Amytal Abuse

Amytal is a brand name formulation of amobarbital, a barbiturate used as a sedative and hypnotic. It is prescribed as an anticonvulsant (to treat seizure disorders), a pre-anesthetic for surgery, and for the short-term treatment of insomnia.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines a sedative-hypnotic drug as a “chemical substance used to reduce tension and anxiety and induce calm (sedative effect) or to induce sleep (hypnotic effect). Most such drugs exert a quieting or calming effect at low doses and a sleep-inducing effect in larger doses.

Sedative-hypnotic drugs tend to depress the central nervous system. Since these actions can be obtained with other drugs, such as opiates, the distinctive characteristic of sedative-hypnotics is their selective ability to achieve their effects without [intensely] affecting mood or reducing sensitivity to pain.”

Amytal is prescribed less often than other CNS depressants for anxiety and sleep disturbances because of its higher potential for overdose, but it is commonly used for surgical procedures, and to treat seizure disorders.

Understanding Amytal Abuse

Amytal (amobarbital) is a useful drug that must be taken exactly as prescribed by a doctor due to its highly-addictive properties and high potential for overdose.

Even at fairly low doses, barbiturates can make a person appear intoxicated. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “tolerance to the mood-altering effects of barbiturates develops rapidly with repeated use. But tolerance to the lethal effects develops more slowly, and the risk of severe poisoning increases with continued use.”

The rapidly developing tolerance inherent to Amytal makes the drug easily addictive, and being addicted to Amytal is extremely dangerous due to the high risk of poisoning.

Signs and Symptoms of Amytal Abuse

Symptoms of barbiturate intoxication and overdose include:

  • Altered level of consciousness
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • Drowsiness or coma
  • Faulty judgment
  • Lack of coordination
  • Shallow breathing
  • Slow, slurred speech
  • Sluggishness
  • Staggering

Excessive and long-term use of barbiturates may produce the following chronic symptoms:

  • Changes in alertness
  • Decreased functioning
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss

Other possible signs of Amytal addiction may include:

  • Needing to have a prescription refilled earlier than scheduled
  • Changes in mood
  • Changes in appearance or hygiene
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Secretive behavior
  • Lack of interest in activities the user previously enjoyed

Dangers of Amytal Abuse

Sustained use of Amytal will create a tolerance for the mood-altering effects of the drug, forcing addicts to increase their dosage to obtain the same experience. Because the body’s tolerance for the adverse physical effects of the drug do not increase at the same rate as the tolerance for the mood-altering effects, taking larger amounts of Amytal can easily lead to a fatal overdose.

The Drug Enforcement Agency’s fact sheet on barbiturates explains that the drug appeals to addicts because it causes:

  • mild euphoria
  • lack of inhibition
  • relief of anxiety
  • sleepiness
  • relaxation
  • sedation

Higher doses cause:

  • impairment of memory and judgment
  • loss of coordination
  • irritability
  • paranoia
  • suicidal thoughts

Amytal Overdose

Addiction to Amytal brings with it a high potential for overdose. Effects of overdose include:

  • shallow respiration
  • clammy skin
  • dilated pupils
  • weak and rapid pulse
  • coma
  • death

Who Abuses Amytal?

A person of any age, gender, financial status, or ethnicity can become addicted to Amytal. It is very important to only take Amytal with a prescription, and only as directed by a medical doctor. Taking larger doses or taking the medicine more frequently can easily lead to physical dependence and overdose.

Although it is possible to become addicted to Amytal while taking the drug as directed by a doctor, it is unusual.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “barbiturate abuse is a major addiction problem for many people. Most people who take these medicines for seizure disorders or pain syndromes do not abuse them. However, those who become addicts usually start by abusing medicine that was prescribed for them or other family members.”

Some addicts take Amytal to combat feelings of anxiety, or to self-medicate insomnia. Some users take the drug to enjoy the mild euphoria, or the relaxant effects of the drug. No matter the reason, the user will quickly need to increase the dosage to dangerous levels in order to still feel these mood-altering effects.

Amytal Addiction

When used legally, under a doctor’s instructions, Amytal can be beneficial, improving a patient’s quality of life. Amytal is an effective treatment for seizures and insomnia when prescribed appropriately. It is also useful as a pre-anesthetic before surgery.

However, overuse and abuse of the medication (such as taking it for the euphoric effects instead of to control a seizure disorder) will lead to serious mental and physical consequences.

Taking Amytal recreationally, especially in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs, is extremely dangerous and is a clear sign of a substance abuse problem.

Am I Addicted to Amytal?

If you fear that you may be addicted to Amytal, ask yourself the questions below:

  • Do I abuse Amytal every day?
  • Do I abuse the drug in order to combat feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, depression, etc.?
  • Have friends or family members mentioned more than once that they are worried about my drug use?
  • Do I become hostile or angry when they do so?
  • Do I ever experience side effects or withdrawal symptoms such as those listed above?
  • Do I feel like I can’t have fun, be normal, or complete everyday tasks without Amytal?
  • Am I secretive about my drug use, and/or do I lie about when I use or how much I take?
  • Do I need more and more Amytal each time I abuse the drug in order to feel its effects?
  • Do I take Amytal in conjunction with alcohol or other drugs?
  • Have I experienced any major problems in the last year, such as a breakup, job loss, car accident, family problems, financial problems, or getting arrested as a result of my drug use?
  • Despite these problems, do I feel unable to stop using Amytal on my own?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be addicted to Amytal and in need of professional substance abuse help.

Amytal Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. The NIDA explains that “repeated drug use changes the brain, including parts of the brain that enable you to exert self-control. These and other changes can be seen clearly in brain imaging studies of people with drug addictions.”

This is why addicts require professional help to break the cycle of addiction. The treatment specialists at a qualified drug and alcohol rehab are trained in how to manage substance abuse issues and lead addicts safely to recovery.


Detoxification is the first step to any recovery plan. A person needs clarity of mind and a body free from addictive substances before they can be effectively treated.

Because withdrawal from Amytal is extremely dangerous, and possibly fatal, patients must detox under a doctor’s care, ideally in a substance abuse treatment facility. Amytal withdrawal can be very similar to delirium tremens, a severe form of withdrawal that sometimes occurs during detoxification from alcohol.

Early on in delirium tremens, the patient becomes restless and weak. Then, during the second and third days, patients may develop convulsions, which can be fatal if left untreated.

From the third to the fifth day, untreated withdrawal symptoms will likely include:

  • fever
  • dehydration
  • insomnia
  • disorientation and delirium
  • hallucinations

Patients should never stop taking Amytal abruptly. They should instead follow a doctor’s instructions for weaning themselves off the medication gradually.


Whether addicts choose inpatient residential treatment, and/or outpatient treatment, all substance abuse recovery plans will include talk therapy.

Individual therapy allows patients to work intensively on issues specific only to them, while group therapy allows them to both support and experience support from other addicts who are struggling with similar challenges. Family therapy is a fundamental tool to help individuals encounter the best possible environment at home, to prevent relapse.

Other treatment options include:

  • 12-step meetings: Meetings based on the 12-step program that originated with Alcoholics Anonymous are an invaluable resource to support long term sobriety.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT teaches patients to retrain their brains with new methods of coping with stress and cravings, and avoiding trigger situations
  • Treatment for co-occurring conditions: most addicts suffer from undiagnosed mental health issues that underlie and fuel their substance abuse. These co-occurring disorders must be addressed as a part of recovery.
  • Nutrition, fitness and recreational therapy: a strong body is just as important as a strong mind when it comes to long-term recovery. The better a person feels, the more prepared they will be to handle life as it comes.