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Seconal Addiction

Posted on July 7, 2013 in Prescription Drug Addiction

Seconal AddictionSeconal is a notorious sleeping pill widely abused in the 1970s. Back then everyone was doing “red dolls” — the drug was the OxyContin of its day. You could get high on it and achieve a state similar to being drunk, or you could use it for getting to sleep if you had insomnia from abusing heroin or methamphetamine. Because Seconal was easily available and very soluble in water or alcohol, many people were injecting it as well.

Seconal is one of the most deadly drugs you can abuse because it has a low therapeutic to lethal ratio. In other words, if you increase the amount you take by just a little (even an amount equivalent to a few grains of salt), your dose can become deadly. Seconal showed up in the autopsies of many celebrities who died of accidental drug overdoses such as Judy Garland, Jimi Hendrix, and Marilyn Monroe.

Today barbiturates like Seconal seem to be making a comeback because so many Americans are abusing prescription painkillers, an addiction that causes insomnia. Americans are also experimenting with all kinds of prescription drugs under the mistaken belief that they are safer than street drugs. Seconal and other barbiturates are also increasing in popularity because doctors and pharmacies are keeping closer track of narcotic painkillers and benzodiazepines.

In 1991, only three percent of high school seniors had experimented with sedatives, compared to seven percent more recently. About five percent of all incidents that involve drug overdoses and hospitalizations are about barbiturates, amounting to over 65,000 such incidents a year. Barbiturates are also becoming more popular in third world countries where they are used as an ingredient in mixtures smoked through water pipes. The mixtures are called Sisha, the word for Turkish waterpipe.

What is Seconal?

Seconal is the trademarked name of a barbiturate called secobarbital.

Barbiturates were discovered in Germany in 1903, and within a few decades there were over 2500 of them, although only 50 made it to the market. Secobarbital was patented in 1934 and marketed by Eli Lilly Company, which later sold the name to Ranbuxy Pharmaceuticals based in India. Today Marathon Pharmaceuticals manufactures the drug.

Barbiturates are sedatives that slow down the central nervous system by working in the brain. They increase levels of a brain neurotransmitter called γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and this in turn relaxes muscles, calms nerves, slows down the body, and produces drowsiness.

Seconal has different effects at different levels. At low levels, it alters mood in a way similar to alcohol. At higher levels, Seconal produces sedation, sleep, coma and death. The drug depresses sensory cortex, decreases motor activity, and alters cerebellar function, resulting in drowsiness, sedation, and sleep.

Barbiturates are classified as ultra-short-acting, short, intermediate, or long-acting, depending on long it takes for them to act and remain in the human body. Intermediate barbiturates like Seconal are the most addictive, and the United States government classifies them as Controlled Substances Schedule II, which means they are highly addictive with some medical uses. If you are caught dealing in Seconal or possessing it without a doctor’s prescription, you can face the most severe penalties of drug laws. Shorter-acting barbiturates are Schedule III Controlled Substances and long-acting ones are Schedule IV, which means they are less addictive and the penalties for trafficking in them are not as severe.

Secobarbital comes as a white, odorless powder that is very soluble in water and alcohol. Its chemical name is sodium 5-allyl-5-(1-methylbutyl) barbiturate with the molecular formula C12H17N2NaO3.

What Are the Medical Uses of Seconal?

The United States Food and Drug Administration approved Seconal for treating insomnia, but its use is limited to only 14 days because it is so addictive and loses effectiveness. The FDA has also approved it as an anti-anxiety sedative administered before surgery.

The adult dosage as a sleeping is 100mg or one tablet at bedtime. Before surgeries, the usual dose is 200mg to 300mg. Seconal begins working within ten to 15 minutes, and the effect lasts three to four hours.

Sleep produced by barbiturates such as Seconal is different than natural sleep. A patient will experience less Stage 3 and Stage 4 sleep, and less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep after using Seconal.

Seconal is also used in doctor-assisted suicides and the executions of criminals.

What Are the Side Effects of Seconal?

The main side effects of Seconal are drowsiness, dizziness, inability to concentrate or remember, excitement, upset stomach, constipation, headache, and a “hangover” feeling the next day. More serious side effects that should be reported to a doctor are restless muscle movements of the eyes, tongue, jaw or neck, slow or shallow breathing, a feeling that you’re going to pass out, mouth sores, fever, sore throat, bruising, bleeding, and nightmares.

What Drugs Interact with Seconal?

Seconal can produce a fatal overdose if combined with alcohol or certain other drugs. Do not use Seconal with other barbiturates, alcohol, cold and allergy medicines, narcotics (including prescription painkillers), medications for seizures, depression or anxiety, other sleeping pills, and muscle relaxants. Any drug that depresses the central nervous system and causes drowsiness should not be taken with Seconal.

Do not take Seconal with drugs that affect bleeding such as Coumadin. Do not take it with Tylenol, antibiotics, theophylline, quinidine, or MAO Inhibitors. Do not take Seconal with valproic acid, methylprednisolone, prednisone, or drugs for dental or medical surgeries. Seconal causes birth control measures to fail, including birth control pills, patches, rings, injections, implants, or intrauterine devices.

Who Should Not Take Seconal?

Because Seconal slows breathing, it should not be taken by people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders or other breathing problems. It is not prescribed for people with seizures or epilepsy, liver or heart diseases, overactive thyroids, depression or mental illness, suicidal tendencies, or histories of drug abuse or alcoholism. It is not for people with a rare condition called porphyria or with impaired liver function. Seconal sometimes causes difficult reactions in children or the elderly, such as excitement, depression, and confusion.

Secondal should not be taken by pregnant women or nursing mothers because it can damage their children.

What Are the Dangers of Taking Seconal?

Secondal is highly addictive, and once you are addicted, your withdrawal process can be life-threatening.

Another danger is that it is easy to overdose and die from Seconal. With some pills, as you build up tolerance to it, and you can just double or triple your dose, and everything will be all right. With Secondal, if you increase your dose by just a little, you can die.

People who have taken Seconal before they went to bed have driven cars, had sex, prepared and eaten meals, walked around outside in their pajamas, and performed other activities. They experience these activities as a form of sleepwalking and do not remember any of it in the morning. This phenomenon has caused many people to become injured during accidents or falls.

Some people have life-threatening reactions to Seconal the first time they take it, and they will enter into an anaphylactic shock syndrome that might include hives, rashes, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, coma and death.

A 29-year study of 9,316 people who took barbiturates every day found they had higher than normal cancer rates. Babies whose mothers take Secondal during their pregnancies are at high risk for brain tumors. Secondal reduces the tone and contractility of the uterus, ureters and urinary bladders in laboratory animals.

Insomnia that lasts more than seven to 14 days is often a symptom of a serious underlying psychiatric or physical condition. If your insomnia does not go away within two weeks, you should undergo a complete medical examination to rule out these problems. People who take sleeping pills have higher rates of death, but this does not mean sleeping pills cause death but rather that people who need sleeping pills are not in good health.

Does Secondal Show Up on Drug Tests?

Seconal has a half-life of 15 to 40 hours (average is 28 hours) , which means it will show up on routine urine tests at work or school two to ten days after you take it. It will appear in blood tests for one to two days, in salvia tests for one to ten days, and lingers in hair as long as 90 days.

What Is a Seconal Overdose?

Seconal is a common drug people use to commit suicide. Thirty-nine Heaven’s Gate cult members in Rancho Santa Fe, California, died by taking this barbiturate and alcohol in 1997. It is also very easy to die accidentally from Seconal overdoses. What typically happens is that people build up a tolerance to the drug and then take a little bit too much — sometimes just a few milligrams too much– and accidentally overdose, or else they forget they have taken a sedative and then drink a glass of alcohol, causing a fatal combination.

Ingesting one gram of Seconal is usually serious, and two to ten grams can be fatal.

At low doses of Seconal a person will appear “drunk” with a lack of coordination, slow or slurred speech, confusion, poor judgment, irritability, strange eye movements, staggering walk, and general sluggishness. This is called Seconal intoxication. When a person is approaching a potentially fatal overdose, he may have the same symptoms, as well as slow or shallow breathing, blurred vision, extreme drowsiness, lightheadedness, fainting, and coma. Sometimes blisters develop. Symptoms can begin within 15 minutes of taking the drug.

At an emergency medical facility, doctors open airwaves, monitor the patient, and administer charcoal. If she has taken narcotics along with Seconal, doctors usually give naloxone. Sometimes she will be hooked up to a breathing machine, but gastric evacuation, diuresis or dialysis usually will not help. Many times, all electric activity in the brain stops and the person will have a flat or brain-dead electroencephalogram (EEG), but this can be fully reversible. Complications of a Seconal overdose can be pneumonia, pulmonary edema, cardiac arrhymias, heart failure, renal failure, and miscarriage.

Most barbiturate overdoses also involve alcohol, narcotics, narcotic painkillers, and other drugs. The person is usually someone who has just begun to use drugs and does not understand how dangerous barbiturates are, or a very heavy user who accidentally overdoses. Barbiturate overdoses tend to increase when methamphetamines are popular.

What is Seconal Withdrawal?

Seconal withdrawal syndrome occurs when a person who has become physically dependent on this drug stops using it. If he has been using the drug heavily and for a long time and then abruptly stops, he can die as a complication of withdrawal. Symptoms like delirium, convulsions and extreme anxiety need medical supervision.

Symptoms begin eight hours after you took your last Seconal. The most difficult part of withdrawal will occur on days one to five, but symptoms can last more than twenty days. Withdrawal syndrome can include anxiety, twitching muscles, tremors, weakness, dizziness, distorted vision, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, low blood pressure, numbness, swelling, headache, and extreme moodiness.

Doctors can help you during withdrawal by gradually lowering your dose of Seconal, typically substituting 30mg for every 100mg you have been using. Your dose will be divided into three times a day, at no more than 600mg per day. Some doctors substitute pentobarbital and then gradually decrease its dosage by 30mg or 10% a day. Each patient needs an individualized program.

What Is Seconal Addiction?

Scientists widely studied Seconal addictions in the 1960s and 1970s, when this drug was at its peak in popularity. At that time, two patterns of abuse emerged. A typical Seconal abuser was a woman over 45 years old who started using the drug for medical reasons and became physically dependent on it. This kind of abuser usually used Valium and other benzodiazepines along with Seconal. The second kind of Seconal addict was a young male abusing many other drugs as well, especially methamphetamine and heroin. He used Seconal as a sleeping pill or as a substitute for narcotics.

Seconal was and still is widely available in any “drug scene,” but some people obtain it by stealing it from pharmacies, through forged and stolen prescriptions, or from people who have legitimate prescriptions for it. Street names for Seconal are dolls, red devils, reds, red birds, barbs, seco, and seccies.

The goal of those who abuse Seconal is usually to “get high” or intoxicated. Nevertheless, heavy users will inject it every day. At the 450mg level per day, physical dependence on the drug develops within three months, but Seconal abusers typically develop a tolerance to the sedative and its effect on mood, and can ingest between 2000 and 2500mg per day. Even at a daily level of 600mg to 800mg, an addict will experience withdrawal that includes convulsions and seizures. One reason these levels are dangerous is that addicts do not develop a tolerance to the drug’s effect on slowing respiration, and it can slow down to the point of death.

Seconal addicts who use the drug intravenously can develop gangrene and skin abscesses, and are at risk for AIDS, septicemia, hepatitis, and infections of the heart valves.

Some long-term effects of Seconal addiction are changes in the level of alertness, decreased mental functioning, irritability, and memory loss.

What Treatments Are Available for Seconal Addiction?

Barbiturate addictions are serious because it is easy to overdose on these medicines and their withdrawal syndromes can be life-threatening. You should never try to withdraw from these drugs on your own. Instead, you should enter a residential treatment center for drug rehabilitation or a hospital clinic, where you can undergo withdrawal under the supervision of a doctor.

The state-of-the-art treatment for addiction to sedatives is to remain in a residential treatment center for at least several months, and work through an intensive 24/7 program of detoxification, individual psychotherapy, group therapy, classes in nutrition, drug addiction, and stress management.

Many people who are addicted to barbiturates are self-medicating emotional pain that can date back from decades ago. They would rather be stoned then process their negative emotions but yet a good psychotherapist can help them work through this psychic pain and find release from it. Therapists who specialize in art, drama and music can also help them get in touch with their emotions. Getting off of drugs should be a life-changing experience and a tremendous opportunity for self-growth. Many people change careers, drop unhealthy relationships, find new hobbies, and take up activities such as yoga and meditation to deal with their stress in life. A good residential treatment program should have an element of fun in it — plenty of social activities, recreational sports, good nutrition, and time for reflection.

A good residential treatment center will employ a staff that can diagnose and treat any underlying psychological problems, such as depression or post traumatic stress syndrome, that need to be addressed along with drug addiction. If you do not get treatment for such comorbidities, your chances of relapse into drug abuse are much higher.

When you return home, you remain in an aftercare program of continued support in the form of individualized psychotherapy and attendance at self-help meetings.

How Can I Tell If I Am Addicted to Seconal?

If you can answer yes to one or more of the following questions, it may be time to consult an addiction specialist at a residential treatment center, your family physician or your local mental health center for advice about your drug problems with Seconal.
• Are you using Seconal without a prescription?
• Are you using Seconal during the daytime?
• Do you use Seconal to get to sleep because you are abusing methamphetamine or other stimulants?
• Do you use Seconal when you cannot get heroin, OxyContin or other narcotics?
• Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using Seconal?
• Do you experience drug cravings when you try to stop using Seconal?
• Is it impossible for you to go more than a few days without taking Seconal or other drugs?
• Do your family members and friends criticize you for using Seconal or other drugs?
• Do you think you waste a lot of time thinking about, obtaining and using drugs?
• Have you ever driven a car or otherwise endangered yourself physically because of Seconal?
• Are you afraid you will get in trouble with the law because you abuse Seconal or other drugs?
• Are you experiencing physical problems because of your use of Seconal or other drugs?
• Have you tried to quit using Seconal but failed?
• If money were no object, would you enter treatment for Seconal or other drug addictions?

References:

“Substance Abuse,” Psychiatric Times, June 18, 2013, www. psychiatrictimes.com
“Monitoring the Future 2012 Study,” The United States Government, a study done by the University of Michigan, see www.monitoringthefuture.org
Kassed, Cheryl Ph.D., Katharine R. Levit, and Megan M. Hambrick, M.S.W. “Hospitalizations Related to Drug Abuse, 2005; Statistical Brief #39, see http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/statbriefs/statbriefs.jsp
Alderman, Liz. “Societal Ills Spike in Crisis-Stricken Greece,” The New York Times, May 22, 2013
Löscher, W. and Rogawski, M. A. (2012), How theories evolved concerning the mechanism of action of barbiturates. Epilepsia, 53: 12–25.
“Secobarbital,” The DailyMed, The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, see http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=6698bc44-b971-49cc-a5de-11e569493c59
“Barbiturates,” The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Justice, see http://www.justice.gov/dea_old/concern/barbituratesp.html
“Secobarbital,” The DailyMed, The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, see http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=6698bc44-b971-49cc-a5de-11e569493c59
“Secobarbital,” Official Information from the United States Food and Drug Administration, Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/cdi/secobarbital.html
Ibid.
“Secobarbital,” The DailyMed, The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, see http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=6698bc44-b971-49cc-a5de-11e569493c59
“Secobarbital,” The U.S. Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health, Medline, See http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682386.html
Jolly, David. “Push for the Right to Die Grows in the Netherlands,” The New York Times, April 3, 2012.
“Lethal Injection and the F.D.A.,” Editorial, The New York Times, January 27, 2011
“Secobarbital,” Official Information from the United States Food and Drug Administration, Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/cdi/secobarbital.html
Ibid.
“Secobarbital,” The DailyMed, The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, see http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=6698bc44-b971-49cc-a5de-11e569493c59
“Secobarbital,” Official Information from the United States Food and Drug Administration, Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/cdi/secobarbital.html
“Secobarbital,” The U.S. Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health, Medline, See http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682386.html
“Secobarbital,” Official Information from the United States Food and Drug Administration, Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/cdi/secobarbital.html
“Secobarbital,” The DailyMed, The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, see http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=6698bc44-b971-49cc-a5de-11e569493c59
Ibid.
Koebler, Jason. “Study: Sleeping pill users were five times more likely to die young than non users,” USA Today, February 27, 2012
Lovett, Ian. “Missing Religious Group Found Alive in California,” The New York Times, September 19, 2010.
“Secobarbital,” The DailyMed, The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, see http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=6698bc44-b971-49cc-a5de-11e569493c59
“Secobarbital,” The U.S. Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health, Medline, See http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682386.html
“Secobarbital,” Official Information from the United States Food and Drug Administration, Drugs.com, see http://www.drugs.com/cdi/secobarbital.html
“Barbiturate Intoxication and Overdose,” The United States Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health, see http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000951.htm
“Barbiturate Intoxication and Overdose,” The United States Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health, see http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000951.htm
P. T. Orbán. Barbiturate abuse. Journal of Medical Ethics, June 1976, 2(2): 63-67.
“Secobarbital,” The DailyMed, The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, see http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=6698bc44-b971-49cc-a5de-11e569493c59
“Secobarbital,” The U.S. Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health, Medline, See http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682386.html
Ibid.
P. T. Orbán. Barbiturate abuse. Journal of Medical Ethics, June 1976, 2(2): 63-67.
Ibid.
“Secobarbital,” The DailyMed, The United States Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, see http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=6698bc44-b971-49cc-a5de-11e569493c59
P. T. Orbán. Barbiturate abuse. Journal of Medical Ethics, June 1976, 2(2): 63-67.
Ibid.
“Secobarbital,” The U.S. Library of Medicine, The National Institutes of Health, Medline, See http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682386.html

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