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A growing number of people are ending up in the emergency room after abusing the muscle relaxant carisoprodol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a report that shows the number of such ER visits doubled, from 15,830 in 2004 to 31,763 in 2009.

The drug, sold under brand names including Soma, Soprodal or Vanadom, is meant to be used for short-term relief of acute muscle pain, HealthDay reports. It can become dangerous when it is taken with other prescription drugs, illegal drugs or alcohol.

According to SAMHSA, many of the ER visits related to carisoprodol involved at least one other prescription drug. The most common combinations included narcotic pain relievers. Overall, more than one-third of ER visits related to misuse of the muscle relaxant required follow-up hospitalization.

The report found the number of carisoprodol-related ER visits that involved misuse or abuse by patients aged 50 or older tripled between 2004 and 2009, from 2,070 to 7,115.

The report notes that although carisoprodol can be useful for two to three weeks at a time, it can be unsafe when used for extended periods. It also can be dangerous when used by people who are at risk for developing addiction.

The authors of the report say that doctors, pain specialists, hospitals and emergency departments need to be aware of the potential for abuse or dependence for certain patients with chronic pain symptoms, especially older adults who take many medications. They add, “Screening for substance abuse problems or for history of addictive behaviors may be beneficial prior to prescribing carisoprodol.”

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