For decades, barbiturates like Nembutal were used to treat common ailments like sleep problems and anxiety. But their side effects profile and the advent of a safer sedative caused them to be replaced for common purposes in the 1960s. However, Nembutal is still used today in some circumstances. Among its side effects is a significant abuse liability. Nembutal misuse and abuse can lead to chemical dependence and addiction. Nembutal addiction is a serious disease that can affect the reward center of the brain. Learn more here about Nembutal addiction, its side effects, and how it can be treated.
What Is Nembutal?
Nembutal is a brand name for a drug called pentobarbital, a sedative-hypnotic drug. It’s in a class of drugs called barbiturates that were first used in the early 20th century. It was developed from barbituric acid, which was created in the 19th century. Barbiturates were widely used throughout the 1900s and were administered to treat insomnia, anxiety, convulsions, and even in lethal injections. It was also used to counteract the sleep-preventing side effects of amphetamines.
Barbiturates saw a drop off in use in the 1960s with the advent of benzodiazepines, a similar drug with a safer side effects profile. They can also lead to chemical dependence after a few weeks of regular use. Dependence and addiction to barbiturates like pentobarbital can be severe and difficult to overcome. High doses of the drug can lead to a life-threatening overdose, causing you to lose consciousness, fall into a coma, and stop breathing.
Chemical dependence can also cause dangerous and life-threatening symptoms when you stop using the drug. Quitting abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, tremors, convulsions, heart palpitations, and dangerous heart-related symptoms.
Barbiturates are potent central nervous system depressants, which means they work by slowing down neurological activity in the brain. They work with a chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is an important chemical in your brain that facilitates rest and relaxation. Pentobarbital binds to GABA receptors in the brain and increases the potency of GABA, slowing down nervous system activity. As the nervous system slows down, you may experience sleepiness, relaxed muscles, anxiety relief, and relief from racing thoughts.
Today, Nembutal is used as a sedative-hypnotic drug. It may be used to treat insomnia, control convulsions, or prime the body for an anesthetic. Nembutal and other barbiturates may also be used as recreational substances. The drug is considered a Schedule II substance, which means it’s a federally controlled substance that may have significant potential for abuse along with currently accepted medical uses.
As a central nervous system depressant, it can cause effects similar to alcohol when misused, which makes it an attractive recreational substance. However, it’s also more likely to cause heavy sedation than alcohol.
What Are the Signs of Nembutal Addiction?
Addiction is a complex disease that affects the part of your brain that deals with reward and motivation. Your reward center works with chemicals in your brain that produce positive feelings like dopamine and serotonin. Activities important for sustaining life like eating, drinking, comfort, and companionship cause a release of these feel-good chemicals. Your reward center uses them to encourage you to repeat those activities. However, many drugs, including pentobarbital, manipulate your brain into releasing these rewarding chemicals. Over time, this trains your brain to treat the drug like those life-sustaining activities.
One of the telltale signs of addiction is compulsive drug use, even with significant consequences. In many cases, people in active addiction cannot stop taking the drug, even if it causes medical and psychological issues in their life.
The DSM-5 diagnoses addiction as a substance use disorder, which is separated into three categories based on severity. Mild, moderate, and severe substance use disorders are identified by the DSM’s list of 11 signs and symptoms. These symptoms involve physical, psychological, and social signs. You may experience a growing tolerance, hazardous use, interpersonal problems, withdrawal symptoms, and need to spend more time using.
However, there are also some signs more specific to Nembutal and drugs like it. As a depressant, Nembutal can cause intoxicating effects similar to alcohol, including:
- Weak muscles
- Poor coordination
- Memory impairment
- Slurred speech
- Impaired cognition
High doses can cause you to lose consciousness, and it may be difficult to wake you up. It can also slow down your heart rate and blood pressure.
Nembutal can also cause dependence, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms. Depressants cause withdrawal symptoms that are consistent with nervous system overactivity. Symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, shaky hands, irritability, agitation, seizures, heart palpitations, and arrhythmia.
What Is Involved in Nembutal Addiction Treatment?
If you’ve realized you have a substance use disorder, or if loved ones are urging you to seek treatment, the first step is to ask for help. You may speak to your doctor, talk to a therapist, or call a treatment center directly. Speaking to a professional can help you find the next step in treatment that’s right for you. The first steps in treatment often involve an assessment process that looks at your medical, psychological and social needs. Since addiction is complex, treatment needs to be holistic, addressing multiple areas of your health.
If you have significant medical needs in addiction treatment, you may need to go through high levels of care. Nembutal addiction could mean your risk of serious withdrawal symptoms is high, especially if you’ve become dependent on a high dose. Withdrawal is treated in medical detox, which involves 24-hour medically managed treatment.
When you’ve gotten through the withdrawal phase, and you no longer need round-the-clock medically managed services, you may move on to inpatient and residential care. Inpatient care continues to afford you 24-hour treatment, but it’s a slightly lower level than medical detox. Inpatient care may involve 24-hour medical monitoring for people who may still encounter some uncomfortable medical complications. You’ll also work through a treatment plan that will involve therapies according to your needs.
Residential care also falls under the inpatient treatment category, but it may be less intensive than higher levels. This may involve dorm or apartment-style accommodations as you live on campus and attend many hours of treatment services each week.
When you are stable enough to live on your own safely, you may continue outpatient treatment. Partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment are various levels of outpatient care. Outpatient treatment allows you to attend to goals and responsibilities in your life as you attend treatment during the day.
How Dangerous Is Nembutal?
Barbiturates were largely replaced by other options for a reason. They can be extremely dangerous when they’re used for too long or misused as recreational drugs. If you have an anxiety disorder, insomnia, or seizures, Nembutal may not be the first option your doctor will recommend. Still, they can be effective medications when they are used as doctors prescribe.
Nembutal’s danger comes from its potency and its ability to slow down vital functions of your nervous system. It’s similar to other depressants in that it can slow down your breathing and heart rate in high doses. In moderate doses, Nembutal is relatively safe. But even with prescribed use, if you use the drug consistently for a long period, you could develop a chemical dependence or addiction. Dependence and addiction increase your risk of overdose and other issues associated with substance use disorders.
High doses of Nembutal can cause a fatal overdose. Depressant overdoses often turn fatal when the drug starts to slow down your breathing and leads to oxygen deprivation. Overdose is more likely when Nembutal is mixed with other substances, including opioids, alcohol, benzodiazepines, and other depressants.
There are some long-term health risks associated with depressant overdoses. Oxygen deprivation can lead to brain damage, which can cause long-term or permanent problems.
Nembutal Abuse Statistics
Addiction has become a major public health issue over the past several years, particularly due to the opioid crisis. However, other substances, including prescription sedatives, have contributed to addiction and overdose rates.
In 2020, there were record numbers of overdose deaths exceeding 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nembutal, and other barbiturates, are no longer widely used and available. It was once used in a prescribed oral pill form, but the product has been discontinued. Still, it is still used for medical purposes, and it may be misused or abused. Similar sedative-hypnotic drugs are frequently used as recreational substances.
According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6.2 million people reported past-year misuse of sedative drugs. Around 1.2 million had a substance use disorder related to sedatives and tranquilizers.
While opioids are the driving force behind the addiction epidemic, sedatives like Nembutal, other barbiturates, and benzodiazepines have contributed to addiction and overdose. Plus, when they are combined with common drugs of misuse like alcohol and opioids, they become even more dangerous.