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Amobarbital (Amytal) Use, Addiction, And Treatment Options

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What Is Amobarbital?

Amobarbital is a potent barbiturate with sedative and hypnotic properties. It’s commonly used to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia. Doctors also administer a high dose of amobarbital before surgery as an anesthetic or a small dose to be used as an anticonvulsant.

Amobarbital is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, so it elicits a feeling of relaxation and slows brain activity to relieve tension. It’s the generic name for the following brands:

  • Ama
  • Amytal
  • Amytal Sodium
  • Amital
  • Isomytal
  • Tuinal

Barbiturates have been widely replaced by benzodiazepines, as these drugs are less likely to cause an overdose. The “correct” dose of barbiturates is hard to predict per patient. Nonetheless, health care professionals still administer certain barbiturates like Amytal for the drug’s effectiveness and potency. Amytal comes as a clear liquid for intravenous injection or as a time-release capsule.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Amobarbital Use

Amobarbital is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. This means that even though it has a legitimate medical purpose, it also has a high potential for use, which may lead to psychological or physical dependence.

Deciding if a loved one is abusing amobarbital isn’t always easy. The drug isn’t very common, so signs of use may not be as apparent as they would be for something more common, like alcohol.

Barbiturates are generally used for the mild euphoria they elicit—they make a person feel relaxed. The initial buzz is similar to that produced by alcohol, especially when taken in large doses.

Amytal is an unusually potent barbiturate, so the “drunken” state may occur from a small amount of the drug. It’s pretty common for a person using amobarbital to appear off balance or even slur their words.

Other signs and symptoms of amobarbital use include:

  • nausea
  • faulty judgment
  • unsteady gait
  • lack of coordination
  • shallow breathing
  • drowsiness
  • slurred speech
  • anxiety
  • memory loss
  • decreased alertness

If someone is suspected of abusing amobarbital, approaching the person and talking to them about treatment may save their life.

How Is Amobarbital Used?

Because of the high addictive potential, doctors try to minimize the amount of amobarbital they administer, but the drug is still diverted for illicit use. Amobarbital is used by injecting the liquid or swallowing the tablet; the same method of administration for someone legally taking the drug.

Using Amytal in a manner other than its prescribed purpose is considered use. Amobarbital use might be using the drug to get high, decrease inhibitions, increase a dose outside a doctor’s care, or treat unwanted effects of illicit drugs.

The majority of people who use amobarbital for insomnia are not abusing it. But according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), most who develop an addiction to barbiturates start by abusing medicine that was prescribed to them or a family member.

A person suffering from an addiction to amobarbital might buy the drug illegally from a drug dealer. Others might “doctor shop,” or see as many physicians as it takes to get amobarbital. It’s common for a person with an addiction to go to great lengths to get a drug.

Dangers Of Amobarbital Use

As a person’s tolerance to amobarbital develops, so does the likelihood of overdose. “Tolerance to the mood-altering effects of barbiturates develops rapidly with repeated use. But, tolerance to the lethal effects develops more slowly, and the risk of severe poisoning increases with continued use,” (NLM).

A drug overdose occurs when the body is unable to metabolize a chemical and shuts down as a result.

Signs of barbiturate overdose will vary in severity, but may include the following symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • slowed breathing
  • difficulty breathing
  • slurred speech
  • drowsiness
  • shock
  • irregular breathing
  • decreased urine output
  • irregular heartbeat
  • hypotension
  • hypothermia
  • ceased electrical activity in the brain
  • coma

A lot of barbiturate fatalities involve a concoction of other drugs like alcohol, heroin, or OxyContin (an opioid). Even a person who uses amobarbital by itself can overdose on the drug. It can happen from something as simple as experimenting with a larger dose size.

There is no antidote for barbiturate intoxication. It’s estimated that one in 10 people who overdose on barbiturates will die—usually of the lung and heart problems that result from the drug.

Amobarbital Withdrawal Symptoms

When someone uses a potent CNS depressant like amobarbital, the likelihood of building tolerance is increased, and so is the likelihood of developing a dependence on the drug. Once a person develops a physical dependence to barbiturates and tries to quit the use of them, the person may experience withdrawal from the drug.

Withdrawal symptoms are the body and mind’s way of responding to the lack of a chemical that has become almost necessary for normal functioning. This results because barbiturates can actually change the chemical balance of a person’s brain—especially in larger and more frequent doses.

Withdrawal symptoms of amobarbital can last anywhere from one to two weeks. Physical withdrawal is usually the first phase, eight to 12 hours after last use. As for cravings for the drug increase, symptoms of withdrawal become increasingly psychological as well.

Psychological withdrawal symptoms often include:

  • agitation
  • headache
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • shakiness
  • twitching
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • dizziness
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • restlessness
  • tremors
  • seizures
  • psychosis

Quitting barbiturates without help is dangerous. In a treatment setting, an addicted person’s dose size may be decreased gradually to avoid complications of withdrawal (tapering).

Left untreated, the withdrawal symptoms of amobarbital can be life-threatening, so it’s important to take necessary steps toward quitting the use of the drugs. Seeking medical assistance for amobarbital withdrawal is both necessary and important to a person’s safety and health.

Medically-Supervised Amobarbital Detoxification

Even though amobarbital is less common than opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, medical detox is no less important for the treatment of amobarbital addiction. A medical detox program is a treatment for physical addiction to amobarbital. A clinical setting is the safest place to manage barbiturate withdrawal and physically prepare for addiction treatment.

Addiction is defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse as a chronic relapsing brain disease, characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. A person struggling with an addiction might keep using a drug, no matter the consequences, and be unable to stay away from the drug without help.

The first step to overcoming an amobarbital addiction is for a person to admit they have a problem. After that, the first step for barbiturate addiction treatment is often a medical detox.


Treatment For Amobarbital Addiction

Amobarbital addiction causes a person to crave the drug even if they know it’s hurting them. Addiction can stem from the psychological, physiological, behavioral, social, and environmental variables that surround a person’s life.

In an inpatient drug rehab center, each of these aspects of health becomes an integral part of recovery. With a holistic and comprehensive addiction treatment program, many people are able to overcome their mental obsession for a drug. Treatment might include group therapy, mindfulness, and other behavioral therapies.

Therapy sessions with caring professionals, drug-free environments found in rehab centers, and the community of people working together towards recovery are all key components of a successful recovery, and all can be found at an inpatient drug rehab center.

Learn more about treatment for barbiturate addiction and find a program that’s right for you.