Barbiturates are a group of drugs that have a calming or sedative effect on the central nervous system. They slow down the function of the brain, and also give it a boost of dopamine, resulting in feelings of calmness and euphoria. Barbiturates like barbital, phenobarbital, and allobarbital, were prescribed more prominently back in the 60s and 70s to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. However, they’re not prescribed much anymore because the medical community discovered that they were posing danger in higher doses and were quite addictive.
Today, benzodiazepines have largely replaced them because they are viewed as less dangerous. Barbiturates are still prescribed for conditions like epilepsy and migraine headaches.
When used for a considerable amount of time, barbiturates can become addictive. This means that the person has become dependent on the drug psychologically and/or physically, making it more challenging to get off of it due to various uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Here are some common barbiturate withdrawal symptoms:
The more serious withdrawal symptoms include:
Withdrawal symptoms and timeline from barbiturates can vary depending on various factors, such as:
Generally, the brunt of barbiturate withdrawal symptoms will resolve after about two weeks. However, lingering symptoms beyond that can include cravings, sleep difficulties, depression, and anxiety. These can last anywhere from six months to a year or more. Post-acute symptoms can decrease when continued after-care treatment is pursued.
Note that some have experienced a more severe withdrawal symptom of psychosis.
Initial barbiturate withdrawal can include an increase in pulse, digestive issues like nausea and vomiting, trouble sleeping, and mood swings. By the third day, the symptoms will probably be at their peak. Some symptoms may intensify at this time, such as anxiety, fatigue, excessive sweating, insomnia, and delirium. It is during these first few days that one will be at most risk to experience seizures too, making it important to be surrounded by medical professionals for monitoring.
By day dive, both psychological and physical symptoms should be decreasing in intensity. What remains are usually the more emotional symptoms like sadness or anxiety. Cravings may still surface, but not as often or as intense. Other symptoms may linger, but not nearly as strong as the first few days. These include difficulty sleeping, mood swings, fatigue, and irritability.
After the first week, one should start feeling back to normal, with the physical withdrawal symptoms absent for the most part. Some emotional symptoms may linger on through the next couple of weeks, but overall, the body should start to stabilize.
Quitting barbiturates cold turkey can be dangerous and perhaps deadly, as withdrawal could cause circulatory failure and seizures. As such, those struggling with barbiturate addiction should seek proper medical treatment by a professional detox and/or treatment center. Even tapering off these pills by yourself at home is not recommended, as the likelihood of relapse or overdose increases – not to mention it is just challenging to get through the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms on your own.
When someone is dependent on barbiturates, the next treatment step is to attend a detox center to receive help in getting through the withdrawal symptoms. Because of the dangers of some withdrawal symptoms, it is best that the patient’s dose of barbiturates be tapered down over time under the watchful eye of a physician.
During the detox process, professionals will do all they can to make the patient as comfortable as possible, perhaps administering medications to contend with the toughest withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, if the person is dealing with mental disorders, they can receive treatment for that.
In addition to detox centers, there are various options for treatment for barbiturate addiction once the detox phase is complete, including:
There are some detox centers that are stand-alone, meaning that they are not part of an extended treatment center. If this is the case, once the detox phase has been completed, professionals recommend patients go on to receive treatment in an inpatient facility.
However, some inpatient treatment centers include detox in their programs, so the patient can undergo detox and then long-term treatment in one facility. An inpatient center allows patients to live on site to undergo treatment, usually for anywhere from 30 to 90 days, though at times longer if there is a need. During this time, a person will be able to receive individual and group counseling, receive medications that can help with withdrawal symptoms, attend helpful support groups, create a relapse prevention plan, and engage in other life skills classes.
For those who cannot live at a treatment facility, there is the option of attending an intensive outpatient center for treatment. This works well for those who do not have a severe addiction or are just unable to pack up and leave home due to work or family roles. Outpatient facilities have different levels of care depending on each person’s needs. Generally, each person receives the same treatment as they would at an inpatient facility, but rather than live there, they attend anywhere from three to five sessions per week.
Going through withdrawal symptoms associated with barbiturate addiction will vary from person to person, with some getting through them quickly and others struggling a bit more. Do not allow the fear of going through barbiturate withdrawal keep you from experiencing the freedom you desire and deserve.
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