Amytal Addiction

Amytal Addiction

Amytal Addiction

Amytal AddictionAmobarbital has twice had the reputation as a miracle drug.

During World War 2, when over half of American soldiers in certain areas developed psychiatric problems, doctors would give them amobarbital intravenously and allow them to sleep, sometimes for days, until they recovered enough to go back into the fighting. Soldiers who had suffered complete losses of hearing or their ability to speak were cured with amobarbital injections.

In the 1990s, amobarbital was again in the news as a “truth serum” administered to those who may have repressed memories of incest or other abuse. The drug produced a trance-like state that enabled people to recall past trauma and to talk openly about it. A woman given amobarbital helped convict her father of murder after she was able to remember how he killed her playmate.

Between about 1930 and 1990, barbiturates ranked as some of the most frequently abused drugs in the United States, with amobarbital pills such as “Lilly 33s,” Dexamyl and Tuinal among the most popular. People who abused barbiturates quickly became addicted to them, and many died of overdoses, including celebrities from the era like Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Walker, and Judy Garland. A new family of sedatives called benzodiazepines were discovered in the 1970s, and these are gradually replacing barbiturates as safer and less addictive. Tuinal, Dexamyl and other amobarbital pills were removed from the market by the early 2000s, and today the drug is legally available in injection form only in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency still lists amobarbital among its “most commonly abused drugs.” There is some evidence that abuse of it and other barbiturates has increased in the past ten years and is continuing to do so, because the current generation believes prescription drugs are safe to use and does not remember their grandparents’ tragic experiences.

What Is Amobarbital Sodium?

Amobarbital is one of 2500 barbiturates discovered between 1864 and 1950, and one of 50 that was marketed. These drugs were the only ones available as sedatives, sleeping pills, and anti-seizure drugs until the early 1980s, when benzodiazepines began to replace them.

Amobarbital works in the brain by increasing the amounts of a neurotransmitter called GABA, which in turn calms the nerves, relaxes muscles, slows down the central nervous system, and induces sleep.

Amobarbital sodium is a granular powder that is white and odorless, tastes bitter, and can be easily crushed. It is very soluble in water and alcohol, and its chemical name is sodium 5-ethyl-5-isopentylbarbiturate.

Amytal is a trademarked name for a drug containing amobarbital. Amytal takes effect in about an hour, and lasts six to eight hours. It is classified as an intermediate-acting barbiturate when compared to short-acting and long-acting drugs in the barbiturate family. Even though it is considered an intermediate, Amytal stays in the body for many hours and can cause drowsiness the day after you take it.

Today Amytal is no longer available in the United States in tablet form. Doctors and nurses are the only ones can only legally administer Amytal, and only by injection in a medical setting. The most common dose is 15 to 50mg for sedation, and 65 to 200mg for sleep. The medication comes in vials.

The United States Department of Justice classifies amobarbital as a Schedule II Controlled Substance, which means it has a very high potential for addiction and some medical uses. The drug is highly regulated, and doctors and pharmacies have to keep extensive records when they dispense it. If you are caught possessing amobarbital without a doctor’s prescription or selling it, you can face the harshest penalties for drug trafficking under federal law.

What Are the Medical Uses of Amytal?

Injections of amobarbital sodium are given to people who need to be sedated or go to sleep. The drug is sometimes given before anesthesia during surgery. Amytal is only prescribed short-term to induce sleep because it reduces the amount of “rapid eye movement” sleep, and stops working within two weeks. Since it depresses respiration, it is not usually prescribed to people with sleep apnea or other breathing disorders.

Amytal is used off label as a “truth serum” during psychiatric interviews.

What Are the Side Effects of Amobarbital?

The most common side effects are drowsiness, headache, dizziness, depression, confusion, nightmares, constipation, slowing down of the heart, blood pressure and breathing, and liver damage. Some patients experience nausea and vomiting.

What Drugs Interact with Amytal?

Amytal relaxes the brain and central nervous system so it should never be used in combination with drugs that do the same thing, such as narcotics, alcohol, narcotic prescription painkillers, other barbiturates, tranquilizers, sedatives, sleeping pills, antihistamines, certain cold and allergy medicines, and herbal remedies such as kava, valerian, skullcup, chamomile, and St. John’s wort. If you slow down your central nervous system too much by combining these drugs, you could stop breathing.

Amytal will decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, estrogen, tricyclic antidepressants, anticoagulants, warfarin, theophyline, quinidine, furosemide, disopyramide, propafenone, methadone, propranolol, metoprolol, timalol, doxycycline, and corticosteroids.

Who Should Not Take Amytal?

Because of its potential for addiction, Amytal is not prescribed to people with histories of alcoholism or drug abuse, or given to patients who have attempted suicide because it is poisonous in small amounts. It is also not prescribed to people in pain or to people with hypotension, porphyria, or kidney, liver or breathing diseases. It can cause paradoxical excitement and agitation when given to children, and the elderly are more likely to be sensitive to the drug and experience stronger side effects.

Amytal can cause birth defects in unborn children and cause babies to be born addicted to it, so it is not usually prescribed to pregnant women.

What Are the Risks of Taking Amytal?

Amytal has a very high potential for addiction. Within a few weeks you can develop cravings for it, drug-seeking behaviors, and a physical tolerance to Amytal, which means you will need to take more to achieve the same effects. You will enter a difficult withdrawal syndrome when you stop using Amytal.

Amytal has such a high potential for addiction that British doctors are not allowed to prescribe it to people not already taking barbiturates.

Amobarbital is typically dangerous because it has a low therapeutic to toxic dose. This means that if you increase the amounts you take just by a tiny amount (think in terms of grains of salt), you can die from an overdose. This is the most common way people overdose from barbiturates. As they become addicted and one pill or vial no longer works for them, they will take two, overdose and die.

Amytal has been shown to cause cancer in mice.

Do Routine Drug Urine Tests Detect Amobarbital?

Amytal and other barbiturates show up drug tests taken at work or school. Amytal’s half-life is 16 to 40 hours, which means it usually takes about four days for Amytal to completely clear the body; however, if you have any liver problems, it may take longer. If you are addicted to Amytal and have been using it for a long time, it can accumulate in your fat cells and remain longer in your body than just four days.

Certain drugs like Soma and Xanax can cause false positives for barbiturates.

What Is an Amobarbital Overdose?

Scientists in the 1930s determined that a fatal dose of Amytal is only two to six grams, but some have died from as little as one gram. In the 1940s, soldiers died by overdosing on “motion sickness pills” containing amobarbital that they were abusing to achieve states similar to drunkenness.

Barbiturate overdoses are frequently fatal. Whether the person survives depends on if other drugs were taken, how soon they got to medical treatment, and individual factors such as age and weight. Children and elderly people are more likely to die of amobarbital overdoses than adults.

An amobarbital overdose can look like drunkenness, but some people have been taken to emergency rooms in comas and with such low levels of brain activity that their EEGs were flat. Some of them were brought back to normal brain activity within a matter of 15 minutes. If the person is not breathing, an ER doctor will usually put them on a breathing machine and administer charcoal.

Pneumonia, pulmonary edema, heart failure, and failure of the kidneys can develop after an amobarbital overdose.

What is Amytal Abuse and Addiction?

Amytal abuse used to be much more common when the drug was routinely prescribed in pill form. Eli Lilly manufactured amobarbital pills known as “Lilly 33s,” and Tuinal known as “Lilly 66s.” A particularly desirable form of Amytal was Dexamyl, an antidepressant containing both amobarbital and a stimulant called dexetrine.

Street names for Amytal pills include blue velvet, blue Devils, downers, heavenly blues, blue heaven, bluebirds, and blues.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency still lists amobarbital as one of its “most commonly abused drugs.” It is being diverted from hospitals and doctors’ offices for recreational use. Sedatives like amobarbital caused four percent of the hospitalizations due to drug abuse in 2007. Sedatives are more popular in the South and the Northeast when compared to the Midwest and Western region of the United States.

According to the annual Monitoring the Future Study of 2011, seven percent of high school seniors have experimented with sedatives. This survey of approximately 50,000 students also found that 12% had tried amphetamines, and 7% narcotic prescription painkillers. Such results indicate that sedatives and barbiturates are becoming more popular and could be more problematic in the future.

People who like alcohol tend to abuse barbiturates because both substances cause similar effects. At low doses, barbiturates, including amobarbital, cause drowsiness and reduce inhibitions. At higher doses, the person can appear to be drunk with slurred speech, a staggered walk, overly excited speech, and so forth. Some people prefer barbiturates to alcohol because they do not cause a telltale alcoholic breath.

People who are addicted to cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants are the ones most likely to abuse amobarbital, which they use to get to sleep or to come down from states of hyperstimulation. Amobarbital is also used to commit suicide.

What Is Amytal Withdrawal Syndrome?

Amytal withdrawal syndrome occurs once a person is addicted to the drug and tries to stop taking it. It is a series of unpleasant and hard-to-manage symptoms that begin within 12 to 20 hours of taking the last dosage.

Within the first 24 hours, symptoms can be severe abdominal cramps, vomiting, anxiety, paranoia, dizziness, headache, lightheadedness, sweating, muscle pain, and tremors. Between hours 24 and 72, symptoms can be delirium, seizures, confusion and high fever. On days three to eight of amobarbital withdrawal, you may have hallucinations, nightmares, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. You may develop seizures on the second or third day after withdrawal, and psychosis can occur three or four days after that. Psychosis means losing contact with reality, and seeing and hearing things that are not there.

Barbiturate withdrawal is considered the most difficult and should not be attempted without medical supervision. You can die during withdrawal if you develop certain symptoms, such as hypothermia and/or failure of your heart and circulatory systems. Stopping Amytal too suddenly only increases your risk for dying.

What Treatment Is Available for Amytal Withdrawal and Addiction?

The safest thing to do if you are addicted to barbiturates such as amobarbital is to enter an addiction treatment facility where you can first undergo detoxification where doctors and/or other health professionals can monitor your progress on a 24-hour basis. Your doctor can decrease the amounts of Amytal you are taking in tiny increments until you are clear of the drug. This way you can avoid some of the most difficult and life-threatening problems during your withdrawal.

If you are abusing Amytal along with other drugs and alcohol, your detoxification can become even more difficult to manage. Doctors can prescribe certain drugs to ease symptoms, and then gradually wean you off those drugs as well until your body is completely clear.

Although drug addiction is now considered a disease of the brain, the state-of-the-art treatment requires a complete change in behaviors and lifestyle. Those who are most successful at letting go of drug addiction are the ones who put the most time and energy into the process. If you enter a residential treatment facility and are able to stay there for a month or more, you will greatly increase your chances of getting off drugs permanently. You work through a 24/7 intensive program designed to help you in a holistic way – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Your physical recovery will include detoxification, as well as beginning a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition and exercise. You usually are assigned to a therapist who will help you through one-on-one counseling in which you understand how and why you became addicted to drugs and what you need to do to help yourself. You may have to examine your closest relationships to understand if they are sabotaging your success, and your family and other loved ones may have to participate in your process in group, family, or couples counseling.

A good residential program will include many social activities and provide an opportunity for enjoyable pursuits, such as hobbies and sports that you’ve never tried before. The center should have classes in drug education, yoga, meditation, art and drama, support meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous, journaling and relaxation techniques – all of which have been scientifically proven to help people in recovery.

Once you return home, you usually will continue in individual counseling as well as attend support meetings in your local community.

Signs That You May Be Addicted to Amobarbital

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, physician, or your local mental health center for advice.

  • Are you a medical professional who is helping yourself to amobarbital?
  • Are you using amobarbital or other barbiturates along with alcohol or other sedatives?
  • Do you use amobarbital or other barbiturates as a supplement to cocaine, methamphetamine, or other stimulants?
  • Do you have a problem going two or more days without using drugs?
  • Do your family members, friends or other loved ones criticize you because you use drugs?
  • Do you think you might be self-medicating problems like depression and low self-esteem with drugs?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and anxiety when you stop using drugs?
  • Are you obtaining drugs from illegal sources or by going from one doctor to another to get your supply?
  • Have you driven an automobile under the influence of drugs?
  • Does your use of drugs interfere with your performance at school or work?
  • Do you think you are limiting your future and your options as a person because you use drugs?
  • Have you tried quitting drugs on your own and failed?
  • Do you worry that you will get in legal trouble because of your drug use?
  • Do you feel guilty or ashamed about using drugs?
  • Is your drug abuse interfering with your physical health?


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