Barbiturate Addiction – Symptoms, Effects, and Treatments

Barbiturate Addiction

What are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates fall into a highly addictive and dangerous group of drugs. They are most famous for their sedative and sleep-inducing effects. They first came into use in the 1900s and gained mainstream popularity in the 1960s. However, by the 1970s they saw a rapid decline. This was due to their habit-forming properties that were not conducive to patients’ overall health. In addition, scientists also found that their adverse side effects far outweigh their benefits. As a result, it caused most doctors to switch to other Benzodiazepine type drugs.

Why are Barbiturates addictive?

BarbiturateThere is one main reason why Barbiturates fall into the group of highly addictive drugs. It is due to their effect on the central nervous system (CNS). As a result, they increase the production of dopamine and serotonin. Incidentally, these are the two main chemicals one’s brain produces which stimulate feelings of calmness and joy. Consequently, the user’s system will develop a tolerance to them. As a result, they naturally increase the dosage to achieve the initial results. However, this can be very dangerous. Even the slightest overdose of Barbiturates can cause coma or in the worst case scenario death.

What are the Causes for Barbiturate addiction?

Causes for any type of addiction may vary from one person to another. However, there are three major factors which can cause Barbiturate abuse. They are: genetic, environmental and biological.


The genetic cause for Barbiturates addiction is an individual’s genetic makeup. Usually, it links to the user’s family. For example, a first-degree relative, who may be an addict might mean that you could become an addict too. However, this phenomenon does not necessarily mean that the addict’s offspring will become addicts themselves. In fact, science says that one is more likely of become an addict when directly related to an abuser.


Environmental causes for its use are its link to early exposure to legal or illegal substances. In other words, they use it as the fundamental coping mechanism to alleviate various health issues. For example, this include mental conditions, anxiety, and stress.


Barbiturate abusers are usually users of other substances. Therefore, they revert to Barbiturates to come down from the effects of drugs they ate previously. The psychological reason is that they use it as a means of sedation. Often, they don’t realize the thin line between their therapeutic and toxic effects. They call this type of Barbiturate use as self-medication. Furthermore, doctors highly advise against this.

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Early signs of Barbiturate addiction

The following symptoms are good indicators of an onset of Barbiturate addiction:

  • Difficulty in the thinking process
  • Poor judgment
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Slow/slurred speech patterns
  • Lethargy
  • Extreme sleepiness or even coma
  • Poor coordination
  • Inability to walk properly/stumbling

Symptoms of ongoing Barbiturate addiction

  • Irritability
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Unusual excitement
  • Lack of coordination
  • Sluggishness
  • Dependence
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Visual problems
  • Inability to urinate
  • Dilated pupils

Effects of Barbiturate Addiction

The long-term effects of the addiction manifest themselves differently in each user. For example, some of the most common long-term effects of Barbiturate, this highly addictive substance are:

  • Forced/dysfunctional interpersonal relationships
  • Decreased in alertness
  • Inability to function efficiently
  • Irritability
  • Loss of memory
  • Divorce
  • Liver damage
  • Heart issues/CNS damage
  • Respiratory depression and arrest
  • Confusion
  • Uncontrolled behavior
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

How is Barbiturate addiction treated?

Presently, you need the help of a medical professional to weaning off of Barbiturates. That way, they can provide adequate help to Barbiturate addicts. Consequently, they highly advise users to enter a detox center where they can start their rehab process. This is due to the severity of the Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms.

What to expect when entering a detox center?

  • Barbiturate detox programs include medicine and treatment that lessens withdrawal symptoms. They happen when barbiturate intake ceases. Therefore, they’ll closely monitor you after your admission into a hospital.
  • To help prevent withdrawal symptoms your doctor will gradually lower your daily doses of Barbiturates.
  • To avoid anti anxiety attacks, they might give you the appropriate sedative.

Barbiturate Withdrawal Side Effects

Withdrawal symptoms can be mild or severe and can last between two weeks to two months. Of course, this depends on the time span of Barbiturate intake and the amount of drug the user took. Some of the most common physical side effects may include nausea, fever, vomiting, seizures, weakness. Meanwhile, the mental symptoms may include agitation, delirium, seeing things, sleep disturbances, anxiety, etc.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Some Barbiturate abusers may over time experience a variety of co-occurring (mental) illnesses. Many of them became addicts of the drugs. As a result, it can cause a new set of problems. For example, some of the most common co-occurring disorders are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Alcoholism
  • Conduct disorder

Barbiturate addiction statistics

Barbiturate use saw a rapid decline in the 1970s. However, it is still one of the most dangerous and most common CNS depressants. Notably, the abuse is especially high by teenagers. Barbiturate overdose results in hundreds of deaths nationwide. Furthermore, they are the reason for about 1500 visits to the E.R. annually. Scientists and doctors highly advise against self-medication. Therefore, they strive towards completely excluding what they once thought was a medical breakthrough.

Barbiturate Addiction – Symptoms, Effects, and Treatments

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