Barbiturates are a class of drugs known as sedatives, or sedative-hypnotics. They are prescribed for anxiety, insomnia, convulsions, and are sometimes misused for their sedative effects.
Taking a barbiturate drug regularly can cause physical dependence. This can trigger symptoms of withdrawal in the event that a person tries to stop taking the drug very suddenly and all at once.
What Is Barbiturate Detox?
Barbiturate detox is the process of getting off a barbiturate drug. Usually, a gradual taper or switching to a low dose of a barbiturate drug-like phenobarbital is recommended to do this.
Barbiturate drugs that may require detox include:
- amobarbital (Amytal) detox
- phenobarbital (Luminal) detox
- pentobarbital (Nembutal) detox
- thiopental (Pentothal) detox
- secobarbital (Seconal) detox
- butalbital (Fioricet) detox
Barbiturate detox can also refer to a type of drug treatment program. This acute program can help people stop using barbiturates safely, by providing medical supervision and treatment.
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Barbiturate Detox Side Effects And Symptoms
Quitting barbiturates slowly or all at once can lead to side effects known as symptoms of withdrawal. These can be mild to severe in nature, depending on a range of factors.
Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms may include:
- muscle twitching
- uncontrollable shaking
- vision problems
- difficulty sleeping
Some withdrawal symptoms, including withdrawal-induced seizures, can be life-threatening. For this reason, seeking professional help for detoxing is strongly encouraged.
Barbiturate Detox Timeline
Barbiturate withdrawal can develop within as little as 12 to 16 hours after taking your last dose of a barbiturate drug.
Withdrawal will generally reach its peak within or around the 72-hour mark, which is also when severe symptoms, including seizures, can occur.
Withdrawal symptoms may last for several days, or up to a week. After this, some lingering symptoms, such as rebound anxiety and insomnia, can persist for some time.
Risks And Dangers Of Barbiturate Withdrawal
Without clinical support, barbiturate withdrawal can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening, particularly for those who have been taking high doses of barbiturates.
Primary risks of barbiturate withdrawal include:
- accidental injury
- severe mood swings
Tapering off a barbiturate drug gradually with the guidance of a medical professional or a full addiction treatment team can help prevent serious dangers during barbiturate detox.
What Factors Can Affect Barbiturate Detox?
What barbiturate withdrawal looks like and feels like can vary depending on a range of personal, genetic, and biological factors.
Factors that can affect the barbiturate detox process include:
- type of barbiturate used
- duration of drug use
- frequency of drug use
- dose taken
- use of multiple drugs (including alcohol)
- previous detox attempts
- having mental illness
All of these factors, as well as the setting in which you undergo detox, can influence just how severe symptoms become and for how long withdrawal symptoms last.
Who Needs Barbiturate Detox?
Substance abuse professionals recommend detox for anyone who has become physically dependent on barbiturates. This dependence can develop through chronic drug use or misuse.
Barbiturate detox may be recommended for people who:
- have taken barbiturates for more than a few weeks
- misuse barbiturates
- mix barbiturates with other drugs
- are addicted to barbiturates
Barbiturate dependence can develop fairly rapidly, within the span of a few weeks of regular use or drug abuse.
Barbiturate Detox Programs
Getting off a barbiturate drug, particularly in cases of drug abuse, can be most safely accomplished within a drug detox program.
Drug detox for barbiturates may be offered by:
- detox centers
- inpatient treatment facilities
- outpatient healthcare providers
Due to a high risk for seizures, entering an inpatient setting for at least a few days is highly recommended. This can allow a medical professional to monitor you for severe symptoms.
If an individual has been misusing barbiturates, additional treatment in a drug rehab program may be recommended following detox to promote long-term addiction recovery.
Find A Barbiturate Detox Program Today
Barbiturates can be highly addictive and dangerous to detox from alone. If you or a loved one is addicted to barbiturates, let us help you find detox.
Call our free and confidential helpline today to learn more about barbiturate detox or to find a drug detox program for barbiturates that’s right for you.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Commonly Used Drug Charts
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Phenobarbital
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: PubMed — Barbiturate withdrawal syndrome: a case associated with the abuse of a headache medication