Substance Use

Barbiturate Use Disorder Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Hu, MD on
Dr. Hu is a nationally licensed psychiatrist with 21 years of experience treating mental and behavioral health.

Dr. David Hu
Medically Reviewed InfoBox

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

multiple pills spilling out of pill bottle

Barbiturate Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options

Barbiturates are sedatives commonly prescribed for insomnia or anxiety. They are also known to cause drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. 

Barbiturates are approved for short-term treatment of insomnia and anxiety disorders. However, these drugs should only be taken under medical supervision because they can cause serious side effects such as addiction, respiratory depression, coma, and death.

What Are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are a group of medications used primarily as sedatives, anxiolytics, and analgesics. There are many different types of barbiturates, each with varying durations of action and side effects. Barbiturate drugs include phenobarbital, secobarbital, amobarbital, pentobarbital, methohexital, thiopental, and others.

These drugs can be used as anesthetic, anti-convulsive agents, hypnotic, and sedatives. They’re often used in combination with benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan, and Halcion.

Many people easily feed their addiction due to the availability of barbiturates on the street. Without the scrutiny of pharmacies, getting and continuing to take barbiturates sees less resistance than some other types of illicit drugs. When sold illicitly on the streets, the drugs may go under any number of names, like:

  • barbs
  • blockbusters
  • Christmas trees
  • golf balls
  • goofies
  • pink pills
  • red devils
  • reds and blues
  • yellow jackets
  • goof balls
  • downers

Using barbiturates illicitly can lead to serious health issues, including addiction. The most effective way to prevent barbiturate addiction is to stop taking them as soon as possible. However, that may not be possible for many who have already started. Get help with barbiturate addiction as soon as possible to ensure that you do not end up with serious and long-term negative health effects. 

Commonly Used Barbiturates

Barbiturates are sedatives that are often prescribed for insomnia, anxiety, depression, and alcohol withdrawal. They are also sometimes used during euthanasia. There are several types of barbiturates, including short-acting and long-acting varieties:

  • Amobarbital sodium
  • Pentobarbital sodium
  • Secobarbital sodium
  • Phenobarbital sodium
  • Butabarbital

When used properly, barbiturates can be an effective tool for helping people get the sleep that they need, as well as to manage the symptoms of seizure disorders such as epilepsy. However, they can be misused, and many people do for a variety of reasons.

Getting addicted to barbiturates is a problem that medical providers must keep in mind when prescribing and administering them. Unfortunately, some people do get addicted and need help starting the recovery process.

Effects of Barbiturate Use and Addiction

Barbiturates are central nerve system (CNS) depression drugs used primarily to treat anxiety disorders, insomnia, and pain. They act by depressing brain activity, causing sedation, muscle relaxation, and analgesia (pain relief). Although barbiturates are generally considered safe and effective medications, they do carry health risks that must be carefully monitored. These include addiction and dependence, overdose, and withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the most common side effects associated with barbiturates include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, blurred vision, headache, dry mouth, and difficulty sleeping. Patients taking barbiturates may experience adverse effects like physical dependence, which occurs when an individual becomes tolerant to the effects of the drug over time. Physical dependence leads to increased tolerance to the drug and requires higher doses to achieve the same effect.

Signs and Symptoms of Barbiturate Addiction

The signs and symptoms of barbiturates addiction vary depending on the type of barbiturate being abused. The following is a list of some of the more common signs and symptoms of barbiturate abuse:

  • Physical dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability 
  • Sluggishness

Barbiturate addiction can have a major impact on people’s lives. If you think that someone you know is addicted to barbiturates, take steps to get them the help that they need. They may be struggling to get help for themselves. Consult a professional for guidance and help your loved one find a treatment program that can offer the level of expert care that they need. 

Causes and Risk Factors for Barbiturate Addiction

There are many different reasons why someone might become addicted to barbituric acid. Addiction can be difficult to understand in many cases. While it may seem like there is a clear reason, it is often complicated. Still, scientists and researchers have some insight into what can lead to barbiturate addiction as well as how to address it. Some of those reasons include:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Biological causes
  • Environmental influences
  • Psychological issues
  • Substance use disorders

There is no single reason why anyone develops an addiction to barbiturate drugs, just like there is no single reason why some people become alcoholics while others do not. However, there are things we know about how barbiturate drug addiction works that can help us understand what it takes to overcome the problem.

1. Genetics

People who have a family history of substance abuse are at greater risk of developing addictions to substances like cocaine, heroin, or alcohol. This is because their brains are already wired to respond to these substances in a way that makes them feel good. When a person has a genetic predisposition toward substance abuse, he or she will likely develop a stronger response to these chemicals than someone without this predisposition. In other words, if you have a family member who abuses drugs, you are much more likely to abuse them yourself.

2. Biological Causes

When a person uses a barbiturate drug, his or her body produces certain hormones called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters play a role in regulating mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels. By altering the number of neurotransmitters produced in the brain, barbiturates affect how well a person feels. For example, when a person takes a barbiturate drug such as phenobarbital, he or she will produce less serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. As a result, the person may feel depressed and anxious.

3. Environment

In addition to genetics and biological factors, environmental influences also contribute to the development of barbiturate addiction. If a child lives in an environment where drugs are readily available, he or she is more likely to try them out sooner than later. Likewise, if a parent or caregiver regularly drinks alcohol or uses illegal drugs, children living in that home are more likely to experiment with these substances as well.

4. Psychological Issues

Some people who take barbiturates experience psychological problems before they start abusing the drug. They may be experiencing depression, anxiety, or insomnia. Because of these underlying conditions, they may find it easier to get high from taking barbiturates than they would from drinking alcohol or using other illicit drugs.

5. Substance Use Disorders

Some people who abuse barbiturates begin by abusing another substance first. For example, a person who starts smoking marijuana may eventually move on to abusing prescription painkillers. The same goes for a person who begins drinking alcohol. He or she may progress to using cocaine or heroin.

Addiction Treatment

If you or someone you love is struggling with barbiturate addiction, you need to seek treatment right away. Barbiturate intoxication is very serious and can lead to death if left untreated. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments available today. You should contact your doctor immediately if you think you might have a problem with barbiturates. Your doctor can refer you to a rehab center that specializes in treating barbiturate addiction. Contact Zinnia Healing by calling (855) 430-9439 or filling out our online contact form to learn more about our barbiturate treatment options.

1. Medically Supervised Barbiturate Detoxification

Detoxing from barbiturates involves withdrawing an individual from the medication slowly and gradually. While there are no known toxic levels of barbiturates in the human body, high dosages can cause liver damage, coma, and death. Medications are used during detox to help reduce anxiety and muscle tension while helping the patient have a more comfortable experience during the withdrawal process.

A medically supervised barbiturate withdrawal program includes monitoring vital signs, providing fluids and nutrition, and administering antiemetics and anti-nausea medications. Once the patient feels comfortable, he or she is transferred to inpatient or outpatient therapy to continue treatment.

2. Inpatient Rehab

If you or someone you know has a severe case of barbiturate addiction, inpatient rehabilitation is often necessary. Inpatient programs provide intensive care and support services for patients recovering from barbiturate addiction. Patients typically stay at a facility for several weeks or months until they can function independently again. During this time, doctors monitor their health closely and administer any needed medical interventions. The doctor will monitor other medications to prevent adverse drug interactions and provide medical advice as needed.

3. Partial Hospitalization (PHP)

Another type of treatment option for barbiturate addiction is partial hospitalization. PHP programs allow individuals to receive treatment in a treatment setting but spend nights at home or another facility. This allows them to maintain family ties and work responsibilities.

4. Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP)

IOP programs provide extensive outpatient treatment to patients struggling with barbiturate addiction. Individuals usually receive therapy sessions in a group setting while they remain in their home or sober living environment. Therapy staff members address a variety of issues, including drug use, recovery strategies, family relationships and other issues related to addiction.

5. Outpatient Therapy

Barbiturate addiction is a serious disease that requires long-term treatment. Fortunately, outpatient programs can provide this kind of support through individual and group therapy sessions. These sessions provide patients with the tools they need to stay sober and avoid relapse.

After completing the initial stages of treatment, most people in recovery benefit from long-term therapy. Counseling with a therapist or sponsor helps patients develop tools for staying clean for the rest of their lives.

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms?

Barbiturates are physically addictive, meaning they can cause dependence. This makes it hard to quit cold turkey. If you take too much, you may feel sick, dizzy, weak, shaky, confused, anxious, irritable, depressed, and even suicidal. You may start having trouble sleeping, eating, concentrating, remembering things, and feeling like you’re out of it.

Some people don’t experience any withdrawal symptoms, while others experience milder ones. But if you’ve had a long history of misuse, you might go through a very serious detoxification process, especially if you’ve been struggling for a long period of time. These symptoms can last a few days or longer. 

Signs and Symptoms of Barbiturate Overdose 

Barbiturates are sedative hypnotics used medically to treat insomnia, anxiety, muscle spasms, seizures, and alcoholism. Barbiturates act by depressing the central nervous system and slowing down the activity of the brain. They cause drowsiness, relaxation, euphoria, and loss of coordination. In high doses, barbiturates can induce coma and death.

The signs and symptoms of barbiturates depend on how much you take and how long you take it. Signs and symptoms of barbiturate overdose include:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Respiratory failure
  • Coma

If you think that someone you know is having a barbiturate overdose, seek medical help first. Getting medical help quickly raises the chances of surviving the overdose and minimizing the long-term effects. Once the immediate medical problems are addressed, you can work on getting yourself or your loved one into a treatment program so that it does not happen again. 

Responding to a Barbiturate Overdose

A barbiturate overdose is a potentially lethal emergency situation. If you suspect someone is experiencing an overdose, it’s important to act quickly. Call 911 immediately. If the person exhibits signs of respiratory depression such as shallow respirations or no breath sounds, they need care urgently. Do not give anything by mouth unless instructed to do so by a health care professional. 

Get Barbiturates Addiction Treatment Today

Zinnia Healing provides barbiturate detoxification and rehabilitation programs throughout the United States. We provide residential care, outpatient care, intensive outpatient care, and partial hospitalization care. Our team of experienced clinicians works closely with patients to develop personalized treatment plans based on each patient’s unique needs.

Our barbiturates addiction treatment program includes counseling sessions, group therapy, and family support groups. Patients receive education regarding the risks associated with continued use of barbiturates and how to avoid relapse.

The goal of our barbiturates rehab program is to teach patients how to live sober and lead productive lives. Contact Zinnia Healing by calling (855) 430-9439 or filling out our online contact form to learn more.