Barbiturate Dependence

Barbiturate users can become physically and mentally dependent on drugs. When physically dependent, they will begin to experience restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia if they attempt to cut back or avoid using them.

People who become mentally dependent on barbiturates can start believing that they can’t function or feel normal without medications. In both forms of dependency, finding and using drugs becomes the main focus of life.

The odds of becoming dependent on sedatives or barbiturates are increased when the drug’s tolerance forces users to increase dosages that can easily become fatal.

Addiction and overdose are severe issues, but they are not the only damaging developments attributed to barbiturate abuse. Problems like tolerance and barbiturates dependence are likely, even when the medication is used as prescribed by a doctor.

Tolerance is the desire to use more of the substance to achieve the same effects. Barbiturates dependence is when the body and brain rely on the drugs to achieve a feeling of normalcy.

Once dependence has set in, which can happen rapidly for barbiturate users—withdrawal will happen if the drug is not consumed at the expected levels.

The withdrawal symptoms can be mild, distressing to relatively dangerous hingeing on circumstances such as the type of barbiturate taken, how much of the drug was taken, and the individual’s unique differences.

Symptoms of barbiturate dependence can include:

  • Altered level of consciousness
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • Drowsiness or coma
  • Insomnia
  • Faulty judgment
  • Seizures
  • Incoordination
  • Quickened heart rate – above 100 beats per minute.
  • Hallucinations
  • Sweating
  • Slowness of speech
  • Sluggishness
  • Slurred speech
  • Staggering
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • High blood pressure

Treatment for Barbiturate Dependence

Withdrawing from barbiturate dependency is in itself harmful and potentially life-threatening. Depending on the level of use and the number of drugs used, withdrawal symptoms can vary from restlessness and anxiety to seizures and death.

The risk of sudden death during barbiturate withdrawal is a major concern.

Detoxification is treated in an inpatient environment due to the risks and medical complications of withdrawing from barbiturate.

People can be unaware of the risks associated with the abrupt cessation of sedating drugs, such as barbiturates. Studies have shown 30 percent of people withdrawing from sedatives will have seizures. A barbiturate-dependent person should always seek clinical care to handle their withdrawal safely and effectively.

An individual dependent on barbiturates should always seek clinical care in order to manage their withdrawal safely and effectively.

A professional detoxification program is a valuable way to start the healing process. Detoxification is a mechanism in which medications are safely and steadily extracted from the system.

Medically supervised or medically managed detox uses specific strategies and medical intervention to manage withdrawal to limit discomfort and minimize threats to the individual’s physical and mental health.

Detox programs will gradually reduce and slowly taper the dose of barbiturates over a length of time, or they will ultimately stop the doses while providing medical assistance to ensure comfort and safety.

Getting Help

Detox is a crucial phase in withdrawing from barbiturates dependence, although it is not generally sufficient to help people achieve long-term recovery from barbiturate dependence.

People interested in sustaining long-term abstinence should obtain follow-up treatment available at two levels.

Inpatient / residential treatment

These services help individuals with more serious barbiturates dependence, unsuccessful rehabilitation attempts in the past, or insufficient care at home.

Various inpatient / residential program varieties may concentrate on comparatively short-term, acute, or longer-term treatment that may, in some cases, last up to one year.

Both inpatient / residential programs are well organized and enable the client to remain at the treatment facility for the duration of their stay.

Multiple programs function within different treatment settings, like hospital-based facilities or more home-like, residential environments.

Outpatient treatment

Many patients who complete the inpatient / residential program will follow up on the outpatient treatment to continue their rehabilitation efforts. Others can pursue outpatient treatment from the outset.

This choice is more suitable for less serious addictions, prior therapeutic success, or firm help at home. Treatment options allow the client to remain at home and take part in care during the day. Outpatient service options include the following:

Partial Hospitalization Services (PHPs) – The most comprehensive rehabilitation service provides individual, group, and family sessions for most of the day.

Intensive outpatient services (IOPs) – a lower-intensity alternative and a combination of client, group, and family sessions for about 3 hours per session, three days a week.
During inpatient/residential or outpatient treatment programs, the individual will receive behavioral therapy with the goal of changing thoughts and feelings regarding drug use.

If you’ve found a concern with yourself or a loved one, don’t hesitate to get help. People get back from addiction every day — it’s possible to live a life that doesn’t include drug abuse.

Symptoms of Barbiturate Dependence

  • Mood changes
  • Drowsiness
  • sluggishness
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • staggering
  • Altered mental state

When taken in larger quantities, long-term side effects include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Emotional instability
  • Impaired judgment
  • Irritability
  • Clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Reduced breathing rate
  • Paranoid ideation
  • Shallow breathing
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Death

When a person is dependent on Barbiturates, there can be significant side effects, and any attempts to avoid using the drug may lead to adverse effects.

That’s because the mind and body have become “normally” dependent on the availability of Barbiturates, and they struggle to cope when drugs are no longer available. These symptoms are collectively referred to as Barbiturate withdrawal.

Barbiturate withdrawal can be very distressing and may include:

  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Insomnia
  • Barbiturate Detox

Treatment for Barbiturate Dependence

Treatment facilities offer patients in recovery support and access to healing modalities, including:

  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Psychoeducation
  • Diagnosis of co-occurring disorders
  • Equine therapy
  • Nutritional plans
  • Yoga
  • Nature walks

Additionally, treatment facilities give patients access to support groups, which deepen bonds with people who have grappled with substance or alcohol abuse.

Barbiturate detoxification can take about two weeks before the physical withdrawal symptoms subside.

However, the psychological dependence on barbiturate use can necessitate a long-term commitment to therapy, participation in support groups, counseling, and, in some cases, assignment to a halfway house after inpatient treatment ends.

Recovery requires intentional efforts by the patient and support from friends, family and medical personnel.

Pregnant women using barbiturates can cause their baby to become addicted, and the newborn may have withdrawal symptoms.

When to Seek Medical Care

Observation at a hospital emergency department is important as the doctor cannot examine a suspected barbiturate overdose over the phone.

If you suspect that someone has taken barbiturates excessively, take them to the emergency hospital department for a doctor’s examination.

Shortly after taking barbiturates, a person might be only drowsy or appear to be intoxicated, but more severe symptoms may develop rapidly and unpredictably.

If the person is drowsy or you are unable to arouse the person (if he or she seems to be in a coma), call your country’s emergency number for medical transport and immediate treatment in the ambulance.

Bring any leftover pills, pill bottles, or other medicines the person may have taken to the hospital.

Examinations and Tests

The urine test will easily detect the use of barbiturate. However, diagnosis in the hospital emergency room focuses on diagnosing other possible causes for a drowsy, such as other drugs, head injury, stroke, illness, or shock. These diagnostic attempts are made while the individual is being treated.

In general, an IV will be initiated, and a blood sample will be obtained. An ECG (electrocardiogram) will be performed to determine the heart rhythm of the individual. Other diagnostic efforts depend on the particular case.

There is no home care for barbiturate dependence at all. If you suspect somebody has taken barbiturates or any other substance excessively, take them to the hospital for a doctor’s examination.

Barbiturates have a limited therapeutic index and can cause coma or death if taken improperly. This is particularly true of children and elderly people. The treatment of barbiturate dependence or overdose is generally supportive. The amount of support required depends on the person’s symptoms.

If the person is drowsy yet alert and can swallow and breathe without difficulty, the treatment can closely observe them. If the person is not breathing, a breathing machine is used to ensure that the person can breathe well till the drugs wear off.

Most people are administered a liquid form of activated charcoal to bind to all the drugs in their stomachs. This can be achieved by inserting a tube in the stomach (through the nose or mouth) or drinking it.

Next Steps – Follow-up

While rare, someone dependent on barbiturates requires intensive treatment to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Addicted people are treated with reduced doses of barbiturates (called detoxification) until they are free of drugs.


Most people recover from aggressive care in the hospital. But those who overdose will die, even with intensive therapy.

The result after abusing barbiturates depends on several factors, including:

  • Other drugs ingested
  • Other medical problems the person has
  • How quickly the person received medical attention
  • Which barbiturate the person abused.

More Reading;


  • Barbiturate dependence; Wikipedia
  • What is barbiturate dependence and who is at risk?; NCBI
  • Dependence on Barbiturates and Other Sedative Drugs; JAMA NETWORK
  • Barbiturate Abuse; Webmd