Barbiturate Addiction and Rehabilitation

Barbiturate Addiction Rehabilitation Header
Last Edited: July 30, 2020
Claudia Rose
Clinically Reviewed
Edward Jamison, MS, CAP, ICADC, LADC
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and certified by an addiction professional.

Dangers of Barbiturate Abuse

Barbiturates are powerful prescription medications that belong to the sedative-hypnotic class of drugs, and were first developed in the late 1890s and popularized during the 1970s as a treatment for epileptic seizures, insomnia and anxiety as well as to sedate patients prior to medical procedures. These days, Barbiturates have been largely replaced by Benzodiazepines, but are still used for seizures, headaches and anxiety relief.

Most doctors are reluctant to prescribe Barbiturates as they have a well-earned reputation for being dangerous; taking even a slightly higher dose than prescribed can lead to serious side effects. The risk of suffering life-threatening symptoms is even greater if taken with other depressants, such as Alcohol, Benzodiazepines and other sleep medications like Ambien or Lunesta.

Barbiturates tend to make you feel relaxed and happier, and once you’ve experienced these feelings, it’s easy to become addicted. There is high risk that users will develop a serious addiction, even if they’re taking it for a legitimate medical reason.

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Street Names for Barbiturates

Barbiturates are sold under many trade names, including Butisol (Butisol Sodium), Luminal, Mysoline, Seconal, Brevital, and Fiorinal. It can be difficult to identify Barbiturates because they are available in a wide variety of forms and dosages, as well as being dispensed in both time-released and quick-acting versions.

Some street names used for Barbiturates are: Downers, Yellow Jackets, Rainbows, Barbs, Red Dolls, Red Birds, or simply “Reds”, Tooies, Phennies.

Barbiturate Effects

Barbiturates work by impacting the Central Nervous System, slowing down several physical and psychological functions like respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. In low doses, Barbiturates can help people feel less anxious and relaxed, but they can cause the opposite when taken in higher doses.

Some people become highly agitated and aggressive when they take Barbiturates; doctors believe these adverse reactions are caused because the drugs disable the brain’s natural ability to avoid harmful behavior.

Barbiturates are extremely dangerous drugs because they are highly addictive and taking more than a therapeutic dose can be deadly. Barbiturate use has caused many overdose deaths including many famous stars like Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland.

Warning signs of Barbiturate abuse in a loved one

Barbiturate abuse can be unnecessarily alarming for some and misleading for readers. People who abuse Barbiturates are almost entirely poly-substance abusers, who combined these prescription drugs with any and every other kind of drug. Abuse of Barbiturates by individuals who hold a legitimate prescription is not common and not the topic here. Most warning signs are in association with other types of drug abuse. Symptoms of general drug abuse include:

Withdrawing from friends and family; The driving force behind this change is so that the person associates more with others who also use. Changing friends and social activities are common when someone starts abusing other highly addictive drugs.

Behavioral changes are another common symptom of drug abuse. Severe mood swings are common with fluctuations between irritability, depression and anxiety. If your loved one was already prone to mood swings, the cause of the fluctuations can be difficult to determine.

Financial problems are another hallmark sign of illicit drug use. Illicit drugs are expensive and the more someone uses, the more he or she needs to use. This accumulated drug habit can result in thousands of dollars a day spent on illicit drugs.

Factual Dangers: Barbiturate

Barbiturates alone are uncommon substances for one to abuse. Drug abuse usually surrounds other prescription drugs, illicit drugs and Alcohol. The reason is that Barbiturates do not result in the euphoric experience that commonly abused drugs are known for. Therefore, abuse of Barbiturates is typically isolated to those already abusing other substances who combine these powerful prescription drugs to enhance or alter the effects of other drugs. Combining these drugs with anything not expressly permitted by a doctor is extremely dangerous.

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True Stories of Addiction: “The Consequences Were Never Enough”


Barbiturate Detox Treatment and Withdrawals

Admitting that you need help to overcome your Barbiturate addiction takes courage, but once you do, you’ll quickly realize that you’re not alone – there are countless people just like you who are working to support one another to live healthy, drug-free lives.

Barbiturate addiction can impact anyone, regardless of where you’re from, how much money you make or whether or not you have a family history of drug abuse. It’s almost impossible to overcome addiction to Barbiturates by yourself, and doing so can lead to deadly consequences.

Treatment is available to anyone who has developed a Barbiturate dependency either on its own, or in combination with other drugs or Alcohol. During rehab, you’ll spend a lot of time learning about why you became addicted, what your personal drug triggers are and steps you can take to stay clean and sober once you complete your rehab treatment program.

You’ll be under the supervision of experienced, compassionate addictions specialists such as counselors, social workers, nurses and doctors who will facilitate group sessions you will be attending along with other people who are dealing with substance abuse issues. A variety of treatment options will be available for you. You will also be introduced to community-based 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous, and you could be expected to attend regular 12-step meetings. – Learn More

Barbiturate Rehab Treatment

Barbiturates are fat-soluble, meaning that they dissolve and build up in your body fat and then re-enter your blood stream before they’re cleared from your body. Therefore, it can take up to fourteen days to completely detox from Barbiturates depending on what type you’ve been taking, the dosages, and factors like your age and body mass index.

Detoxing from Barbiturates must be done under the close supervision of experienced medical professionals, otherwise, you could experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Common symptoms of Barbiturate detox include anxiety, insomnia, hallucinations, nausea and seizures. Other symptoms include hypothermia, circulatory system failure, suicidal thoughts, self-harming behavior and psychosis. These effects can intensify if you also suffer from other mental health issues. These symptoms can appear as soon as 8 hours after your last dose.

Generally, withdrawal symptoms are most severe during the first 24-48 hours after quitting Barbiturates – that’s why detox center staff monitor clients closely during this critical time. In most cases, Barbiturate detox treatment is done gradually under the close supervision of a medical doctor. You will be weaned off the drugs, over time— this is to help reduce the risk of serious withdrawal symptoms, and to make it easier for you to stick with your treatment program. – Learn More

Addiction to Barbiturates

Drug addiction is a life-threatening disease that impacts your physical health and emotional well-being. When people picture addiction, they have an image of someone living on the streets, but the fact is that you can be addicted to drugs and still appear to maintain a normal and successful lifestyle.

Barbiturate addiction can be difficult to recognize as it tends to give you similar effects to Alcohol. Friends, family members and co-workers might mistakenly believe that you’re intoxicated on Alcohol when in fact you are under the influence of Barbiturates. Worse yet, if you’re taking Barbiturates to treat a valid medical condition, you might be afraid to admit to your doctor that you’ve become dependent, because you’re worried your doctor will simply stop treating you altogether.

Many confuse the word “habit” with “addiction”, but the fact is that taking powerful drugs like Barbiturates is much more than a habit— it’s a complex set of physical and psychological factors that create major changes within your brain. The fact is, if you could have quit using drugs by yourself, you would have done it already.

The good news is that treatment programs have been shown to be successful for people who genuinely want to overcome their addiction to Barbiturates. You really can learn to live a happy, productive life without drugs, but you can’t do it alone.

Barbiturate Dependency

Unlike other drugs that that take some time to get addicted to, Barbiturates are known to create addictions even when taken at therapeutic levels. Because of this, they have largely been removed from the marketplace and replaced with safer, less addictive drugs.

This class of drugs has a tremendously high potential for dependency among users because of the major chemical changes that happen within your brain. These drugs alter the   neurotransmitters in your brain, which is why they are so effective in controlling anxiety and creating a sedative effect – they literally block out the signals in your brain that cause you to experience fear, worry or stress. This causes an overwhelming feeling of euphoria, creating a need within the body to continually reexperience this feeling. It’s why Barbiturates easily cause a dependency.

Barbiturate dependency is even more difficult to overcome for anyone who already has issues with heightened brain activity, such as seizures, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or crippling anxiety. Barbiturates can provide a temporary respite from the pain and discomfort of these conditions, and for a short time, Barbiturate use might seem like a good solution. Unfortunately, the relief provided by Barbiturates is temporary, and the dangers of being dependent on these drugs is far worse than any mental or physical illness.

Intervention for Barbiturate Abuse

If you are concerned that your friend, family member or co-worker might be addicted to Barbiturates, there are steps you can take to support them to overcome their addiction. One of the most popular ways to support a loved one with a substance abuse problem is through an intervention. An intervention is a planned meeting that is designed to let the person suffering from addiction know that there are people in their life who are willing to stand by them and assist with their recovery efforts.

An intervention can seem like a scary step to take— after all, there is no guarantee that the Barbiturate abuser will even agree to listen to everyone’s concerns. There is also the added risk that the user might become angry and reject any help that’s being offered to them. While these are valid worries, don’t let the fear of things going poorly keep you from doing whatever it takes to help your loved one. After all, the drugs are far more dangerous than any intervention could ever be.

While there are no set rules for how, and where, to stage an intervention, there are some proven techniques that have been shown to increase the success of an intervention meeting. It can be a good idea to enlist the support of a trained addiction specialist who can work with you and your family before, during, and after the intervention. A skilled intervention facilitator will help keep the conversation focused, guide your next steps, and connect you with treatment resources where the addict can get help. – Learn More

Recovery from Barbiturate Abuse 1513

If the thoughts of overcoming your addiction to Barbiturates seems overwhelming, there’s a whole army of people who are ready to stand by you as you work on your recovery. Once you decide to ask for help, you’ll be amazed at the support you can find from friends, co-workers, family members, and members of the recovery community. It really is possible to achieve lasting freedom from the pain and stress that addiction places on you and the people around you.

Recovery from Barbiturate abuse is a lifelong process that starts with your commitment to get clean. Contrary to what some may think, it takes much more than pure willpower to overcome an addiction; you need to invest time and energy into learning about the root causes behind your addiction. Discovering new drug-free ways to manage anxiety, pain and other factors that caused you to turn to drugs in the first place.

In a recovery program, you’ll be surrounded by others who have similar experiences as you, even though they might come from different walks of life. While everyone works on their own personal goals and issues, part of the recovery process involves learning from others suffering from addiction and spending time in small group sessions and support meetings. You’ll share your story, listen to others and learn strategies to help you cope during your day-to-day life. Remember, recovering from Barbiturate abuse might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do, but it can also be the most important thing you’ll ever do too.

Dangers of Barbiturate Overdose

Barbiturates have a well-deserved reputation as being one of the most dangerous classes of drugs, thanks to the fact that there’s a very thin line between a therapeutic dose and a fatal dose – that’s why it’s so easy for users to accidentally overdose on drugs like Phenobarbital, Seconal, and Luminal. Add to this the fact that people who use Barbiturates tend to develop tolerance to these drugs within a matter of mere weeks, and you can see why there’s such a high risk of overdose associated with Barbiturate use.

Some of the symptoms of a Barbiturate overdose include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Difficultly speaking, writing, or reading
  • Lack of physical co-ordination and loss of balance
  • Slurring words
  • Walking slowly and/or staggering
  • Slowed respiration (breathing)
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced heart rate

Left untreated, these symptoms can quickly lead users to fall into a comatose state – their vital organs will be deprived of oxygen as their respiration and heart rate drops to dangerously low levels, which can lead to death. In fact, about 1 in 10 people who overdose on Barbiturates, or a combination of drugs that include Barbiturates, die from complications such as heart and lung failure related to their drug use.

Because the symptoms of a Barbiturate overdose are very similar to alcohol intoxication, people who are overdosing on Barbiturates might be dismissed as simply being drunk – a mistake that can lead to deadly consequences. It’s also important to know that unlike with an opiate overdose where naloxone can be administered, there’s no direct antidote for Barbiturate overdose. – Learn More

Barbiturate Use, Abuse and Dependency

Prescription Barbiturates have been largely replaced by safer, less addictive medications, making Barbiturate use, abuse, and dependency relatively rare when compared to other addictions like Opiates or Alcohol. That can make it hard for people who use Barbiturates to both recognize that they have a problem, and to find the help they need to overcome their dependency. This is especially true for Barbiturate users who obtain their drugs on the street, or by taking Barbiturates from family members, friends, or even patients who have been prescribed these medications; not only do users need to admit they have a problem, but they might also need to face serious consequences for their drug-seeking behavior.

When you consider all the factors involved, it’s easy to see why Barbiturate dependency is such a complex and difficult disease. Like all forms of substance abuse, Barbiturate addiction impacts every single aspect of the users’ life— their relationships, career, physical health and mental wellness. Being dependent on drugs can be a truly frightening experience, and addiction to Barbiturates can be a vicious cycle – when users start to detox from these drugs, they often feel a flood of uncomfortable emotions such as anxiety, sadness, guilt and anger which drives them to seek relief by taking more drugs.

During the 1950s and 1960s Barbiturate abuse was rampant in the United States; it was a commonly-prescribed drug for everything from insomnia to anxiety and epilepsy. Unfortunately, this led to many overdose deaths, which prompted health officials to recognize that in most cases, the side effects of Barbiturates were far worse than the actual conditions they were being used to treat. Inn 1965 Barbiturates became subject to strict regulations under the Drug Abuse and Control Act, and by the mid 1970s. they had been largely replaced by drugs like diazepam (Valium) and benzodiazepines.

Even though prescriptions of Barbiturates have declined over the past few decades. approximately 2,500 different types of Barbiturates are still manufactured in the U.S., and about 19 million prescriptions for these drugs are dispensed annually. Experts believe that the vast majority of Barbiturates sold on the street come from legal sources and are obtained through fraudulent prescriptions, drug store robberies, and theft from patients. Women are prescribed Barbiturates more often than men, and this class of drugs is used to sedate elderly patients who suffer from dementia.

Illegal Barbiturates are often smuggled into the U.S. from countries like China, Russia, India, and Hungary, with China producing about 50 percent of the world supply of illegal Barbiturates. Just like with other drugs like heroin and cocaine, there’s a real risk that users who buy Barbiturates from drug dealers may not actually know the dose they’re taking, since the potency of illicit drugs can vary from one pill to the next. This variation in the potency of street Barbiturates has been linked to a number of overdose deaths, because taking even a bit too much of these drugs can lead to respiratory failure and death.

Like all forms of substance abuse, recognizing if you, or someone you care about, has a problem with Barbiturates can be challenging. One of the biggest “red flags” to look for is whether or not you spend a lot of time, and energy, thinking about your drugs – obsessing over when your next dose is, whether or not you can get another prescription from your doctor, or feeling like you need to take more drugs to get the effect you want are all signs of drug dependency. Buying drugs on the street, stealing them from clients or patients, or racking up debt to fund your Barbiturate addiction are also clear indicators that you need help.

Another indication that you’ve developed a dependency on Barbiturates is if you’ve started to mix Barbiturates with alcohol or other drugs. Some users manage to hide their drug abuse from medical professionals and family members by taking a cocktail of substances rather than increasing their dose of Barbiturates. While this strategy might help you conceal your dependency in the short term, it’s like playing Russian Roulette – your next dose could literally kill you.

Fortunately, recovery from Barbiturate dependency is possible – if you get professional help. You’ll need to start your recovery by detoxing, and that should only be done at a licenced detox facility under the close supervision of professional addictions specialists. Going “cold turkey” off of Barbiturates can be dangerous – it can cause seizures, hallucinations, nausea, delirium, and even death, which is why many users taper off, rather than suddenly quit, using these drugs. Detoxing can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on how long you’ve been addicted for, what other substances you use, and your physical and mental health.

Detox is just one part of the recovery process – to actually overcome your addiction, you need a treatment program. During treatment, you’ll learn about the root cause of your addiction, how to prevent relapse, and ways you can enjoy a healthy, drug-free life. – Learn More

Short-term effects

Barbiturates work by depressing the central nervous symptom, and, depending on the dose and the type that was used, you may feel the effects within a matter of a few minutes. When the effects of the Barbiturates hit, you could feel a sense of euphoria— something many users refer to as feeling “high.” You will also begin to feel very relaxed, calm, and sedated, and you might find yourself saying or doing things you might not otherwise do. This is because Barbiturates are known to reduce inhibitions, making people act or do things that seem completely unnatural to them. The calming effects of Barbiturates are why they became popular as sleeping pills and sedatives.

Shortly after taking Barbiturates, your respiration rate may slow down, your heart might beat slower, and your blood pressure could drop, causing you to feel light-headed or even dizzy. The effects of Barbiturates can last anywhere between an hour to upwards of two days depending on whether you’ve taken a short-acting or long-acting dose. FDA-approved drug tests can detect Barbiturates in the urine of users for up to seven days after a dose, thanks in part to the fact that Barbiturates can accumulate in fat cells throughout the body.

The short-term effects of Barbiturates work together to create a feeling of necessity, culminating in a dependency and addiction. Even when taken under the directions of a medical professional, susceptibility is incredibly high. It’s why medical experts have moved away from prescribing Barbiturates.

Long-term effects

Barbiturates work by increasing the activity of neurotransmitters, known as GABA, within the brain. This suppresses feelings of inhibition, fear, anxiety and even physical pain for a brief period of time. Over time, Barbiturate use can cause physical changes in the brain that make uncomfortable thoughts and feelings even more intense; the only way to find relief from these unpleasant emotions is to take more Barbiturates, creating a cycle of abuse.

When you take Barbiturates for more than a few days, you risk developing serious complications that can negatively impact both your physical and emotional health. This substance has an exceptionally powerful effect on the way your brain functions, making it so you can develop a dependency in as little as a week. In order to attain the same effects you felt from your first dose, you’ll need to take a larger dose than what was used before. Another way to receive the same effects is to combine Barbiturates with alcohol or other depressants.

Barbiturate abuse is commonly associated with the abuse of other drugs, such as Marijuana, Benzodiazepines and over-the-counter sleeping pills. It’s also common for Barbiturate users to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, agoraphobia and PTSD, which means that treatment for Barbiturate addiction needs to include professional support and counseling. Like most forms of addiction, long-term abuse of Barbiturates can lead to a host of other physical and mental health problems, including premature death.

True Stories of Addiction: A Bit of Willingness Goes a Long Way

Your loved one feels isolated and alone in their fight against their addiction. Give them the backup that they need. Holding an intervention for a loved one not only brings their problem to the surface, but shows them that people still care about them. They might be in denial with other people, but most people who have a substance abuse problem are not in denial with themselves. Deep down inside, they know they need help. If you show them that they have support if they decide to get that help, they will be more willing to go to rehab. Let them know that you are not giving up on them.

Inpatient Barbiturate Rehab

Inpatient Barbiturate rehab, also known as residential Barbiturate treatment, is the safest, and most effective option for anyone who is struggling with a serious addiction to this powerful drug. During inpatient rehab, you’ll move into a residential treatment facility that is specially designed to accommodate a number of participants.

Some rehab facilities are located in small, family-style homes, some are laid out like a college dorm and others are similar to a country inn, resort or lodge complete with spa-like amenities like yoga rooms, movie theaters and swimming pools. All of your meals will be included, and you could be asked to help care for the facility by doing minor chores or cooking a few meals as part of your treatment program. Inpatient Barbiturate rehab is designed to take you away from the everyday stressors and triggers that may have contributed to your drug addiction. You will spend all of your time there, participating in both group and individual therapy sessions as well as leisure activities like art and exercise classes.

While at rehab, you will spend your days with others who are learning how to live a drug-free life, and you may even make some new friends who can support you after you leave the facility. You could be assigned a private room, similar to a hotel room, or you may share a bedroom with one or more other participants. Remember: rehab isn’t meant to be a vacation, but it’s a 24-hour, 7-day a week, intensive treatment designed to help you reclaim your life. – Learn More

Outpatient Barbiturate Rehab

While inpatient rehab is proven to provide the best possible outcomes for people who are dependent or addicted to drugs such as Barbiturates, you should know that you don’t need to choose between getting the help you need and moving out of your home for weeks or months at a time. Outpatient rehab is another option that is available to you.

People who are unable to attend an inpatient rehab program due to work, family commitments, health or other factors may be able to enroll into an outpatient Barbiturate rehab program. An outpatient program allows you to remain living in your own home while you participate in counseling, groups, and therapy sessions designed to help you overcome your drug dependency. There is a set schedule that you will need to follow, but your own schedule is considered. The types of services available during outpatient is different in each area. Some programs require you to attend group sessions nightly and check-in with a counselor several times a day, while others might expect you to participate in therapy sessions a few times a week.

It’s important to understand that while an outpatient Barbiturate rehab program is better than doing nothing about your addiction, the long-term success rates among those who choose outpatient rehab is lower than for those in an inpatient rehab program. That’s not to say that an outpatient Barbiturate rehab program is futile, you just need to understand the added challenges you may face by staying at home while you try to get clean. – Learn More