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Barbiturate Withdrawal Symptoms & Timeline And Detox

When symptoms get better after starting Barbiturates, many people need to keep taking it long-term to avoid Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms. However, sometimes sedatives that were working well can suddenly stop being effective. Doctors do not fully understand this poop-out effect of Barbituratenot.

In recent data, around 405,000 Americans aged 12 and older used barbiturates. Of these, 32,000 misused the drugs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). People who misuse barbiturates face serious side effects. Most often, these drugs are taken as pills, but some drug users inject them in liquid form for a quicker effect. Many abuse Barbiturate to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

In this article, we will discuss the barbiturate detox process, barbiturate withdrawal symptoms, treatments, and timeline. Read on!

What is Barbiturate?

Barbiturates, an FDA-approved sedative, is a class of drugs that act as central nervous system depressants. They are used for various medical purposes, including sedatives, anesthetics, and anticonvulsants. Barbiturates work by enhancing the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits nerve transmission in the brain, leading to a calming effect.

Despite their effectiveness, barbiturates have largely fallen out of favor due to their high potential for dependence, overdose, and the availability of safer alternatives. They can be highly addictive, and overdose can lead to severe respiratory depression and even death. Today, they are primarily used in specific clinical settings, such as in treating certain seizure disorders or as part of anesthesia protocols.

The most commonly used medications in this class include:

  • Nembutal (pentobarbital)
  • Seconal (secobarbital)
  • Amytal (amobarbital)
  • Tuinal (secobarbital and amobarbital)

What Is Barbiturate Detox?

Barbiturate detox is the first step to overcoming addiction. It safely removes the drug and harmful chemicals from the body, best done under medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Barbiturates, also known as “downers,” are central nervous system depressants once used to treat insomnia and anxiety. Today, safer drugs like Benzodiazepines are preferred, but Barbiturates are still sometimes prescribed as sedatives, hypnotics, anesthetics, and anticonvulsants. They work by slowing down brain activity but are highly addictive and can cause serious health issues if misused, including blood problems, liver disease, and seizures.

Barbiturate Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone dependent on barbiturates stops using them, they may face barbiturate withdrawal symptoms that can be uncomfortable, challenging, and sometimes dangerous.

Common barbiturate withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Fatigue
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Changes in behavior
  • Raised body temperature
  • Shakiness
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Delirium
  • Seizures
  • Agitation

During barbiturate detox, the main goal is to manage withdrawal symptoms, hazardous ones like seizures, to help the person move on to the next stage of treatment. Doctors might prescribe medications to ease symptoms like insomnia and nausea.

It’s important not to try withdrawing from barbiturates without medical supervision because the symptoms can be severe.

Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline and duration of barbiturate withdrawal symptoms can vary based on factors like age, health, duration of use, and dosage. Typically, the worst symptoms occur within the first 72 hours after stopping.

For short-acting barbiturates, symptoms peak in 2-4 days and last 4-7 days. For long-acting barbiturates, symptoms peak in 4-7 days and can last 7-14 days or more.

  • Days 1-3

Severe symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and excessive sweating start, peaking in the first 72 hours with a high risk of severe complications.

  • Days 4-10

Insomnia and other symptoms like shaking, muscle aches, nausea, and sweating begin to lessen around day 7.

  • Days 11-17

Physical symptoms subside, but anxiety, panic attacks, extreme fatigue, and depression can occur.

  • Days 18+

Most withdrawal symptoms fade, though psychological issues like depression and anxiety may persist for weeks or months.

Barbiturate Detox Programs

Detoxing from barbiturates can be done through inpatient or outpatient services. Outpatient detox lets people continue their daily lives, while inpatient detox offers a safe, supervised place to rest and recover with constant medical care.

1. Inpatient Detox

In many cases, it’s better for patients to choose inpatient detox to prevent relapse and ensure they get immediate medical help if needed. Most detox programs happen in a hospital or rehabilitation center and offer more than detox—they also provide therapy, medical care, and support group meetings.

2. Outpatient Detox

While it’s not common, outpatient detox could be suitable for those with mild barbiturate dependence. They receive regular medical check-ups and prescriptions but only visit the facility on specific days. Outpatient detox might be a good option if money is tight or the person has family responsibilities.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Barbiturate Withdrawal

It’s common for barbiturate addiction to coincide with mental illness. This dual-diagnosis treatment approach focuses on addressing both issues simultaneously to reveal the root causes of substance abuse.

Around 45% of individuals in the U.S. face the challenge of managing both addiction and mental health conditions. Some may turn to barbiturates to alleviate emotional pain, while others may experience worsening mental health due to substance abuse. The aim is to provide holistic care that tackles both addiction and mental health issues.


Que: How long does barbiturate stay in your system?

Ans: Barbiturates can be detected in urine for 2-4 days and in blood for 1-2 days. Meanwhile, Benzodiazepines stay in urine for 3-6 weeks and in blood for 2-3 days.

Que: How do you avoid barbiturate withdrawal symptoms?

Ans: Avoiding barbiturate withdrawal symptoms typically involves slowly tapering off the drug under medical supervision rather than abruptly stopping its use. This gradual reduction helps minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Que: What is the elimination of barbiturates?

Ans: Barbiturates, being weak acids, are eliminated faster through renal elimination by making the urine more alkaline.

Que: How long do barbiturate side effects last?

Ans: Barbiturates typically produce effects within 15-40 minutes and can subside for up to six hours. Long-acting variants may have effects lasting up to two days and have lower abuse rates.

Que: What organs do barbiturates affect?

Ans: Barbiturates primarily affect the central nervous system (CNS), acting on the brain to induce drowsiness.


If you or someone you care about is addicted to barbiturates, detox is the first important step. Look for a detox center that not only helps safely stop drug use but also offers support for mental health and other substance abuse issues.

Choose a place that provides good medical care and professional help and makes it easy to move into further treatment for dealing with barbiturate withdrawal symptoms.

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