Since the 20th century, we have been looking for new ways to help us relax. While that may be an oversimplification, there are a variety of common ailments that are caused by an overactive nervous system including insomnia, anxiety, and seizures. Millions of people are affected by each of these issues, creating an urgent need for medications that can relieve these symptoms. Barbiturates are one of the oldest modern treatments for sleep disorders and epilepsy. However, they have also become infamous for their tendency to cause chemical dependence and addiction.

Seconal is one such barbiturate that is still sometimes used to induce sleep, relaxation, and provide relief for symptoms caused by an overactive nervous system. But it’s a drug that also has a potential for abuse because of its ability to cause euphoric intoxication.

The drug was once a popular medication in the 1960s, but today, barbiturates have largely been outmoded. Its utilization has since taken a darker turn. Many illicit drug users take Seconal to assist them as they “come down,” which is when the effects of a drug start to wear off, causing unpleasant symptoms. It is also the most common drug to be used in the controversial “physician-assisted suicide.”

What is Seconal?

Seconal is the trade name for secobarbital sodium, a barbiturate that was patented in 1934. It has anesthetic, anticonvulsant, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), sedative, and hypnotic effects. However, it’s primarily used today to treat epilepsy and insomnia. In some cases, it can be used as an anesthetic for short procedures.

As a barbiturate, Seconal is in a class of drugs called central nervous system (CNS) depressants that work to slow down your nervous system. Depressants generally work by increasing the efficiency of a neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA. This chemical binds to and activates receptors that regulate your nervous system’s excitability. Barbiturates increase the power of the receptors affects, and when it’s activated by its natural neurotransmitter, its potency is increased.

As a result, barbiturates increase the hypnotic, sedative, and anticonvulsant effects of the GABA receptor. The drug also has the potential to slow down some of the other nervous system functions like breathing, heart rate, and reaction time. Users will often feel calm, drowsy, or listless when taking a barbiturate-like Seconal. In many cases, users under the influence of Seconal can have impaired motor functions, cognitive ability, and coordination, which makes it dangerous to drive or operate heavy machinery.

Seconal is sometimes abused as a recreational drug because of its ability to make users feel relaxed, content, and euphoric. However, using barbiturates for too long or using high doses can lead to physical and psychological dependence and addiction. Even with normal use as a therapy for sleep disorders, patients are advised to take the drug for seven to 10 days but not more than two weeks. Using barbiturates for more than two weeks can lead to dependence, but it may also worsen symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. 

As your brain gets used to the drug, it will come to rely on it to maintain a normal chemical balance. If you stop using the drug, you may experience something called rebounding, which is when the symptoms you originally took the drug to remedy come back, sometimes worse.

What are the Signs of Seconal Addiction?

Seconal addiction is a disease that can occur when you use the drug for too long or when you use it recreationally. The longer you use Seconal, the more likely you are to develop dependence or addiction. Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease, but there are a few warning signs the can let you know that there’s a problem. If you are using a psychoactive drug for medicinal or recreational use, you should monitor for any developing tolerance.

Tolerance is often the first sign of a developing substance use disorder, and it’s marked by the feeling that the drug’s effects are diminishing. You may feel that you need to take higher or more frequent doses to achieve the same effects that you experienced when you first started using. This is most common when it comes to recreational use, but it can occur with therapeutic use. 

Tolerance is often followed by dependence. If you start to feel uncomfortable symptoms when you stop using Seconal or if you cut back, it could indicate a developing chemical dependence. In this stage, you may feel the need to continue using the drug to maintain a feeling of normalcy. You’re no longer taking the drug as a form of recreation but to avoid uncomfortable symptoms.

If you continue to use, dependence can turn into addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction is characterized by drug use that continues even despite negative consequences. For instance, if Seconal intoxication causes your work performance to suffer, and you lose your job but you still continue to use, it indicates a possible addiction.

If you’re are worried about someone else in your family that you feel might be suffering from a substance use disorder involving barbiturates, there are several signs you might be able to look out for, including:

  • Mood swings
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Shallow breathing
  • Isolationism
  • Lying about drug use
  • Hiding drugs
  • Poor coordination or motor control
  • Poor judgment 
  • Intoxication similar to drunkenness

If you or a loved one has become addicted to barbiturates like Seconal, it’s important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Quitting, especially suddenly, can cause potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. 

How Seconal Addiction Treatment Works

Seconal addiction may be chronic, but it’s also treatable with evidence-based therapies and certified medical and clinical professionals. Because Seconal withdrawal can be potentially deadly without medical intervention, the safest way to begin treatment is to go through medical detox, a process that involves 24 hours of medical care every day. Detox usually lasts for about a week. During that week you will be treated by medical professionals in order to avoid dangerous symptoms and ease the uncomfortable effects of withdrawal.

After detox, you may continue your pursuit of recovery in one of the major levels of care after detox, including:

  • Residential Inpatient services
  • Intensive outpatient
  • Outpatient services

In addiction treatment, you will meet with a therapist and other clinicians to help address any underlying issues that may have contributed to your substance use disorder. Addiction treatment plans need to be tailored to the individual to be effective, so you may go through a variety of therapies that are ideal for your needs. Through this process, you will learn to cope with cravings and triggers while developing a relapse prevention plan.

How Dangerous is Seconal?

As a barbiturate, Seconal is a potent drug with a high likelihood for addiction. Barbiturates were once a very popular class of medicinal drug, but they became infamous for their adverse effects. Seconal can cause side effects like dizziness, impaired coordination, and drowsiness that can lead to accidents and injuries. The side effects of Seconal are made worse when it’s taken with alcohol, opioids, or other nervous system depressants.

If you take a high dose of Seconal or combine it with other drugs or alcohol, you increase your likelihood of experiencing a fatal overdose. During an overdose, your nervous system can be affected to the point of suppressing your breathing, leading to brain damage, coma, or death.

Withdrawal symptoms can also be dangerous. If you have become dependent on the drug and you quit suddenly, you may experience dangerous symptoms like tremors, seizures, and delirium that can prove fatal. Ask your doctor before attempting to quit Seconal.

Barbiturate Abuse Statistics

  • Though they are not commonly used medicinally, barbiturates killed 396 people in 2013.
  • Only 12 of the more than 2,500 barbiturate medications are currently used today for medical purposes.

Barbiturate overdose is fatal 10 percent of the time, typically when medical help is not available.

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