Nembutal was a prescription barbiturate drug that was once used more frequently in the United States, but new options led to it being discontinued. However, the drug was also popular as a recreational substance that could cause a relaxing and sedating high. Pentobarbital, the active ingredient in Nembutal, is still used today as a treatment for convulsions, as an anesthetic, and even to euthanize animals. But using it for too long can cause you to become physically dependent, which can cause uncomfortable and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Learn more about Nembutal withdrawal and how it can be safely treated.
What is Nembutal?
Nembutal is a prescription brand name for a drug called pentobarbital, which is in a category of drugs called barbiturates. Barbiturates were first introduced towards the end of the 19th century, and they have been used in the United States for decades. Pentobarbital is a potent central nervous system depressant that has been used to treat insomnia, but it has since been replaced by barbiturates and other drugs for that purpose in the U.S. It’s also used as a sedative, preanesthetic, and a treatment for acute convulsions.
Pentobarbital is also used in the euthanization of animals and the execution of convicted criminals in the United States. The drug’s depressing effects can slow down vital functions of your central nervous system, especially your breathing. High enough doses can cause you to stop breathing or breath slowly enough to fall into a coma, and it can be fatal. Pentobarbital was involved in the drug overdose and death of Marylin Monroe.
Nembutal capsules were once sold for a variety of purposes, but the advent of benzodiazepines led to the Abbott Pharmaceutical company discontinuing them in 1999. However, they became a popular illicit recreational drug in the United States and were sold under the street name “Yellow Jackets” because of their yellow capsules. Barbiturate misuse can increase your risk of experiencing chemical dependence, addiction, and overdose.
Will You Experience Nembutal Withdrawal Symptoms?
Pentobarbital has a significant potential for misuse because of its sedating and relaxing effects. It can produce feelings that are similar to alcohol intoxication, and it can also come with some of the same side effects. Like many prescription depressants, using a drug like Nembutal consistently for several weeks can quickly lead to chemical dependence. Dependence occurs when your brain adapts to the presence of a chemical by adjusting your natural brain chemistry.
Through this adaptation, you will come to rely on a steady dose of the drug in order to maintain balance. As a depressant, Nembutal can cause your brain to adapt by producing less of your natural inhibitory chemicals that slow down your nervous system and more excitatory chemicals that stimulate your nervous system. Becoming dependent on a drug often involves a gradual process but quitting the drug abruptly will cause your brain chemistry to become unbalanced suddenly. This sudden imbalance that’s caused by quitting a drug is what causes withdrawal symptoms.
If you’ve been using Nembutal regularly for a few weeks or if you’ve used it in high doses several times, you may be dependent on the drug. Quitting after becoming dependent will mean going through uncomfortable or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms. One of the most telling signs of dependence is tolerance, which is the feeling that your typical dose is becoming less effective. As your brain adapts to Nembutal, it will start to counteract some of its effects, so you won’t feel like it’s as potent as it once was. Other signs of Nembutal dependence and potential withdrawal are:
- Experiencing drug cravings
- Withdrawal symptoms if you skip a dose
- New or worse insomnia, anxiety, or tremors
- Irritability when you try to stop
- Feeling unable to stop taking Nembutal
- Using the drug just to avoid uncomfortable withdrawal
What Are Nembutal Withdrawal Symptoms?
As a depressant, Nembutal will cause your brain and body to adapt to its inhibitory effects. When you stop using the drug, you will no longer have the potent depressant chemical in your system, and you may experience overstimulation. The most common symptoms of withdrawal are related to rebound symptoms, which are symptoms that the drug was directly used to control. Nembutal was once used to treat insomnia, and insomnia is a common rebound symptom. You may also experience anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and general discomfort as your nervous system starts to increase in activity.
Your nervous system also controls unconscious things in your body. While it’s easy to notice your mental state and your ability to sleep, other things may be affected that you aren’t aware of. Some of the unconscious functions of your nervous system include your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and pupil dilation. Nembutal withdrawal can affect all of these functions. Your blood pressure and heart rate may rise, and you’ll start to sweat. You may also notice that your pupils are larger than normal and don’t close in response to light.
Other common symptoms of Nembutal withdrawal include:
- Changes in blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling like your heart is skipping beats
- Shaky hands
Nembutal is also capable of causing severe symptoms like seizures, convulsions, hallucinations, and heart-related complications. Because of these potentially life-threatening symptoms, it’s important to speak to a doctor before you quit. You should avoid quitting cold turkey before seeking medical advice or treatment.
When Do Symptoms Start?
The withdrawal symptoms you experience and the timeline on which you experience them will depend on the severity of your dependence on Nembutal. Using the drug in high doses for a long time is more likely to cause more severe symptoms quickly. A mild dependence may cause less severe symptoms that appear later. However, your first symptoms are likely to be relatively mild, and they’ll show up around 8 to 12 hours after your last dose. Your withdrawal symptoms are likely to get worse once they begin until they reach their peak.
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
Peak withdrawal is when your symptoms are at their worst before gradually getting better. Pentobarbital has a half-life of around 15 to 50 hours, which means that it takes around that much time for it to be reduced to half of its original concentration in your blood. Around 16 hours, your withdrawal symptoms will peak. Peak symptoms may include potentially dangerous complications like seizures. However, depressants can also cause seizures after the acute withdrawal phase is over. You may continue to feel withdrawal symptoms for a week before most of them are gone completely. In some cases, lingering issues like insomnia or mental health issues will need to be addressed in treatment.
Is Nembutal Withdrawal Dangerous?
As a potent central nervous system depressant, Nembutal can cause some dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Depressants are the only major drug category that’s associated with a significant risk of life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. While other drugs could lead to complications, depressant withdrawal can cause severe symptoms like seizures, hallucinations, and heart complications.
Nembutal can cause withdrawal seizures that are similar to the type a person with epilepsy experiences. These are called tonic-clonic seizures, and they can cause you to pass out, become rigid, and experience violent convulsions. Tonic-clonic seizures aren’t always fatal by themselves, but they can cause serious injuries. They can happen suddenly, causing you to pass out while standing, walking, or driving a car. Convulsions can cause you to injure yourself on nearby objects. The threat of seizures during depressant withdrawal often requires people to seek medical attention during Nembutal withdrawal.
Depressants like Nembutal can also cause you to experience a complication called delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is a series of sudden and severe symptoms that are commonly associated with alcohol withdrawal. However, other potent depressants could cause it too. Delirium tremens is characterized by a sudden panic, hallucinations, confusion, irritability, seizures, and high blood pressure. Severe symptoms can lead to chest pains, heart attack, or a stroke. The risk of severe symptoms of depressant withdrawal can be significantly lowered with treatment.
How Is Nembutal Withdrawal Treated?
Nembutal can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, but withdrawal can be treated effectively and safely. In some cases, uncomfortable or dangerous withdrawal symptoms make people feel like they can’t quit a drug they’ve become dependent on. But it’s possible to achieve sobriety safely. Treating depressant withdrawal often involves going through a tapering period. Tapering involves taking smaller and smaller doses of a drug to give your body time to adjust back to normal brain chemistry more gradually. However, tapering requires some precisions in terms of the proper doses, so it’s best attempted with the help of a medical professional.
Severe substance use disorders that involve depressants like Nembutal may require more robust addiction treatment. You may need to start with medical detox, a high level of care that involves medically managed inpatient treatment. In detox, you may go through a tapering period, or you may be given other medications to help manage your withdrawal symptoms.
If you’ve become addicted to Nembutal, you’ll feel compelled to use the drug, even despite serious consequences. In that case, detox may be an important step for you, but it’s not all you need to address your substance use problems. After detox, there are several other levels of care in formal addiction treatment, including inpatient, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment. Through each level of care, you’ll go through a personalized treatment plan and meet with a therapist on a regular basis. You may go through several therapy options, including individual, group, and family therapies.