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Phenobarbital Recreational Use: Crushing And Snorting

Last Updated: March 20, 2024

Authored by Roger Weiss, MD

Reviewed by Dr. Norman Chazin

Ways To Getting High On Phenobarbital

It is possible to get phenobarbital high by increasing the dose and taking the drug in several ways other than oral administration. But how much phenobarbital to get high may vary for every individual. Doctors may prescribe anywhere from 30-120 mg as a daytime sedative, while others may take as much as 320 mg for insomnia daily. Going above and beyond these recommended doses and increasing the frequency of intake may get one high on phenobarbital. Such behavior is highly inadvisable, because it raises the chances of Phenobarbital side effects to appear as well as raises risks of overdose.

Aside from oral administration, abusers may take Luminal in other ways to get high:


Abusers sometimes snort phenobarbital. The drug is crushed into a powder form and snorted. However, snorting phenobarbital may cause infection and damage to the nasal pathways, septum, and other surrounding tissues.


Can phenobarbital be crushed for smoking? After crushing, the drug is heated on a foil and then inhaled. This offers a faster way for the medicine to take effect as it passes directly into the bloodstream via the nose and the lungs.

Injecting or Shooting

Shooting is also known in phenobarbital recreational users. As with preparing the drug for snorting and smoking, shooting Luminal even starts with crushing it into a powder form. The drug is then dissolved in water and injected into a vein or muscle. This method presents a higher risk of a fatal overdose as the drug is introduced and absorbed into the body more quickly. One may immediately suffer from an increased heart rate, muscle weakness, erratic movements, fainting spells, and more.


Swallowing Phenobarb folded and rolled in a piece of tissue or paper is commonly done to secure a faster and prolonged “high” feeling while avoiding the unpleasant taste of the drug. The paper acts as a parachute, which causes a sustained release of the drug. This technique, however, may cause airway obstruction and bowel perforation if one accidentally inhaled the paper. There are signs of stomach pain and difficulty breathing.


Unlike solid suppositories, Luminal used for plugging is crushed into powder and mixed with water to create a solution that will be injected into the anus using an oral syringe. The effect is also faster and more intense high. However, plugging increases one’s risk of painful injuries in the rectum, which may develop into lacerations and ulceration.
man holding a phenobarbital pill to get high

How Long It Takes For Phenobarb To Kick In

Phenobarbital, as mentioned earlier, can be administered in different forms. Each has its speed of taking effect and dosages. Regardless of phenobarbital brand, tablets and elixirs generally start to act within 30-60 minutes. How long does phenobarbital last will depend on the dose and individual metabolism, but the average is for 5-12 hours. Phenobarb half-life in adults is approximately 79 hours. It takes 5-6 half-lives for the drug to be entirely excreted from the body.

Phenobarbital High Feeling

Generally, barbiturates can be thought of as brain relaxers like alcohol. Their effects are very similar. While phenobarbital for alcohol withdrawal has become an alternative to the standard Benzodiazepine-based therapy to reduce costs and complications, when combined, these two can be lethal.

People abuse Luminal to get high. Early effects that bring desirable results, which are described as being similar to alcohol intoxication, include:

  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of calmness and relaxation
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased ability to sleep
  • A heightened sense of well-being
  • Enhanced self-confidence

However, these benefits are counteracted by a slew of CNS depressing effects, which include:

  • Slowed heartbeat
  • Altered consciousness
  • Clouded thinking
  • Judgment issues
  • Slurring of speech

Who Is More Likely To Get High On Phenobarbital

Patients with Mental Conditions

Though it is not common for mental illnesses to co-occur with phenobarb abuse and addiction, they can still trigger drug abuse as a way to cope or self-medicate.

Patients Using Other Medications

Drug combinations and interactions may change how this drug works and increase one’s risk for serious side effects. The use of opioids, cough relievers, marijuana, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, and antihistamines can get one high quickly because of their sedative effects. Primidone is very similar to Luminal. Combining drugs with primidone and phenobarbital can amplify its sedating effects.


The concomitant use of alcohol and phenobarb may also produce additive CNS depressant effects, which makes one feel very high.

Users Who Smoke or Inject Phenobarbital

Patients Who Use Higher Doses

Higher doses of Phenobarb can get people high quickly. It also increases one’s risk of developing drug tolerance and addiction.

Phenobarb Recreational Use Statistics

Due to its sedating and hypnotic effects, which can quickly get people high, Phenobarbital abuse is widespread.

Due to its high potential for abuse, many are asking if Phenobarbital is a narcotic. It’s a sedative drug or a barbiturate classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance by the DFA. It may highly result in the development of physical dependence when used long-term, but it does not refer to the narcotic class.

Recreational Use Of Phenobarbital And Addiction

Phenobarbital, despite being a prescription drug, is available to the general public. Aside from street vendors, buying phenobarbital online is fast and easy! With good access to these highly addictive pills, recreational use is fairly common.

Attempts to stop drug use immediately will cause intense cravings and make one physically ill. With high and frequent doses, Phenobarb side effects can be fatal. Hence it is imperative to have a regular basis consult with a doctor for medications and individual or group therapies in the rehab facilities. Addiction treatment is covered by insurance in most cases.

Page Sources

  1. Jane Carlisle Maxwell. Trends in the Abuse of Prescription Drugs. The Center for Excellence in Drug Epidemology. The Gulf Coast Addiction Technology Transfer Center. The University of Texas at Austin. http://socialwork.utexas.edu/dl/files/cswr/institutes/ari/pdf/PrescriptionTrends_Web.pdf
  2. Yutrzenka GJ, Kosse K. Dependence on phenobarbital but not pentobarbital using drug-adulterated food. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1989. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2798538

Published on: March 15th, 2024

Updated on: March 20th, 2024

About Author

Roger Weiss, MD

Dr. Roger Weiss is a practicing mental health specialist at the hospital. Dr. Weiss combines his clinical practice and medical writing career since 2009. Apart from these activities, Dr. Weiss also delivers lectures for youth, former addicts, and everyone interested in topics such as substance abuse and treatment.

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Norman Chazin


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