What is Secobarbital?

Secobarbital, part of a class of medication called a barbiturate, is prescribed to treat insomnia. Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotics, prescribed for sedation, anesthesia, treatment of seizures and insomnia. Other barbiturates have similar sedative qualities, and are sometimes referred to as tranquilizers. The trade name for secobarbital is Seconal. Misuse of secobarbital and other prescription barbiturates can result in physical dependency, abuse and addiction.

Secobarbital can be habit-forming, which has led to its controversial role in nationwide prescription medication drug abuse and addictions. Secobarbital is prescribed to patients for short-term insomnia relief, and is not meant for chronic use. Reaching for secobarbital every time you cannot sleep, instead of keeping to your physician’s instructions, can lead to addiction. There are legitimate reasons to treat insomnia with secobarbital, but using it as a coping mechanism creates a dangerous relationship that can have severe health consequences. Secobarbital’s effects have led to it being sold on the street, under names such as red dolls, barbs and seco.

Secobarbital side effects and dangers

Like any prescription medication, secobarbital may cause side effects even when taking it correctly. The following secobarbital side effects are common:

  • Drowsiness (sedation)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Inability to concentrate or remember
  • Excitement
  • Upset stomach
  • Constipation

Serious side effects include:

  • Restless muscle movements (eyes, tongue, jaw, neck)
  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Feeling faint
  • Mouth sores
  • Fever
  • Bruising

Secobarbital use crosses the line into abuse and addiction when it is misused. One of the most important aspects about this prescription is its purpose for treating insomnia for a short, defined period. If secobarbital is not successful in treating your insomnia after seven to ten days, you may need to be evaluated for a psychiatric or medical illness. If you feel you must continue your secobarbital prescription past your prescribed treatment length, it is important to talk to your doctor about what to do, instead of self-medicating beyond this treatment window.

There are serious risks to secobarbital misuse. Sharing, giving away or selling secobarbital is against the law because of its dangerous medical consequences. Prescriptions are filled for specific doses tailored to specific people, and the effects can have adverse reactions in others. Taking an excessive secobarbital dose can result in a life-threatening overdose.

Secobarbital overdose symptoms include:

  • Respiratory depression (stop breathing)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Blisters
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fluid in lungs (pulmonary edema)
  • Coma
  • Death

These symptoms can be deadly if not treated immediately. It is vital to know that drinking alcohol with a normal dose of barbiturates can have deadly reactions.
If a person with a secobarbital addiction is unable to access the drug, they may look for illegal sources. Because this illegal secobarbital is not controlled by a pharmacy, it frequently contains unknown and harmful ingredients.

Secobarbital abuse and addiction signs

Any use of secobarbital outside of a doctor’s instructions is considered drug abuse. This includes tampering with secobarbital pills by chewing, crushing, cutting or dissolving them in order to ingest, snort or inject a higher dose than prescribed. Even if the secobarbital pills are not tampered with, taking more pills than prescribed is also considered abuse of the drug.

Secobarbital addiction signs include:

  • Taking more than the prescribed dosage
  • “Doctor shopping” for multiple prescriptions
  • Tampering with secobarbital before taking it
  • Mixing secobarbital with other sedatives or alcohol

Secobarbital withdrawal symptoms and treatment

It is possible to develop a physical dependency on secobarbital, which should be discussed with your doctor. A physical secobarbital dependency occurs when the body adjusts to the presence of the medication and depends on that medication to function normally. A secobarbital prescription can include dosing instructions from your doctor to taper off the medication to reduce and eliminate this physical dependency. This type of medication management is important—those who are physically dependent on secobarbital will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop their secobarbital prescription too suddenly. If the withdrawal symptoms are extreme, they could drive the patient to continue using the substance despite significant harm—the definition of addiction.

Secobarbital withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle twitching
  • Tremor
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Visual distortion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Delirium (confusion)

These problems vary in severity and duration depending on the specific secobarbital dose taken and duration of use.
Physical dependency or experiencing barbiturate withdrawal symptoms does not mean that you are addicted to secobarbital. Addiction also includes a loss of control, cravings and tolerance for the drug. Read more about addiction or contact us for an assessment.

Medications for Secobarbital addiction

There are no medications approved by the FDA specifically to treat secobarbital addiction. However, certain medicines can be used to help sedative abusers with the anxiety with which they often struggle after they have gone through withdrawal (often a great deal more anxiety than other types of addicts face). Many sedative abusers began using these sedative drugs to relieve an anxiety disorder. Once they are removed safely in the detoxification phase of treatment, their original anxiety returns full-blown—and possibly stronger than ever—but they can no longer turn to the medicines they abused for help. Because of sedative toxicity to many areas of the brain, sedative abusers also seem to have significant problems with insomnia, especially early in sobriety. Fortunately, there are non-addicting medications that can treat anxiety or insomnia once the withdrawal stabilization process is complete. These include antiseizure/antiepileptic medicines, atypical antipsychotics, antihistamines and antidepressants. At Enterhealth, we specialize in customizing these non-addicting, effective alternative options for each patient’s unique situation.

Secobarbital withdrawal stabilization, also known as detoxification or detox, is usually done in a similar way as other barbiturate withdrawal treatment. Sedative or barbiturate withdrawal symptoms are similar to those seen with alcohol withdrawal. Potential symptoms include aches and pains, numbness and tingling, irritability, rapid breathing and heart rate, insomnia, tremors, seizures, and changes in brainwave patterns. There is also the risk of suffering the potentially toxic syndrome of delirium tremens. The withdrawal syndrome for long-acting barbiturates such as secobarbital may not begin until several days after you stopped using the drug, for it takes a while for these drugs to clear from your body.

With mild barbiturate withdrawal, you typically only see restlessness, anxiety, shakiness, and intermittent weakness–but these can often be accompanied by dizziness upon standing, nausea, cramps, and vomiting. These symptoms may be similar to the anxiety symptoms for which the barbiturate medication was initially prescribed. Oftentimes, the return of significant anxiety during the withdrawal phase causes sedative addicts to relapse early in the process.

The objective of sedative withdrawal is to stabilize the barbiturate withdrawal symptoms by giving the patient a long-lasting sedative at a selected dose, then gradually lowering the dose in order to “wean” him or her off the medication. This reduces the withdrawal symptoms by making them less severe and more gradual. Which medicine to use and at what dose and for what length of time will be left to your Enterhealth physician’s discretion.

Secobarbital addiction treatment options

An evidence-based combination of therapeutic and pharmacological addiction treatment can help those with barbiturate addiction regain a stable and productive life. Research shows that integrating both types of treatment is the most effective approach to restoring a degree of normal function to the brain and addressing underlying issues.

Enterhealth Ranch provides residential medical detox (also known as withdrawal stabilization) services for secobarbital addiction, which includes science-driven medication therapy and medical staff available onsite daily. Secobarbital detox is so dangerous that it should always be done at an experienced inpatient facility. The detoxification process is a crucial beginning step to recovery and should only be done under the supervision of a physician with formal training in alcohol and drug addiction treatment. Due to the body’s dependency on the drug, stopping abruptly can be life-threatening, because of both seizures and delirium tremens. It is very important to understand that the withdrawal stabilization phase of treatment is not considered treatment. It is only a medically sophisticated protocol to get the alcohol or drugs safely out of the body.

Effective behavioral treatments for barbiturate addiction can be administered in a residential or outpatient setting after withdrawal stabilization. A treatment plan may include:

  • Psychiatric assessment and treatment
  • Psychological assessment and treatment
  • Intensive individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Individual and group family therapy sessions
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Wellness, nutritional and stress management treatment services
  • Medication management

After the barbiturate withdrawal symptoms are stabilized and detox is complete (usually between 10-21 days), Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence offer the full continuum of care including residential and outpatient treatment options, both integrated together for the patient’s individual situation. During the residential phase of treatment, patients live at our 43-acre ranch facility while undergoing treatment. Among many other treatments, patients attend addiction recovery therapy sessions that are specialized to each individual’s addiction challenges. Upon completion of the residential rehabilitation phase, the patient can transition to our outpatient facility, where patients receive continued, medically-supervised treatment while living at their own residence.

Barbiturate addiction treatment, however, goes beyond detox and medication treatment. Through therapy and counseling, the psychological aspects of dependency can be better understood by the patient and addiction can be completely overcome. Counseling may be individual or group-oriented, and may also include the family. Continuing care programs are also available, as they are essential to provide counseling and continued support over a number of years.

Barbiturate addiction recovery with Enterhealth

People suffering from barbiturate addiction may feel hopeless, but they are not alone. Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence can help you or a loved one begin recovery at our 43-acre residential secobarbital addiction treatment center just north of Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas, and our outpatient barbiturate addiction treatment center located in the Preston Center area of Dallas, Texas.

At Enterhealth, our goal is to treat the whole person for a lifetime. We offer a better chance to recover through our advanced, evidence-based treatment approach, designed and administered by board-certified addiction psychiatrists, physicians and other experts, that is proven to be more effective than traditional twelve-step approaches.