Nembutal is the brand name for a prescription medication called pentobarbital. Nembutal is in a class of drugs called barbiturates, and they are used to treat insomnia, anxiety disorders, and certain brain trauma issues. Barbiturates became known for their adverse effects in the 1960s, and they were largely outmoded because of their high addiction and overdose risk. Still, there are a few barbiturates like Nembutal that are on the market today, and it’s important to recognize the signs of dependence and addiction if you or someone you know begins using the drug.
Learn more about Nembutal addiction and how it can be treated.
Nembutal is the brand name for a drug called pentobarbital. Nembutal is in a class of drugs called barbiturates, and it is used to treat insomnia, anxiety disorders, and certain brain trauma issues. The drug is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, which means it achieves its desired effects by suppressing excitability in the nervous system.
Barbiturates were once widely used in the first half of the 20th century, but they have since been replaced by benzodiazepines for the treatment of common disorders like anxiety and sleep issues. Today, barbiturates are typically reserved as anesthetics and some other medical uses.
As a depressant, Nembutal is GABAergic, which means it primarily works in the brain by interacting with a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA. This naturally occurring chemical is responsible for managing excitability in the nervous system. When you feel excited, scared, or elated, your nervous system produces chemicals to lift your mood, increase your energy, or produce a fight or flight response. GABA helps with calming you down when it’s time to rest or sleep. People with anxiety and sleep disorders often experience chemical imbalances that prevent them from calming down when they need to.
Nembutal was used as a sedative or hypnotic drug to help boost GABA’s effectiveness in people with these disorders. Nembutal binds to GABA receptors on a site that’s different than GABA’s own binding site. When GABA also makes its way to the receptor, Nembutal can increase its effectiveness.
Barbiturates like Nembutal fell out of common use because their adverse effects made them less popular than benzos in the 1960s, which were perceived to be safer. Nembutal can cause dependence, addiction, withdrawal, and overdose, especially when abused. Barbiturates have a high addiction risk, and dependency can develop after several weeks of consistent use.
While they are less common than other depressants like benzos or alcohol, barbiturates are used recreationally as a method of suicide. Around 300 deaths in the U.S. each year are related to barbiturate overdose, and many of those are suicides. The rest may be a result of polydrug use or recreational drug use.
Knowing the signs of Nembutal abuse can help you seek treatment for yourself or someone else as soon as a substance use disorder starts to develop. Substance use disorders often start with mild symptoms like overusing the drug, using more than intended, and a growing tolerance. If you are worried about your own use of Nembutal, tolerance is usually the first sign that normal use is turning becoming more problematic. If you feel like your typical dose is less effective than it once was, you may have a growing tolerance. If you notice this, you are advised to speak to a doctor as soon as possible.
If you continue to use as tolerance grows, you may be on the path to chemical dependence. Dependence occurs when your brain and nervous system start to rely on a psychoactive substance to maintain brain chemistry. If you miss a dose, cut back, or stop using, you may start to feel withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, insomnia, tremors, nausea, and even seizures.
If you are concerned that a friend or family member might have a problem with Nembutal, some behavioral signs of a substance abuse disorder that could signal problematic use include:
Addiction is on the severe end of the substance use disorder spectrum, and it’s characterized by compulsive use, despite the consequences. If you’ve become addicted, you may not be able to stop on your own, even if you’ve noticed it has caused serious consequences like legal troubles, health problems, or a strain in your relationships.
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Nembutal addiction is a complicated disease that requires a complex approach to treatment. As a barbiturate, it can be dangerous to detox cold turkey, or suddenly, on your own. For that reason, people who enter treatment for a substance use disorder related to Nembutal usually start with the highest level of care in addiction treatment: medical detoxification. Detox is usually a week-long process that involves 24 hours of medically managed services every day. Through this process, health care professionals will maintain your comfort and safety as you go through withdrawal symptoms.
After the medical detox phase, the next level of care you go to will depend on your specific needs. If you have medical or psychological needs that need 24-hour treatment, you may enter an inpatient program until you are stabilized. If you have a poor recovery environment (e.g., an abusive home life, roommates who still use drugs), you may enter a residential program. Once you have progressed through treatment, you may advance to an intensive outpatient program or an outpatient program.
Through treatment, you will go through a variety of therapy options that can include individual, group, and family therapy. For treatment to be effective, your treatment plan should be rooted in evidence-based therapies, which are approaches to treatment that have been proven to be significantly effective in scientific studies. A popular example of evidence-based therapies is behavioral therapies, which are common in addiction treatment. Behavioral therapies are designed to help motivate clients, encourage participation, and develop relapse prevention strategies and coping mechanisms.
After treatment, your treatment center’s aftercare program may connect you to community resources like 12-step programs or career centers to help you continue your commitment to recovery.
As a barbiturate, Nembutal has its fair share of potentially dangerous side effects. Barbiturates, in general, fell out of common use as a sleep aid and anti-anxiety medication because of their adverse effects, particularly their potential for overdose and addiction. If you take a high dose of Nembutal, it could suppress your nervous system to the point where your breathing is slowed or even stopped. The risk of a fatal overdose is increased when the drug is mixed with other substances like opioids, other barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or alcohol.
Barbiturates also have a more pronounced effect on older adults. As we age, we lose our ability to process certain depressants efficiently, and the effects can be increased. Older people are at a greater risk of experiencing falls from cognitive impairment, even with a standard dose of the drug. It’s generally recommended that older patients avoid barbiturates like Nembutal.
Nembutal can also be dangerous during withdrawal. If you stop using abruptly, the newly liberated excitatory chemicals in your brain may send your nervous system into overdrive. The result can be anxiety, irritability, panic, tremors, seizures and a condition called delirium tremens (DTs). In severe cases, symptoms can lead to coma or death, but treatment greatly diminishes your risk of serious consequences.