What is Phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital is a barbiturate that works by depressing the the activity in the patients brain and central nervous system. It aids the patient in relaxing and going to sleep. Low doses of Phenobarbital cause mild sedation, as the dose is increased it can cause the patient to sleep, even drift into a coma. Phenobarbital is widely used in patients for the treatment of sleep disorders, seizures, preoperative patients as well as for relief of anxiety, tension and fear.

High Risk of Abuse

Phenobarbital holds a high risk of abuse amongst both patients prescribed the drug and drug abusers. Its sedative and hypnotic properties are easily addictive. Patients and other users of Phenobarbital can easily develop a tolerance to the drug, requiring increased doses to acheive the desired effects. Many patient will increase their doses without consulting the prescribing Doctor, putting their safety at risk.

Regular use of Phenobarbital can can the user to develop a physical and psychological dependency to the drug. When abruptly stopping its use they are left feeling overwhelmed by symptoms of withdrawal and cravings, turning back to the drug for comfort. To stop using phenobarbital the user will require medical treatment to ensure their safety during the withdrawal period and to prevent relapse in their long term recovery.

Phenobarbital Use

Phenobarbital has proven to be very effective in the short term treatment of sleep disorders, as well as for the relief of anxiety, tension, and fear.  Phenobarbital is commonly used as a sedative in preoperative patients. Phenobarbital is also effective in the treatment of certain types of seizures, especially in emergency situations. When the patient is given phenobarbital the brain begins to relax, which can also decreases seizure activity in the patient.

Misuse of Phenobarbital

It is easy for a patient to misuse phenobarbital, starting with increasing their dose without speaking to their Doctor first. As the patient increases their dose their body will quickly develop a dependency, resulting in symptoms of withdrawal when stopping its use. Not only will the patient be in pain from withdrawal they will begin to see negative effects on their health and other aspects to their life. Along with an increased dose many patients will take the drug longer than prescribed because they find pleasure in its effects.

Recreational Use of Phenobarbital

Phenobarbital has similar properties to the street drug heroin. Many drug abuses seek out Phenobarbital for its sedative and hypnotic effects. Abusing the drug as a way to escape from reality and dull physical, mental and emotional pain. Just as patients who abuse phenobarbital those using the drug illegal are at risk of developing a tolerance, dependency and withdrawal syndrome.

Signs of Phenobarbital Abuse

  • Intentional misuse of the drug; increasing dosage without Doctors knowledge and/or taking the medication longer than prescribed
  • Tolerance
  • Physically and psychologically dependent on the drug
  • Unable to sleep without taking the drug
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when stopping its use
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Change in behavior
  • Trouble at work or home
  • Uncontrollable urge to use Phenobarbital

Symptoms of Phenobarbital Withdrawal

Symptoms of Phenobarbital withdrawal will begin within 24 hours of the last dose of the medication, reaching a peak within 3 to 4 days and typically subsiding within a week. The severity and duration of phenobarbital withdrawal vary with each patient. Phenobarbital withdrawal symptoms often include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle twitching
  • Uncontrollable shaking of the body
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness

Phenobarbital Addiction Treatment

When a patient is addicted to phenobarbital the first step in treatment is dose reduction. The patient is gradually weened off the medication to prevent symptoms of withdrawal. For some this treatment can be enough, allowing them to get off the drug and stop its use. Others have more severe addictions and require a stay in a residential treatment facility for up to 90 days.

During the patients stay in the treatment facility they will be detoxed from the chemicals and toxins related to phenobarbital use. They will be weened off the medication or taken off and put onto another prescription medication that will control symptoms of withdrawal and cravings. The patient will go through a series of therapy and counseling sessions to get to the cause of their addiction and work through it while developing the key tools they will need to maintain their sobriety when returning home.