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What are Barbiturates and are They Addictive?

What do general anesthesia, the treatment of epilepsy, death by lethal injection, and “truth serum” all have in common? All four are linked to the drug class known as barbiturates. With such a diverse resume of uses and effects, you may be wondering why you don’t know more about this mysterious and seemingly potent drug. In this article, we will seek to gain a better understanding of what makes barbiturates so uniquely challenging and dangerous to the user. We will also answer the question: Are barbiturates addictive?

What are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are an older classification of central nervous system depressants that were primarily used as a sedative. Coming to prominence during the 19th century, barbiturates were originally designed to be used as hypnotics and anxiolytics. Often prescribed for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia, barbiturates quickly gained traction. During the 1960s, barbiturates began gaining popularity as recreational drugs and thus their history of widespread misuse began. 

In popular culture, barbiturates have received the so-called street name “truth serum.” In reality, this nickname is far from the truth. In practice, the drug does not actually force one to tell the truth. It gained notoriety for its use in the so-called “sodium amytal interviews” in which the intermediate-acting barbiturate (sodium amytal) was given to a subject before an intense interrogation. While the drug did not provide “truth” it did lower inhibitions and stifle creative thinking, leading a subject to be much more “loose-lipped” and perhaps divulge information as a result of being under the influence of the barbiturate.

In the medical world of today, barbiturates have been largely replaced by benzodiazepines. This switch was made in an effort to decrease adverse effects, and lower the rate of addiction and overdose seen at the height of barbiturate use. Today, barbiturates are used primarily in the treatment of epilepsy, as well as various anesthetic agents.

Are Barbiturates Addictive?

Now that we know what barbiturates are and where they originated, we can ask: are barbiturates addictive? In short: barbiturates are enormously addictive. The potential for psychological and physical addiction to barbiturates as well as other adverse effects was among the key inspirations for the invention of benzodiazepines. While benzodiazepines come with their own set of very real dangers and highly addictive properties, barbiturates can be even more deadly. Though benzodiazepines are notoriously highly addictive, barbiturates are thought to work even faster when forming an addiction in the user.

Dangers of Barbiturate Abuse

Barbiturates pose a unique danger to users, especially in higher quantities. This is evident by its use in high quantities as a key ingredient in the lethal injection process. Along with lethal injections, barbiturates are also used in physician-assisted suicide. While this proves their lethality, the main danger of barbiturates lies in recreational use. 

Unlike many drugs which are misused recreationally, the line for overdose with barbiturates is paper-thin. Many people who suffer accidental barbiturate overdose do so with minimal amounts of the drug. This unpredictability paired with a devastating lethality makes barbiturates one of the most dangerous drugs on the planet.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Barbiturates, like many sedating drugs, come with a list of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can sometimes be fatal or lead to more adverse effects that have not been listed. Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Delirium
  • Fatigue
  • Hypothermia
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Cardiovascular failure
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia

In comparison to many other commonly misused drugs, barbiturates have a uniquely sinister withdrawal process. If you or a loved one is experiencing withdrawal symptoms from barbiturates, it is imperative to seek a professional detox program to ensure the best chances of successful recovery. 

Finding Rehab for Barbiturate Addiction

Finding the right support system to help you through the trials and tribulations of barbiturate addiction recovery can help to put one on the fast track to success and a new lease on life. Studies have shown time and time again that, statistically, one’s chance of success when tackling recovery is greatly increased when paired with the right treatment. Going through the recovery process alone can be a dangerous, sometimes fatal journey. Being surrounded by knowledgeable and well-intentioned people with the same goal of successful recovery can make the process of regaining one’s independence infinitely more bearable. With treatment centers such as Tennessee Valley offering multiple avenues for success and therapeutic services for drug and alcohol recovery, there has never been a better time to regain control of your life and your freedom.

Outpatient Barbiturate Rehab in Knoxville, TN

Here at Tennessee Valley Recovery, your personal recovery journey is our mission. Located in Knoxville, TN, we are waiting with open arms to help get you started on the road to sobriety. We believe that recovery is not simply “one size fits all” and we pride ourselves in offering a plethora of advanced treatment options. Give us a call or visit our contact form today to take the first steps in your journey to recovery.