What are Barbiturates?

We don’t hear much about people abusing barbiturates these days. After all, with the rise of the powerful benzodiazepines, why would someone resort to sub-par barbiturates? From a doctor’s point of view, they are still an option for some anxiety patients, people with frequent tension and migraine headaches, and for select seizure disorders. Barbiturates can also help people fall asleep. From the perspective of a recreational drug user, there are still a few people who crave barbiturates’ ability to make one feel a high or euphoria that is similar to that of alcohol but with a more chilled out effect.

With barbiturates, the most alarming issue will probably never be the number of people using them. The first problem is their ease of overdose. The window between a regular dose and a lethal one is very narrow. Moreover, barbiturates are very addictive. And an increasing tolerance can only make abusers take more and lead them in the deadly direction.

The second problem is the grueling detox and rehabilitation process. It’s tougher than heroin detox, and there are significant medical risks. People suffering from barbiturate dependency should seek out a reputable residential treatment facility and put together a well-orchestrated plan for getting through the detox process. Those living with a moderate to severe barbiturate addiction should plan on four weeks of rehabilitation time at a minimum. Some people need as many as eight weeks to be ready for a life without barbiturates.

Barbiturate Science and History

Barbiturates were initially utilized in the field of medicine at the start of the 20th century. They gained popularity in the 1960s. By the 1970s doctors were writing numerous prescriptions to help patients living with insomnia, anxiety, and seizure disorders. When people discovered their recreational benefits, they began abusing barbiturates. They were a “chill pill.” Recreational users took them to “chill out,” and decrease their inhibitions. They also helped offset some of the side effects of other illicit drugs.

The medical use of barbiturates has waned markedly since the 1970s. Doctors started prescribing the safer class of sedative-hypnotics known as benzodiazepines. Physicians still issue relatively few barbiturate prescriptions. Along with the decrease in medical use, their illegal use has also notably deteriorated. However, recent statistics suggest their rate of abuse among teens has risen slightly in the last few years.

Why People Abuse Barbiturates

Individuals misuse barbiturates because they want to experience the sedative chill the pills create. They may manipulate the dose to achieve the high, reduced inhibitions and the ecstasy sensations.

Youth are often oblivious to the risks. They chase the buzz without knowing how addictive barbiturates are, how difficult rehab can be, and how close they come to overdose when they use them.

Sometimes social situations demand that a person high on a stimulant such as meth or cocaine must come down from their high and “look normal.” Stimulant abusers may turn to barbiturates to bring them down. An individual who has a dependency on prescription opiates or heroin may supplement their high with the additional spark a barbiturate can add. Furthermore, a barbiturate can be a stop-gap fix to get them by while they hunt for their next opiate fix.

There are also the “white coat” abusers who are already taking the medication for a legitimate medical purpose. But they go to doctors and pharmacists—people in white coats—seeking higher doses because they’ve started to crave the euphoric and relaxing side effects.
They may return a few times trying to convince their doctor to scale up their dosage as they become more and more tolerant to the drug. And what if their current doctor is hesitant to granting them their wish and bump up the dose? When a patient jumps to a different doctor hoping to persuade the new provider to give them a dangerously high dose, that’s a sign. It’s evidence that they have a drug dependence problem that is well overdue for intervention and rehabilitation.

Barbiturate Detox and Rehab Process

Addiction and overdose are serious issues with barbiturates. Many experts point out that barbiturate detox is more dangerous than heroin detoxification. Dependence is subtle for barbiturate users. But, despite its subtlety, it develops quickly. Users will start to experience symptoms of withdrawal if they don’t dose continually. Some of the withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable and psychologically challenging. But with barbiturates, there are also unpredictably precarious medical complications that may arise. The magnitude of this danger depends upon the individual’s medical history, physiology and the intensity of the dependence. How long they have been addicted to barbiturates may also factor in.

Early in the rehabilitation process, the patient will commence detox, and the withdrawal symptoms will start to appear. Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of alcohol withdrawal. They include:

  • Elevated blood pressure and accelerated heart rate
  • Abnormally rapid breathing
  • Increased body temperature often accompanied by sweating
  • Insomnia and erratic sleep patterns
  • Nausea, stomach cramps and throwing up
  • Panic, anxiety, delirium and hallucinations
  • Tremors, especially in the hands
  • Seizures

People who abuse other drugs alongside barbiturates will experience more intense effects from these first few hours and days of rehab. More than 25 percent of individuals suffering through the barbiturate detoxification process will experience seizures. In medically managed situations, the risk and severity of seizures may be mitigated. When individuals are ready to abandon their barbiturate habit, they should search for a reputable detoxification program overseen by a physician with specialized training in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Doctor oversite ensures safety and increases the odds of successful detoxification.

A wise way to kick-start the rehabilitation process is reaching out to professional detox programs and gathering information. Detoxification refers to the process where drugs are allowed to slowly and safely exit a person’s bloodstream and organs. Medically managed detoxification is the utilization of specific approaches and medical help to oversee the withdrawal process to reduce distress and risks to the person’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Prospective patients should ask rehabilitation centers to consider tapering back your barbiturate dose over a number of days. By gradually reducing the pharmaceutical a little at a time, your brain and body may adjust with less remarkable side effects. The tapering strategy may also curtail your complication risk and make your detox more comfortable.

After detoxification has started, residents start the psychosocial rehabilitation activities. They will work with counselors to learn strategies for avoiding relapse. Group therapy helps patients turn new corners in their life paths while also developing healthy social patterns.


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