Menu Close

Phenobarbital Use, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Live Out Your Best Future

Take the first step toward addiction treatment by contacting us today.

Every day in the United States, approximately 6,600 people use prescription drugs for the first time. These drugs range from opiates, benzodiazepines, amphetamines, and barbiturates. Phenobarbital is a type of barbiturate which works by slowing the activity in the brain. Unfortunately, it’s both mentally and physically addictive, especially when it’s misused.

In order to overcome addiction, you may need to do more than remove drugs from your life. Addiction can have mental, physical and spiritual factors—so in order to fully treat the illness, each of these must be tended to. Though there isn’t necessarily a cure for addiction, with the right treatment, you’ll be able to start living a fulfilling life and overcome the desire to use drugs.

We believe that freedom from addiction comes with a balanced lifestyle; which may include a healthy diet, better sleep, exercise, community involvement, love, and support.

What Is The Scope Of Prescription Drug Use In The United States?

Most of us are aware of the United States’ prescription drug epidemic but did you know that prescription drugs are the third most commonly used drugs behind alcohol and marijuana? Prescription drugs are more frequently used than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. “Overall, an estimated 48 million people have used prescription drugs, representing nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population,” (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence)

Barbiturates are sedative tranquilizers which are among the most commonly used drugs in the United States. Barbiturates can lead to overdose, especially when they’re mixed with another sedative like alcohol or opioids. Nonetheless, barbiturates are still legal, they’re just monitored more heavily than they used to be. Under the United States Controlled Substance Act, barbiturates can be Schedule II, III or IV. Phenobarbital is a Schedule IV depressant.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “more males than females misuse prescription drugs in all age groups except adolescence (12 to 17 years); adolescent girls exceed boys in the non-medical use of all prescription drugs, including pain relievers, sedatives, and stimulants. Among non-medical users of prescription drugs, females 12 to 17 years old are also more likely to meet substance use disorder criteria for prescription drugs.”

There are a lot of reasons Americans use prescription drugs:

  • To experiment
  • To feel good or get high
  • To relax or relieve tension (painkillers and tranquilizers)
  • To reduce appetite (stimulants)
  • To be accepted by peers or to be social
  • To be safe—it’s a false belief that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs
  • To be legal—it’s a mistaken thought that taking prescription drugs without a prescription is legal
  • To feed an addiction

24/7 free and confidential calls

Reclaim Your Life

Call now to talk with a treatment specialist about your recovery options.

What Is Phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital (Luminal and Bellergal-S) is a barbiturate sedative-hypnotic whose primary legitimate medical purpose is treat insomnia, anxiety or epilepsy. The drug works by depressing your central nervous system and making you feel relaxed or sleepy. The effects of phenobarbital can be similar to alcohol, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers and other sleeping pills.

With a half-life of 100 hours, phenobarbital is an extremely long-acting barbiturate. Someone you care about may use barbiturates by ingesting a pill, snorting it, or injecting a liquid form of the drug. Some of the most common street names for phenobarbital (and other types of barbiturates) are:

  • Phennies
  • Purple Hearts
  • Barbs
  • Block Busters
  • Christmas Trees
  • Goof Balls
  • Pinks
  • Yellow Jackets
  • Red Devils
  • Red Birds
  • Tooies
  • Reds
  • Blues

Barbiturate use saw a major rise in the 1970s and 1980s, but over the last few decades, drugs like phenobarbital have been largely replaced by benzodiazepines due to safety concerns. According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, “as the rate of barbiturate prescribing decreased dramatically, so did use of barbiturates.”

The problem is that barbiturates are still dangerous and Americans still use them—repeated use can result in tolerance, addiction, and overdose.

Barbiturate overdose can include any number of the following symptoms:

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

If you build up a tolerance and experience withdrawal symptoms every time you stop using phenobarbital—you’ve essentially become dependent upon the drug. If you’ve become dependent upon phenobarbital, we advise you that you don’t have to try quitting alone. There are a lot of people who want to help you get well. Your recovery begins as soon as you’re ready to see your drug use as a problem.

You may have been using phenobarbital for years before it struck you to be a problem. Maybe you use it to relieve and control the symptoms caused by other drugs like opioids, alcohol or other sedatives. Or maybe you’ve used phenobarbital to wind down after a stimulant such as cocaine or methamphetamine. Maybe you’ve been in denial that you have a problem with phenobarbital.

It’s okay in case, we aren’t here to judge you; we just want to see you get better. We’re here to help you stop using phenobarbital for good.

Not Everyone Experiences The Same Effects Of Phenobarbital

The effects of phenobarbital can vary based on the amount you’ve used, whether or not you’re dependent upon the drug, your age, weight, and length of time you’ve been using it. From the Drug Enforcement Administration, “barbiturates cause mild euphoria, lack of inhibition, relief of anxiety and sleepiness.”

“Higher doses cause impairment of memory, judgment and coordination, irritability, and paranoid and suicidal ideation. Tolerance develops quickly and larger doses are then needed to produce the same effect, increasing the danger of an overdose.”

Is My Loved One Is Abusing Phenobarbital?

Figuring out if your loved one is abusing drugs isn’t always easy. Due to the nature of addiction, most people suffering from it intend for you not to find out. It may help you to know that the signs of barbiturate intoxication are similar to those of alcohol. In this section, we’ll try to help you understand phenobarbital addiction by describing some of the different ways it can be used, as well as some of the different signs that someone is abusing it.

Abusing phenobarbital doesn’t always mean that your loved one has to snort it, or take 3 pills when they’re only supposed to take one. Abusing a prescription drug means that you’re using it any other way than how the doctor prescribed it to you. Some of the different methods for abusing phenobarbital can include:


  • Crushing into a powder and snorting
  • Taking more of the drug than what is prescribed
  • Using a prescription that isn’t yours
  • Diverting, selling and using drugs past their “use before” date
  • Doctor shopping—or trying as many physicians as it takes to get a prescription
  • Using to taper off of other drugs like cocaine, or amphetamines
  • Mixing with alcohol
  • Using to intensify the euphoria produced from opioids like heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine

You may be wondering, what does that look like? When a person uses drugs, they may exhibit mood swings that range from extremely high to severely low.

Some of the signs and behaviors of phenobarbital use may include:

  • Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Memory loss
  • Aggression or agitation
  • Headaches
  • Slurred speech and a lack of coordination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Paranoia and suicidal thoughts
  • Excessive mood swings
  • Increase or decrease in sleep
  • Poor decision-making
  • Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
  • Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor
  • Dizziness
  • fatigue and depression

Phenobarbital Withdrawal And Detoxification

If you believe that a loved one is abusing sedatives, keep in mind that it’s common for someone to experience intense withdrawals when their drug use ceases. Phenobarbital withdrawals might include anxiety, uncontrollable shaking or tremors, muscle twitching, weakness, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, dizziness or fainting. Phenobarbital withdrawal can also result in life-threatening seizures. It’s risky to try to handle barbiturate withdrawals alone.

The first step to treating a barbiturate addiction at an inpatient rehab or clinical setting is through a medically managed detoxification. Detoxification helps treat the physical addiction to phenobarbital and sometimes it’s required before going to rehab. During a detox, nurse practitioners, physicians, addiction specialists, and trusted professionals offer comprehensive care by monitoring your loved one’s fluid intake, vitamins, diet, rest and in some cases weaning off of a barbiturate to avoid coma or life-threatening seizures.

Detoxification is only the first step to recovery after that most people benefit from an inpatient rehab treatment. Behavioral therapy and learning life skills help can help your loved one avoid relapse for a successful long-term recovery.

Treating A Phenobarbital Addiction With Comprehensive Care

It’s hard to simply stand by and watch a person you care about struggle with addiction. Nobody wants to watch their loved one suffer. Regardless, it rarely does them good to insist that they stop—a lot of the time all this does is builds resentment and defensiveness.

With the help of professional intervention, your loved one will realize that their addiction is hurting everyone else in their life as well. Interventions are a chance for family members, friends, community members, and co-workers to voice their fear for the friend. It’s a chance for loved ones to tell a person suffering from addiction what they used to be like and what they are like now. Interventions also fuel hope that phenobarbital is something that people can and do overcome with the right treatment.

Each person’s addiction is unique so an individualized treatment may be the best way to overcome an addiction to phenobarbital. With a comprehensive care approach, professionals come together to treat your loved one for all of his or her needs. Beating addiction isn’t easy but it’s possible. At Vertava Health, we believe that in order to overcome an addiction, you must heal your body, mind, and spirit. Some of the different treatment approaches we use are:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Group Counseling
  • Individual Counseling
  • Family Counseling
  • Life Skills Instruction and Training
  • Yoga
  • Experiential and Adventure Therapy
  • Alumni Groups

Vertava Health Is Here To Help Find A Balance

If you or a loved one is struggling with phenobarbital addiction and dependence, there’s hope to overcome it. Freedom from addiction starts with the first step. Contact us today.