Barbiturates, while much less commonly prescribed today, are still sometimes abused, and the misuse of these drugs can be extremely harmful. Overdose may be deadly, especially when the drugs are combined with alcohol or opioids. If you're struggling with an addiction to barbiturates, a barbiturate rehab program can help you get your life back on track.
What Are Barbiturates?
Barbiturates depress the central nervous system and may be prescribed for the management of anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures. Barbiturates include:1.2,3
- Secobarbital (Seconal).
- Butalbital (Fiorinal, Fioricet).
Barbiturates have been largely replaced by benzodiazepines for use as sedatives, anxiolytics, and anti-convulsants.1 However, people are sometimes still prescribed, or have access to, barbiturates.4 These drugs have a strong potential for abuse and those who take them can develop a tolerance to their mood-altering effects rapidly. With growing tolerance to their subjective effects, a person will need to up their dose to get the high that they seek. The phenomenon of differential tolerance development (e.g., tolerance to the pleasurable, euphoric effects of the medication builds more quickly than it does for effects such as respiratory depression) could easily lead a person towards overdose, respiratory arrest, and death.1,5
Barbiturate overdoses commonly involve polysubstance abuse. Drug combinations that can lead to deadly overdose include alcohol and barbiturates, benzodiazepines and barbiturates, and opioids (painkillers or heroin) and barbiturates.5 All of these substances depress the central nervous system and slow breathing, so the combination is particularly dangerous.
Consistent barbiturate use will lead to the development of physical dependence. Barbiturate dependence means that a person is physically dependent on barbiturates to feel normal. In the event that the person tries to cut their dose or give up the drug altogether, they may experience withdrawal.4
In the case of barbiturates, withdrawal can be extremely serious, even deadly. Symptoms range from agitation to seizures and delirium.6
The phenomenon of physiological dependence is somewhat distinct from the concept of addiction which, in the case of barbiturates, entails the compulsive use of these drugs despite the adverse consequences that such use creates.
Do I Need to Enter Rehab?
In some cases, what starts as therapeutic use progresses to occasional misuse and, eventually, gives way to the compulsive drug use behaviors of addiction.
If you're abusing barbiturates, you would likely benefit from some form of professional treatment. If significant physical dependence has developed, you will need to withdraw under medical supervision. Many rehabs have medical detox onsite where your symptoms will be managed by qualified doctors and nurses.
You may be unsure whether you are actually addicted to barbiturates and need rehab, especially if you began taking these drugs with a prescription. In some cases, what starts as therapeutic use progresses to occasional misuse and, eventually, gives way to the compulsive drug use behaviors of addiction. Signs of addiction include (but are not limited to):
- Trying to give up barbiturates but being unable to do so.
- Taking more than you intended.
- Prioritizing barbiturate use over your hobbies or personal obligations.
- Spending a majority of your time in obtaining them, using them, or recovering from them.
- Continuing your drug use in spite of the problems it is causing to your health.
- Experiencing major conflicts in your relationships as a result of your use.
- Needing ever-greater doses to feel the effects.
- Going through withdrawal when you quit.
If you love someone who you believe may be addicted, you can also look for signs like:8
- A significant change in their social circle.
- Changes in appearance and hygiene.
- Seeming excessively tired or depressed.
- Sleeping at odd hours.
- Eating more or less than normal.
- Having problems with work or school.
If you or someone you love is showing signs of an addiction to barbiturates, now is the time to seek help. Abusing these drugs is extremely dangerous, and there's no better time than today to get into treatment.
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Treatment
Inpatient treatment centers are sober environments where the patient lives and receives around-the-clock care for addiction during their stay. These programs provide room and board and may have amenities like gyms, pools, and more. Of course, the main benefit is the focused, intensive care and access to professional staff. For many people, home is full of temptations that make recovery extremely difficult in the early phases. During inpatient rehab, you can spend time learning ways of coping with these triggers so that when you return home, you will have the tools to remain sober. Many inpatient rehab programs last anywhere from 30 to 90 days; however, your particular length of stay may be longer or shorter depending on your needs and the program offerings.
People who abuse barbiturates may suffer from co-occurring mental health conditions like anxiety disorders. Dual diagnosis rehabs will provide the integrated care these individuals need to manage both the symptoms of their mental health condition and their addiction.
Inpatient rehabs also often offer medical detox as the first phase of treatment. Especially important for barbiturate-dependent individuals, this provides you a safe place to begin your recovery.
Outpatient rehabs can be very beneficial, as well, and often come at a lower cost. However, because they allow you to live at home, you may be more vulnerable to all of the triggers that come with remaining in an environment where drug use has become a daily occurrence. During outpatient treatment, you visit a facility for a predetermined number of hours per day/week. There are several levels of outpatient treatment, some of which are more intensive and involve more hours in treatment. You can discuss with your doctor which option may be most appropriate for you if you choose this type of care. If you do prefer outpatient treatment for your addiction, you may still need to detox on an inpatient basis. You can discuss the safest way to withdraw with your physician, as well.
Should I Travel or Stay Near Home?
The decision whether to stay close to home or to go farther away for treatment is a personal choice. Choose locations close to home if you feel you need the support of friends and family. If staying close to home means you'll be around negative influences, however, you may want to get as far away as you can. There are great rehab centers all over the country, some of which are located in extremely beautiful locations, such as along the coast or in the mountains. These serene locations may help you to relax and focus on your recovery without all the negative influences of your home life.
Is It Private and Confidential?
A barbiturate rehab program will ideally be staffed by qualified personnel who understand a patient's need for privacy. Staff at rehab centers must also legally comply with HIPAA laws, which dictate how your personal health information be protected and outline specifically the rare instances in which your information may be shared without your consent.9
Treatment centers all have strict confidentiality policies, but to reassure yourself, you may contact the center you are considering and have them go over their specific policies with you.
If you'd like to retain a certain level of privacy while at the center, find out if they offer single rooms. For a higher price, many centers will offer private rooms.
Paying for Treatment
A stay in a barbiturate rehab program can be quite expensive, but you don't want to let cost stand in the way of your recovery. Find out if the program takes private insurance and if your plan will cover some or all of your stay.
If your insurance doesn't cover the full cost of your treatment, you may be able to obtain supplemental financing. Many centers will arrange financing for patients, so don't be discouraged if you don't have coverage.
Some centers will offer you loans or scholarships, and some centers have sliding scales to help patients afford the care they so desperately need. A sliding scale refers to an adjustment of the cost of rehab based on the patient's financial need.
Check with any programs you're interested in to discover your options.
If you think you're ready to start your recovery, take the first step. It will be the best one you've ever taken, and there are plenty of people who can help you through your journey.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Depressant.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Barbiturates.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Phenobarbital.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2017). DRUGS OF ABUSE: A DEA Resource Guide.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017). Barbiturate Intoxication and Overdose.
- Romero CE, Baron JD, Knox AP, Hinchey JA, Ropper AH. Barbiturate Withdrawal Following Internet Purchase of Fioricet. Arch Neurol. 2004;61(7):1111–1112.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What are some signs and symptoms of someone with a drug use problem?
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2013). Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.