TABLE OF CONTENTS
What Are Barbiturates?
Barbiturates belong to a class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics. Since the 1960s and 1970s, they had been used extensively to treat the symptoms of insomnia, seizures, anxiety, and headaches.
As the drug is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, barbiturates mechanism of action involves enhancing the action of GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter, in inhibiting the nerve cell activity in the brain. They are available as capsules, oral solutions, and powder form for injections.
Drugs like amobarbital, pentobarbital, and phenobarbital fall under the same category. These days, barbiturates uses are limited because of the high risk of overdose dangers. They are still used as anesthesia for pre-operative sedation in hospital settings.
During the 1950’ and 1960s, barbiturates abuse was highly rampant. Since the effects of taking the drug in the same amounts can vary from person to person, users wildly craved for it. One milligram of the drug when consumed can cause drowsiness to someone, while in some, it can create a sense of euphoria, and for others, it can be poisonous.
Coupled with the high risk of the physical and psychological addiction potential of barbiturates, even a usage period of one month can show lasting consequences in the user’s physical health and behavior. It can significantly alter the functioning and structure of the brain. However, once barbiturates overdose deaths became commonplace, its use came down.
As mentioned earlier, their medical properties helped physicians to prescribe this powerful drug to their patients with insomnia, anxiety disorders, seizure disorders, and other psychological and mental health issues. As medical prescriptions of barbiturates substantially reduced in the past ten years, the same period saw an increased street abuse of the sedative.
Why Do Addicts Start Taking Barbiturates?
Addicts mainly use barbiturates to slow down the effects of other drugs or help stabilize substance abuse symptoms. Barbiturates effects can counteract the withdrawal symptoms due to quitting or lack of amphetamines.
However, they can quickly get addicted to the drug, and barbiturates side effects start to show. It produces a similar buzz and intoxication as you do after alcohol consumption. Given the fact that barbiturates’ therapeutic-to-toxic window is very narrow, it is as easier to reach an intoxicated state for one user as it is for another to experience life-threatening consequences, such as coma or death – especially if the individual is also using other prescription medication.
The relaxation effects and sleepiness caused in patients after intaking barbiturates have earned the drug the street name of “downers” because they offset the feeling of exhilaration produced by consuming stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines.
However, the use of barbiturates can also cause a high in the patients and they may get intoxicated with a slight rise in the dosage of the drug. This makes it difficult even for experienced doctors to calculate the right dose that is deemed safe for a person, and a slight miscalculation may result in a barbiturate overdose and lead to coma or death.
This is also one of the primary reasons that many barbiturates in the U.S. are now classified as scheduled II, III, and IV drugs. Some of the common barbiturates that are easily available in the American market are Butisol, Seconal, and Nembutal. Based on their form, color, shape, and use, they are known by common names like blue devils, yellow jackets, purple hearts, red birds, gorilla pills, goof balls, and more.
Misusing Barbiturates with Other Substances
Overdose cases mostly report simultaneous alcohol or multi-drug use, either using opiates, hydrocodone, oxycodone, or other medication. These drugs, when combined, can cause serious symptoms like suppressed breathing and respiratory depression. More often than not, such multiple-drug overdose can lead to respiratory failure and exacerbate the condition, causing the person to become comatose.
Typically, people whose primary drug of choice is alcohol or heroin have barbiturates as the secondary drug of abuse. Co-administering substances like liquor, heroin, or other opioids and even benzos along with barbiturates increases the risk for overdose. Long-term users may experience severe barbiturates withdrawal within 8 to 15 hours after taking the last dose of the drug.
The drug must not be taken by pregnant women as studies show that barbiturates effects on the body can impact the health of the fetus or in the least, cause disfiguration and disabilities in the child. Especially if pregnant women take the drug during their third trimester, the infant can get addicted and undergo withdrawal symptoms for an extended period. Besides, individuals with severe liver, respiratory, or kidney diseases must not take barbiturates.
What to Do in the Case of Barbiturates Overdose?
In case there is an overdose incident while using barbiturates or any other drug or a combination, instantly call the local emergency number or 911. To find out if someone has taken it, look for signs like breathing problems or extreme fatigue that came all of a sudden.
If the reaction was accidental and not deliberate, or if you suspect poisoning, call the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1800-222-1222). It is a free service and you will have a swift response wherever you live in the United States. You can get valuable suggestions from experts in the field and by following the further instructions given by them, you can administer first aid to the inflicted persons. It is not just in an emergency but you can reach any local poison control center in the country with this contact number. They work 24/7 to clear your doubts about poisoning.
Barbiturates Addiction Symptoms
The drug is being replaced by benzodiazepines, which are relatively safer, yet possess a similar risk of addiction, but a less abuse potential. Among the ultra-short-acting, long-acting, and intermediate-acting forms, barbiturates abusers prefer short-acting drugs or intermediate pills.
For the barbiturates side effects to subside, it takes up to six hours for short or intermediate-acting types and up to two days for long-acting barbiturates variants. The narrow difference between a medication’s toxic and therapeutic dose is termed as a Therapeutic Index.
Most of the barbiturates overdose cases occur due to self-medication by individuals. Abusers mostly start the habit to reduce anxiety or mitigate the long-term side effects of other drugs, or to lessen their inhibitions.
Barbiturates addiction issues show symptoms such as:
- Dizziness and sedative effects
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Inability to think clearly
- Kidney dysfunction
- Reduced heart rate and breathing
- Seizures and coma
Furthermore, mixing barbiturates and alcohol or any other stimulant drugs can cause extremely intoxicated or drowsy, impaired thinking, blackouts, and loss of memory.
Causes & Risk Factors
It is difficult to point to one risk factor as the root cause of barbiturates addiction. Similar to many other drug addictions, the reasons can range from financial situations to pre-existing health conditions to emotional problems like a recent divorce. Most probably, all of those combined can push a person close towards addiction to barbiturates.
Genetic: If someone from your family has an addiction to any drug or alcohol, you may likely have an addiction to barbiturates or other substances. You have relatively more chances when compared to the general population with a risk of developing an addiction. Studies do not substantiate this fact but suggest to the correlation that family members play an important role.
Biological: People having dopamine (a neurotransmitter that induces pleasurable sensations while performing activities you may like, such as eating, playing, etc.) deficiencies in their brain since birth may need barbiturates to self-medicate to correct this.
Environmental: When the drug resurgence started in recent years, the popularity of barbiturates shot through the sky, partly due to the increased usage of stimulants like coke. To lessen those drug effects, barbiturates were used, but the drug itself is capable of delivering highly-dangerous effects.
Psychological: Patients suffering from underlying mental illnesses like to use barbiturates to counteract negative feelings. People with anxiety issues, mania, paranoia, bipolar disorder, and other psychological and psychosomatic problems choose this drug on their own instead of seeking the right procedure.
Getting Rid of Your Barbiturates Addiction
Withdrawing from this dangerous drug must happen in the presence of trained medical staff. Otherwise, if you do not give any discernible warning before stopping its use, you may go into a phase called, barbiturates withdrawal. Side effects of barbiturates withdrawal also differ with individuals, but even if you think you have detected mild signs, they can escalate soon enough and turn your situation into a severe stage that requires immediate medical intervention.
So, without any delay, you must find competent help and get the necessary treatment. If you find yourself all alone and do not know who to approach, there are several useful resources online. Apart from government websites and healthcare centers, you can also go to private medical facilities that can assist you. They can protect your privacy by adding you to a group session while you remain anonymous. Sometimes, depending on the intensity of your symptoms and the severity of the addiction, you may have to join a residential program.
Even at our website, AddictionAide, you can find help for prolonged drug abuse and barbiturates drugs side effects. If you or any family member or friend is addicted to barbiturates, locate the nearest inpatient drug rehab center that can take you in. Or, give us a call to receive the much-needed help.