What You Should Know About Quitting Phenobarbital

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Phenobarbital is a barbiturate medication used to manage certain seizure disorders and to halt persistent seizure activity. Phenobarbital has also been used for surgical sedation and as an anti-anxiety medication. It is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and its abuse can result in physiological and psychological dependence.

Due to the risk of serious withdrawal symptoms, people who are addicted to phenobarbital and want to quit should seek help from a drug recovery program.


Benefits of Quitting Phenobarbital

Quitting phenobarbital once you are addicted or physiologically dependent can be extremely difficult. The severity of withdrawal symptoms often leads people to relapse, and those who make it successfully through treatment may relapse months later.

Recovery is not easy. However, some of the benefits of quitting phenobarbital include:

  • Improved relationships- If you’ve been dealing with addiction for a long time, it’s very likely that your relationships have been harmed due to your use. Treatment can help you confront and repair relationships that were damaged while you were abusing phenobarbital.
  • Better financial situation- Money once spent on obtaining phenobarbital can be used to pay off any debts or on activities that can help you enjoy life and maintain your sobriety.
  • Reduced risk of health problems- Long-term use of phenobarbital has been linked to tumors in the brain and liver as well as certain types of cancer, including hepatic carcinoma. Quitting phenobarbital can potentially reduce your risk of acquiring these medical diagnoses. 2

Phenobarbital Addiction Treatment Center and Recovery Program Options

Female doctor talking with person about quitting phenobarbital
Inpatient treatment, with a closely supervised detoxification period, may be required for the management of phenobarbital dependence or addiction, as withdrawal can be life-threatening and the unpleasant symptoms may contribute to relapse.

Types of recovery programs include:

  • Inpatient- Inpatient treatment occurs in a hospital or residential setting, and it is the highest level of treatment for substance abuse. These facilities typically offer wrap-around care that includes detox as well as individual, group, and family therapy sessions. In addition, inpatient usually offers classes on nutrition and exercise as well as relaxation. You have access to trained staff 24 hours a day in a safe and controlled environment.
  • Outpatient- One of the best outpatient treatment options for phenobarbital dependence or addiction is a partial hospitalization program (PHP). PHPs are typically 5 full days a week and usually take place at a hospital or at a substance abuse treatment center that affords access to various hospital services. In a PHP, a physician will be able to prescribe medications for withdrawal or other needs and will closely follow your progress throughout your recovery.
  • Group counseling- In group therapy, you’ll interact with a number of individuals at a similar point in their recoveries and gain a sense of universality – a feeling that you are not alone in your struggle with addiction. Group therapy is often offered in inpatient and outpatient programs or can be a standalone form of treatment.
  • Individual counseling- Individual counseling is a viable aftercare option for sustaining long-term recovery. Individual therapy can be useful in helping you identify triggers, hidden beliefs, thoughts, behaviors, or emotions that may be underlying causes of addiction and can also help heal relationships that may have been damaged during addiction.
  • 12-step programs- Many people who have achieved sustained recovery from drugs or alcohol give credit to groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) andNarcotics Anonymous (NA). Twelve-step programs often are religious or spiritually based. Members rely on a “higher power” to help them with recovery. These programs also provide things such as accountability, awareness, and a focus on repairing things that were damaged due to addiction.

Aftercare

Once you or your loved one completes treatment, it is important to have some kind of aftercare lined up. Aftercare is any form of ongoing care or support you receive after rehab. Types of aftercare include:

  • Sober living homes.
  • 12-step programs.
  • Outpatient programs.
  • Individual and group therapy.

These programs provide ongoing support, continued awareness, and opportunities to learn from setbacks that may occur throughout recovery. You will find a safe place to talk about your life in recovery, to ask for support as you need it, and to help support others in their recovery.

Sober living may be a good option for those who do not have stable or supportive living situations to return to after inpatient treatment. To become a part of a sober living home, you or your loved one must complete an application and often wait for an opening. A sober living home may require that you have a job and pay a specific monthly amount in addition to attending required therapy sessions.


Phenobarbital Withdrawal Symptoms and Side Effects

Symptoms of withdrawal include insomnia, nausea, tremors, and dizziness.


Phenobarbital poses a high risk for psychological and physiological dependence. If you are dependent on it, you may suffer from withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit – usually within 8-12 hours after the last dose. Medically supervised detox is often necessary, as withdrawal symptoms can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening.

Symptoms of withdrawal from phenobarbital may include:1,2

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Insomnia.
  • Nightmares.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Irritability.
  • Weight loss.
  • Anxiety.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Tremors in hands and fingers.
  • Progressive muscle weakness.
  • Dizziness or visual distortions.

In addition, the risk of more serious side effects including seizure/convulsions, delirium, and even death may occur within the first 16 hours and will remain a risk for up to 15 days after quitting.2

Factors That Affect Withdrawal

The length of detox and severity of symptoms will vary from person to person and depend on several factors, including: 1, 2

  • Dosage at the time of quitting. Higher doses will require longer detox.
  • Length of time you were taking phenobarbital. The longer you were taking the medication, the longer the withdrawal period is likely to be.
  • Urine pH.Alkaline urine will excrete phenobarbital faster.
  • Age Children will typically take longer than adults to detox from phenobarbital.
  • Medical or mental health problems.Any underlying medical or mental health issues may increase the length of time it takes to detox safely.

Tips for Quitting

Need Help Quitting Phenobarbital?

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Some things that can help you on your road to recovery include:

  • Identify at least one person who can be your ally in recovery.This should be a person you feel safe with and can trust. Having a support system is crucial when going through detox and rehab, and it can lead to more positive results than doing it all on your own.
  • Do not quit taking phenobarbital abruptly or without supervision. Seek out a detox facility or an inpatient program when deciding to discontinue phenobarbital. This is the safest way to prevent serious side effects.
  • Speak to a professional about treatment options for phenobarbital addiction. Many choices of facilities exist with various levels of care. Speak with someone who can assess your situation and help you make the best decision about treatment.
  • Invest completely in your treatment and your recovery plan. Checking yourself in to a treatment facility is not enough to recover from substance abuse. You must be willing to do the work that is asked of you. Therapy can be difficult. But when things are difficult, it usually means that you are making progress. Sticking to your treatment plan and seeking out a support system will have a positive impact on your long-term recovery.
  • Make sure you have follow-up care when you leave your program. Follow-up care, or aftercare, is essential for preventing relapse. It provides the continuing accountability, support, and awareness that you will need when you are faced with triggers. Ongoing therapy can help you uncover the reasons why you abuse substances, and the therapist can work with you to develop coping skills for maintaining sobriety.

How to Help an Addict Quit

It’s not always easy to tell when someone needs help with substance abuse. But you can look for a few signs that may indicate a problem.

Woman sitting on steps
Signs of phenobarbital intoxication include: 1,2

  • Paradoxical central nervous system excitation.
  • Fatigue.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Depression.
  • Breathing difficulties.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Lack of muscular coordination.

Signs of chronic phenobarbital intoxication include: 2

  • Profound confusion / delirium.
  • Recurring headache.
  • Irritability.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Frequent insomnia / sleep deprivation.

In addition, your loved one may need help if he or she is: 3

  • Longer engaging in activities that he or she used to enjoy.
  • Neglecting obligations and responsibilities at work or at home.
  • Consuming more phenobarbital than prescribed.
  • Spending a lot of time using or trying to obtain phenobarbital.
  • Experiencing any of the withdrawal symptoms listed above when he or she tries to quit.

How to Talk to Someone Who Is Abusing Phenobarbital

If you believe that someone you love needs help quitting phenobarbital, the next step is to figure out how to approach them. Confronting someone about substance abuse is never easy. And unless the person is ready to confront the problem, your attempts to help may be met with denial.

Remaining open and non-defensive with your loved one will likely lead to better results than meeting the person’s denial with anger or hostility.

Things to avoid when approaching your loved one:

  • Do not approach the person when he or she is intoxicated.
  • Avoid blaming, yelling, or lecturing to the person about the drug abuse.
  • Try not to enable the person’s behaviors either by making excuses for his or her actions, taking care of his or her responsibilities, giving the person money, or using substances when you are around them.

Ways to approach your loved one:

  • Use statements that express your own feelings and concerns about the substance abuse.
  • Write down a few recent incidents that have led to your concern.
  • Have several treatment resources on hand to discuss with your loved one.
  • Approach the person when you feel calm so that you can remain present with them and support them with genuine love and concern.
  • Let them know in what capacity you are willing and able to help them through the recovery process.

Seek help if you believe it’s time to talk to a loved one but do not feel equipped to handle the conversation. A trained professional, such as a therapist who is certified in addiction counseling (look for the credentials CAC I, II, and III), can help facilitate effective communication between you and your loved one as well as help you find the right treatment program.


Can I Quit Cold Turkey? Is It Dangerous?

Quitting phenobarbital cold turkey can be dangerous. Severe and sometimes life-threatening side effects can occur if the drug is suddenly stopped. These include convulsions, delirium, and death. Instead of quitting on your own, you can try one of the following options:

  • Attend an inpatient treatment facility where you can receive medically supervised detox. A trained psychiatrist or a medical doctor can assess you and assist you in gradually decreasing your dosage of phenobarbital (tapering) safely and effectively. You can also receive treatment for your addiction as well as relapse prevention training.
  • Seek out a detox facility that can provide monitoring around the clock and quickly address any symptoms that may occur. This significantly reduces the likelihood that you will suffer any of the more severe side effects of phenobarbital withdrawal. 2 Keep in mind, however, that detox alone does not treat the addiction.

Find a Rehab Center for Phenobarbital

If you believe you or a loved one may need help dealing with phenobarbital dependence or addiction, contact one of our treatment support representatives today at 1-888-319-2606 Who Answers? . We can help you find a treatment facility that’s right for you. The representative can confirm your insurance coverage over the phone.

If you don’t have insurance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) toll-free helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for referrals to low-cost programs in your area.

Sources

[1]. Stanford School of Medicine. (2016). Psychiatric Medications: Phenobarbital.

[2]. Iodine Inc. (2016). FDA Package Insert: Phenobarbital.

[3]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.

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You are never too old to improve your health and quality of life!

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