Barbiturate Withdrawal

Barbiturates were developed in the late 19th century and were used as a depressant or sedative drug. This drug has been in the market for various decades and became popular during the 1960s and 1970s.  Barbiturates are known for being highly addictive both psychologically and physically.

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The risk of a fatal overdose is very present with barbiturates. Many sedatives on the market today warn users about strong withdrawal symptoms. However, sudden usage withdrawal of barbiturates can cause a severe physical dependence, which can result in death.

Barbiturates are a sedative that is derived from barbituric acid and was once used to treat anxiety, epilepsy, insomnia, and seizure disorders. Many times, the drug is abused to harness its euphoric and relaxing effects that propagate in the brain.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the dangers of this drug were widely known, prompting some doctors to be more cautious about dosage. What many people don’t know is that even medical prescriptions can lead to dependence and fatal results.

Fighting Addiction Yourself is Difficult. Let Our Experts Help!

Fighting Addiction Yourself is Difficult. Let Our Experts Help!

brain during barbiturate withdrawal

How Barbiturates Affect the Brain

Barbiturates are effective in slowing the processes of the body’s central nervous system to stimulate the brain’s neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid or GABA. They increase drowsiness, relaxation, and slow down the heart rate and breathing. Many of the psychoactive effects that barbiturates induce are similar to that of alcohol intoxication.

This drug can cause strong headaches, nausea, and lightheadedness. It’s been reported that people who abuse barbiturates usually have trouble falling asleep or staying calm.

Getting high on barbiturates gives you a feeling of euphoria, relaxation, peace, and sense of well-being overall even though initially this was not the purpose for the drug’s development. When a habit of abuse ensues in a person’s daily life, some people resort to crushing the pills into powder and later sniffing them, injecting them, or mixing them with water and drinking.

The feeling of sedation prompts people to abuse the drug more and more. An addict will seek to increase the dosage each time because the brain becomes dependent on the drug as the body becomes more tolerant. It is in these moments that the drug becomes fatal and overdoses are common.

What You Can Expect From Barbiturate Withdrawal

Barbiturates can produce various psychological and physical symptoms during the withdrawal phase. Many of the symptoms include anxiety, restlessness, insomnia,  psychosis, seizures, and body tremors.

If the symptoms are not treated immediately, the result might be circulatory failure, hypothermia, and even death. Barbiturate usage during pregnancy is never recommended because the baby can become addicted in utero. When the baby is born, he or she will start to develop severe withdrawal symptoms.

It is a fact that up to 75 percent of people who withdraw from barbiturates will experience either one or more seizures along with the elevation of body temperature and other common side effects. Delirium is also a common factor in 66 percent of the people dealing with withdrawal. If not treated immediately these symptoms can worsen and lead to high fever, heart failure and eventually a fatal consequence.

Barbiturate Withdrawal Timeline

Barbiturate withdrawal is one of the most severe of any sedative on the market right now. The detox timeline, which is evidence-based, takes one month.

Barbiturates are typically prescribed for short-term use in low doses during this time. If a person becomes addicted during this phase, the effects felt can be a bit milder versus someone who has been taking the drug for a longer time. Quantity and prolonged use is always a determining factor for how long and how powerful the symptoms will be.


During the first few days of withdrawal, a person will begin to experience a series of symptoms that are harsh and difficult to manage. The most lethal symptoms are present with the highest intensity. It is now that people will begin to experience seizures, strong body aches, anxiety, weakness, insomnia, delirium, and sweating.


The person may begin to manifest mood swings, irritability, and fast heart rate. They may still face strong symptoms, but the threat of death is much lower compared to the initial first few days of quitting cold turkey.


Most of the symptoms revolve around emotional issues that still manifest during the patient’s day-to-day activities. A strong sense of depression ensues in the person’s mind. Acute symptoms such as seizures will also begin to decline significantly during the second week.


If the person can make it through the first month without any severe problems, such as relapse, or experimenting with other substances, they are physically better than they were a few weeks ago. However, there are still psychological milestones to be achieved.  First-month issues still present are sleep disorders, mood swings, and an overall sense of dread.

What Are the Barbiturate Withdrawal Treatment Steps?

Quitting cold turkey, without medical supervision, can result in dire consequences. However, there are solutions to quitting without the life-threatening effects in the short-term and long-term.

One of these solutions is detoxification. Detox is the best way to ensure chemical toxins left over from the barbiturate are eliminated in the body. The detoxification stage is meant to alleviate and ease the withdrawal process using specific medications throughout this time. Doctors and other medical staff members will oversee a rigorous yet methodical approach to sobriety.

There are various types of treatment therapies offered at rehab institutions that help patients deal with addiction problems: addiction therapy and relapse prevention. The two most common programs which target these are the outpatient and residential program treatments.

The treatments are meant to attack the addiction with the intention of eradicating the triggers, and also to prevent a relapse. Residential programs are just what the name states; in-house treatment that can last from 30 days to 90 days or more.

Although similar, the outpatient program allows the patient to leave the facility and check in within an established period to oversee their present treatment.  A lot of outpatient treatments are usually for people who do not have such severe cases and have not been battling addiction for extended amounts of time.

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If You’re Struggling with Barbiturate Addiction, We Can Help

Barbiturate addiction is serious. If you or someone you know is struggling with barbiturate addiction, take the time to find out how you can help them or yourself.

Please call 855-969-8748 or contact us directly at any time. Our professional representatives are available to provide you with all the information you may need. You can also visit our website and search for more information.