Substance Use

Phenobarbital and Alcohol Substance Abuse

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

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Mixing Alcohol With Phenobarbital: What Are the Dangers?

Alcohol is a widely used and readily available substance. This causes it to be mixed with a wide range of other substances, like prescription drugs, marijuana, and barbiturates, such as phenobarbital. Mixing these substances, even when the drugs are prescribed, is extremely dangerous and can produce fatal side effects. In this post, we’ll explain the effects and dangers of mixing phenobarbital and alcohol and how to get help today.

To learn more about phenobarbital and alcohol abuse treatment programs at Zinnia Healing, call us today at (855) 430-9439. Our addiction specialists are standing by 24/7 to help you navigate your treatment options and find a program that will best fit your needs, schedule, and budget.

What Is Phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital, also known under the brand name Luminal, is a prescription barbiturate. This drug is most commonly prescribed as an anticonvulsant for people with seizure disorders.

Phenobarbital is also used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms.

The FDA classifies phenobarbital as a Schedule IV controlled substance because of its high potential for abuse. This is because, like all barbiturates, users can build up a tolerance to phenobarbital, causing them to feel like they need to take higher and higher dosages to feel the same effects. Combining phenobarbital and alcohol is likely to increase these risks.

Short-Term Effects of Phenobarbital

The short-term effects of phenobarbital are:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased libido
  • Upset stomach
  • Feeling hungover and extremely lethargic the day after taking phenobarbital
  • Allergic reaction
  • Depressed mood
  • Agitation 
  • Tingling hands and feet
  • Burning eyes
  • Pale skin

Long-Term Effects of Phenobarbital

Long-term use of phenobarbital can lead to soft tissue changes in the body, which can cause joint pain and thickening of the skin on the palm of the feet. The long-term effects of phenobarbital use are more severe and include:

  • The development of a substance use disorder
  • Cognitive deficits in children who use phenobarbital, such as learning, memory, attention, and concentration issues
  • Cognitive deficits in adults that are similar to those in children
  • Birth defects if a pregnant woman consumes phenobarbital
  • Cancer. Long-term use of phenobarbital has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer and renal cancer. When used by pregnant women, there is a risk of brain tumors in their children.
  • Increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures
  • Low blood pressure and reduced heart rate
  • Slowed, weak, or shallow breathing
  • Psychiatric effects, including agitation, confusion, panic attacks, phobias, hallucinations, depression, and mood swings
  • Early death

Combining Phenobarbital and Alcohol: The Dangers

Combining phenobarbital and alcohol intensifies the sedative and euphoric effects of each substance. It also reduces blood pressure and depresses brain functions that are responsible for helping the heart beat regularly. When taken in large doses, the combination can result in death.

When taken together, alcohol and phenobarbital can also produce the following, less severe, but still dangerous, side effects:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Double vision
  • Vertigo
  • Agitation
  • Impairment
  • Loss of coordination
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Liver damage
  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Delirium tremens
  • Loss of consciousness

In rare cases, mixing phenobarbital and alcohol can cause the following severe symptoms:

  • Rash or blistering of the skin
  • Respiratory depression
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the eyes, lips, and/or cheeks
  • Death

If you or a loved one begin experiencing any of these side effects, go to the emergency department or call 9-1-1 immediately.

Like alcohol and benzodiazepines, phenobarbital works to increase the action of the central nervous system’s neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. Most sedative drugs activate these receptors, eliciting drowsiness and relaxation in their users.

Alcohol reacts similarly in the central nervous system, also activating the GABA receptors. This means that when alcohol and phenobarbital are taken together, they reinforce each other’s effects.

Under no circumstances is it ever considered safe to combine phenobarbital and alcohol. The side effects of barbiturates on their own are strong enough, and when mixed with alcohol, the dangers can be life-threatening. The combination of alcohol and phenobarbital can cause someone to appear extremely intoxicated, even if they have only taken a small amount of alcohol and a small dose of phenobarbital. Mixing these substances also increases your likelihood of falling or being involved in dangerous situations, like impaired driving and taking risks you otherwise would not.

To learn more about treatment options for substance abuse, including alcohol addiction and addiction treatment for phenobarbital abuse, contact Zinnia Healing.

Withdrawing From Alcohol and Phenobarbital Abuse

When you stop taking phenobarbital after using it for a while, your body will go into shock, which will manifest as symptoms of withdrawal. During this detox phase, phenobarbital withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of alcohol withdrawal syndrome and include:

  • Muscle tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as aches, fever, runny nose, and watery eyes
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Nightmares

Because the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and phenobarbital can be so vicious, it’s highly recommended to undergo medically-supervised detox at an inpatient treatment center or rehab facility. During this form of treatment of alcohol withdrawal and phenobarbital withdrawal, you will receive around-the-clock supervision and care from healthcare providers as well as administration of medications, such as chlordiazepoxide, lorazepam, and diazepam, to help mitigate the most severe symptoms of withdrawal. This is a critically important step to ensure the discomfort from withdrawal does not cause relapse.

Zinnia Healing Can Help

You don’t have to go through phenobarbital and alcohol abuse and recovery alone. Zinnia Healing is proud to offer a number of addiction treatment programs at our state-of-the-art treatment centers around the country. Whether you’re struggling with alcohol use disorder, phenobarbital addiction, or any other type of substance use disorder, our team of compassionate and caring addiction specialists can help you heal. Browse our addiction treatment options here.