Anxiety and sleep disorders are two of the most common ailments in the United States. As much as 19 percent of Americans struggle with an anxiety disorder, and a third of adults don’t get the recommended amount of sleep they need each night. Both disorders can affect the quality of your life, your mental health, and even your physical well-being. Sleeplessness and stress can lead to a wide variety of diseases if left untreated. For that reason, doctors and researchers have worked for more than a century to find medications and therapies to treat these incredibly common issues.
Since the late 1800s, doctors have prescribed psychoactive substances to people who have sleep and anxiety disorders. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, a class of drugs called barbiturates gained popularity for their ability to ease anxiety, promote sleep, and help users relax. One such barbiturate called sodium amytal was first synthesized in the 1920s and used as a sedative-hypnotic drug. In the United States, it’s sold under the brand name Amytal.
The drug is effective for its purposes, but it also has some adverse effects including chemical dependence, addiction, and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Barbiturates also became notorious for their overdose potential. Taking a high dose or mixing them with other drugs can lead to a deadly overdose. In fact, barbiturates were implicated in several high-profile overdose deaths throughout the 20th century, including the deaths of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and Jimi Hendrix.
Barbiturates like Amytal are less common today than they once were. They are typically used to treat epilepsy, and they have been all but completely replaced by other drugs in the treatment of common disorders like insomnia. Still, Amytal can be abused recreationally. When abused, it causes effects that are similar to alcohol intoxication. But abuse also increases your risk of more serious consequences.
Learn more about the signs and symptoms of amytal addiction and how it can be treated.
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Sodium amytal is a prescription medication that’s sold under the brand name Amytal in the United States. It falls under the class of drugs called barbiturates, which are central nervous system (CNS) depressants. That means that they work in the brain by affecting a naturally occurring chemical called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (or GABA). GABA controls excitability in the nervous system, but the process can be less effective for people who have anxiety or sleep disorder. Barbiturates like Amytal bind to GABA receptors and increase the efficiency of GABA. However, abuse can cause intoxication that’s similar to the effects of alcohol, with euphoria, a loss of motor control, drowsiness, and a release of inhibitions.
Amytal addiction is on the severe end of the spectrum of substance use disorders. Addiction can happen quickly, and many people don’t realize they have a problem until it’s already started to take over different areas of their life. However, addiction often comes after some signs and symptoms that can let you know that your drug use is becoming a substance use disorder. Learning to spot the signs in yourself or someone else can help you get the treatment you need before addiction causes serious or long-lasting problems like medical or psychological conditions, legal troubles, or financial ruin.
If you’re using Amytal, any drug use apart from medically prescribed treatment is considered abuse and falls in the category of a mild substance use disorder. However, barbiturates can cause issues, even if they are used as directed. One of the first symptoms of a substance use disorder is tolerance, which occurs when your brain adapts to the drug in your nervous system. As your brain integrates the chemical into normal brain function, you may start to feel like it’s less effective. A normal dose isn’t enough to cause the same sedative-hypnotic effects you once experienced.
If you continue to use as tolerance grows, you risk developing a chemical dependence. When your brain begins to rely on the drug to maintain a normal chemical balance in the nervous system, you will start to develop a chemical dependence on the drug. If you stop using, your body will go into withdrawal. Symptoms of Amytal withdrawal can include:
Without medical treatment, Amytal withdrawal can be life-threatening. If you start to feel withdrawal symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor or a detox professional as soon as possible. Avoid quitting cold turkey without first consulting with a medical professional.
Addiction is ultimately identified by compulsive drug use. Your use of Amytal will no longer be for medical purposes or even for recreation. Instead, it will be to feel normal, and it may start to get out of control. Some people even realize they have a substance use disorder, but they’re still unable to stop without help.
Addiction treatment involves a process of assessment, medical treatment, psychotherapy, and relapse prevention. To be effective, treatment needs to be tailored to your individual needs, and it should take a holistic approach, addressing more than just your substance use problems. Treatment should address medical, psychological, social, legal, and financial issues that may be related to your addiction.
When you enter a treatment program, clinicians will help you through a process of intake and assessment that’s designed to determine the best level of care for your needs. Clinicians may use the ASAM criteria to help with the assessment process. If you have urgent medical or psychological needs, you will most likely need a highly intensive level of care.
If you’ve been using Amytal long enough to become chemically dependent, you will most likely need to go through medical detox, which involves 24 hours of medical care daily for about a week. Through detox, you will be treated with medication by medical professionals to avoid dangerous and uncomfortable symptoms.”
After your condition is stabilized and your risk of experience acute withdrawal or any other medical complications is passed, clinicians will help you find the next level of care. If you need ongoing, high-level care for medical or psychological conditions, you may need an inpatient program with 24-hour clinical services. If you can live on your own, an intensive outpatient or standard outpatient program may be ideal for you.
Addiction is a chronic disease, but it can be treated with evidence-based therapies and professional help. If you or someone you know has been using Amytal or any other central nervous system depressant, it’s important to speak to a professional before abruptly quitting cold turkey.
ASAM. (n.d.). Definition of Addiction. from https://www.asam.org/resources/definition-of-addiction
Global Information Network About Drugs. (n.d.). BARBITURATES. from http://www.ginad.org/en/drugs/drugs/222/barbiturates-
National Institute of Mental Health. (2017, November). Any Anxiety Disorder. from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml