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Nembutal Withdrawal

The nickname for Nembutal is “death in a bottle.” This barbiturate, which is used to euthanize pets, has become a reliable substance for humans looking to end their lives peacefully. It has also been used to execute convicted criminals under the death penalty.

Nembutal can literally put you to sleep and take your breath away — for good.

In fact, ABCNews.com published a report of a 78-year-old Australian man who flew to Mexico to obtain Nembutal because he was tired of living with mesothelioma. He informed the news outlet of his exit plan: to take the bitter solution with gin, his favorite alcoholic beverage.

“You swig it down, and I’ll just close my eyes,” he said. “It’s that rapid.”

Oddly enough, Nembutal has become a substance of abuse. With recreational use comes the risk of death that comes with every dose. Yet, even when use stops, you can suffer life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. The outcome can be even more disastrous when you attempt to quit Nembutal on your own.

Without the medical supervision provided by a professional addiction treatment program, Nembutal withdrawal can inflict permanent injury or death, ultimately allowing the substance to live up to that alleged nickname.  

How Does Nembutal Work?

Nembutal is used to sedate patients before surgery. In the U.S., the medication is offered via injection. Nembutal belongs to a larger class of substances known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants, along with benzodiazepines and alcohol. What this means is that Nembutal suppresses the excitability of the nervous system.

When it enters the body, it activates a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid or GABA, a naturally occurring chemical that inhibits nerve transmission in the brain. In other words, when stimulated, GABA calms you down so that you can go to sleep. 

The History of Nembutal

Nembutal is the brand name for pentobarbital or pentobarbitone, a short-acting barbiturate that was once used to treat insomnia and seizures. German scientists synthesized the first barbiturate medication in 1903. Then a class of medications dubbed barbiturates got developed that revolutionized the treatment of patients who suffered from psychiatric and neurological disorders. These medications also treated those with sleep disorders and seizures.

Barbiturate use eventually peaked in the 1950s, and pentobarbital was the most commonly prescribed variation.

vials of clear liquid

However, the medical community soon discovered the dark side of this sedative medication.

When taken, especially at high doses, barbiturates tend to cause fatal overdoses. In fact, they played a key role in the deaths of two of the most iconic American actresses in history: Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland. 

An empty vial of Nembutal was discovered on Monroe’s bedside table after her death in 1962, along with a multitude of other prescription drugs. A published autopsy attributed Monroe’s death to “acute barbiturate poisoning” due to “ingestion of overdose.”

A coroner determined that Garland’s cause of death in 1969 was because of “an incautious self-overdosage.” 

In time, physicians would largely turn away from prescribing barbiturates in favor of benzodiazepines (or benzos) because the latter was seen as less toxic. Today, Nembutal might be regarded as a “forgotten medicine,” but it hasn’t completely fallen out of favor with users.

Nembutal Side Effects

The most common side effects associated with Nembutal include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Intoxication similar to alcohol
  • Motor coordination loss
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Poor decision making
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Mood swings
  • Uncontrolled eye movement

Other signs of use include:

  • Strong Nembutal cravings
  • High Nembutal tolerance
  • Consuming the drug for nonmedical purposes
  • Constantly thinking about Nembutal
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Exceeding prescribed dosage
  • Feeling unable to quit Nembutal
  • Using Nembutal with other drugs
  • Taking Nembutal only to avoid withdrawal

Nembutal Withdrawal Symptoms

Simply put, barbiturate withdrawal should not be attempted alone.

Withdrawal occurs because your body has become used to the presence of barbiturates. Once that substance cycles out of the body, you will begin to experience physical disturbances that manifest as symptoms. Once someone hits this stage, dependency is already established.

What makes the withdrawal symptoms for barbiturates like Nembutal so concerning is that they are life-threatening.

It is estimated that up to 75 percent of people withdrawing from barbiturates experience seizures, and up to 66 percent may experience delirium that endures for a few days. Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms include:

 

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

 

Timeline of Nembutal Withdrawal

8 to 12 hours: Withdrawal symptoms from barbiturates like Nembutal begin about eight to 12 hours after your last dose. You may see these symptoms:

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

16 hours to 5 days: The major withdrawal symptoms typically occur about 16 hours since the last dose and last for about five days. These major effects include:

  • Convulsions
  • Delirium

Another concerning aspect of barbiturate withdrawal is that the symptoms, especially the mental and emotional ones, can endure for several months or even years.

Why Professional Treatment Matters

The dangerous withdrawal symptoms that come from barbiturates make a medically supervised, professional treatment program an absolute necessity.

Attempting to quit a barbiturate on your own can lead to relapse, overdose, permanent brain and organ damage, and death. 

Treatment can help you avoid the effects of Nembutal overdose, which can include:

  • Blisters
  • Drowsiness
  • Uncontrollable movements of the eyes
  • Slowed breathing
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Loss of coordination

The slowed breathing that results from overdose can suffocate the user, leading to these tragic outcomes:

  • Coma
  • Brain damage
  • Death

How Professional Treatment Helps

In a professional recovery program, you will receive acute treatment in the form of a medically supervised detoxification. During detox, the Nembutal and other toxins are removed from the body, and any withdrawal symptoms that occur are alleviated.  

After this phase, the next treatment step is typically clinical stabilization services, where you will receive therapy and counseling to help you get to the underlying causes of your addiction. 

Clinical stabilization offers a range of treatment options that address the mind, body, and spirit. Those offerings include: 

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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 get you connected to a recovery community that can offer long-term support. 

Sources

Barbiturate Abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/barbiturate-abuse#2

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 06). Prescription CNS Depressants. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-cns-depressants

Nembutal (Pentobarbital): Side Effects, Interactions, Warning, Dosage & Uses. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/nembutal-drug.htm#description

Nembutal Side Effects in Detail. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/sfx/nembutal-side-effects.html

Ocean Breeze Recovery. (2019, February 15). Barbiturate Withdrawal. Retrieved from https://oceanbreezerecovery.org/barbiturates/withdrawal/

Phenobarbital: MedlinePlus Drug Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682007.html

Serenity at Summit. (2018, December 05). Nembutal Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Treatment | Serenity at Summit. Retrieved from https://www.serenityatsummit.com/nembutal/

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