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Barbiturate Abuse & Addiction | List, Effects, Withdrawal, & Treatment Options

bottle of barbiturate prescription drugs

Barbiturates are central nervous system depressant medications that are sometimes used for sleep problems, anxiety, seizures, and other health problems. 

These medications can easily lead to substance abuse and increase the risk of having a fatal overdose, especially if they’re combined with other substances like opioids. It’s important to seek professional care in order to overcome barbiturate addiction.

What Are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are medications that produce effects of sedation. 

These medications, known as sedative-hypnotic drugs, are not used as often for medical purposes as they once were due to the dangers of fatal overdoses, severe physical and mental health effects, physical dependence, and addiction.

Other things you should know about barbiturates include:

  • Different kinds of barbiturates include amobarbital (Amytal), aprobarbital (Alurate), butabarbital (Butisol), pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), and thiopental (Pentothal).
  • Barbiturates are available as pills and tablets, as well as injectable liquid forms. However, they have largely been replaced by benzodiazepines.
  • Common street names for these drugs include downers, red devils, barbs, goof balls, yellow jackets, and reds and blues.
  • Barbiturate intoxication produces effects that are similar to alcohol and benzodiazepines.

Barbiturates List

Although barbiturates are less common today than they once were, they are still drugs of abuse that can have life-threatening effects. Consider some barbiturates that are commonly associated with substance abuse.

Phenobarbital (Luminal)

Luminal or phenobarbital is a prescription drug used to treat epilepsy or seizure disorders. This drug may also be used to assist with alcohol or benzodiazepine detox. Abuse of phenobarbital is possible, and there are a range of adverse side effects.

Learn more about Phenobarbital Abuse & Addiction

Secobarbital (Seconal)

Although secobarbital has been largely replaced by benzodiazepines to treat sleeping problems like insomnia, this sedative has a strong potential for abuse. Secobarbital addiction is possible, but this substance is no longer widely available.

Learn more about Secobarbital Abuse & Addiction

Amobarbital (Amytal)

Once widely produced as Amytal, amobarbital was approved to treat anxiety, epilepsy, and insomnia. This substance was discontinued by drug manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company in the 1980s because it was widely abused.

Learn more about Amobarbital Abuse & Addiction

Pentobarbital (Nembutal)

Pentobarbital is a short-acting barbiturate that may be prescribed for insomnia. However, like many the barbiturate class of drugs in general, pentobarbital prescriptions have been replaced by benzodiazepines.

Learn more about Pentobarbital Abuse & Addiction

Effects Of Barbiturate Abuse

These medications cause your central nervous system to slow down, which can ease anxiety, prevent seizures, ease migraines and other headaches, and help you sleep if you suffer from insomnia. Barbiturates can also relieve muscle spasms. 

The desired effects that these medications produce can lead to a wide range of psychological, cognitive, and physical problems when they are abused, such as a loss of coordination, confusion, judgment impairments, drowsiness, and a lack of inhibition.

Symptoms Of Barbiturate Abuse

To tell if you or a loved one might be struggling with barbiturate addiction, it’s important to recognize potential signs of abuse or addiction and get help as soon as possible. Rehab programs can help lower the risk of having an accidental and potentially fatal overdose. 

Some of the symptoms of barbiturate addiction include:

  • depression
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • poor motor control
  • trouble with concentration
  • coordination problems
  • slower pulse
  • slower breathing
  • visual problems
  • sleepiness
  • sedation
  • lightheadedness
  • impaired judgment

Barbiturate Overdose Signs

A barbiturate overdose can become life-threatening. 

You should be familiar with the possible signs of an overdose, which may include:

  • shallow breathing
  • having dilated pupils
  • experiencing respiratory failure
  • having clammy skin
  • having a weak pulse or a rapid one
  • losing consciousness or slipping into a coma

Keep in mind that you should seek emergency medical care if you or a loved one are experiencing any signs of a barbiturate overdose. 

Barbiturate Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

Barbiturates can cause withdrawal symptoms that are mild or serious enough to require medical treatment. Going through withdrawal happens when you stop taking barbiturates after developing a physical dependence. 

Symptoms of barbiturate withdrawal can include:

  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • hallucinations
  • excessive sweating
  • lightheadedness
  • weakness
  • restlessness
  • shaking or tremors
  • body temperature that is lower than normal
  • seizures

To avoid serious health complications from withdrawal, detox programs offer you timely medical care as needed, along with other forms of care and support. Professional detox programs can help you get ready for going into an addiction treatment program.

Barbiturate Addiction Treatment Options

Barbiturate addiction can be difficult to recover from without any type of professional treatment. Professional rehab programs differ depending on the severity of your addiction and if struggle with other substances of abuse. 

A few of the treatment options you’ll find for barbiturate addiction include: 

Residential Or Inpatient Treatment

Residential or inpatient treatment takes place in a treatment center filled with support staff, including medical professionals and mental health professionals. Staying in an inpatient facility means you’ll have support at all times, as well as a treatment schedule that fits your needs.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment programs are an option to consider if you have a mild case rather than a severe one. Outpatient programs usually require you to do behavioral therapy sessions or group therapy sessions a few times during the week or more often if needed.

Group Therapy

Group therapy can provide you with emotional support while you work on overcoming barbiturate addiction. During these sessions, you’ll hear from other people who are struggling with this type of addiction. This can include support groups and more formal therapy sessions.

If you need help for barbiturate abuse or addiction, please contact Ark Behavioral Health for details on our available rehab programs.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Drug Enforcement Administration - Drug Fact Sheet: Barbiturates
Mayo Clinic - Barbiturate
MedlinePlus - Barbiturate Intoxication and Overdose
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Barbiturates

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