Barbiturates are depressants that are used to help people sleep, to relieve anxiety, and prevent seizures or muscle spasms. They are also used as a sedative before surgery. These drugs work to slow your nervous system, making you feel relaxed. The feeling is very similar to that of drinking alcohol, making people feel happier and more sociable. Taken in larger doses, barbiturates can cause a hypnotic effect. This effect is what often leads people to abuse barbiturates, which can quickly lead to dependence and addiction.

Types of Barbiturates

Barbiturates, also called sleeping pills, come in three main types: powder, pills, and capsules. They are often referred to on the street as barbs or downers. These drugs  are only prescribed to be taken orally in pill form, with injectable versions reserved for hospital use. Some abusers and addicts instead crush the pills and snort them or dissolve them in water to inject them. Using barbiturates in this way greatly increases a person’s risk of becoming addicted. There are about 12 different barbiturates available via prescription, the most common of which are:

  • Amytal
  • Butabarbital
  • Nembutal
  • Phenobarbital
  • Seconal

Who is at Risk of Abusing Barbiturates?

Barbiturate use began in the early 1900s, and by the 1960s, a startling rise in both accidental and intentional overdoses made many doctors turn to other medications instead. Recreational use of barbiturates was rampant in the 1970s before tapering off in the 1980s.

Barbiturates still have their place in modern medicine, and nowadays the people most at risk of abusing these drugs are the people who it is prescribed to. This is because taking these medications inappropriately can very quickly lead to an addiction. The problem with barbiturates is that your body can become tolerant to the dosage, meaning that you will need to take more for it to relieve your symptoms. This makes the body become dependent on barbiturates and withdrawal symptoms are common when you stop using them. Once you develop a dependence, it will not be long before you are fully addicted to this medication.

The Side Effects Of Barbiturate Abuse

When prescribed by a doctor and taken in the appropriate dosage, barbiturates are effective at helping relieve anxiety, help you sleep, and prevent seizures. But if they are taken in high doses or abused, you may experience some other negative side effects. These short-term effects can include:

  • Agitation or irritation
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Impaired motor control
  • Mood swings
  • Poor coordination
  • Problems concentrating
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting

For people who abuse barbiturates for long periods of time, there are other, more serious side effects:

  • Changes in your coordination
  • Paranoia
  • Poor judgement
  • Problems with short term memory
  • Suicidal thoughts

Signs of Barbiturate Addiction

When it comes to the symptoms of barbiturates addiction, the first sign to look for are the short and long-term side effects that we mentioned above. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is very possible that you have a barbiturate addiction. For more detailed evaluation criteria, review our page on self-assessment for addiction. For people who are abusing barbiturates by taking exceedingly high doses, the signs of addiction can also include hostility, violence, extreme paranoia, breathing problems, and high body temperature. Other signs of addiction are the same as for other drugs, and can include:

  • You keep having to increase your dosage to feel the effects.
  • You spend a lot of time finding and purchasing barbiturates.
  • You have tried to stop taking barbiturates but could not.
  • You have given up other things you used to enjoy to get high instead.
  • You have withdrawal symptoms if you go too long without taking barbiturates.
  • You are performing poorly at work or school or are having trouble in your personal relationships.
  • You no longer care about your physical appearance.
  • You have experienced an overdose but are still using barbiturates.

The Risk of Barbiturate Overdose

Barbiturates are very potent. The difference between a “safe” dose, and one that will lead to an overdose, can be small. If you overdose on barbiturates, you can experience extreme drowsiness, unconsciousness, problems thinking, slurred speech, lack of coordination, shallow breathing, coma, and death. An overdose can be reversed if medical treatment is sought as soon as possible. The risk of overdose is even greater if you mix barbiturates with other substances, especially alcohol or opioids.

How Barbiturate Addiction is Treated

When someone is addicted to barbiturates, the first step in their treatment program will be going through a medically supervised detox program. This is because once you stop using barbiturates, you will experience negative side effects called withdrawal. These effects can include agitation, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, tremors, hallucinations, aggression, and even seizures. Being at a detox program will mean that you have 24/7 support from a medical staff who can give you medications to make these symptoms much less severe – and help you in case a medical emergency arises.

Once you have completed the detox process, the next step of your treatment program can begin. This can include both medications to treat any physical or mental health issues you are having, as well as behavioral therapy. Therapy will help you by teaching you how to avoid future drug use by managing stress and avoiding your triggers. Because no two people are the same, rehab centers offer a range of different therapy options, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and more. By personalizing your treatment program, rehab centers help ensure that you get exactly the right care that you need to get sober and stay that way. They will also help you to choose aftercare services for continued support even after you leave the facility.

Being addicted to any substance can be difficult to overcome and requires the expert help of a rehab treatment facility. That is why seeking help at a facility that has specialized experience in barbiturate addiction is an important part of choosing your recovery treatment program. These facilities will ensure that you get all of the help and support that you need in order to overcome your addiction and get on a path to lasting sobriety.