Barbiturate addiction can cause painful, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Risk of overdose is high with barbiturate abuse, so treatment for addiction to these drugs is extremely important.
Barbiturates are highly addictive drugs, and suddenly stopping use of them can cause seizures, making them dangerous drugs of abuse. Treatment for barbiturate addiction typically involves medically-supervised detoxification to ensure safety and monitor health. After detox, recovering individuals can move on to traditional, alternative, and other methods of treatment.
What Are Barbiturates?
Barbiturates are depressant drugs mostly prescribed to help people relax and sleep. The drugs were far more popular in previous decades, and are not prescribed as often today, but still see instances of abuse. When people abuse barbiturates, they put themselves at risk with each use of the drugs.
Older adults are most at risk for barbiturate abuse. Unfortunately, there is no known antidote for barbiturate overdose. The drugs are quite potent—barbiturates are commonly used by vets to put animals to sleep.
Barbiturates produce effects similar to those of alcohol, working to depress functions of the central nervous system.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), abuse of barbiturates may have the following side effects:
- Anxiety relief
- Changes in coordination
- Judgment impairment
- Lack of inhibition
- Memory impairment
- Suicidal ideation
Commonly Abused Barbiturates
The following are the most commonly prescribed, and abused, barbiturates:
- Amobarbital (Amytal)
- Butabarbital (Butisol sodium)
- Mephobarbital (Mebaral)
- Pentobarbital (Nembutal sodium)
- Phenobarbital (Luminal)
- Secobarbital (Seconal)
Street names for barbiturates include Barbs, Block Busters, Christmas Trees, Goof Balls, Pinks, Red Devils, Reds and Blues, and Yellow Jackets.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Barbiturate Abuse
Barbiturates produce symptoms that cause our bodies to be more relaxed, earning them the common title of “brain relaxers.” People who abuse barbiturates in small doses may appear sleepy, lack inhibition, or seem intoxicated.
As abuse progresses, or people develop tolerance to barbiturates, they may begin abusing the drugs in higher doses. Tolerance occurs when you no longer feel the same effects of the drugs because your body has become used to them. People who develop tolerance to a drug usually begin abusing it in higher doses, trying to produce the same effects they previously experienced.
Abusing barbiturates in high doses can produce effects like that of alcohol intoxication: staggering, slurred speech, and impaired coordination. At even higher doses, barbiturate abuse can cause a person to stop breathing, or lose consciousness. The person may be not be roused, or may slip into a coma.
Signs of barbiturate abuse may also include paraphernalia associated with abuse, like needles for injection. People who have formed addiction may change behavior to hide their abuse. This can include keeping secrets, lying about drug use, stealing prescriptions, or seeking drugs through illegal means.
How Are Barbiturates Abused?
Barbiturates are available either in pill or liquid form. When people abuse these drugs, they may crush the pills and snort the powder, or inject the liquid. Injection of any drug produces faster results than with other methods of administration. For barbiturate abuse, injection can cause effects to happen faster than is safe for the body.
The DEA explains, “barbiturates are generally abused to reduce anxiety, decrease inhibitions, and treat unwanted effects of illicit drugs.” In other words, some people abuse barbiturates as a way to “come down” off the side effects of other drugs, like stimulants.
However, barbiturates are dangerous drugs of abuse all on their own. Combining the drugs with other illicit drugs of abuse, like opioids, alcohol, or benzodiazepines, can have disastrous consequences.
Dangers Of Barbiturate Addiction
The largest risk associated with barbiturate addiction is death by overdose. As a person develops tolerance to a barbiturate due to dependence, and begins taking more and more of the drug to get the same effects, risk of overdose greatly increases.
With increased use, the difference between a recreational dose of barbiturates and a lethal dose is very small, according to Medical News Today. Overdose can occur as a result of too much of the drug in the body at one time, or through an excess buildup of the drug in the body over time.
Symptoms of barbiturate overdose include:
- Difficulty thinking
- Impaired judgment
- Lack of coordination
- Slowed breathing
- Slurred speech
- Coma or death
Barbiturate overdose is a medical emergency. If you suspect someone is suffering from an overdose, seek medical attention right away.
Long-term barbiturate addiction can also have severe effects on your health. Barbiturates work to slow functions in the body including breathing, so abusing the drugs for a prolonged period of time can lead to breathing issues, or make you more susceptible to infectious diseases like pneumonia.
Other changes to a person’s health may include decrease in attention span, delayed reflexes, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction. People who abuse barbiturates due to dependence may experience a state of intoxication that leaves them feeling and appearing constantly drunk.
People may try to pair barbiturates with alcohol to increase the depressant effects of the drug, a combination which can be lethal since both of these drugs affect the body in a similar way, and barbiturates are already dangerous drugs of abuse.
Barbiturates are highly addictive drugs, so people who abuse them can develop dependence on the drugs very quickly. Withdrawal from barbiturates constitutes more than some discomfort in cravings for the drugs. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that, “stopping them (withdrawal) can be life-threatening.”
Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Stomach cramps
- Suicidal thoughts
In addition, Medical News Today reports that “up to 75 percent of individuals withdrawing from a barbiturate may have one or more seizures, along with confusion and elevated body temperatures.” If withdrawal is left untreated, it can progress to include heart failure, and eventually death.
Medically-supervised Barbiturate Detoxification
Because barbiturate withdrawal is extremely dangerous, withdrawal from barbiturates should always be medically-supervised. People first seeking treatment for barbiturate addiction and dependence will usually go through detoxification before moving on to formal treatment.
Detoxification, or detox, allows you to rid your body of harmful toxins acquired during abuse. This is especially important for people who are dependent on barbiturates. Only when the body is free from the drug, and the mind and body restored to a healthy state, can addicted individuals experience success in recovery.
A medically-supervised detox program will provide the support, structure, and medical care necessary to keep you safe during withdrawal and help prepare you for recovery. It’s important to have excellent medical care during barbiturate detoxification because you may experience increased body temperature or slowed breathing.
Medical personnel can monitor your vital functions to ensure they remain at safe levels, and administer medication as needed to help ease your discomfort. Many inpatient drug rehab centers provide superb medically-supervised detox programs, so that you can complete detox within the facility and move immediately into recovery.
Recognize that detoxification is only the first step in a comprehensive, integrated addiction recovery program. Ridding the body of drugs is not effective without following detox with a customized, individual recovery plan.
Treatment For Barbiturate Addiction
Barbiturate addiction treatment should incorporate a multidisciplinary treatment method, or utilize multiple methods to ensure treatment of a person as a whole. Barbiturates affect all aspects of health: physical, mental, behavioral, and emotional.
Treatment must address each of these aspects simultaneously, while still providing the best methods to fit the needs of the addicted individual. Each person comes to treatment with specific needs. Some people have been victims of trauma, or may have a co-occurring substance use disorder or mental health disorder.
Recovery success is dependent on identifying the unique treatment needs of the individual and providing adequate treatment for each need. If one substance use disorder were identified and treated, but another was left untreated, it is likely that a person would relapse after completing rehab.
If you are considering entering an inpatient drug rehab center, be sure to find one that will provide a full clinical assessment prior to the start of treatment. Only once all of your needs have been properly assessed can you build a plan that is customized to your treatment needs.
Some modalities that have proven effective for treatment of barbiturate addiction and dependence include counseling, behavioral therapies, mindfulness techniques and stress management, medication-assisted therapy, and wilderness or adventure therapies, among others.
Find Help In Treatment Today
Barbiturates are extremely dangerous drugs of abuse. If you are struggling with barbiturate addiction and dependence, we can help you find an inpatient drug rehab center that will assist you in overcoming barbiturate abuse. Contact InpatientDrugRehab.org to learn more.