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Phenobarbital Abuse and Addiction

“At times I have been pretty much of a walking advertisement for sleeping pills. Even though pills come on doctor's prescriptions, as mine did, they can be a tremendous strain on the nervous systems. I was having my share of troubles with the studio and, there's no doubt about it, my physical condition didn't help”

~ Judy Garland, the actress best known as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, has always been known for her incredible voice. These days, however, she’s often also known as a symbol of Hollywood’s drug problems, past and present.

Garland died from an accidental overdose of barbiturates in 1969.

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Phenobarbital Abuse and Addiction

Barbiturate abuse, addiction, and overdosing remain a problem in the U.S. today. And chief among prescribed barbiturates is phenobarbital - often used to treat seizures, anxiety, and insomnia.

Like many drugs, phenobarbital has some very beneficial uses as well as some very harmful outcomes if it’s used inappropriately. Keep reading to learn answers to questions such as:

  • What is phenobarbital?
  • Is phenobarbital a narcotic?
  • How long does it take for phenobarbital to kick in?
  • What is phenobarbital prescribed for?
  • How do people use phenobarbital recreationally?
  • How is phenobarb abused?
  • Is phenobarbital addictive?
  • How does someone become addicted to phenobarbital?
  • How do I know if I or someone I love is addicted to phenobarbital?
  • What are the side effects of phenobarb use?
  • What is phenobarb withdrawal like?
  • How do I get help for myself or a loved one who is addicted to phenobarbital?
What is Phenobarbital

What is Phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital is a barbiturate prescription medication often called phenobarbitone, phenobarb and Luminal. Luminal is a brand name of the drug.

Phenobarb can be used in many different ways. It is prescribed to both adults and children, as well as dogs.

Watch this video for a quick explanation of how phenobarbital and other barbiturates affect the GABA receptors of the brain.

Phenobarbital is not a narcotic. Phenobarb is classified as a sedative or hypnotic drug, or a barbiturate. It is a Schedule IV non-narcotic depressant. Despite not being a narcotic, phenobarbital is highly addictive. In many cases, this propensity to be addictive has driven doctors to prescribe benzodiazepines instead of phenobarbital or other barbiturates.

Phenobarbitone is sold as a round tablet in four different colors that indicate the dose. 15 mg tablets are pink, 30 mg tablets are yellow, 60 mg tablets are green, and 100 mg tablets are blue.

In humans, Phenobarbital can begin to work very quickly. If it is administered via IV or injection, effects can kick in within 5 minutes. If it is given as an oral tablet, it should start working within half an hour.

In dogs, Phenobarb can take longer to start working. Most dogs can take as long as 2 weeks to experience the effects of Phenobarb.

Phenobarbital Abuse

Uses of Phenobarbital

Phenobarbital has both legal and illegal uses. It can be used to treat serious problems, or it can create serious problems. Just because you have a prescription for phenobarbital doesn’t mean that you can’t become addicted to or start abusing the drug.

Phenobarbital is a hypnotic, or sedative, drug. This makes it ideal for use in treating seizures and epilepsy as well as anxiety and insomnia. Essentially, any condition that would be made better by the body relaxing could be helped by phenobarb.

Phenobarb is also used to treat seizures and epilepsy in dogs.

In newborn babies, phenobarbital is sometimes used to increase bilirubin levels in the liver.

As with many other drugs, including other barbiturates, Phenobarbital is often used recreationally. On the street, Phenobarbitone and other barbiturates are highly desirable because they produce a quick high. This high can be described as both euphoric and relaxing.

Of course, any use of phenobarbital outside of a doctor’s prescription is drug abuse. This is both illegal and very dangerous.

Phenobarbital Abuse

When people use Phenobarbitone for fun, they often think that this is safe behavior because it is a prescription drug. Phenobarb euphoria might even seem like a lot of fun when the user first begins to experience it.

Phenobarbital Addiction

However, continually abusing Phenobarbital can lead to addiction and severe health problems. This is why phenobarbital is rarely prescribed to treat insomnia or anxiety for more than two weeks at a time. Any more than two weeks greatly increases the likelihood of addiction and health issues.

Phenobarbital abuse is any use of this drug that is not in line with the prescription written by a doctor. People who wonder if it is possible to shoot phenobarb or snort phenobarb are wandering into dangerous territory. It is important to note that doctors prescribe phenobarb the way they do because that is the only safe way for someone to take it.

Most often, phenobarbital and other barbiturate tablets are crushed and then snorted. This causes a euphoric high fairly quickly. When the body becomes used to the presence of phenobarb, the user tends to take it more often or at a higher dosage to experience the same effects.

Barbiturate abuse for an extended period of time nearly always leads to barbiturate addiction. This is why benzodiazepines are often substituted for barbiturates these days.

Phenobarbital is no different. For humans, doctors rarely prescribe it to be used regularly for more than two weeks. After this period, the odds of becoming addicted greatly increase.

A Phenobarbital addiction will likely develop quickly with the regular use of the drug. The drug works by depressing the central nervous system in the body. In turn, the brain produces more serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals help the user to feel good. This good feeling is what keeps users taking phenobarb again and again.

When phenobarbital is no longer affecting the body, the body responds to this lack of the drug. This is Phenobarbital withdrawal. When the body is reacting physically to a lack of phenobarb, it is a sign of phenobarbital dependence.

henobarbitone Addiction

Side Effects of Phenobarbital

As with any drug, there can be many unpleasant side effects of Phenobarbital. This is true even when the drug is not being abused - it is part of the nature of the drug and how it interacts with the body. Some side effects only affect the user when they are under the influence of phenobarbital. Others last much longer.

Many side effects are the result of the body reacting to the depression of the central nervous system. They often occur even when the user follows the doctor’s exact instructions. These side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Unusual excitability
  • Irritability
  • Unexpected aggression
  • Confusion (especially in children or older adults)
  • Lowered coordination skills
  • Lack of balance
  • Slurred speech
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Slowed breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Issues with digestion

Additionally, some users experience a hangover-like effect the day after taking phenobarb. This usually involves drowsiness and some confusion.

Infants also experience some side effects, but usually fewer because of their decreased dosage. The most common side effects experienced by infants include confusion, nausea, and constipation.

Those who use phenobarbital long-term often experience much more serious side effects These can last even when they are not feeling the euphoric or relaxing effect of the drug. The long-term side effects of habitual Phenobarbital and other barbiturate use include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Memory problems
  • Blisters on the arms and legs
  • Severe confusion or brain fog

Phenobarbital and Other Drugs

According to the Phenobarbital package insert PDF, phenobarb shouldn’t be mixed with other drugs. This can have serious consequences.

For example, Phenobarbital shouldn’t be used with other central nervous system depressants. It should never be taken with alcohol or opiate drugs. It can also react poorly with other anti-seizure medications, birth control and estrogen hormones, and steroids.

Phenobarbital Long Term Side Effects

How to Tell if You’re Addicted to Phenobarbital

You may be a regular user of phenobarb but unsure if you’re addicted to it. You may want to take an addiction quiz, which can give you some insight into your Phenobarbital use. Also, you can look for some of the following signs of phenobarbital addiction:

  • Feeling as though you need more phenobarb to feel the same effects
  • Being unable to stop using Phenobarbital or decrease use
  • Spending a lot of time using phenobarb or recovering from use
  • Craving Phenobarbital
  • Using Phenobarbitone in dangerous situations
Phenobarbital Withdrawal Symptoms

Phenobarbital Withdrawal

Discontinuing Phenobarbital is likely to result in withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be quite severe and can occur in adults, children, and dogs alike. For adults, the symptoms of phenobarbital withdrawal often lead them to continue using the drug.

Withdrawal Protocol for Barbiturates

This is because withdrawal from Phenobarbital can be quite severe. You are likely to experience:

  • Severe bouts of anxiety or panic attacks
  • Muscle twitches
  • Uncontrollable shakiness
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures

If you attempt to stop Phenobarbital on your own, you may attempt a Phenobarbital weaning schedule like those suggested for dogs. Recovering users often think that they can withdrawal safely on their own. However, this is rarely true.

The best Phenobarbital withdrawal protocol is to seek treatment by a medical professional in a detox or rehab center. You should work with experts who understand this drug and its effects on the user’s body. Prescription drug detox is no walk in the park. Going through phenobarb withdrawal alone may set you up for failure in recovery.

Every facility has their own protocol for detoxing from phenobarbital. However, you can expect to be put on a Phenobarbital taper schedule. This is one of the main benefits of assisted phenobarbital detox. Professionals understand that this is a drug that needs to be tapered off slowly. They know the optimum rate to taper off the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Another benefit you’ll experience in a rehab facility is relief from many phenobarbital withdrawal symptoms. Many withdrawal symptoms can be controlled or eliminated by medications or a holistic detox process.

It’s important to know that it is impossible to completely avoid the symptoms of phenobarbital withdrawal. Even with the best care in the world, withdrawal would not be a pleasant process. However, recovery from your Phenobarbital addiction is more than worth the temporary discomfort.

If you think someone you know is addicted to phenobarb, it has likely negatively affected your own life. It is never easy to admit that someone we love is struggling with addiction. The good news is that it’s not impossible for family and friends to help someone get into rehab.

If talking with your loved one doesn’t yield any results, there is more you can do. You may want to consider an intervention as your next step. This may be the key to helping your loved one get the Phenobarbital treatment they need.

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Phenobarbital Addiction Treatment May be Right for You

Are you addicted to Phenobarbital? If you are, it can feel like you have no hope of recovering. It’s important to know this is not true. Recovery is always possible with the right aid. You are not alone in your journey to recovery from phenobarbital addiction.

At Ashwood Recovery, we’ve helped many people recover from their Phenobarbital addictions. We can help you do the same.

It’s important to remember that stopping Phenobarbital on your own is very dangerous. You could have severe adverse reactions that make it more likely that you’ll relapse or never get clean at all. Research shows that you are much more likely to recover successfully in a rehab center with trained professionals.

Have questions about Phenobarbital abuse, addiction, or treatment? We want to help you. Please contact us today.

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Phenobarbital Abuse and Addiction Infographic