Skip to Content

Barbiturate Abuse

What is barbiturate abuse?

Barbiturate abuse means you take too much of this medicine, or take it even though you are not supposed to. Barbiturates are medicines used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and seizures. Barbiturates are most often taken as a pill, but may also be injected. They are called downers or may be described by the color of the pill.

What are the signs and symptoms of barbiturate abuse?

  • Small doses may make you feel drowsy, bold, or drunk.
  • Higher doses may make you stagger, slur your speech, or be confused.
  • You may be unable to fulfill work, home, or school responsibilities.
  • You may be involved with dangerous activities when you use barbiturates.
  • You may have a difficult time getting along with others when you use barbiturates.

How is barbiturate abuse diagnosed?

  • Psychiatric assessment: Caregivers will ask if you have a history of psychological trauma, such as physical, sexual, or mental abuse. They will ask if you were given the care that you needed. Caregivers will ask you if you have been a victim of a crime or natural disaster, or if you have a serious injury or disease. They will ask you if you have seen other people being harmed, such as in combat. You will be asked if you drink alcohol or use drugs at present or in the past. Caregivers will ask you if you want to hurt or kill yourself or others. How you answer these questions can help caregivers decide on treatment. To help during treatment, caregivers will ask you about such things as how you feel about it and your hobbies and goals. Caregivers will also ask you about the people in your life who support you.
  • Urine tests: Caregiver may test your urine to check for barbiturates.

How is barbiturate abuse treated?

  • Detox program: This program includes medicine and treatment to reduce withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking barbiturates. You will be in the hospital with close monitoring and care.
  • Gradual dose decrease: Your caregiver will slowly decrease your dose of barbiturates. This may help prevent withdrawal symptoms.
  • Antianxiety medicine: This medicine may be given to decrease anxiety and help you feel calm and relaxed.

What other treatments may be needed?

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This may help you change your thinking and behavior. It can help you manage depression and anxiety caused by barbiturate abuse. CBT can help you learn good coping skills and ways to manage stress. CBT can be done with you and a talk therapist or in a group with others.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy: A therapist or counselor can help motivate you and help set goals so you may change your behavior and stop barbiturate abuse.
  • Twelve-step facilitation (TSF): This is a short, structured approach to reach early recovery from drug abuse. It is done one-to-one in 12 to 15 sessions. Goals of the program include accepting that you have a problem that you need to overcome, and being willing to take certain steps to overcome it.

What are the risks of barbiturate abuse?

Barbiturate abuse may cause frequent and serious impairment or distress. If you abuse barbiturates during pregnancy, your baby may be dependent on the medicine when he is born and have withdrawal symptoms.

How can I cope with barbiturate abuse?

  • Be honest and open with family and close friends. Ask for help.
  • Stay active.
  • Join a support group and go to the meetings.
  • Stay away from people who use and abuse barbiturates.
  • If you use barbiturates, do not drink alcohol. This may be life-threatening.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You cannot fight the need to take barbiturates.
  • You feel you cannot cope with your problems.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have chest pain, sweating, or breathing problems.
  • You feel like hurting or killing yourself or someone else.
  • You pass out or have a seizure.
  • You see or hear things that are not there.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.