Nembutal (Pentobarbital) Detox: Withdrawal And Side Effects

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on October 11, 2021

Nembutal (pentobarbital) is a strong sedative that can cause serious withdrawal symptoms if discontinued after a period of chronic drug use. Detoxing from Nembutal should occur under medical supervision to prevent life-threatening outcomes.

How To Detox From Pentobarbital

Pentobarbital is the generic name for medicines such as Nembutal, Pentosol, Repocal, and Sopental. It is a barbiturate drug with very powerful sedative properties. It can also be addictive.

The brand name medication Nembutal has been discontinued in the U.S. However, it may still be sold illegally as Nembutal and may be used by people with a barbiturate addiction.

Detoxing from Nembutal, or its generic equivalent, may require medical treatment and observation, due to the risk of medical complications that can develop during barbiturate detox.

Find out more about detoxing from barbiturates

What Are The Dangers Of Pentobarbital Detox?

Pentobarbital is a barbiturate drug. This class of drugs can cause very intense and potentially life-threatening withdrawal if use of the drug is stopped abruptly after taking it for some time.

The primary risks associated with pentobarbital withdrawal include:

  • circulatory failure
  • hyperthermia
  • convulsions
  • delirium
  • death

Withdrawal is the body’s reaction to detox. It can be physical and psychological in nature.

The safest way to stop taking pentobarbital and prevent serious outcomes is to seek medical support through a medical detox program or your prescribing doctor.

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How Do You Know If You Need Pentobarbital Detox?

Detox is a process of ridding the body of toxic substances. If you have a drug addiction, this includes eliminating, or detoxing from, the drug of abuse.

The primary purpose of drug detox programs is to provide safety for people who are detoxing from a substance of abuse, or a drug they’ve become dependent on through long-term use.

Pentobarbital detox may be recommended for people who:

  • have taken pentobarbital regularly for a long time (at least several weeks)
  • abuse pentobarbital alone or in combination with other drugs
  • feel sick or anxious within hours of their last dose of the drug

How Does Pentobarbital Detox Work?

Detoxing from pentobarbital is generally done through a tapering process. This should not be attempted without first seeking guidance from a medical professional.

Within a detox program, healthcare professionals can help you create a personalized detox plan to get off the drug safely.

What the detox process looks like may depend on:

  • age of the person detoxing
  • amount of Nembutal you take
  • duration of use
  • frequency of use
  • history of drug abuse or addiction
  • use of other medications or drugs (including alcohol)
  • co-occurring substance abuse problems
  • medical and mental health history

People who are elderly or have a history of substance abuse are at risk for intense withdrawal during detox, and may need to detox in a clinical setting under medical guidance.

Side Effects Of Pentobarbital Detox

Stopping pentobarbital or reducing your dosage, may cause certain side effects known as withdrawal symptoms. These can become severe if you stop the prescription all at once.

Minor withdrawal will develop first, followed by severe signs of withdrawal if medical treatment is not sought.

Minor pentobarbital withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • anxiety
  • muscle twitching
  • uncontrollable shaking of the hands and fingers (tremors)
  • dizziness
  • changes in vision
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • insomnia
  • hypotension (low blood pressure)

Major barbiturate withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • convulsions
  • delirium (false beliefs)

Pentobarbital Withdrawal In Infants

Infants born addicted to pentobarbital through maternal use of the drug during pregnancy can also experience symptoms of withdrawal following birth.

Signs of infant withdrawal syndrome include hyperreflexia, troubled sleep, tremors, and hyperactivity. This can last up to two weeks.

Barbiturate Detox And Withdrawal Timeline

Minor withdrawal may develop within eight to 12 hours. Major withdrawal can develop within 16 hours of taking your last dose of pentobarbital.

Withdrawal can be life-threatening without proper management and treatment.

Gradual withdrawal under clinical supervision is strongly recommended to prevent negative outcomes during detox.

Detoxing from pentobarbital through a gradual withdrawal process may take several weeks, as this will require slowly reducing a person’s dosage to prevent serious side effects.

Risk Factors For Severe Pentobarbital Withdrawal

Certain populations are believed to be at heightened risk for severe withdrawal symptoms after stopping pentobarbital.

Risk factors for severe withdrawal include:

  • older age
  • severe drug dependence
  • poor respiratory function
  • substance abuse history
  • renal impairment
  • hepatic impairment
  • taking a high dose of pentobarbital
  • very long history of Nembutal use (i.e. for years)

It is not advised that people with these risk factors attempt to detox at home. Without proper management, Nembutal withdrawal from discontinuing drug use can cause serious outcomes.

Medical Detox For Pentobarbital Addiction

Medical detox programs, or medically supervised detox, can offer medical treatment and supervision during the detox process. This can be critical for safety.

Medical detox can offer:

  • 24-hour medical observation and support
  • assistance tapering off pentobarbital
  • treatment to prevent or manage severe withdrawal
  • referral for substance abuse treatment or a drug rehab program

Medical detox is often the first step on the road to recovery from Nembutal abuse or addiction, but it’s not a complete treatment by itself. Additional treatment for addiction may be necessary.

Pentobarbital Detox FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions about pentobarbital detox, withdrawal, and addiction treatment options.

❓ Can You Just Stop Taking Pentobarbital?

✔️ This is not advised. Discontinuing your use of Nembutal after prolonged use of the drug can cause major withdrawal within 24 hours. This can cause convulsions and potentially death.

❓ Do They Still Prescribe Nembutal?

✔️ Brand name Nembutal products have been discontinued in the U.S. Other pentobarbital (generic) products or illicit forms of Nembutal may be available in the U.S.

❓ How Long Does It Take For Pentobarbital To Leave Your System?

✔️ Pentobarbital has a half-life of 15 to 50 hours. Drugs typically stay in a person’s system for four to five half-lives before they are fully eliminated.

Find Pentobarbital Detox And Addiction Treatment Today

Getting help for drug abuse begins with finding a safe way to stop taking the drug.

Contact our free and confidential helpline today to find a detox program that’s right for you or your loved one.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on October 11, 2021
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