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Phenobarbital belongs to a group of drugs called barbiturates. It affects the central nervous system and slowing down activity in the brain. The drug works as a sedative which depresses the nervous system. It is used to treat seizures, anxiety and relieve withdrawal symptoms from other drugs. Doctors prescribe phenobarbital to cure tics, recurring motor illnesses or Tourette’s syndrome.

The drug is marketed under the brand name of Luminal. Street names of the drug include feenies or phennies.

In some cases, the drug can reduce severe withdrawal symptoms from alcohol abuse and sedatives.

Even though phenobarbital can effectively treat epilepsy, the medical communities vote against its use. This is to give way for newer medical treatments for the disease. The drug does more harm than good. Here is a list of proof about phenobarbital.

Quick facts about Phenobarbital:

At least 52 million Americans ages 12 above used medical prescription for non-medical reasons during their lifetime. A report according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA.

In a study of the University of Texas, it claimed that tranquilizers including barbiturates like phenobarbital belong to the top 3 of most abused drugs.

In 2011, 18,282 emergency department cases involved the recreational use of barbiturates, according to SAMHSA.
As a drug, phenobarbital cannot produce any harm when taken as prescribed. However, it can eventually lead to dependence when users abuse the drug. This can happen when users:

  • Take more than their prescriptions.
  • Take it for non-medical reasons
  • Take it longer even when the prescription is over.
  • Have a history of addictive behavior.

History of Phenobarbital

German chemists, Emil Fischer and Joseph von Mering first discovered the barbiturate drug. Friedr first marketed the drug as Veronal. In 1904, Fischer also synthesized several drugs including phenobarbital. Bayer brought phenobarbital in the market in the year 1912 and marketed the drug under the brand name of Luminal.

The drug stayed a wide-spread prescribed hypnotic and sedative. It was later replaced by the drug benzodiazepines in the 1960s.

The sleep-inducing and hypnotic properties of phenobarbital were famous in 1912. However, the useful effect of the drug to treat epilepsy remains unknown.

Alfred Hauptmann, a young doctor gave the drug to his patients suffering epilepsy. He discovered that the drug acted as a tranquilizer and the seizure stopped. He then performed careful research about the drug for a long time. When he used phenobarbital on his worst patients, they suffered fewer and manageable seizures. Some of his patients even cured of seizures.

The drug is also used a neonatal jaundice treatment. It increases the liver metabolism that results to lower bilirubin levels. But in the 1950s, phototherapy became the standard treatment for jaundice.

For 25 years, the drug is used to treat seizures until the discovery of its addictive properties became widespread.

What causes Phenobarbital addiction?

Long-term use of phenobarbital can be habit-forming. This is particularly true for users who take the drug in higher doses or more frequent than what is prescribed. Even those individuals who are following a legitimate prescription can experience tolerance. Tolerance develops faster when users misuse the drug. They need to take more phenobarbitals to get the same effects.

Also, there is a thin line between a safe dosage of the drug and addiction. Misuse of the drug like combining it with alcohol or other drugs can produce effects such as:

  • intensify the effects of both drugs and alcohol can induce drug overdose


Users who follow a legitimate medical prescription to control their seizures can develop drug dependency. However, dependency can also affect people who take the drug without prescriptions. Like any drugs, the longer it is taken, the higher the chance developing tolerance over the drug.
When this happens, users need to frequently take the drug or take higher doses to get the same effect. The more they take the drug, the more they become addicted to it, both physically and psychologically.

Unfortunately, people can easily obtain the drug via fake online pharmacies and get it from other people.

What are the signs and symptoms of Phenobarbital addiction?

As a sedative, the drug generates a dampening effect on the central nervous system. Some of the known signs and symptoms of the drug include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Blisters and scratches on the skin
  • Double vision
  • Ataxia, or loss of motor coordination
  • Altered consciousness
  • Hallucinations

Users can also show signs of lifestyle changes like:

Compulsively seek the drug either from various doctors or on the street
Social withdrawal.
Financial problems.
Reduced good performance at work or school.

The drug is known for its anticonvulsant effects. This signs and symptoms may not indicate abuse. However, if the user experience hallucinations seek medical attention immediately. In some cases, the use of the drug can cause coma and may lead to death.

What are the side effects of Phenobarbital?

Short-term Effects

Some of the short-term effects of the drug are similar that of alcohol abuse, these include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucination
  • Feeling of euphoria
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Feelings of calm or relaxation
  • Amplified ability to sleep
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Respiratory depression or slow breathing
  • Swelling of eyes, cheeks, or lips
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Irritability

In rare cases, phenobarbital can worsen depressive thoughts and can lead to suicide attempts in some users.

Long-term Effects

Prolonged exposure to the drugs is far more deadly and destructive. Phenobarbital can ultimately destroy the user’s life. Some of the long-term effects of the drug include:

  • Erratic behavior (moodiness)
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired judgment
  • Memory problems
  • Increased anger
  • Blistering on the arms and legs

Symptoms of Overdose- Am I Overdosing?

When users take more of the drugs or mix it with other substances like alcohol, they are exposed to a drug overdose. It is important to seek medical help when one of some of these symptoms became clear. Signs and symptoms of drug overdose include:

  • Impaired reaction
  • Nystagmus, or rapid eye movements.
  • Loss of motor coordination and muscle control
  • Respiratory depression or difficulty in breathing
  • Hypothermia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Circulatory failure
  • Cardiac arrest

Phenobarbital Addiction Treatment

Detoxification is a way to eliminate all toxins from the body including drugs taken in higher doses or for a long period of time.  Phenobarbital detox is a complicated and sensitive treatment.

Medical practitioners typically give users reduced doses of the drug to gradually enable the body to disconnect from the drug. This can eventually eliminate any dependence of the body towards the drug. Also, experts can use other sedatives to condition the body in the gradual withdrawal of the drug. Doctors use this method as not to disturb the overstimulated neurons in the body.

Users undergoing detox process for phenobarbital experience intense symptoms that are life-threatening. The risk increases when the phenobarbital is mix with other drugs such as alcohol.  It is recommended to go withdrawal process under a medical supervision.

Phenobarbital withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Delusions
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Shaking
  • Hallucinations
  • Tachycardia or increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizures

Once a medical detox ended, it is important to start addiction treatment immediately. This may involve a drug rehab or outpatient therapy sessions. Therapists can guide the users in learning new skills to live a sober life. They can also learn how to cope with their life stressors to avoid using the drug when dealing with it.  Most users may have a co-existing psychological disorder that needs to be properly addressed.

Also, the therapists can include group sessions and individual counseling to uncover the underlying reasons for addiction. They may also include other healthy activities and/or hobbies to keep the mind of the users occupied.

Rehab Near Me is an addiction treatment resource, whose aim is to help  you get free from addiction.

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