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Barbiturate Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 22, 2024

Table of Contents

Barbiturates, a class of medication known for their sedative and hypnotic effects, induce relaxation and drowsiness. Physicians have used barbiturates to treat various conditions such as seizures, migraines, and insomnia for more than a century.

Despite their effectiveness, the abuse of barbiturates and their tendency to trigger dependence and addiction means that their use in modern medicine has declined. Nevertheless, barbiturates remain an alternative treatment option in cases where other medications are ineffective. Read on to learn

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  • Why are barbiturates dangerous?
  • What are addiction issues of barbiturates?
  • Why are barbiturates addictive?
  • How addictive are barbiturates?
  • How to connect with addiction treatment in Ohio.

Are Barbiturates Addictive?

Addiction to barbiturates can form quite quickly. Their sedative and hypnotic properties can lead to physical and psychological dependence, especially with prolonged or improper use. When used regularly, the body can become accustomed to their effects, triggering the development of tolerance, where higher doses are required to achieve the same level of sedation or sleep induction. This escalation in dosage increases the risk of addiction.

Beyond this, withdrawal from barbiturates can be challenging and potentially dangerous, with symptoms ranging from restlessness and insomnia to more severe effects like seizures. This means that these drugs are usually indicated for short-term use and under strict medical supervision to minimize the risk of addiction and barbiturate dependence.

Signs of Barbiturate Addiction

Recognizing barbiturate addiction involves identifying various behavioral, physical, and psychological signs. These signs are often the first indicators of barbiturate abuse transitioning to addiction.

  • Change in sleeping patterns: Unusual sleep schedules, such as sleeping at odd hours or for extended periods.
  • Mood swings: Sudden and unexplained changes in mood, ranging from euphoria to irritability.
  • Altered social behavior: Withdrawing from friends and family or associating with a new peer group that uses addictive substances.
  • Secretive behaviors: Being secretive or dishonest about activities, whereabouts, or finances.
  • Neglect of personal appearance: A noticeable decline in grooming or personal hygiene.
  • Financial problems: Unexplained financial difficulties, borrowing money, or unusual spending patterns.
  • Changes in performance: Declining performance at work or school, including absenteeism or lack of interest.
  • Physical health issues: Unexplained health problems, weight loss, or lack of energy.
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia: Finding items associated with drug use, such as pills, prescription bottles, or syringes.
  • Legal issues: Encounters with law enforcement or legal problems related to substance use.
  • Risk-taking behaviors: Engaging in risky activities, especially when under the influence of barbiturates.

These signs are not definitive proof of addiction but are strong indicators that there may be a problem with barbiturate use developing. If several of these signs manifest, consider seeking a professional assessment.

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Barbiturate Addiction Symptoms

DSM-5-TR (the fifth revised edition of APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) outlines the criteria for barbiturate addiction as follows:

  1. Using barbiturates more frequently or in larger doses than intended.
  2. Repeated and unsuccessful attempts to reduce or discontinue use.
  3. Spending lots of time acquiring, using, or recovering from the effects of barbiturates.
  4. Experiencing intense cravings for barbiturates.
  5. Work, school, or home responsibilities compromised because of barbiturate use.
  6. Persisting in barbiturate use despite it causing relationship troubles or social issues.
  7. Abandoning or reducing social, work, or recreational activities due to barbiturate use.
  8. Using barbiturates in potentially dangerous situations.
  9. Continuing to use barbiturates even when aware of the physical or psychological harm they cause.
  10. Needing an increased amount of barbiturates to achieve the desired effect or a markedly reduced effect with continued use of the same amount.
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the effects of barbiturates wear off or using the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Barbiturates Addiction Treatment

Treating barbiturate addiction involves a comprehensive approach that addresses both physical dependence and the psychological aspects of addiction. Key components of this treatment include:

  • Medical detoxification: This is the first phase of treatment, focusing on safely removing the drug from the body. Medical supervision is beneficial during detox to manage withdrawal symptoms, which can be severe and potentially life-threatening. Detox addresses the issue of physical dependence. Ongoing treatment tackles the psychological effects of barbiturates addiction.
  • Behavioral therapies: Various forms of therapy, such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and motivational interviewing, are used to help change drug-using behaviors, develop coping strategies, and treat underlying mental health issues.
  • Medication management: In some cases, medications may be used to ease withdrawal symptoms, treat co-occurring disorders, or support recovery.
  • Support groups: Participation in groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or other peer support groups can provide ongoing support and a sense of community.
  • Relapse prevention education: Educating people on strategies to avoid relapse is central to effective treatment. This includes recognizing triggers, developing healthy coping mechanisms, and maintaining a supportive environment.
  • Aftercare planning: Ongoing support after the initial treatment phase may include outpatient therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes to support long-term recovery.
  • Family therapy: Addiction affects not only the individual but also their family members. Family therapy can help in addressing the impact of addiction on relationships and improving family dynamics.
  • Holistic therapies: Many addiction treatment programs incorporate holistic approaches like yoga, meditation, and acupuncture to aid in overall wellness and stress management.

Each person’s treatment plan should be tailored to their specific needs, taking into account the severity of the addiction, any co-occurring mental health disorders, and their personal circumstances.

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Get Treatment for Barbiturate Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

Now that you know about the dangers of barbiturates and the long term effects of barbiturates, place your trust in Renaissance Recovery to initiate your recovery from addiction to this class of medication.

We treat all addictions and mental health conditions in an outpatient setting. This enables you to engage with evidence-based addiction treatment without sacrificing your everyday commitments. Those who require more support and structure can access more intensive outpatient treatment.

All treatment programs at our luxury beachside rehab in Huntington Beach, California, offer therapies that include:

Move beyond a life constrained by barbiturate addiction by calling 866.330.9449 right away.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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