Recovery Begins Here
Call 24/7 (855) 960-5341

We’re open everyday 24/7
Get help now
Free & confidential

(855) 960-5341

Barbiturate Withdrawal | Timeline, Symptoms, Detox

Barbiturates are a type of sedative first developed in Germany during the 19th century. They were originally used as a sleeping pill, but by the 1960s and 70s, they were used as a recreational drug. However, barbiturates can be very dangerous because the difference between the amount that can make you drowsy and the amount that can cause an overdose is tiny, which makes it easy to fatally overdose on them. This makes it easy to fatally overdose on them. In addition, barbiturate withdrawal is difficult and can even include the risk of death.

Because of the high level of danger associated with taking barbiturates, they are not commonly prescribed anymore, although some kinds are prescribed to treat epilepsy and a few other disorders. For the most part, they have been replaced with other types of drugs, including benzodiazepines such as Valium. That said, there has been a rise in recent years among people too young to recall the death and dangers associated with barbiturates during the 1970s. 

How Barbiturates Affect the Brain

Barbiturates cause a calming effect on the central nervous system (CNS). These effects can range from mild relaxation to a loss of consciousness. They increase the activity of a chemical in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This causes muscle relaxation, relieves anxiety and pain, reduces seizures, and induces sleep. Barbiturates usually take effect within about 30 minutes of administration and last for four to 16 hours.

What You Can Expect from Barbiturate Withdrawal

Barbiturate withdrawal can be very dangerous and should not be attempted at home. Up to 75 percent of people withdrawing from barbiturates experience seizures, and up to 66 percent may experience delirium that lasts a few days. Symptoms of barbiturate withdrawal include: 

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

Barbiturate Withdrawal Timeline

Minor withdrawal symptoms begin about eight to 12 hours after the last dose. These may include: 

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

Major barbiturate withdrawal symptoms usually occur about 16 hours after the last dose and last for about five days. These include:

  • Convulsions
  • Delirium

Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms, particularly mental and emotional symptoms, may continue for several months or years. 

What Are the Barbiturate Withdrawal Treatment Steps?

treatment steps

Quitting drugs cold turkey may sound like a good idea, but it can be difficult, painful, and dangerous. In some cases, it can be dangerous and even deadly.

Given the difficult physical symptoms, withdrawing on your own without professional medical help can be very challenging. It’s important to find a professional, medically assisted detox program to support you during the process of barbiturate withdrawal.

Doing this will ensure that you are carefully monitored in a safe environment while your body goes through the difficult detoxification process. Participating in an addiction treatment program also gives you a better chance at lasting recovery as a result of the structured medical and emotional support you will receive.

A full continuum of treatment ensures the best opportunity for a successful recovery. Following a full continuum of treatment means starting with the medical detox process and then progressing gradually from an inpatient status to outpatient treatment. You will then have the opportunity to participate in an alumni program after the formal treatment program is completed. The stages of addiction treatment include:


During the first stage of withdrawal treatment, known as detox, the goal is medical stabilization. Detox usually lasts from a few days up to a week. The medical team, which includes doctors, nurses, and support staff, will give you a complete medical assessment to determine your level of addiction and any additional medical needs you may have. This will include a medical exam and urine or blood tests to screen for drugs. 

The medical team will monitor you around the clock to help manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and prevent dangerous sedative withdrawal symptoms.

Your treatment plan will also include emotional support as you begin addiction therapy because many people also experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological challenges as they detox. Once you are medically stabilized, a longer-term treatment plan will be put in place for you. 

residential treatment

The primary goal is medical stabilization, which takes place during the first stage of withdrawal treatment. This is known as detox. Expect the detox stage to last from a few days up to a week. When you arrive, your medical team—which will include doctors, nurses, and support staff— will complete your comprehensive medical assessment, which will help determine your level of addiction and additional medical needs you may have. The assessment includes a medical exam plus a urine screening for drugs.

Your medical team will monitor you 24/7 to help manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and prevent dangerous barbiturate withdrawal symptoms.

Many people also experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological challenges during the detox period. Your treatment plan will also include comprehensive support to help you with these symptoms. A longer-term treatment plan will be put into place for you once you are medically stabilized.


If you and the treatment team determine that you need further medical treatment, you may continue the next stage of treatment on an inpatient basis, which might be because of co-occurring medical conditions or post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient treatment is intensive and includes 24/7 clinical monitoring. At this stage, you will start seeing a therapist regularly to help you process the emotional and psychological aspects of addiction and recovery.


Partial hospitalization (PHP) is in-between outpatient treatment and inpatient care. The goal of PHP is to stabilize your mental status and better prepare you for success once you return to independent living after you leave the treatment center. During this stage, you’ll live at a transitional living facility while undergoing a supportive and rigorous treatment program. This program will be five days a week for six hours each day. You will be able to participate in individual, group, and family therapy programs to help you address emotional and mental health needs.

Learning positive life skills, coping mechanisms, and techniques to help prevent relapse so that you will be prepared for long-term recovery will be the primary focus during PHP.

Ready to get Help?

Talk to a treatment expert

Intensive Outpatient

The next stage is the intensive outpatient program (IOP). An IOP allows you to live at home while also attending counseling and programs to help support your recovery. Depending on your treatment plan, you will participate in about nine or more hours of clinical therapy several times each week.

Intensive outpatient therapy will help you to continue learning new ways to manage cravings, stress, and other challenging issues that may arise once you live on your own again. After you complete the IOP stage, you will transition into the Outpatient and Alumni programs, which is also known as aftercare.


During the outpatient phase of treatment, you will receive less than nine hours of therapy each week. At this point, you are almost transitioned out of the treatment program. The focus will be on continuing to support you with relapse prevention strategies and other tools for successful stability as you regain your independence. This is the last part of the formal treatment program. Once you complete the outpatient phase, you will transition into aftercare as part of the treatment program alumni.


You will have the opportunity to meet other treatment center alumni during weekly support groups and social events after you complete the formal treatment program. These aftercare opportunities spent with other alumni members can help you develop new friendships and build social support with others who understand the recovery process.

Being a part of this supportive network can help you grow while focusing on your recovery and adjusting to life after the treatment program. It can also be a safe space to share relapse prevention strategies, new experiences, and techniques for stress management. Most of all, it can be a way to enjoy time with new friends.

If You’re Struggling with Barbiturate Addiction, We Can Help

If you’re looking for help to withdraw safely from barbiturates, contact the admissions specialists at Ocean Breeze Recovery for free and confidential help. Our specialists are available 24/7. They can provide the guidance and support you need to by discussing the treatment process with you and answering any questions you may have. After you speak with a specialist, you will know what to expect from our evidence-based services and feel prepared to make an informed decision about your plans for treatment. Our specialists can also check with your private health insurance to see if your treatment costs will be fully covered. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Call us today at 844-554-9279 and let us help you get started on your journey to recovery.


Medical News Today. (2018, May 25) Everything You Need to Know about Barbiturates. Davis, K. Retrieved from

WenMD. (2018, November 15) Barbiturate Abuse. Symptoms of withdrawal. Retrieved from

RxList. (2017, January 17) Phenobarbital. Retrieved from

American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2015, May 13) What are the ASAM Levels of Care? Retrieved from

verywellmind. (2019, October 2) The Risks of Quitting Cold Turkey. Hartney, E., BSc., MSc., MA, PHD. Retrieved from

Have Questions? Call 24/7.
Calling Is Free & Confidential.

(855) 960-5341

COVID-19 Advisory: We are accepting patients and offering telehealth options. Click here for more information.