Barbiturates are addictive. In fact, they are one of the most commonly abused drugs. This class of drugs also has serious long-term effects. If you have an addiction to barbiturates, you may need treatment at a barbiturate addiction rehab program. This is because barbiturate withdrawal can be severe. People who are dependent on barbiturates may need medically supervised care at a barbiturate addiction treatment center. Treatment for barbiturate addiction often starts with medical drug and alcohol detox. Inpatient treatment should be overseen by trained medical professionals. This is to ensure comfort and safety for those who’ve been abusing barbiturates.

Physical dependence on barbiturates can be a serious problem. Suddenly stopping their use can cause seizures, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. It can lead to a coma and in some cases death. People addicted to barbiturates are vulnerable to overdosing on barbiturates. This is especially common when they combine barbiturates with opioids or other drugs.

At Promises Treatment Center, clients with prescription drugs abuse receive individualized treatment. Our staff helps with all barbiturates addiction symptoms. Those dependent on barbiturates are medically monitored. They may need medication to reduce painful or dangerous symptoms of barbiturate withdrawal.

After barbiturate detox, clients take part in individual and group therapy programs. They will work with a team of addiction and mental health treatment specialists. This team helps guide them to recovery. We will also provide treatment for co-occurring disorders for clients with mental illness. This includes alcohol rehab and other types of drug addiction treatment.

What to Expect in Barbiturate Addiction Treatment

In barbiturate rehab, you may receive:

Barbiturate Detox. If you have an addiction to barbiturates, the first step might be medically monitored barbiturate detox. During detox, clients are supervised around the clock by medical professionals. The Promises treatment team may provide medications to ease barbiturate withdrawal symptoms and ensure a comfortable, safe detox experience.

Residential Addiction Treatment. Barbiturate addiction requires both physical and emotional recovery. Effective residential drug rehab addresses issues like trauma or mental health disorders. These are underlying issues that perpetuate substance abuse. Clients learn why they’ve abused substances. They also build relapse prevention skills and healthy habits.

Aftercare. After residential drug rehab, Promises offers continuing support. An outpatient program or aftercare can help clients maintain sobriety. Having the support of addiction professionals and peers is critical to preventing relapse. Clients continue to learn healthy coping skills to deal with triggers. We may also provide referrals for ongoing therapy, which may include cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy.

About Barbiturates

Barbiturates are derivatives of barbituric acid. They depress the central nervous system and produce a range of effects from mild sedation to anesthesia. They are most often used for sedation, muscle relaxation and to calm anxiety symptoms. People often overdose on barbiturates so they have now been replaced with benzodiazepines. But, both barbiturates and benzodiazepines are risky. They have a high potential for physical and psychological addiction.

Barbiturates are still used in surgical anesthesia, especially to induce unconsciousness. Quick-acting thiopental (Pentothal) can produce unconsciousness within about a minute of intravenous injection. Phenobarbital is an anticonvulsant for people with seizure disorders. Phenobarbital (Luminal) and mephobarbital (Mebaral) are long-acting barbiturates sometimes prescribed for insomnia and anxiety. High doses of barbiturates are used for physician-assisted suicide. They are also used for euthanasia and capital punishment by lethal injection.

Barbiturates include:

  • Amobarbital (Amytal)
  • Aprobarbital
  • Butabarbital (Fiorinal)
  • Hexobarbital (Sombulex)
  • Methylphenobarbital (Mebaral)
  • Pentobarbital (Nembutal)
  • Phenobarbital (Luminal)
  • Secobarbital (Seconal)
  • Talbutal (Lotusate)
  • Thiobarbital
  • Tuinal (equal proportions of amobarbital and secobarbital)

Although they are different classes of drugs, barbiturates and benzodiazepines produce similar effects. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are often abused at different times. They might also be ingested at the same time by the same individual. Benzodiazepines include brand name drugs like Valium, Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin.

History of Barbiturates

orange pill bottle spilling out pills showing the need for a barbiturate addiction treatment centerTherapeutic agents have been used throughout human history. They were popular for their sedative or hypnotic effects. In the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, paraldehyde, chloral hydrate and bromides achieved sedative effects. At the beginning of the 20th century, barbiturates were discovered to have sedative and hypnotic properties.

Barbiturates were introduced for clinical use in 1904. The availability of this first form of barbiturate changed the pharmacological approach to psychiatric and neurological disorders. Patients who were before considered untreatable had access to this medication. Barbiturates were also found to help with sleep disorders and epileptic seizures. The existence of the drug also expanded the field of intravenous anesthesia. It made surgery much easier on the patient.

The addictive potential of barbiturates was discovered soon after the commercialization of barbital. But reliable evidence was not available until the 1950s. In the 20th century more than 2,500 barbiturates were developed, 50 of those used clinically.

By the 1960s and 1970s, they became a staple of American medicine cabinets. They were a leading treatment for anxiety, insomnia and seizure disorder. They unfortunately also became popular for recreational drug use. People liked that they reduced inhibitions and decreased anxiety. People also used them to counteract the side effects of illicit drugs. They took them, for example, to come down from amphetamines.

Use of barbiturates declined when new drugs arrived. The medical profession developed a group of sedative-hypnotics called benzodiazepines. They are considered safer when used by prescription. But they are still addictive and can be deadly. The risk increases when combined with other medicines, such as opioids.

Short-Term Effects of Barbiturates

Barbiturates enhance and amplify the activities of GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). This is one of the chemicals in the brain. When activated by barbiturates, GABA shuts off large portions of the brain. This produces sedative, relaxing effects. Recreational doses produce similar effects to alcohol intoxication. Effects include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Unusual excitement
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased motor control
  • Dependency
  • Respiratory arrest which can lead to death

When combined with another depressant like alcohol, barbiturates are even more dangerous.

Long-Term Effects of Barbiturates

Recreational barbiturate users say that the drug gives them feelings of relaxed contentment. Some call it euphoria. Tolerance to the drug occurs quickly. People will take higher and higher doses to get the same effect. Physical and psychological dependence may also develop with repeated use. Barbiturate withdrawal will occur in the absence of the drug.

Barbiturate abusers are prone to a fatal overdose. This is because the difference between an effective dose and a lethal dose narrows as the length of use increases.

Signs of barbiturate addiction may include:

  • Mood swings and emotional extremes
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Slurred speech and slow responses
  • Loss of physical coordination or clumsiness
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Physical withdrawal symptoms like tremors, seizures, convulsions, fever, and vomiting

Who Is Most Likely to Abuse Barbiturates?

Barbiturate abuse has declined since the introduction of benzodiazepines but it still exists. In the 1960s, a medical examiner cited “acute barbiturate poisoning” in the overdose death of pop legend Marilyn Monroe. Then, and now, women were more likely to receive prescriptions for barbiturates. Elderly people received the drug as a sedative. Young people were also more likely to abuse the drug. They’d steal it from the medicine cabinet at home or from someone with a valid prescription.

Barbiturate Withdrawal Symptoms

Barbiturate withdrawal requires medical help. Symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Inability to sleep
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

These withdrawal symptoms may need emergency care and should be followed by treatment in a residential drug rehab program.

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Posted on July 21, 2017 and modified on April 27, 2019