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Nembutal Withdrawal

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Nembutal, or pentobarbital sodium, is a barbiturate that has been used as a short-term sedative-hypnotic to help people with sleep disorders. It’s designed only for short-term use because the results show that it’s just effective for about two weeks. Nembutal has also been used as an anticonvulsant because of its ability to depress the central nervous system and slow down brain activity, as well as an anesthetic before surgery.

Nembutal is also known as “nembies” or “yellow jackets.” It’s not readily prescribed anymore due to its potential for abuse and because benzodiazepines or Z-drugs are the more common “go-to” these days for sleep disorders. Still, people can get their hands on the drug and fall prey to addiction.

As a  U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedule II controlled substance, Nembutal is highly addictive and can be quite dangerous. High doses of it can cause respiratory arrest, causing death. This is one reason the drug has been used in euthanasia over the years.


Becoming physically and psychologically dependent on Nembutal can occur very quickly, especially if an individual increases the dosage regularly. This builds a tolerance to the drug, needing more of it to get the desired effect. However, using more of the drug is dangerous and can be deadly.  Someone who is using Nembutal and is under the influence of it can display signs much like someone who has chronic alcoholism. Acute intoxication can cause the person to slur their speech and stumble around.

Stopping the use of Nembutal can cause a variety of withdrawal symptoms for those who have become dependent on it. These symptoms can be observed within eight to 12 hours after the person has taken the drug.

Nembutal withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Twitching of muscles
  • Tremors
  • Fatigue/Feeling weak
  • Dizziness/Confusion
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Orthostatic hypotension

More severe withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Convulsions
  • Delirium


Because Nembutal is a barbiturate, the withdrawal timeline is similar to other barbiturates. Of course, the pace at which one goes through them or the intensity of symptoms can vary from person to person depending on factors, such as:

  • Schedule of tapering off the drug
  • Dosage of drug taken
  • Frequency of use
  • How long one has been on the drug
  • Type of ingestion
  • Overall condition of health
  • Type of supportive environment
  • Level of commitment to recovery
  • Age
  • Dietary habits
  • Whether or not other drugs are being abused

Generally, the timeframe for Nembutal withdrawal symptoms is as follows:

DAYS 1-3

Withdrawal symptoms can surface within 16 hours from the last dose of Nembutal. Common early symptoms include anxiety, increased sweating, feeling weak, and insomnia. Note that a taper schedule should be implemented to reduce the risk of seizures or delirium.

DAYS 3-4

Symptoms tend to peak during days three and four. The intensity may depend on the factors mentioned above. Common symptoms include anxiety, sweating, fatigue, insomnia, and perhaps delirium.

DAYS 5-7

Physical symptoms should begin dissipating during days five to seven. However, psychological symptoms like cravings or depression may continue.


By the time week two comes around, most of the physical symptoms should probably have dissipated, but psychological symptoms can linger.  People report lingering fatigue, insomnia, and cravings. Many people report being symptom-free within three to four weeks, though ongoing therapy is recommended to contend with any underlying mental health conditions like depression or anxiety disorders.


As with any barbiturate, there is a risk of overdosing on the drug if a person stops using Nembutal for some time and then takes another dose. This relapse can be dangerous because once the person detoxes from the drug, the body has less of a tolerance for it. So, reintroducing it into the body at the same dosage that they’re used to can cause them to overdose, perhaps causing death.


When the body has become dependent on Nembutal, stopping cold turkey can result in seizures and perhaps even death. Because Nembutal is a barbiturate, withdrawal can pose some severe withdrawal symptoms. This is why medical detox is recommended. The individual will be tapered off the drug to prevent the more serious withdrawal symptoms.  


Detoxing from Nembutal is the first step toward recovery. Detox may rid toxins from the body, but there are still the psychological aspects of addiction in which to contend. Once detox is completed, which usually takes about a week, the individual ought to continue in an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility to receive ongoing counseling.  This way they’ll be able to work through any underlying emotional or mental health issues going on that could have led to the addiction in the first place.

The actual treatment for Nembutal addiction will vary from person to person depending on the level of addiction. 

Meeting with a physician and mental health clinician can be helpful to determine the level of treatment necessary.

Inpatient treatment is where a person resides at the treatment center for the duration of treatment. This can typically be 30, 60, or 90 days depending on the needs of the individual. The patient will have access to physicians and counselors around-the-clock and live in a supportive atmosphere where they can really focus on their recovery without outside distractions. This type of treatment is recommended for those that are heavily addicted to the drug

Outpatient treatment is where an individual lives at home and attends a certain number of sessions at the treatment center throughout the week. The number could range from three to seven sessions per week depending on the person’s needs.  This type of treatment is recommended for those mildly addicted to the drug.

Both types of facilities offer support from addiction professionals ranging from counseling, creating a taper schedule, relapse prevention plan, after-care treatment plan, and the opportunity to participate in a group, family, or peer support groups.


(November 2018). Barbiturate Abuse. WebMD. Retrieved December 2018 from

(n,d). Nembutal. RxList. from

Komesaroff, P, (December 2016). We don’t need greater access to Nembutal to achieve good end-of-life care. The Conversation. from

Marks, L, (October 2015).Everyday Health » Barbiturates » Barbiturates What Are Barbiturates?. Everyday Health. from

Heller, J, (September 2015). Barbiturate intoxication and overdose. Medline Plus. from

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