Are Barbiturates Addictive?: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Barbiturates, once commonly used as sedatives, anti-anxiety medications, and muscle relaxers, are now known for their potential for abuse, physical dependence, and addiction. Despite their limited medical applications, barbiturates continue to be controlled substances due to the dangers they pose. In this guide, we explore the following issues:

  • What are barbiturates – barbiturates examples?
  • What are the short term effects of barbiturates?
  • What are the long term effects of barbiturates?
  • Can you get addicted to muscle relaxers?
  • What are the most common barbiturates overdose symptoms?
  • Are barbiturates addictive?
  • What are barbiturate withdrawal symptoms?
  • How can you connect with treatment for barbiturates addiction?

Signs of Barbiturate Addiction

Developing an awareness of the signs of barbiturate addiction can help inform early intervention and providing appropriate support to those who may be struggling with substance abuse. Barbiturates, though once widely used for various medical conditions, are now classified as controlled substances due to their potential for abuse and associated risks. Understanding the telltale indicators of barbiturates abuse can help individuals, families, and healthcare professionals identify a possible addiction and take the necessary steps towards seeking treatment and recovery.

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  • Increased tolerance: As barbiturate addiction develops, individuals may find that the drug’s effects diminish over time, leading to increased tolerance. This means that higher doses are needed to achieve the desired effects, pushing individuals towards higher levels of drug consumption.
  • Behavioral changes: The abuse of barbiturates can result in significant behavioral changes. Individuals may become increasingly preoccupied with obtaining and using the drug, neglecting their personal, social, and professional responsibilities. They may spend considerable time and effort trying to maintain their supply or recovering from the drug’s effects.
  • Isolation and neglecting responsibilities: People grappling with barbiturate addiction often isolate themselves from friends, family, and social activities. The drug becomes their primary focus, causing them to withdraw from relationships and activities they once enjoyed. Neglecting personal and professional responsibilities is common as the drug takes precedence in their lives.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop or reduce barbiturate use is a red flag for addiction. These symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, sweating, nausea, and even seizures in severe cases. The fear of withdrawal can drive individuals to continue using the drug despite its detrimental effects.
  • Doctor shopping and prescription forging: Addiction may lead individuals to engage in deceptive behaviors to obtain more barbiturates. This could involve doctor shopping (visiting multiple healthcare providers to obtain multiple prescriptions) or forging prescriptions to satisfy their cravings.
  • Legal and financial issues: The side effects of barbiturates addiction can trigger legal problems, especially when individuals resort to illegal means to obtain the drug. Financial issues may arise due to the excessive spending on drugs, leading to strained finances and potential debt.
  • Neglected appearance and hygiene: Barbiturate addiction can result in a decline in personal care and hygiene. Individuals may appear disheveled, neglecting their appearance and grooming as the drug takes precedence over self-care.
  • Changes in social circle: Individuals with barbiturate addiction may begin associating with new social circles that revolve around drug use. They may distance themselves from their previous social networks and engage with individuals who enable or share in their addiction.
an image of pills representing barbiturates

Symptoms of Barbiturate Addiction

As barbiturate addiction takes hold, individuals may experience a range of physical and psychological symptoms that can have profound effects on their overall health and well-being. 

Prolonged barbiturate abuse can lead to respiratory depression, irregular blood pressure, increased sensitivity to sound and pain, as well as an elevated risk of developing bronchitis, pneumonia, and kidney failure.

Emotional instability, impaired mental functioning, anxiety, hallucinations, depression, and memory loss are some of the detrimental mental health effects associated with barbiturate addiction.

Barbiturate addiction can also significantly impact daily functioning, leading to job loss, neglect of self-care, strained relationships, and the neglect of hobbies and responsibilities. 

Individuals with barbiturate addiction often develop tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects, and may experience intense cravings for the drug. Attempting to stop or reduce barbiturate use can trigger barbiturates withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, restlessness, sweating, nausea, and seizures in severe cases, further reinforcing the cycle of addiction.

Addiction can lead to financial strain due to excessive spending on drugs, while individuals may also face legal problems related to their deceptive behaviors in obtaining the drug.

People grappling with barbiturate addiction may withdraw from loved ones, leading to social isolation and strained relationships. As addiction takes precedence, individuals may neglect personal care and grooming, leading to a decline in appearance and hygiene. Addiction may prompt individuals to associate with new social circles centered around drug use, distancing themselves from their previous support networks.

Barbiturate Addiction Treatment

Barbiturate addiction is a chronic and relapsing condition that requires comprehensive treatment to address both the physical and psychological aspects of dependency. Seeking professional help is vital for those struggling with addiction to barbiturates to achieve lasting recovery and healing.

The first step in treating barbiturate addiction is usually medical detoxification. This process involves tapering off the drug gradually and under close medical supervision. Detox helps manage withdrawal symptoms and reduces the risk of complications that can arise during withdrawal. Medical professionals closely monitor individuals during detox to ensure their safety and comfort.

For severe cases of barbiturate addiction, inpatient or residential treatment programs offer a structured and supportive environment. These programs provide 24/7 care, allowing individuals to focus solely on their recovery without the distractions and triggers of the outside world. Inpatient treatment typically includes individual counseling, group therapy, behavioral therapies, and other evidence-based approaches tailored to the individual’s needs.

Outpatient treatment is suitable for those with milder addiction or individuals transitioning from inpatient care. It provides flexibility, allowing individuals to attend therapy sessions while living at home or in a supportive environment. Outpatient programs offer various counseling options, group therapy sessions, and educational workshops to help individuals address the underlying causes of addiction and develop coping skills.

Behavioral therapies, like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and CM (contingency management), are commonly used to address addiction. These therapies help individuals identify and modify unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors associated with drug use. Behavioral therapies also teach coping strategies and problem-solving skills, empowering individuals to overcome challenges and maintain sobriety.

Participating in support groups – 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), for instance – can be beneficial for individuals in recovery from barbiturate addiction. Support groups provide a sense of community and camaraderie, allowing individuals to share experiences, learn from others, and receive encouragement on their journey to recovery.

Many individuals struggling with barbiturate addiction may also have co-occurring mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment addresses both addiction and mental health issues simultaneously, ensuring comprehensive care and a better chance of lasting recovery.

Holistic therapies like yoga, mindfulness practices, art therapy, and meditation, complement traditional treatment approaches. These therapies promote overall well-being, reduce stress, and provide individuals with healthy coping mechanisms to manage triggers and cravings. 

Continuing care and aftercare planning are crucial aspects of barbiturate addiction treatment. Developing a comprehensive aftercare plan helps individuals transition back into their daily lives while maintaining their sobriety. This may involve ongoing counseling, support group participation, and access to resources that promote long-term recovery.

an image of California Detox's barbiturate addiction treatment center

Get Treatment for Barbiturate Addiction at California Detox

If you’re struggling with physical dependence or addiction to prescription medications, alcohol, or illicit drugs, we are here to help you at California Detox in Laguna Beach.

Our primary focus is on barbiturate addiction. We offer a range of specialized treatment programs tailored to address the challenges of barbiturate dependency.

For a safe and supervised detoxification process, our medical detox program is designed to provide the smoothest pathway to recovery. Through this program, you’ll have access to medications that can ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings, making the detoxification process more manageable.

Following successful detox, you have the option to transition seamlessly into our inpatient program, which provides comprehensive residential rehab services.

At California Detox, we take a personalized approach to treatment, combining evidence-based interventions with holistic therapies to promote a whole-body approach to addiction recovery. Our treatment options include:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment) specifically tailored for barbiturate addiction.
  • Group counseling sessions to foster a supportive and understanding community.
  • Individual counseling to address personal challenges and work through underlying issues.
  • Psychotherapy options like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) to develop coping strategies and emotional regulation skills.
  • Family therapy to involve loved ones in the recovery process and promote healing in relationships.
  • Holistic therapies that complement traditional approaches, focusing on mind-body wellness.
  • Aftercare support to ensure a successful transition back into everyday life after treatment.

If you or a loved one needs immediate assistance and support to overcome barbiturate addiction, please call our admissions team at 949.694.8305. We are here to guide you on the path to recovery and a healthier, addiction-free life.


Yes, muscle relaxers can be very addictive and should only be taken with oversight from a doctor. Muscle relaxers are not intended for use longer than 2-3 weeks.
Common barbiturates include: Seconal Sodium, Mebaral, Butisol Sodium, Luminal, Sezaby, Nembutal, and Amytal Sodium.


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