Treatments for Barbiturate Abuse

This article is also classified as: Amytal®, Nembutal®, Secondal®, Phenobarbital®

If you are abusing barbiturates such as Secondal® or Amytal®, you should not try to quit on your own. Depending upon how much you are using and how long you have been taking barbiturates, stopping too suddenly can be life-threatening. Barbiturates interfere with neurotransmissions to the brain, and if you stop taking them suddenly, your brain will become overwhelmed, and you may go into convulsions and die without immediate medical intervention.

If you have been taking 0.8 to 2.0 grams per day, you have probably developed a genuine physical dependency on barbiturates and need professional treatment. Barbiturate withdrawal can be harder and trickier to manage than withdrawal from heroin – don’t try it on your own.

The safe way to withdraw from barbiturates is to check yourself into a treatment center specializing in drug rehabilitation. If you call, you and a counselor can find a center in your geographic area that fits your budget and individual needs.

Once you enter an appropriate treatment facility, your doctor will gradually help you to become physically free of barbiturates by gradually lowering the amounts you are taking. Usually, this is done in tiny increments, less than 5 ml per day.

The severity of withdrawal will depend on the amount of barbiturates you have been using, the length of time you used them, your medical history and age, and other individual factors. The first day of withdrawal might be unpleasant. Your symptoms will depend again on the amounts you used and the length of time you used barbiturates.  Symptoms may include headache, sweating, dizziness, light-headedness, vomiting, anxiety, tremors, violent cramps, and paranoia.

Between 24 and 72 hours after your last dose of barbiturates, you may experience grand mal seizures. Between days three and eight, many people go through hallucinations, nightmares, insomnia, shortness of breath, and rapid heartbeats. Your medical professionals need to help you through this period, which usually lasts less than eight days.

Once your body is free of barbiturates, your work in recovery is not over. Barbiturates elevate moods and relieve anxiety. They often mask underlying depression. Once you stop taking barbiturates, your feelings of depression and anxiety can become overwhelming. For this reason, the ideal treatment option is to remain in a residential center where you receive 24-hour care and monitoring. You will meet with professional drug counselors every day in both group and individual therapy sessions. You can learn new and healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety. Most centers offer activities that can become lifelong “stress-busters” such as sports, yoga, art, journaling, and music.  You will also attend classes in how to avoid relapses and how to deal with people and situations that can “trigger” new drug use once you return home. After formal treatments ends, you will probably remain in counseling and attend support meetings.

Residential treatment usually produces better outcomes than outpatient care. However, some people prefer to live at home after they undergo chemical withdrawal from drugs.  You can still attend classes and counseling sessions on an outpatient basis.

No matter which recovery plan you choose, give yourself time. Government studies indicate that most people need to devote at least a year to attending counseling sessions and support meetings to remain drug-free permanently.

If you are the parent of a teenager who is abusing barbiturates, you have the right to check your child into a treatment center without his or her permission. Most teenagers enter rehabilitation reluctantly, but have similar outcomes to those who enter willingly. Wilderness programs and therapeutic boarding schools are the ideal alternatives for teenagers. You can discuss which ones are appropriate for your child by calling now.