Brevital is the brand name for methohexital, the barbiturate medication used to produce deep sedation and anesthesia for surgery and dental procedures. At one time, the medical establishment used it to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.

These days, barbiturate medications have largely fallen out of favor and have been replaced by benzodiazepines, which are considered less toxic.

Brevital, however, is one of the few drugs of its class that remains in use, though it is mainly employed in hospital settings. It is also a lesser-known barbiturate when compared to phenobarbital (Luminal), pentobarbital (Nembutal), and amobarbital (Amytal).

Still, this central nervous system (CNS) depressant is diverted for illicit use because of its sedative effects. When it is abused, it can produce a multitude of devastating effects, including fatal overdose.

While it’s rare to overdose on Brevital, the threat exists. In fact, about one in 10 barbiturate overdoses is fatal, which is often due to heart and lung issues.  When Brevital is abused with alcohol or opioids, the risk of rapid overdose increases, and that can be fatal.

How Does Brevital Work?

Methohexital, which is marketed as Brevital, is known for being short-acting and having a rapid onset of action compared to other barbiturates. However, it is part of an old-guard class of medicines that have been relegated and largely dismissed by the medical establishment.

Still, methohexital remains in use and owes its existence to barbital, which was first synthesized in 1903. This discovery would lead to the development of barbiturates, which were once hailed for their ability to treat various ailments.

Depending on their duration of action, barbiturate medications were employed to treat certain conditions. Long-acting barbiturates like barbital and phenobarbital are used with other drugs to treat epilepsy. Intermediate-acting barbiturates like amobarbital, which act for six to 12 hours, are used to treat people with insomnia. Methohexital medications like Brevital, with their rapid onset of action — usually two to six hours — are administered as anesthesia for surgical procedures.

In adults, Brevital is injected into a muscle or administered as an infusion into a vein.

Brevital works by binding to components of a certain receptor that responds to gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), the neurotransmitter responsible for slowing down the central nervous system. This results in sedation.  Essentially, barbiturates like Brevital accomplish the same effect as benzodiazepines despite being structurally different.

When taken in large enough doses, Brevital can produce mild euphoria and cause a lack of inhibition in a user.

What’s more, Brevital produces a host of concerning effects.

Brevital Side Effects

The common side effects associated with methohexital medications like Brevital include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Chills
  • Shivering
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Coughing
  • Muscle twitching
  • Skin Rash
  • Itching

Brevital can also produce serious side effects such as:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Numbness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weak or shallow breathing
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Burning or swelling where the medicine is injected

Brevital Withdrawal Symptoms

As with all barbiturates, the withdrawal symptoms produced by Brevital are life-threatening. Symptoms can include:

  • Tremors
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • High temperature
  • Seizures
  • Heart failure
  • Death

Timeline Of Brevital Withdrawal

When you go into withdrawal for Brevital, it is a clear sign that dependence is established. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines drug dependence as a state in which the body can function normally only when the drug is present. Removal of that substance manifests as physical disturbances, which is what withdrawal symptoms ultimately are.

In the case of barbiturates like Brevital, those disturbances are also psychological. Nevertheless, Brevital withdrawal often occurs in two stages.

The early symptoms are considered minor, and they begin to occur eight to 12 hours after the last dose. Those symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle twitching
  • Hand tremors
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Distorted vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure

However, about 16 hours after the last dose, the major withdrawal symptoms from Brevital start to come to fruition. Those major symptoms, which can last for about five days, are:

  • Convulsions
  • Delirium

What’s more, barbiturate withdrawal symptoms, particularly the mental and emotional ones, can continue for several months or even years.

Why Professional Treatment Matters

There is a reason most barbiturates are not prescribed. Aside from alcohol and benzodiazepines, barbiturates produce the most dangerous, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms of any substance.

The sheer multitude of withdrawal symptoms it reveals makes professional drug treatment an absolute necessity. Attempting to quit a barbiturate on your own without medical supervision can be disastrous. This “cold turkey” approach can lead to relapse, overdose, permanent brain and organ damage, and death.

Treatment can help you avoid the effects of Brevital overdose, which can include these symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Dangerously slow and shallow breathing
  • Impaired reflexes and coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weak pulse
  • Drifting in and out of consciousness
  • Nonresponsiveness
  • Blue skin around lips and fingernails
  • Coma

If someone has overdosed, it is critical that they receive emergency medical attention. If not, they could suffer the lethal consequences that could result from Brevital overdoses, such as:

  • Kidney failure
  • Brain damage
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs)

If someone manages to survive a Brevital overdose, it is highly likely they will be left with profound bodily damage and severe, terminal health problems.

How Professional Treatment Helps

When you enter a professional recovery program, you will receive acute treatment in which medically supervised detoxification occurs. In detox, Brevital and other toxins are removed from the body, and any withdrawal symptoms that arise are treated.

Like alcohol, opioids, and benzodiazepines, the withdrawal symptoms that result from barbiturates like Brevital are enough to cause someone to relapse, which increases their chances of succumbing to overdose.  After detox, the next treatment step is typically clinical stabilization services, where you will receive therapy and counseling to help you get to the root of your addiction.

Clinical stabilization services can offer you a range of treatment options, including:

Holistic treatments

  • Acupuncture/acupressure
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Nutritional assessments
  • Reiki
  • Yoga

Group therapy

  • Emotional regulation
  • Medical education
  • Motivational enhancement
  • Relapse prevention
  • The 12 steps of recovery
  • Wellness skills

Individual therapy

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills
  • Genetic testing
  • Family-focused therapy
  • Trauma-informed sessions

Depending on the severity of your addiction, you can receive additional counseling and therapy on a part-time basis in outpatient care.

After treatment, we can help you receive long-term support through a recovery community.

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