Amytal Abuse

Amytal is a type of barbiturate used in the treatment of severe sleeping disorders. Amobarbital sodium is the active ingredient in sodium Amytal capsules. When used properly, Amytal causes drowsiness in order to induce sleep. The medication works by enhancing the action of a neurotransmitter called GABA in the brain. When used in the treatment of insomnia, Amytal is generally only prescribed to people who are already taking barbiturate medications as health care professionals tend to avoid prescribing Amytal to new patients. This process is in place simply due to the high potential for dependence and addiction Amytal presents to patients.

Abuses of Amytal

The “high” that can be achieved with Amytal is very similar to alcohol intoxication. As a barbiturate, it has a high potential for dependence and abuse. Individuals may also use the drug to counteract the effects of stimulant drugs, creating a cocktail of drugs that can be life-threatening. Addiction generally emerges when Amytal has been taken for longer than one month or when taken recreationally for non-medical purposes. Such users tend to take more than the safe amount to achieve a desired “high”, resulting in abuse of the drug. Over time, the brain develops a need for Amytal, making it very difficult for the user to function without it. Amytal and other barbiturates are very dangerous when they are abused as the window between the dose causing drowsiness and the one causing death can be very small.

Effects of Amytal

As a barbiturate, Amytal works by enhancing the action of the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA is the ‘nerve-calming’ agent, keeping the nerve activity in the brain in balance, reducing anxiety and relaxing muscles. Small doses of the drug produces feelings of drowsiness, dis-inhibition and intoxication. As doses increase, users will stagger as if drunk, slur their speech and appear confused. Life-threatening doses can induce a coma or stop a person’s breathing. The amount of Amytal to achieve these levels varies per person, introducing additional risk among recreational users. Additional effects of Amytal can include dizziness, confusion, agitation, anxiety, shaky movements, headache, constipation, nausea, vomiting, unexpected excitement, slower than normal heartbeat, decreased blood pressure, slowed breathing and liver damage.

Withdrawal of Amytal

Amytal depresses the respiratory and nervous system functions, increasing the risk of building a tolerance to the drug very rapidly. For a person who is dependent or addicted to Amytal, withdrawal symptoms can occur 12-20 hours after the last dose. These include anxiety, irritability, elevated heart and respiration rate, muscle pain, nausea, tremors, hallucinations, confusion, and seizures. Death is a possibility if the condition is left untreated. Because barbiturates decrease REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep, during which dreaming takes place), withdrawal often results in sleep disruptions such as nightmares, insomnia, or vivid dreaming. Withdrawal symptoms associated with cessation of Amytal can include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle pain
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Elevated respiration rate
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Treatment of Amytal Addiction

Amytal has the ability to be life-threatening, even if it is prescribed by a physician. For those taking the barbiturate for its intoxication effects, dependence can occur rapidly, making it difficult to discontinue the drug. Amytal is meant for short-term use only and extending use or increases dosage as a result of dependence can create significant problems for a person once they seek to discontinue the medication. As this dependence can be both psychological and physiological, it is recommended that users taper off the medication slowly under the care of a board-certified physician and board-certified addiction psychiatrist. Entering a quality center for 24/7 comfortable detox treatment will ensure the individual rids their body of the drug completely, learning to function without it.

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