Before benzodiazepines, barbiturates were the drugs of choice for treating the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders, as well as for many kinds of seizures disorders. However, due to their numerous dangerous side effects as well as their high potential for abuse and addiction, barbiturates fell out of vogue around the 1970s and 80s, with benzos becoming the new anti-anxiety drug.
This is not to say that barbiturates are no longer in use. Despite their extremely restricted access, they are still sometimes prescribed in treating seizure disorders, and even more rarely as sedatives. For the most part, though, it is rare to see barbiturates used outside of a medical setting, namely as an anesthetic, although they are sometimes used illicitly for recreation.
Part of the issues with tracking barbiturate abuse statistics, however, is that since it can be so difficult to obtain barbiturates, the number of individuals abusing them has decreased to the extent that it can be very hard to obtain enough data to provide reliable abuse statistics.
Nonetheless, barbiturates, including Brevital, are still floating around and able to be obtained through illicit means, and therefore still very dangerous, as Brevital addiction can quickly become deadly. Barbiturates are extremely powerful, which is why they are so frequently used as an anesthesia, and as such, someone can quickly become dependent on them and have a high likelihood of overdosing.
Brevital is a barbiturate that, while it is only meant to be used for anesthetic purposes in a hospital or clinical setting via injection, is still sometimes abused for illicit means. It can be prescribed to patients outside of a hospital in the form of Brevital Sodium. It is alarmingly easy to escalate from Brevital misuse to abuse, eventually progressing to full-blown addiction.
Some of the ways in which people engage in Brevital abuse include:
While it may be in a separate chemical classification from benzodiazepines, Brevital, like the majority of barbiturates, works in an extremely similar way, entering the body and binding with a neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is responsible for regulating how the body responds to stress, anxiety, and fear, and inhibits the nerve signals responsible for causing these feelings in order to calm the body down.
As a central nervous system depressant, what Brevital does is bind to the brain’s GABA receptors, activating them and stimulating them to overproduction, greatly increasing the levels of GABA and its anxiety-blocking effects, which is what causes the feelings of drowsiness and relaxation when someone takes it. These effects are what makes Brevital useful for including anesthesia in a hospital setting.
Unlike most barbiturates, however, rather than helping to block the irregular electrical activity that contributes to seizures, Brevital actually lowers the user’s seizure threshold, which makes it particularly useful when anesthesia is provided for electroconvulsive therapy but makes it extremely unsafe for people prone to epilepsy.
Brevital is also one of the fastest-acting barbiturates with an extremely short half-life. Users who are administered Brevital as an anesthesia typically regain consciousness within seven minutes of being induced and fully recover within about a half hour. Due to this rapidity, someone abusing Brevital is more likely to accidentally overdose by taking too much in an effort to make the high last longer.
When a person who has been abusing Brevital long enough has become psychologically and physically dependent on it, their brain will have stopped producing GABA on its own, relying on the supply that comes from the drug in order to function properly.
Barbiturate use and abuse can have extremely serious health consequences, and Brevital is no different. Even just in the short-term, the effects of misusing barbiturates can easily lead to potentially life-threatening situations. Brevital intoxication mimics many of the symptoms of heavy alcohol use, and in the short-term, the effects of Brevital use include:
If taken at a high dose, which users are more likely to do with Brevital due to how brief the actual high is, they are more likely to experience:
When someone has been engaging in long-term Brevital abuse, the effects include
Even when used for its intended purpose under the supervision of a physician, regular Brevital use requires incredibly careful monitoring, as it has contraindications with literally dozens of other medications, and can sometimes provoke extremely negative allergic reactions, including
The signs of a growing addiction to Brevital may not be as readily visible as you might first think. It can be easy to handwave observations like changes in mood, sleepiness, or an increased sensitivity to things like sound or pain. However, as these traits begin to all manifest concurrently, it becomes more readily apparent that something is wrong.
Being able to recognize and identify the behaviors that serve as a signal of a growing dependence on Brevital can mean the difference between life and death, as the sooner the addiction is identified, the sooner the person in question can get the treatment they need before it is too late.
As obtaining and using Brevital becomes the top priority in someone’s life, overshadowing work, school, friends, and family, there are also other behaviors that will make themselves apparent that are associated with not only Brevital addiction but also substance use disorders in general. These behaviors may sometimes be easier to spot than the signs that are specific to Brevital addiction.
Some of the signs of Brevital addiction and addictive behaviors include:
If you have observed these signs of Brevital addiction in someone you care about or in yourself, it is critical that you seek professional addiction treatment, starting with medical detoxification for you or your loved one to stop the physical and psychological damage that may have already been caused by Brevital abuse.
Effective Brevital addiction treatment starts the way any successful addiction recovery treatment program should, with a carefully monitored medical detox. While Brevital withdrawal is not necessarily a life-threatening situation, it is still extremely uncomfortable and difficult to deal with and can be dangerous for someone to attempt on their own without any kind of professional medical intervention.
Some of the withdrawal symptoms associated with Brevital and Brevital Sodium include:
Between symptoms like seizures, which can easily put someone in a life-threatening situation and the combination of less overtly dangerous symptoms such as panic attacks and hallucinations, it’s all the more important to undergo Brevital detox at a professional detoxification facility.
When someone chooses to detox under the supervision of a medical professional, they can avoid the dangers of these withdrawal symptoms and the extremely high risk of relapsing before making completing the process of withdrawal.
A doctor can also help to ensure a safer, smoother detox experience by putting someone on a tapering regimen to slowly wean them off of Brevital by lowering the dosage over a specific period of time until it has been deemed safe for them to stop using altogether. This lowers the risk of withdrawal symptoms such as seizures as well as other potential complications.
Detox doctors can also provide medications to decrease as much discomfort caused by the symptoms of Brevital withdrawal as possible and use it in medication-assisted treatment as part of their tapering schedule.
Once someone has finished their detox process, the next step in Brevital addiction treatment is to check into an addiction rehabilitation treatment program. All detoxification can do is flush the drugs from someone’s system. It does not address the addictive behaviors that led to someone becoming dependent on Brevital, and without entering into recovery treatment, relapse is all but guaranteed.
Depending on the severity of someone’s Brevital addiction, they may choose to do this on either an inpatient or outpatient basis, working to understand the issues that lie at the root of their addiction and gain the tools and skills necessary for managing and staying sober in the long-term. Each person’s treatment program will look a bit different based on what is deemed to be most effective for them, but they all will most likely involve at least some of the following:
As we have illustrated, Brevital is extremely dangerous, with a whole host of negative effects and interactions with other drugs and medications. It is very easy to accidentally overdose on Brevital, which could have fatal consequences. The signs and symptoms of a Brevital overdose include:
Some other adverse effects that can occur as a consequence of a Brevital overdose include injuries to the head, neck, spine, or other parts of the body from a fall, pneumonia from inhaling vomit or other liquids, or miscarriages in pregnant women.
If someone is experiencing a Brevital overdose, it is vital that emergency medical services are sought out as soon as possible to avoid as much as damage as possible, as well as the possibility of a fatal overdose.
Even then, there remains a lack of an obvious antidote for a barbiturate overdose as opposed to drugs like naloxone for opioid overdoses. This is all the more reason to avoid the dangers of Brevital abuse, as there is an extremely high risk of overdosing and being unable to come back from it.
Barbiturate Tolerance: Effects on GABA-Operated Chloride Channel Function. (2003, March 17). from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/000689939291583Z?via=ihub
Brevital (methohexital) dosing, indications, interactions, adverse effects, and more. (2017, July 14). from https://reference.medscape.com/drug/brevital-methohexital-343090
Brevital Sodium – Drug Summary. (n.d.). from http://www.pdr.net/drug-summary/Brevital-Sodium-methohexital-sodium-1769