Barbiturates were once a popular class of drug in the United States. It was used as a common prescription remedy for insomnia and anxiety until the 1960s. By the second half of the 20th century, people started to notice that barbiturates have some serious adverse effects like dependence, addiction, and overdose. Some high-profile deaths were linked to barbiturate use including Judy Garland, Jimi Hendrix, and Marilyn Monroe. Barbiturates like Seconal were eventually outmoded by benzodiazepines for sleep and anxiety disorder remedies in the U.S.
Though Seconal isn’t as common today, it can be used and abused as a recreational drug. Learn more about the signs, symptoms and treatment options for Seconal addiction.
Seconal is the brand name for a barbiturate drug called secobarbital. The drug was once used for its sedative, anesthetic, hypnotic, and anxiolytic effects. However, today it is most frequently used in both animal and human euthanasia. The drug is capable of causing addiction and overdose when it’s abused, and it’s most dangerous when combined with other substances like alcohol, benzodiazepines, or other barbiturates.
Seconal works by binding to a specific receptor in the brain that interacts with a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA. This naturally occurring chemical is primarily responsible for regulating excitability in the nervous system. Seconal binds to a second site on the GABA receptor and increased the effectiveness of GABA in the nervous system. The result is enhanced sedative, hypnotic, and anti-anxiety effects.
However, if you take too much Seconal or if you combine it with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, it can suppress excitability in the nervous system to the point where it slows down vital functions like your heart rate and your breathing. Overdose deaths are usually caused by respiratory depression, which leads to oxygen deprivation, brain damage, coma, and death.
Addiction is a serious disease, especially when it involves a potent barbiturate like Seconal. However, addiction is on the severe end of the substance use disorder spectrum, and it usually comes with a few warning signs. The earlier you seek help for a growing substance use disorder, the more likely you are to avoid some of the most devastating consequences of addiction.
If you have a Seconal addiction or if you’ve been using the drug recreationally, it’s important to recognize the signs of addiction. The first sign that drug use might be developing into a substance use disorder is tolerance. Tolerance can build up quickly with the regular use of a barbiturate. To you, it will feel like your normal dose is getting weaker, but what’s actually happening is your brain is adapting to the presence of the foreign psychoactive substance. If you start to take higher doses to make up for your growing tolerance, you will be more likely to develop a chemical dependency.
Ready to get Help?
We’re here 24/7. Pick up the phone.
Dependence is a consequence that occurs when your brain starts to adapt and rely on the presence of Seconal in your system. Your nervous system may start to counteract the drug in an attempt to balance your brain chemistry. If you stop using or cut back, the sudden lack of the drug will cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms. The excitability-causing chemicals in your brain will be unhindered by Seconal, and your brain will not be used to providing its own inhibitory chemicals. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, insomnia, irritability, nausea, tremors, and general discomfort. If you stop using cold turkey after heavy use, you may experience extreme symptoms like delirium or seizures.
If you are worried about a friend or family member who might be developing a substance use disorder involving Seconal, there are behavioral signs that might reveal a problem. These behavioral signs of addiction include:
Finally, a substance use disorder becomes an addiction when a person continues to use a drug despite the consequences. If you experience medical, psychological, social, financial, or legal consequences as a result of drug use and you continue to use, you may be dealing with an addiction.
Addiction treatment is a process that is designed around an individual’s needs rather than trying to fit an individual to a specific treatment plan. The goal of treatment is to achieve and maintain sobriety by addressing the recovering user’s physical, psychological, and social needs. Addiction can come with a variety of underlying factors and wide-reaching consequences. To treat it effectively, multiple needs have to be addressed, including factors such as co-occurring mental health issues, unresolved traumas, physical ailments, and even financial struggles.
As a barbiturate, it’s important that your first stop in treating Seconal addiction is a medical assessment. When you first enter treatment, you will go through an intake and assessment process that’s designed to pinpoint your most pressing medical and psychological needs. If you have medical conditions or complications that require immediate attention, you will need a higher level of care. If you are seeking treatment for a Seconal addiction, you will most likely need medical assistance when going through withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms can be potentially dangerous, causing complications like seizures or delirium tremens (DTs) that can be fatal. Medical treatment can significantly decrease your chances of experiencing life-threatening complications. In medical detox, you will have access to 24 hours of medical care every day. The process lasts for about a week, but it will ultimately be dependent on your specific needs. Any other medical conditions will also be treated in medical detox. Your detox center should have clinicians on staff that are ready to help connect you to the next step in treatment after you complete detox.
The next level of care you attend will depend on your needs. In some cases, barbiturates can cause post-acute withdrawal symptoms that require additional monitoring. In those cases, an inpatient treatment program with 24 hours of medical or clinical monitoring might be the ideal level for you. If you need housing or additional support, a residential program can be ideal. After any medical or psychological conditions or complications are stabilized, you may continue to an outpatient program.
Outpatient services are separated into intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment and standard outpatient services. In IOP, you will have access to more than nine hours of clinical services like individual, group, and family therapy. In many cases, IOP can involve several hours of therapy every day. In standard outpatient treatment, you will continue those therapies but in a lighter schedule of fewer than nine hours per week. This step is often vital to help clients adjust to independent life after treatment.
Drugs.com. Secobarbital. (February 28, 2019) Cerner Multum. from https://www.drugs.com/mtm/secobarbital.html
ASAM. (n.d.). American Society of Addiction Medicine. from https://www.asam.org/resources/the-asam-criteria/about
Dembosky, A. (2016, March 23). Drug Company Jacks Up Cost Of Aid-In-Dying Medication. from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/23/471595323/drug-company-jacks-up-cost-of-aid-in-dying-medication
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017, September 23). Barbiturate intoxication and overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000951.htm
NIDA. (2018, July 2). Media Guide. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide