Definition of Barbiturates

Barbiturates are drugs that act as central nervous system depressants. The effects of barbiturates vary from mild sedation to working as an anesthetic. Barbiturate medications vary in class, ranging from those that are classified as schedule II drugs to those that are schedule IV drugs. All barbiturate drugs have high potential for physical and psychological dependency. Patients prescribed barbiturate medications require regular medical exams to ensure their safety and prevent addiction.

The History of Barbiturates

In 1864 a German researcher, Adolf von Baeyer, first synthesized barbituric acid. In the 1903 barbital was marketed by Bayer under the trade name Veronal because of its newly discovered ability to put dogs to sleep. Then in 1912 Bayer introduced an barbituric acid derivative with sedative-hypnotic effects, phenobarbital, under the trade name Luminal. Chemists have created over 2,500 compounds from barbituric acid since. These  various barbituric acid compounds are classified according to speed of onset and duration of action.

Medical Use of Barbiturates

In the past barbiturates were used in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia and seizure conditions, however today it has been replaced by many different benzodiazepines medications. Today high doses of barbiturates are used for physician-assisted suicide (PAS). As well as for euthanasia and for capital punishment by lethal injection when the barbiturates are in combination with muscle relaxants. Thiopental is an ultra-short acting barbiturate that is used for sedation and to treat insomnia, it is also used as a “truth serum” for persons being questioned. Many different barbiturates are still used as anesthetic’s in surgeries around the world.

Recreational Use of Barbiturates

The effects of barbiturates are similar to that of alcohol when intoxicated. People are drawn to abuse barbiturates for recreational purposes due to its ability to produces feelings of relaxed contentment and euphoria. Short-acting and intermediate-acting barbiturates are typically abused for recreational purposes. Repeat use of any barbiurate medication can put the user at risk for various health issues as well as developing a tolerance, dependency, and withdrawal syndrome.

Addiction to Barbiturates

Regular use of barbiturate medications for both legal and illicit use can put the user at risk for developing an addiction. Chronic use of barbiturates cause the user to develop a tolerance quickly. They will begin to require more and more of the drug to acheive the desired effects. With increased doses and excessive use of barbiturate drugs the user will begin to develop a physical and psychological dependency that can overwhelm the user to the point where personal obligations and interest are no longer important to them. With a dependency the user will experience withdrawal symptoms that vary in severity and can make it difficult for the user to stop without medical treatment.

Withdrawal From Barbiturates

Someone with a dependency to barbiturates that stops its use abruptly will commonly experience withdrawal symptoms. Within 8 to 16 hours the withdrawal symptoms will begin and they can last up to 15 days depending on the severity of the addiction. Withdrawal symptoms of barbiturates often include restlessness, insomnia, weakness, dizziness, nausea, sweating and anxiety. There may be tremors, seizures, hallucinations and psychosis. Chronic users can become angry and aggressive during withdrawal. It is important for an barbiturate addiction to receive medical treatment to prevent severe withdrawal symptoms such as hyperthermia, and circulatory failure that can potentially result in death.

Treatment For Barbiturate Addiction

The best place for someone with a barbiturate addiction to start their recovery is within an inpatient treatment center. This is because withdrawal from barbiturates can vary in severity and often result in death. When receiving treatment the patient will go through a medical detox. This is where the patient is gradually weaned from the barbiturate medication to prevent severe symptoms of withdrawal and to ensure their health and safety. There will be 24-7 medical care from Doctors and chemical dependency specialists.

Barbiturate addiction is not only physical, there is a psychological addiction that the patient must work through to reach their recovery goals. Once the detoxification process is complete and the patient is fully weaned they must undergo psychological treatment during various counseling sessions. The patient will be able to get to the cause of their addiction as well as learn key tools needed to maintain their sobriety.