Amytal Abuse: From Addiction to Withdrawal, Treatment and Recovery

Amytal abuse and addiction is still a problem in the United States.

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While this drug is not the one most people think of as being a common drug of abuse, there are many who still use it recreationally. It is so important to understand that it is an addictive substance that will lead to withdrawal when it is stopped. That is why getting treatment is so vital for recovery.

amytal addiction information

Perhaps you are a parent and you suspect that your son or daughter is abusing or addicted to Amytal. It is also possible that you are a young person between the ages of 20 and 30, and you have started using this drug recreationally. Either way, the information we present here is for you.

Understanding the dangers of Amytal is the very first step in seeking help for the addiction. Recovery is possible with the right type of support.

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Amytal Addiction Information

What is Amytal?

Amytal’s chemical name is amobarbital. It is classified as a barbiturate derivative. It has sedating and hypnotic properties, and it was once a commonly prescribed drug.

This drug is a central nervous system depressant. It increases a neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA. This results in a few different responses, including sleepiness, relaxed muscles and calmer nerves.

During one point in time, barbiturates like Amytal were the most abused drugs in the country. On the streets, people purchased this drug under the names “Blue Heavens” or “Lilly 33s.” It took some time before people truly recognized the its dangers. But more light was shed on the truth after Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe both overdosed on barbiturates.

Amobarbital was first made in Germany in 1923, and it was considered an intermediate-acting barbiturate. It appears as a white, crystalline powder, and it does not have an odor. It does have a bitter taste.

The drug was once made by a company called Eli Lilly and Company and it was sold as bright blue capsules. This was the company that marketed the drug as Amytal. But because of the risk of physical and psychological dependence and addiction, they discontinued it in the early 1980s.

During World War II, Amytal was frequently used to treat U.S. soldiers who suffered from shell shock. The claim was that it would help them return to the line of duty faster. People who took it suffered as a result of its powerful sedation and cognitive impairment side effects. Their overall effectiveness was greatly reduced, and so, the government decided to discontinue its use.

When Amytal is taken via IV, it has the ability to act as a type of “truth serum.” This means that when people use it in that way, it causes them to provide information that they might not provide otherwise. The drug can also result in people divulging blocked information that they did not realize they knew.

Amytal has the ability to work this way because of how it lowers inhibitions. A man by the name of Dr. William Bleckwenn at the University of Wisconsin first used the drug in this way to treat some of his psychiatric patients.

When used properly, it is easy to see how Amytal could be effective at treating people with issues like PTSD. But there is one problem. The drug can also be used to coerce individuals into forming false memories about specific events. Because of that, the drug lost its credibility.

Amytal was once used to treat conditions like insomnia, epilepsy and anxiety. But because the capsules were discontinued, doctors turn to other medications to help people with these issues.

This medication is still used today, but not as frequently as it once was. Some doctors may use it as a preanesthetic prior to surgery. This is effective because it induces sleep and can impact short-term memory. But because there are newer drugs on the market, Amytal is not used as frequently today as it once was?

A drug that is as powerful as Amytal is likely to have a long list of side effects, and this one does. Some of the more common side effects of it include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Feeling confused
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting spells
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of coordination
  • Reactions at the injection site
  • Hallucinations
  • Problems with thinking
  • Slower breathing rate
  • Slower heart rate

Some of these side effects are very serious, but that is not always enough to deter people from using Amytal. Those who use the drug recreationally may find that their side effects are much more pronounced.


Is Amytal Addictive?

At two points in our nation’s history, Amobarbital had the reputation of being a miracle drug. People thought of it that way when it was used in World War II, and again when it was used to treat psychiatric problems. But today, we understand more about its addictive nature. When benzodiazepines came onto the scene in the 1970s, they almost completely replaced the use of Amytal.

People are often surprised to learn that a prescription drug like Amytal can be addictive. Taking it does lead to sensations of euphoria, which are caused by increased dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is the chemical in the brain that causes people to feel happy. We experience it every day. When the brain fails to produce enough of it, the result is often depression. But for people who use Amytal, excessive amounts of dopamine are produced. Over time, the brain is no longer able to make it on its own, and that is how people get addicted.


What is Amytal Abuse?

Any use of Amytal outside the recommendations of a medical professional is considered to be abuse. Most people do not have access to this drug outside of hospital administration or through illegal channels. It is not a medication that doctors prescribe for home use because the capsules have been discontinued, as we mentioned earlier.

So, the question is, how do people get it?

There are many ways people might be able to obtain Amytal illegally. Most people will purchase it online, and there are countries that will ship it to the United States, even though it is against the law. Medical professionals are certainly more at risk because of the fact that hospitals usually carry it, even if it is a small supply. In some cities, it may even be possible to find it on the street.

The most common way that Amytal is abused today is by injecting it because it can only be found in IV form. But there are drug dealers who may try to sell it in other ways. Some may make the medication into capsules on their own. Users may also boil the liquid down so that it condenses into an even more potent form.

While Amytal is powerful enough on its own, another way people typically abuse it is by mixing it with other drugs. We will talk more about that in just a moment. But it is not uncommon for people to use this drug as a way to “come down” after using a stimulant drug like cocaine or meth.

Users on the website, Reddit, often post questions about barbiturates and how they compare to benzodiazepines. Others are very eager to answer their questions by describing what they experienced when they were high. They claim that:

  • Barbiturates cause more of a drug feeling than benzos.
  • The relaxation effect is much more pronounced.
  • They had an intense euphoric sensation.
  • They felt excessively dizzy.
  • A long feeling of sedation that can last up to 12 hours.

And of course, there is a significant reduction in inhibition when taking Amytal or any other barbiturate. It is clear that the high people experience from this and other, similar drugs is what keeps them using it. It can be a very difficult habit to break, but it can be done.

Some experts believe that the number of teenagers using and getting addicted to barbiturates is increasing. This could be because of the difficulty in obtaining opioids or other drugs for people their age. But because of this increase, it makes sense that more parents are learning that their teens are using Amytal. It is so important to know the signs.

Some of the signs of Amytal abuse include:

  • Appearing drowsy and intoxicated.
  • Losing one’s inhibitions.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Significant confusion.
  • Losing interest in hobbies that were once enjoyed.

Abusing Amytal is very dangerous, and there is a very slight difference between a “euphoric” dose and a deadly one. Any parent who suspects their child is abusing this drug, or any other barbiturate, should certainly reach out for help.


Mixing Amytal With Other Drugs and/or Alcohol

As we mentioned earlier, some people will end up mixing Amytal with another drug, or with alcohol. This typically enhances the effects that are experienced with both drugs, but some combinations can be toxic, and even lethal.

Alcohol is often the go-to choice when people are interested in enhancing a drug’s high. The same is true for those who use Amytal to get high.

Both alcohol and Amytal are central nervous system depressants. Taking them together can cause significant breathing problems. The combination can also slow down the heart rate to dangerous levels. In some cases, it is even possible for the heart and lungs to stop functioning altogether.

There have also been instances when people took both of these drugs together and suffered from alcohol poisoning as a result. This occurs because the Amytal may dull the effects of alcohol, which leads people to drink more.

Like alcohol, marijuana is also considered to be a depressant drug because of how it relaxes the body. When it is combined with a sedative drug like Amytal, it produces an additive effect, according to Leafly. While it does not work by potentiating barbiturates when they are used together, it can still lead to serious risks. It is one combination that should be avoided at all costs.

Benzos were developed because of the risks involved with continuing to prescribe barbiturates. For that reason, it makes sense to assume that these two drugs should never be combined. Still, people do use them together, which can result in serious consequences.

There is a very serious and very high risk of overdosing if someone combines benzodiazepines with Amytal.

According to a study led by Dr. Renu Garg, people who are prescribed both sedating drugs and opioids are six times more likely to die of an overdose. Most doctors know the risks of prescribing these types of drugs together, and so, they avoid it at all costs. But there are people who abuse Amytal recreationally that may try the combination to enhance their high.

Scientists began researching the effects of mixing barbiturates with stimulants decades ago. As we mentioned earlier, this might be an attractive combination because the two drugs counteract each other. But the reality is that taking these two types of medications together can be very dangerous.

There are serious risks to combining two drugs that do two different things in the body. Too much of either one can cause the organs in the body to shut down. There may also be brain damage as a result.


Amytal’s Effects on the Mind and Body

While barbiturates once had their rightful place in the medical field, they no longer do. Their use has been largely replaced with medications that are considered safer and much less addictive. But because people are still abusing Amytal, it is so important to consider the drug’s short and long-term effects.

When it was prescribed, doctors cautioned their patients not to take Amytal for longer than 30 days. That was because of its addictive nature. Today, those who abuse it – even in the short-term – are likely to experience some serious effects as a result.

The short-term effects of Amytal include:

  • Relieving insomnia
  • Relieving anxiety
  • A sensation of euphoria
  • Extreme relaxation and sedation
  • Lethargy and unconsciousness

Once a person starts taking Amytal, it can be very difficult to stop. Taking this drug long-term has never recommended and for good reason. It carries a long list of risks and dangerous long-term side effects, such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Becoming more sensitive to pain and sound
  • Increased sweating
  • Becoming paranoid
  • Having hallucinations
  • Developing paranoia
  • Problems with memory and attention
  • Emotional issues
  • Becoming suicidal

In higher doses, this drug can become even more dangerous, and those risks increase with long-term use. It is possible to suffer from serious brain and organ damage, or even death because of respiratory depression. Many people end up using so much that they fall into a coma when they overdose.


When Abuse Leads to Addiction

Abusing Amytal repeatedly is exactly what leads people to become addicted to it. This is largely because of the way dopamine works in the brain, as we discussed earlier.

There really is no way to tell how long it might take someone to get addicted to Amytal. Some people may feel the compulsion to use it frequently after having used it just one time. For others, it could take weeks, months, or even years.

But the fact remains that continuing to misuse Amytal will eventually lead to addiction. The only way to avoid that is to stop using it before that compulsion to use sets in.

Because it does not always take long for an Amytal addiction to form, it is important to know the signs. The following are all signs that a person has gotten addicted to barbiturates:

  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Frequent headaches
  • Impaired coordination
  • Dizziness and drowsiness

There are other behavioral signs that also indicate that an addiction has formed as well. They include:

  • Noticing an increased drug tolerance (it takes more of the drug to feel the effects of it).
  • Taking larger doses than the doctor recommended.
  • Taking Amytal without a prescription.
  • Doctor shopping as a way to get multiple prescriptions.
  • Going through withdrawal when not on the drug.
  • Attempting to quit without success.
  • Keeping one’s drug use a secret from others.

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Recovering From an Amytal Addiction

Once the person is addicted to Amytal, it can be very difficult to recover. But that does not mean it is impossible. Even so, it is important to understand what the process is like. This is a drug that causes both physical and psychological addiction. That means that withdrawal symptoms are to be expected.

Withdrawal is the body’s way of reacting when a drug is taken away or stopped. The symptoms that results are typically very difficult to handle. But with the proper type of support it is possible to get through the withdrawal phase of recovery successfully.

When stopping use of Amytal, people often experience severe withdrawal symptoms. They can include any of the following:

  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Muscle twitches
  • Tremors
  • Weakness that gets progressively worse
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with visual perception
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure

People do not always experience all of these symptoms. But most people will have several of them when they are detoxing off Amytal.

In some cases, the complications of Amytal withdrawal actually mimic delirium tremens. This is a type of withdrawal syndrome that sometimes affects those who quit drinking alcohol.

For some individuals, barbiturate withdrawal can be fatal. As many as 75% of people who go through it will have seizures at least once. They may also experience delirium and an elevated body temperature. This condition has been known to last several days for as many as 66% of those who have it.

The good news is that treatment can make a big difference. If these types of withdrawal symptoms are not treated, they may need to heart failure, a high fever, and even death.

Amytal withdrawal symptoms can feel as though they are never going to end. But typically, people get through this phase within a two-week period. The timeline usually looks like this:

  • The onset of symptoms usually occurs within 12 hours of the last dose.
  • People usually start to feel withdrawals begin on the first or second day.
  • Symptoms will continue to increase in severity for the first four days.
  • By the fifth day, some symptoms may begin to disappear.
  • Cravings may continue through the end of the first week, and throughout the second week.

Withdrawal does not last forever, and there are ways to minimize the severity of symptoms.


Options for Quitting Amytal

It is not easy to come to the decision to quit Amytal. Anyone who does should be applauded because the draw of the addiction is so strong.

There are several different methods that people usually utilize to stop using this and other barbiturate drugs. But please keep in mind that while we feel it is important to share them, we do not endorse all of them.

This is one of the more common ways that people stop using drugs. Instead of quitting abruptly, they cut down their usage slowly, over time. They may use smaller doses or methodically cut down in other ways. This is called drug tapering, but it is not something that should be attempted outside the realm of medical treatment.

Even when people taper off a drug like Amytal slowly, withdrawal is still a very real possibility. The symptoms can be difficult to manage without professional intervention and help.

Another popular method of quitting barbiturates is going cold turkey. People often convince themselves that it will be easier to just stop using Amytal altogether. They set a quit date, and then they stop. It sounds heroic, but it can actually be dangerous.

Someone who stops taking Amytal cold turkey is going to throw themselves into withdrawal. The symptoms can quickly become overwhelming, and for many, the logical answer is to return to using the drug. This type of quit is responsible for the vast majority of relapses in the United States.

Products like drug detox kits, vitamins and detoxification drinks are extremely popular because of their ease of use. It sounds like a quick fix, but it rarely ever is.

Although vitamins and minerals certainly have their place in the recovery process, using them alone is dangerous. There is no proof that these products actually work, and none of them are approved by the FDA. For these reasons, they should be avoided.

The best way to stop using Amytal and heal from the addiction is to go through drug detox and rehab. Detoxing from the drug will address the physical part of the addiction. The mental component is then addressed through rehab.

An addiction is a complicated disease of the brain. Assuming that it can be treated with over the counter products or holistic methods alone is risky. Treatment allows the individual to be monitored appropriately so that they can be kept safe.


Professional Treatment for Amytal Addiction

Again, an addiction is a disease that begins with a choice. Once a person has become addicted to Amytal, the best approach is to go through professional treatment. That means receiving a few different types of care.


What to Expect During Drug Detox

Detoxing is important because of the toxins that drugs leave behind. As those toxins leave the body, they cause withdrawal, which is hard to manage on one’s own. There are various types of withdrawal treatments available, including medications, yoga, meditation and nutritional therapy. But the doctor should recommend the appropriate course of action based on the individual patient’s needs.

Most people who have Amytal addictions will find that their doctors recommend medical detox. This is a type of treatment that allows patients to take medications to help with their withdrawal symptoms.

For a person who is addicted to Amytal, they may be given any of the following:

  • A benzodiazepine to help with anxiety
  • An antidepressant
  • An anticonvulsant in case of seizures
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Anti-nausea medication

Of course, medical detox on its own might not be enough to help someone through detox. There are also holistic methods that should be used as well.


Going to Drug Rehab

After the detox period (1-2 weeks, usually), the patient is ready to go to drug rehab. This is a step that should not be skipped because it is important to address the root cause of the addiction.

There are reasons why people feel drawn to drugs. For some, they may use them to combat feelings of stress. Others may use them to help them get through the loss of a job, marriage or family member. Regardless, the reasons behind the substance abuse problem need to be identified and treated.

There are several different types of drug rehab centers and programs. Please keep in mind that there is no one “right” solution for everyone. Each patient has their own preferences and needs during recovery.

The different types of rehab programs include:

  • Inpatient rehab
  • Long-term or residential treatment
  • Outpatient treatment
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Day treatment programs

The quality of the program is what matters most. But any of the above can be very effective when it is used the right way.

While patients should always receive their own treatment plans, all of them will include some forms of therapy. This is essential during the recovery process for a number of reasons.

People need to know that they are not alone as they recover. It can seem like a long, lonely process, but with the right support, that all changes. Patients often feel relieved to know that there are professionals who have helped others beat the same type of addiction they have. Also, peer support is important because it helps to know that others are traveling along the same path they are.

Some of the more common types of therapy used during addiction recovery include:

Many Amytal addicts actually turned to drug use because they were self-treating a co-occurring disorder. This is another name for a mental health condition that takes place alongside addictions. Using a drug like Amytal can help these individuals escape from their reality for a short time. Many people who abuse this drug do so because of their mental health issues.

Fortunately, dual diagnosis treatment can help address both conditions at the same time. This type of treatment is essential because without it, the risk of a relapse is very high.

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Making an Aftercare Plan

Aftercare planning is so important for someone who has finished detox and rehab. Unfortunately, people tend to believe that going to a short-term treatment program will cure them of their addictions. Sadly, that is not the way it works.

An aftercare plan usually involves a step-down approach to continuing treatment. Following up with all appointments is often the only way that people avoid relapsing until they are much further along in recovery.

Amytal Addiction Treatment is Offered at Northpoint Recovery

Amytal is a dangerous drug, but this addiction is one that you do not have to fight on your own. At Northpoint Recovery, we are here to help you through it every step of the way. We offer inpatient treatment, and we accept many health insurance plans.

If you are addicted to Amytal, or you know someone who is, please get help right away. We offer free addiction assessments to help you understand exactly what you need to do to recover.

Do you have questions about Amytal abuse, addiction or recovery? Please contact us.

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