Causes & Effects of Barbiturates Addiction

Understanding Barbiturate Addiction

Learn about barbiturate addiction and abuse

Barbiturates are a type of medication that is generally used to treat anxiety, seizures, epilepsy, and occasionally insomnia. When ingested, these drugs cause sedation and feelings of relaxation and thus can be a tempting target of abuse for individuals who are seeking a recreational high. Because of their relatively higher risk of abuse, among other factors, barbiturates are not as commonly used today and have largely been replaced by benzodiazepines and other medications. If left unchecked, barbiturate abuse can have serious negative effects on virtually all areas of a individual’s life, possibly even including a fatal overdose. Fortunately, with the help of the comprehensive treatment program, freedom from barbiturate abuse is possible.


Barbiturate addiction statistics

According to 2012 data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), barbiturate-related admissions to chemical dependency treatment programs decreased to nearly 40 percent between 2002 and 2012, likely partly as a result of the transition away from prescribing barbiturates in favor of benzodiazepines and the other medications. The Drug Abuse Warning Network reported that barbiturates were responsible for less than 2 percent of emergency room visits in 2011.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for barbiturate addiction

As with any substance of abuse, the risk factors for barbiturates abuse are diverse and influenced by a number of different factors such as:

Genetic: Researchers have discovered that genetics and heredity play a particularly important role in determining a person’s risk of barbiturate abuse. For example, individuals who have a family member, especially a parent or sibling, who engages in substance abuse are much more likely to also abuse these drugs. Certain elements of personality that are linked to genetics, such as impulsivity and novelty-seeking, are also linked with an increased risk of barbiturate abuse.

Environmental: In addition to genetic factors, environmental factors also play a role in determining an individual’s risk of barbiturate abuse. Naturally, the risk of barbiturate abuse is much higher for individuals who have been prescribed these drugs and who have easy access to them. People whose peers abuse substances, especially prescription drugs, are also at a higher risk of abusing barbiturates.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Personal history of substance abuse
  • High impulsivity
  • High desire for novel situations
  • Being prescribed barbiturates
  • Associating with others who abuse substances

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of barbiturate addiction

There are a number of signs and symptoms that may indicate an individual is struggling with barbiturate abuse. Some of these include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Giving up on important social or occupational activities in favor of using barbiturates
  • Abusing barbiturates even when one is aware of significant negative consequences that have resulted from use
  • Failing to keep up with one’s obligations at work or home as a result of using barbiturates
  • Repeated unsuccessful efforts to cut down on barbiturate use
  • Continuing to abuse barbiturates even when doing so puts one in danger
  • Taking more barbiturates than a person intends
  • Investing a substantial amount of time and energy obtaining barbiturates, using them, or recovering from use

Physical symptoms:

  • Presence of withdrawal symptoms when one tries to quit using
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor coordination
  • Experiencing tolerance, which involves needing a higher dose of barbiturates in order to achieve a desired effect

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor judgment
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Experiencing cravings for the drug
  • Poor memory
  • Slowed thought processes

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Continuing to abuse barbiturates despite experiencing significant interpersonal problems
  • Altered consciousness
  • Agitation or aggression
  • Depression or anxiety


Effects of barbiturate addiction

If left untreated, there is virtually no limit to the harm that barbiturate abuse can cause in an individual’s life. Some of these negative effects may include:

  • Strained or broken relationships
  • Interpersonal difficulties in conflict
  • Loss of meaningful social support
  • Onset or worsening of mental health symptoms
  • Polysubstance use, addiction, or chemical dependency
  • Poor work performance, demotion, or loss of job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Financial strain
  • Interactions with the legal system
  • Organ damage
  • Accidental injury or automobile accidents
  • Overdose
  • Death

Dual Diagnosis

Barbiturate addiction and dual diagnosis

Individuals who struggle with barbiturate abuse often meet diagnostic criteria for other mental or behavioral health disorders. In clinical terms, experiencing multiple disorders at the same time is referred to as dual diagnosis. The following are among the disorders that may impact people who are abusing barbiturates:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

If you’re struggling with dual diagnosis, it’s essential that you get effective care for all of the disorders that have been impacting your life. Unfortunately, many people don’t even realize they’re dealing with dual diagnosis until they enter a program. This is why it’s so important to choose a provider that offers thorough assessments and comprehensive dual diagnosis programming.

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of barbiturate withdrawal and overdose

Effects of barbiturate withdrawal: If an individual who is been abusing barbiturates for a long period of time abstains from use, he or she is likely to experience a series of uncomfortable or painful symptoms known as withdrawal is his or her body adjusts to the absence of the drug. Some of the effects of withdrawal can include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Racing thoughts
  • Feeling restless
  • Short-term hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety

Effects of barbiturate overdose: Should an individual ingest more barbiturates than his or her body can safely handle, he or she will experience an overdose. Overdoses are dangerous and potentially fatal.  Any individual who may be experiencing an overdose should receive medical attention immediately. Some of the effects of barbiturate overdose can include:

  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Sluggish movements
  • Slow heart rate
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
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