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Commonly Abused Barbiturates

Barbiturates can quickly become addictive after abusing them chronically. A medically-supervised detox is required to avoid potentially lethal withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the most commonly abused barbiturates include:

  • amobarbital sodium (Amytal)
  • pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal)
  • secobarbital sodium (Seconal)
  • phenobarbital (Luminal)

Amytal, Nembutal, and Seconal are all short-acting barbiturates, which are primarily used to treat people who suffer from insomnia, and seizure disorders like epilepsy. These three depressants can also be used in hospital settings as a preoperative sedative.

Luminal is a long-acting barbiturate, sometimes used in medically-supervised detox to help wean addicted individuals off other stronger, barbiturates. It is also used to treat seizures, in some parts of the world, and anxiety.

What Are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are central nervous system depressants that work by slowing down the interaction between the brain and the rest of the body. This type of drug can cause drowsiness and relaxation, and has is very difficult to prescribe at the correct dosage.

Tolerance to barbiturates develops quickly, increasing the risk of addiction. Tolerance to the mood changing effects of barbiturates happens fast, with chronic use. However, tolerance to the lethal effects develops more slowly, increasing the risk of severe poisoning the longer the drug is used.

Commonly Abused Barbiturates_What Are Barbiturates

Before the 1970s, barbiturates were the drug of choice for treating anxiety disorders and other anxiety-related issues. Due to their high potential for abuse, the federal government limited access to barbiturates.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, barbiturates are prescribed less frequently for anxiety and sleep issues due to their increased risk of overdose, when compared to benzodiazepines. However, barbiturates are still used in hospital settings, and to treat some seizure disorders.

Abusing barbiturates is very dangerous and can lead to physical and psychological symptoms, physical dependence, and accidental death.

How Are Barbiturates Abused?

Individuals addicted to barbiturates can obtain them through personal prescription or from someone they know. Barbiturates are widely available in tablet form, so individuals may abuse them orally, or crush up the tablets and inject or snort them.

When injected, the effects of barbiturates can be felt much faster than if they were abused orally. Larger needles are required to inject barbiturates, which can lead to infected or red injection site, or scarred veins.

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Signs Of Barbiturate Abuse

Some common signs of barbiturate abuse include:

  • sedation and drowsiness
  • reduced anxiety
  • feelings of well-being
  • lowered inhibitions and impaired judgement
  • slurred speech
  • poor concentration
  • confusion and dizziness
  • impaired coordination and memory
  • slowed pulse
  • lowered blood pressure
  • slowed breathing

Barbiturates can also cause euphoria, unusual excitement, fever, and irritability in some. Often someone abusing barbiturates will exhibits signs similar to alcohol intoxication.

Commonly Abused Barbiturates_Signs Of Barbiturate Abuse

Another sign of barbiturate abuse is if someone is experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the drug. This can also be a indication that physical dependence has developed, meaning that the addicted individual cannot function like normal without the drug in their system.

Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • insomnia
  • rhythmic intention tremor
  • dizziness
  • seizures and tremors
  • psychosis

Withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person and be mild to severe, depending on the severity of the addiction. If barbiturate withdrawal is not correctly treated, hypothermia, circulatory failure, and death may occur.

Risks Factors Of Barbiturate Abuse

Some barbiturates, in high doses, are used in doctor-assisted suicide because they can cause lethal side-effects very quickly. A reason that benzodiazepines replaced barbiturates is because it can be difficult, even for medical professionals, to determine the proper dosage of medication needed for any given situation.

This is also a problem for people who abuse this medication, because it increases the risk for fatal overdose to occur, when the drug is used in large amounts. Once the body is used to large amount of the drug in its system tolerance develops. It is also very dangerous for people who are chronically addicted to barbiturates to withdrawal without proper supervision.

It is important that someone suffering from barbiturate addiction enroll in a medically-supervised detox program to help avoid the potentially life-threatening risks of withdrawal. Mixing barbiturates with other central nervous system depressants like alcohol, increases the risk of respiratory distress and death.

Teen Barbiturate Abuse

Sedatives like barbiturates are popular among young adults because their effects mimic those of alcohol, but do not produce the smell alcohol does. About 50 percent of high school seniors admitted abusing prescription medications in 2013, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. About five percent of the seniors also reported having access to or abusing sedatives.

It is also theorized that because teenagers are still developing emotionally and physically, barbiturate abuse may manifest in different ways compared to how it would in an adult. For example, teens may be more inclined to engage in risky behaviors or express extreme emotional states more easily.

Some of these behaviors may include:

  • increased likelihood of assault
  • driving while under the influence of barbiturates
  • mixing barbiturates with other substances
  • Using too much of the drug, causing accidental overdose

Treatment For Barbiturate Abuse And Addiction

Detoxing from barbiturates is the first step toward recovery. Barbiturates are dangerous drugs, even when used in their medical applications. Using them illicitly can quickly result in tolerance and dependence, and possibly overdose.

An individualized treatment plan, that looks at the needs and circumstances of each person can be extremely helpful in aiding a successful recovery. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other medications may also be used to assist in managing substance abuse, in a treatment center.

To learn more about barbiturate abuse, addiction and treatment, contact us today.

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