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  • Pentobarbital Addiction | Abuse Potential, Side Effects, & Treatment Options

    vile of pentobarbital

    Pentobarbital, often sold under the brand name Nembutal, is a prescription drug that can treat insomnia and seizures. It’s also sometimes used to help people relax before surgery. 

    The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies pentobarbital as a Schedule II Controlled Substance. This means it has a high potential for abuse and addiction

    If you or a loved one struggles with pentobarbital use, recovery is possible at a substance abuse treatment center. 

    What Is Pentobarbital?

    Pentobarbital is a sedative, which means it causes sedation (a calm, sleepy feeling). It belongs to a group of medications called barbiturates, which also includes phenobarbital (brand name Luminal) and mephobarbital (Mebaral). 

    Like other barbiturates, pentobarbital promotes relaxation by enhancing the effects of a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This chemical depresses or slows down, the central nervous system (CNS). This is why pentobarbital is classified as a CNS depressant

    Pentobarbital Abuse & Addiction

    Some individuals abuse pentobarbital to increase its calming effects. Abusing a drug means taking it in a manner not prescribed by a doctor. For example, many people abuse pentobarbital by mixing it with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other drugs.

    Over time, pentobarbital abuse can lead to addiction. Also called substance use disorder (SUD), addiction is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to control your drug use. 

    Side Effects Of Pentobarbital Abuse & Addiction

    Someone who’s abusing or addicted to pentobarbital will often experience side effects such as:

    • drowsiness
    • lightheadedness
    • confusion
    • trouble concentrating
    • slurred speech 
    • lower blood pressure
    • slowed breathing
    • memory problems
    • intense craving for pentobarbital 
    • avoidance of friends and family members
    • avoidance of work or school
    • tolerance (needing increasingly higher doses of pentobarbital to feel the desired effects)
    • physical dependence (needing pentobarbital to function normally)

    Pentobarbital Withdrawal Symptoms

    When you’re physically dependent on pentobarbital and you try to stop using it, you may experience withdrawal syndrome. Common symptoms of withdrawal include:

    • decreased appetite
    • anxiety
    • insomnia
    • increased breathing and/or heart rate
    • changes in blood pressure
    • dangerously high fever
    • seizures

    Pentobarbital withdrawal can be life-threatening, which is why it’s essential to talk to your doctor before you stop using pentobarbital. In most cases, your doctor will recommend that you attend a detoxification program, where you can slowly and safely withdraw from the drug under medical supervision. 

    Pentobarbital Overdose

    People who abuse or are addicted to pentobarbital face a high risk of overdose. Seek emergency health care services immediately if you or someone you know experiences overdose symptoms, which may include:

    • headache
    • sleepiness
    • confusion
    • rash
    • trouble walking
    • trouble breathing
    • coma (loss of consciousness)

    Pentobarbital Addiction Treatment Options

    Addiction treatment centers offer a variety of inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for people who suffer from pentobarbital addiction. These programs provide services such as detox, mental health counseling, and aftercare planning.


    During detox, a team of medical professionals will help you gradually lower your dosage of pentobarbital until you’re no longer using the drug at all. They’ll closely monitor your physical and mental health and may prescribe medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms.

    Mental Health Counseling

    A mental health counselor can help you address underlying issues that contribute to your drug abuse and develop healthy coping skills to prevent relapse.

    Along with individual counseling, most treatment programs offer other mental health services such as family therapy and group therapy. 

    Aftercare Planning

    Before you leave your treatment program, your treatment team can help you design a personalized aftercare plan to reduce the risk of relapse. Your plan may include strategies like:

    • ongoing counseling
    • peer support groups
    • wellness activities such as meditation, yoga, and exercise

    To learn more about treatment options for pentobarbital addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist today. 

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Harvard Health - Sedative, Hypnotic or Anxiolytic Drug Use Disorder
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription CNS Depressants DrugFacts
    U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Pentobarbital Overdose
    U.S. National Library of Medicine: StatPearls - Pentobarbital

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on June 20, 2022
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