Barbiturates (Drugs: the Straight Facts)

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A drug abuser might have bad mood swings, feeling happy one minute and depressed the next. This can be seen when someone who is very shy becomes very outgoing or obnoxiously loud when under the influence. He or she might act on sexual impulses they would normally suppress, because the abuser does not think clearly or understand the consequences of his or her actions.

This can lead to unsafe sex, pregnancy, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

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Most barbiturates are not available in intravenous IV form, but if the abuser is able to inject the drug, the consequences of IV drug use may result. Abusers may catch an infection where they inject themselves, an infection of their blood such as HIV because of a dirty needle or one contaminated through sharing with other users, an air bubble that moves to their brain an embolism, which usually results in death , pneumonia, or infection of the valves of the heart.

Tolerance to the effects of barbiturates happens fairly quickly. Most users find that after one to two weeks of regular use they need higher doses to get them through the day and to get high. The user develops tolerance to the effects of mood, sedation, and the calming action of barbiturates. Because barbiturates have a narrow therapeutic index, a very small increase in dose can equal a very large increase in the effect of the drug.

This means that overdose can happen quite easily. Taking one extra pill can sometimes lead to an overdose. The signs and diagnosis of barbiturate overdose are both physical and measurable.

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Doctors can diagnose overdose by completing a physical exam of the patient, as well as confirming the diagnosis with the use of blood tests. These two measures combined help to determine the presence of overdose. A blood test that shows drug levels in the blood does not help to determine the severity of the overdose.

There are different factors that establish this.

In longtime barbiturate abusers, high blood levels may not indicate how bad their overdose is, because their body can handle high doses. He started lying to his teachers and his friends. He started stealing money from his mom or dad so he could keep buying the pills. His parents blamed each other for the missing money, and never considered that Joey was stealing it. Joey slept, or more like passed out, for more than 10 hours during one of his drug binges.

He just laid down flat on his back and lost consciousness. When he woke up, he could barely move. He found what looked like bruises on his back and the back of his legs, and on any part of his body that was down when he blacked out. They actually were not bruises but pools of blood that had formed because he had not moved for hours.

Joey did not realize what he was doing to his body. He or she might have decreased or no response to painful stimuli for example, not flinching when poked with a sharp pin and loss of reflexes. The final outcome might be dangerously low blood pressure, which can lead to shock and, if not treated, to death. The patient can be given activated charcoal, a thick black substance that helps to block the absorption of the drug in the digestive tract.

If the patient is in a coma or is not breathing, the first action is to put a breathing tube down his or her throat. They must be given fluids intravenously, as overdose victims are often dehydrated and have low blood pressure. Giving fluids will help to raise their blood pressure. There is no drug or magic remedy that can help reverse the effects of barbiturates.

For example, with an overdose of a narcotic, such as morphine, the drug naloxone can be given. With barbiturates, only time makes the overdose patient get better. Following overdose, the blood levels will go down and with this, the comatose state and the shallow breathing will lessen. Illegal Use of Barbiturates Figure 5.

Symptoms can range from tremors and irritability to seizures and death.


Often, to help with the withdrawal symptoms, doctors prescribe another barbiturate, which is given in small and controlled doses. If the withdrawal is not done slowly, minor and major symptoms may develop over a short time. Commonly, patients experience tremors, weakness, sweating, and restlessness. Patients may also get lightheaded and dizzy when moving from a recling or sitting position to a standing position.

Tremors affect their entire body and are visible even when the person is resting. He was so depressed that he wanted to kill himself. After they confronted him, Joey broke down and told them everything.

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  • They entered Joey into an inpatient detox center. This was the best thing for him, although he felt like it was the worst. You are the reason you are here and feel sick. When he was released to home, he had sessions with a psychiatrist every few days. He has been clean for a year. Additionally, patients may lose their appetites, feel nauseous, and vomit.

    When they are able to sleep, they might have very vivid dreams and nightmares.

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    Their moods are not stable; they may feel anxious, perhaps paranoid about people around them. This anxiety can cause a fast heart rate and shortness of breath. These symptoms may last about a week. When the patient has a more serious withdrawal, major symptoms may develop. The patient may have muscle contractions without thinking about them, and other bizarre patterns associated with movements can occur. This usually develops within 24 to 72 hours.

    It is during this time that the most serious consequence of withdrawal may be seen; the patient may have seizures, which at worst can take a long time to stop. Hallucinations due to barbiturate withdrawal are quite distinct.

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    The voice is usually that of a third person just like having someone else talk to them , and what it says is usually perverted. These hallucinations are almost identical to those seen with alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol is like a simpler chemical version of a barbiturate, so the connection can easily be made. Barbiturate use causes the same affects that alcohol use does and both cause a tired, dizzy reaction. It is very uncommon for a patient to experience visual hallucinations, but if they do occur, they are seen during the most serious parts of withdrawal and can last for a week, sometimes longer.

    Delirium: Delirium due to barbiturate withdrawal is, again, similar to that seen with abrupt alcohol withdrawal. The chief sign is one of impaired memory, of both recent and past memories. Delirium is also associated with confusion and disorientation not knowing person, place or time. The hallucinations associated with delirium are more visual in nature and are described as terrifying. Often, patients develop a high fever.

    These symptoms stop by the third or fourth day, and rarely last longer than a week.

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    Barbiturates (Drugs: the Straight Facts) Barbiturates (Drugs: the Straight Facts)
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