Pentobarbital Abuse

Pentobarbital is a short to intermediate acting barbiturate used as an anticonvulsant to stop seizures that are already occurring, and as a sedative to be given before surgery. In high doses, usually in combination with other drugs, it can be used as euthanasia, and as a lethal injection for executions.

Pentobarbital functions by depressing activity in the central nervous system. Because it can be highly addictive, the FDA has classified it as a Schedule II controlled substance.

Understanding Pentobarbital Abuse

Although pentobarbital is most often used as an anticonvulsant to stop a seizure in progress, or as an anesthetic before surgery, it can also be used to treat insomnia, but only for two weeks or less, due to the high risk of dependency.

Pentobarbital is a barbiturate with both sedating (calming) and hypnotic (sleep-inducing) effects. These effects can easily lead to addiction if you experience a great deal of stress in your life, or if you suffer from an undiagnosed anxiety disorder.

Barbiturate use quite naturally leads to physical addiction, and sustained use can lead to a life-threatening withdrawal syndrome. Overdoses occur easily because it can be difficult to determine the correct dosage of pentobarbital, and these overdoses are most often fatal.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s fact sheet on barbiturates, higher doses of pentobarbital can cause:

  • memory problems
  • impaired judgment
  • loss of coordination
  • irritability
  • paranoia
  • suicidal ideation

Signs and Symptoms of Pentobarbital Abuse

Pentobarbital is a useful tool in the treatment of seizures and to prepare patients for surgery. However, abuse of the medication is be extremely dangerous.

Some signs and symptoms of pentobarbital addiction may include:

  • appearing drunk even when no alcohol has been ingested
  • seeming more intoxicated than makes sense for the amount of alcohol consumed
  • seeming “spacey” and absentminded
  • unusual clumsiness
  • changes in appearance or hygiene
  • changes in eating habits
  • isolation from family and friends
  • financial problems
  • mood swings
  • lack of interest in activities the user previously enjoyed

According to the Daily Med Drug Label information on pentobarbital, symptoms of acute intoxication with barbiturates include:

  • unsteady gait
  • slurred speech
  • involuntary eye movement

Mental signs of chronic intoxication include:

  • confusion
  • poor judgment
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • somatic complaints (physical complaints with no medical explanation)

Dangers of Pentobarbital Abuse

Sustained use of pentobarbital will create a tolerance for the drug, forcing you to raise your dosage to unsafe amounts. This can happen especially quickly with barbiturate drugs, and a pentobarbital overdose is usually fatal.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, symptoms of a pentobarbital overdose may include:

  • coma
  • confusion
  • decreased energy
  • delirium (confusion and agitation)
  • difficulty breathing
  • headache
  • large blisters
  • rash
  • sleepiness
  • slowed or stopped breathing
  • slurred speech
  • unsteady gait

Side Effects

The Daily Med Drug Label information on one of many available forms of pentobarbital lists a number of adverse effects that are possible, even when taking the drug as directed:

  • extreme drowsiness
  • agitation
  • confusion
  • muscle spasms
  • hyperactivity
  • loss of muscle control
  • nightmares
  • nausea, vomiting
  • constipation
  • nervousness
  • psychiatric disturbance
  • hallucinations
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • dizziness
  • thinking abnormality
  • slow heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  •  fainting
  • slowed breathing
  • breathing cessation

Who Abuses Pentobarbital?

You may take pentobarbital to combat panic attacks, remedy insomnia, or relieve social anxiety. No matter your reasons, you will need more and more of the drug over time. At first to enjoy the same experience you will take a slightly larger amount and eventually, to merely counteract the mental and physical difficulties that arise whenever the drug’s effects begin to wane you’ll take more and more.

Never stop taking pentobarbital abruptly. Your dosage must be slowly and carefully tapered to avoid potentially deadly withdrawal complications.

The Daily Med Drug Label information on pentobarbital list the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • anxiety
  • muscle twitching
  • tremor of hands and fingers
  • progressive weakness
  • dizziness
  • distortion in visual perception
  • nausea, vomiting
  • insomnia
  • feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or fainting when standing up from a lower position
  • convulsions
  • delirium

Pentobarbital Addiction

You may mistakenly believe that your illicit use of pentobarbital is safe, because the medication is also available by prescription. Before you become too comfortable with that misapprehension, consider the fact that pentobarbital is a common, fatal ingredient in preparations for euthanasia and lethal injections.

It is important that you seek help now, before your addiction has the chance to destroy relationships, cause financial hardship, lead to arrest, or result in a fatal overdose.

Am I Addicted to Pentobarbital?

To determine if you are addicted to pentobarbital, read the following questions and answer them honestly:

  • Do I abuse pentobarbital 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?
  • Am I secretive about my drug use, and/or do I lie about when I use or how much I take?
  • Do I ever experience side effects such as those listed above?
  • When I try to reduce my pentobarbital usage, do I experience withdrawal symptoms such as those listed above?
  • Do I feel like I can’t have fun, be normal, or complete everyday tasks without Pentobarbital?
  • Do I need more and more pentobarbital each time I abuse the drug in order to feel its effects?
  • 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 pentobarbital on my own?

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

Pentobarbital Addiction Treatment

Even after admitting you have a substance abuse problem, you may hesitate to get help. You may worry about finding a quality facility nearby, or about how you’ll pay. We can ease worries like this by helping you go over your options, and explaining all the ways that effective rehab care can be made practical and affordable, no matter your situation.


When you enter any treatment program, you will be expected to abstain from your drug of choice. Achieving abstinence when your drug of choice is pentobarbital is a delicate process, and should be pursued with the help of trained medical professionals.

You should never suddenly stop taking pentobarbital. A doctor will have you taper off of the drug gradually, while closely monitoring your progress. You should have emergency medical assistance close at hand throughout the process, in case you develop life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.


Your recovery plan will most likely include counseling or psychotherapy with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed alcohol and drug therapist. Your sessions can be one on one (individual), with your family or significant other, or in a group with other addicts getting treatment in the same program.

Counseling can:

  • Teach you how to cope with drug cravings
  • Address problems you may have at work, school, or home
  • Advise you on how to avoid trigger situations and prevent relapse
  • Advise you on how to cope if you do relapse, and how to get back on track
  • Help you and your loved ones to communicate more effectively and to create a home environment that supports long-term recovery.

Holistic Treatments

Holistic treatments are therapeutic actions directed at healing you as a whole person, and not just your addiction. To successfully achieve and maintain sobriety, you have to treat your body, mind and spirit.

  • Nutrition and fitness interventions can help you develop a stronger body, and to repair the damage that drug use has done to your brain.
  • Alternative therapies such as mindfulness training, acupressure, and equine therapy offer less traditional ways for you to progress in your recovery.
  • Recreational therapy provides you with physical outlets that not only help you recover, but teach you methods of coping with stress and cravings that can be used as needed after you complete your treatment program and return home.
  • Support Groups based on AA’s 12-step philosophies are a resource that you can easily turn to for the rest of your life. Not only can they help you maintain sobriety, they can develop a sense of community that reminds you that you are not alone in your struggles.