The barbiturate class of drugs includes short-acting and long-acting sedatives that are used to treat insomnia, anxiety and seizure disorders. These medications are used less and less frequently in medical treatment, and one of the reasons for their replacement with newer drugs is their potential for abuse. Bored teens having dullness keeping the drug on handsBarbiturate addiction treatment is most often necessary for recreational drug users, who obtain barbiturate drugs illegally either through street dealers or who obtain and fill medical prescriptions under false pretenses. Illegal use or prescribing of barbiturate drugs is a criminal offense in the United States, as these medications are classified under the Controlled Substances Act, which restricts and monitors their prescription and sale. The first medical use of barbiturates dates back to 1904 when the precursor to today’s barbiturate drugs was introduced in Germany for the treatment of mental illness.

Barbiturate sedatives are often used by addicts to counteract the side effects of other drugs such as heroin and cocaine or to extend the feeling of intense pleasure caused by other abused substances. Barbiturate detox may also involve medical treatment for addiction to heroin, cocaine or even alcohol, and barbiturate rehab may include counseling and treatment for multiple substance addictions.

The effects of barbiturates when taken alone are similar to those of alcohol intoxication, and these effects are valued by recreational drug users who become addicted to barbiturates. If you or a loved one needs to find out more about barbiturate addiction treatment as well as treatment for addiction to other substances used along with barbiturates, please call our toll-free helpline for substance addiction treatment and recovery at 1-888-287-0471 Who Answers? . We will assist you in getting the help you need for yourself or someone you care about, and there is never any fee or obligation for using our services.

About 16 million Americans 12 years of age or older took prescription medications, including barbiturates, for recreational or other non-medical purposes in 2009.

Symptoms and Signs of Barbiturate Addiction

Barbiturate addiction leads to physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms that warrant immediate addiction treatment. The treatment is necessary because barbiturate drugs bind to specific receptors in the brain that send messages to the body based on the presence of the drug in the system. When these receptors are overwhelmed by increased presence of barbiturates, messages from the brain to other vital organs in the body become scrambled, and the body does not function properly. Moreover, once the barbiturate drugs are abruptly discontinued, the lack of these substances will cause the receptors to malfunction even more severely. The improper communication between the brain and the body when barbiturates are suddenly discontinued cause uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms that require detox to prevent the patient from self-medicating these symptoms with even higher doses of barbiturates.

The behavioral, emotional and physical signs of abuse and addiction may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech and confusion
  • Breathing difficulties including shallow breathing
  • Behavioral changes including excitement and irritability
  • Improper judgment and memory loss
  • Dangerous behavior such as driving when using barbiturates
  • Neglect of routine responsibilities
  • Social and family difficulties

Barbiturate addiction treatment should be considered as soon as a suspected recreational drug user exhibits one or more of these signs on a regular basis. In the event of suspected barbiturate overdose, which often results in very intense instances of the more severe symptoms of abuse such as shallow breathing, immediate medical treatment is necessary as brain damage or even death can result from an overdose of barbiturate sedatives.

If you or a loved one needs help after experiencing the effects of barbiturate abuse and addiction, we are here for you; call 1-888-287-0471 Who Answers? .


In 2005, 56,000 cases of barbiturate abuse symptoms were treated in hospitals throughout the United States.

Barbiturate Detox and Rehab

Medical detoxification is the first step in treating barbiturate addiction. It is given to minimize the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms, such as a rise in body temperature, hallucinations, delirium and disorientation. If a patient is also addicted to alcohol or other substances such as opiates that contribute to their own withdrawal symptoms, medical specialists will usually administer detoxification only on an inpatient basis as it becomes a complex procedure. Milder cases of addiction to barbiturates alone can sometimes be treated by substituting the drug being abused with pentobarbital, which is the slowest acting of the barbiturates. The dosage of pentobarbital is gradually reduced until the patient is no longer dependent on it to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepine tranquilizers may also be used in barbiturate detox, especially in residential addiction treatment facilities.

“Three to four weeks of intensive inpatient counseling usually follow residential detoxification.”Once the detoxification procedure has progressed to the point that the patient can function normally without excessive doses of mind-altering barbiturates, counseling and behavior modification treatment can begin. This treatment is designed to help addicts recover by dealing with the root causes of their addictions and finding constructive ways of responding to stresses and other triggers that caused them to turn to barbiturates.

Three to four weeks of intensive inpatient counseling usually follow residential detoxification. The facilities used for this counseling are often pleasant and reminiscent of luxury resorts, and they are located in pleasant natural settings. This helps addicts focus on recovery as they are provided with training in art, music, exercise, sports, meditation and other means of relaxation that reinforce the counseling process by providing constructive methods of stress relief.

Once this period of intensive rehab ends and the patient is discharged, outpatient therapy by accredited addiction counselors begins. These counselors also assist patients who are completing a gradual course of outpatient barbiturate detox. They teach or provide further reinforcement of positive thought processes to replace drug use, and they may also offer career or family counseling.

Self-help groups such as those based on the 12-step program may also be recommended to accompany outpatient counseling. They are free of charge and voluntary, so recovering addicts can continue to participate in this form of barbiturate addiction treatment as long as they wish to do so.

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