effects of chronic use, that there are "published case reports of human carisoprodol dependence," and that various animal studies indicate the drug has "effects similar to the use of barbital, meprobamate, and chlordiazepoxide," all of which are controlled substances. Id. at 83. The ALJ also noted that Meda eventually accepted the labeling change. Id. at n.42. Based on the AERS data and the drug's label, the ALJ concluded that carisoprodol's "abuse potential is recognized," and that "the record contains substance evidence of a potential for abuse when carisoprodol is chronically used."3