How to Prevent and Treat Barbiturates Overdose

This article explores the risks and symptoms of a barbiturates overdose and provides tips on preventing and mitigating symptoms.

What Are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are a group of drugs that act on the central nervous system by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA. They are typically prescribed to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Barbiturates were widely used in the early 20th century but have since been largely replaced by newer drugs due to their high potential for abuse and overdose. Learn how to overcome and treat a barbiturates overdose in this comprehensive article.1

Types of Barbiturates

Barbiturates are classified based on their duration of action. Types of barbiturates are discussed below:2

  • Ultra-short-acting barbiturates are used for anesthesia and have fewer than 6 hours of action.
  • Short-acting barbiturates last for 6 to 8 hours and are used to treat insomnia and anxiety.
  • Intermediate-acting barbiturates last between 6 and 12 hours and are also used to treat insomnia and anxiety.
  • Long-acting barbiturates can last up to 24 hours and are typically used with other drugs to prevent convulsions in epilepsy.

Are Barbiturates Addictive?

Barbiturates are highly addictive drugs that can lead to physical and psychological dependence if misused. The longer and more frequently used, the more likely the user is to become addicted. They can also lead to dangerous overdoses if taken excessively or combined with other drugs or alcohol. Due to their high risks and addiction, barbiturates are no longer prescribed or are only prescribed when other treatment options fail to work. 

Explanation of Barbiturate Addiction and Dependence

Barbiturates can produce feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and sedation, which can be highly addictive.Barbiturate addiction occurs when the user’s brain adapts to the presence of the drug and becomes dependent on it to function normally. Over time, the user may develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning they need higher doses to achieve the desired effects.

Physical Dependence

Physical dependence on barbiturates can cause withdrawal symptoms if the user tries to stop taking the drug abruptly. These symptoms can be severe and even life-threatening in some cases. Psychological dependence on barbiturates can cause users to crave and continue using them even when they know it harms their health.

Withdrawal Symptoms From Barbiturate Use

Withdrawal from barbiturates can be dangerous and should always be done under the supervision of a medical professional. Symptoms of withdrawal can include the following:3
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Seizures
  • Delirium and hallucinations
If withdrawal symptoms are left untreated, they can progress to high fever and heart failure, which are both potentially fatal.

Short-Term Side Effects of Barbiturates

Barbiturates can produce a range of short-term and long-term side effects and potentially dangerous overdose symptoms. Short-term effects of barbiturates include the following:4

  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Reduced heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Respiratory depression

Long-Term Side Effects of Barbiturates

Long-term effects of barbiturates:

  • Tolerance
  • Dependence
  • Addiction
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Mood disorders
  • Liver damage
  • Respirato    ry problems
  • Cardiovascular problems

Barbiturates Overdose Symptoms and Risks

An overdose occurs when a person takes more of a drug than their body can safely handle, leading to a toxic drug buildup in their system. A barbiturates overdose can be deadly due to its ability to depress the central nervous system and slow down vital functions. Symptoms of barbiturates overdose can include the following:5

  • Difficulty breathing or shallow breathing.
  • Slow or weak pulse
  • Extreme drowsiness or loss of consciousness
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Muscle weakness or twitching

If left untreated, barbiturates overdose can lead to serious complications such as brain damage, seizures, coma, and death.

Risk Factors for Overdose

Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of a barbiturates overdose, including:

  • Taking higher doses than prescribed. 
  • Mixing barbiturates with other drugs or alcohol. 
  • Using barbiturates for non-medical purposes, such as getting high. 
  • Using barbiturates for an extended period can increase tolerance and the risk of overdose.
  • Using barbiturates in combination with other prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications that can interact with them.

How to Manage Barbiturates Overdose

Barbiturates overdose can be life-threatening, and it is important to know how to manage its symptoms if it happens. If you suspect someone has overdosed on barbiturates, it is crucial to act quickly and seek medical attention. 

Managing Symptoms From Home

However, in some cases, it may take some time for medical professionals to arrive, and during that time, you can take steps to manage the overdose symptoms at home.

  • Call Emergency Services: Call emergency services or take the person to the nearest emergency room immediately. Time is of the essence, and the sooner medical help arrives, the better.
  • Monitor Breathing: Until medical help arrives, stay with the person, and monitor their breathing and pulse. Keep the person awake and talking to prevent them from slipping into a coma.
  • Inform Medical Professionals: If possible, inform the medical professionals about the type and amount of barbiturates or any other drug the person took.
  • Monitor Pulse: Monitor the person’s breathing and pulse to make sure they are not getting worse. If the person stops breathing or their pulse weakens, start CPR if you are trained.
  • Activated Charcoal: Activated charcoal can help absorb any remaining barbiturates in the person’s stomach, which can help reduce the severity of the overdose. However, only administer activated charcoal if instructed by medical professionals.
  • Fluids: Offer the person fluids to prevent dehydration, but do not force them to drink if they cannot swallow.

Preventing Future Overdose

To prevent future barbiturates overdose, it’s important to follow the recommended dosage, avoid combining barbiturates with other substances, and not abruptly stop use without medical supervision. It’s also crucial to seek help for addiction or dependence issues and properly dispose of unused medication.

Should You Seek Medical Detox?

Medical detox may be necessary for individuals who are addicted to barbiturates. Medical detoxification, or detox, is a process by which a person’s body is gradually weaned off a drug or alcohol under medical supervision. 

The benefits of medical detox include increased safety and comfort during the withdrawal process, reduced risk of complications, and improved chances of successful recovery. Medical professionals can monitor vital signs, administer medications to manage symptoms, and provide emotional support and counseling to help the person cope with detox challenges.

barbiturates overdose

Options for Medical Detox and Rehabilitation Programs

Medical detox and rehabilitation programs are available for people struggling with barbiturate addiction. Some options include the following:

Inpatient Programs

These programs provide 24-hour medical supervision and support in a residential setting. Inpatient programs can be highly effective for people with severe addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions.

Outpatient Programs

These programs allow the person to receive medical detoxification and ongoing support while living at home. Outpatient programs can be a good option for people with less severe addiction or who have supportive home environments.

Medically Assisted Programs (MAT)

These programs use medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and help the person gradually taper off barbiturates. Medications such as benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants may be used to manage symptoms such as anxiety and seizures.

Behavioral Therapy and Counseling

These approaches can help the person develop coping skills, address underlying issues contributing to addiction, and learn healthy behaviors and habits for recovery.

Ultimately, the choice of a medical detox and rehabilitation program will depend on the person’s individual needs, preferences, and level of addiction. It is important to seek professional help to determine the best treatment for barbiturate addiction.

Essence and Barbiturates Overdose Aftercare

Essence Healthcare understands the serious nature of barbiturates overdose and the importance of proper aftercare. We aim to provide comprehensive aftercare options that address the individual’s unique needs and support their long-term recovery. Our ongoing monitoring ensures no further complications and that the individual is progressing on their recovery journey. 

Our team of experienced professionals provides therapy, counseling, and medication-assisted treatment to address the underlying issues. Our support groups provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to share their experiences and receive support from peers who have been through similar experiences. 

Reach Out to Essence Healthcare Today

We are committed to helping our clients achieve lasting wellness and live fulfilling lives free from the harms of addiction and prevent future overdoses. If you or a loved one needs help after a barbiturates overdose, please don’t hesitate to contact us for support and guidance on your recovery journey.
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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.