The misuse and abuse of prescription drugs are on the rise, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Among these drugs are barbiturates. While they were once widely used medicinally and recreationally before, they are still used today mainly for anesthesia, mild sedation, and treatment of some seizures.
Luminal is one of the common medications used to treat and prevent seizures in humans. Veterinarians also use it to treat dogs and cats who may have seizure disorders.
As with many prescription medicines, it can be used improperly and become dangerous. Luminal’s benefits are canceled when the drug is used excessively. One can easily overdose, which is why using it outside of prescription purposes is strongly discouraged.
Luminal is the brand name for phenobarbital, which is also known as phenobarbitone and phenobarb. It is a barbiturate anticonvulsant hypnotic that is usually prescribed to help control certain seizure disorders. The drug also is prescribed for people who have anxiety, tension, or fear, and those who have trouble sleeping.
Doctors may seek to use it for other purposes as well. People in addiction treatment for benzodiazepine or alcohol abuse may be given the medication during detoxification. Patients who are being prepped for surgery may also be given the medicine to ease them into unconsciousness before their procedure begins.
Luminal can be taken orally as a capsule or tablet, and as an elixir. It also can be injected into a muscle. Once it is ingested and active in the body, it slows down the central nervous system and helps to regulate irregular electrical currents in the brain that causes seizures.
Like other barbiturates and benzodiazepines, Luminal affects the brain’s gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors, which induce the calm, relaxed feelings that users feel upon taking the drug. It is these same effects that make people want to abuse these powerful, addictive substances.
Side effects of Luminal include headache, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, vomiting, memory problems, concentration difficulties, and irritability, aggression, and confusion.
Luminal is intended only for short-term use, which usually means it shouldn’t be used for more than two weeks. Anything longer than a two-week period should be reviewed by a physician. The medication is commonly taken at night before bed on a regular schedule. If not taken as prescribed, Luminal’s dangers only grow.
Excessive or frequent use of the drug can lead to a physical and psychological dependence on Luminal, and overdose becomes a possibility with each use. Recreational users may find they feel heavily sedated and drowsy after using Luminal. These effects are similar to those of benzodiazepines though barbiturates are chemically different in structure.
Users also may feel euphoria when using the drug. Chronically abusing Luminal will cause the brain to stop producing the GABA neurotransmitter on its own. When this happens, users may feel a “crash” and experience rebound symptoms.
A person addicted to Luminal may exhibit common signs and symptoms that usually accompany barbiturate, abuse. They include:
Recreational users with high Luminal tolerance are likely dependent on the drug and now require larger amounts to get high. Other signs of Luminal addiction include:
People who realize they have an addiction to Luminal may want to stop immediately. However, going the “cold turkey” route is not recommended. Prolonged substance use likely often leads to an uncomfortable withdrawal period as the body attempts to adjust to not having the drug in its system. Regular Luminal users who stop using may notice withdrawal changes within 24 hours after the last dose.
Withdrawal symptoms for Luminal include dizziness, nausea/vomiting, and convulsions, which can be fatal. Call 911 for emergency help or get to your nearest hospital if convulsions or seizures occur.
People with a Luminal addiction may experience shaking/tremors and hallucinations. Suddenly stopping prolonged drug use also can lead one to return to using it and then overdosing on it, which can be life-threatening. Accidental barbiturate overdose is common because the therapeutic window between what is a safe dose and an unsafe one is slim. That’s one reason benzodiazepines have been deemed a safer alternative.
If you or someone you know wants to end Luminal dependence or addiction, the safest thing to do is to enter a treatment program at a reputable facility that has knowledgeable addiction specialists on staff who know what to do. Doing so helps ensure you stop using addictive substances the right way and get through the tough withdrawal period safely.
As a barbiturate, Luminal has a high dependence liability, which means that it can easily lead to chemical dependence when abused. Even with regular use of a normal dose of a barbiturate, prolonged use can cause chemical dependence.
As you use Luminal, your brain will start to adapt to the chemical’s presence in your body. Your brain will adapt to the drug, integrating it into normal brain activity. Since it’s a depressant, your body may try to balance brain chemistry by decreasing inhibitory chemicals and increasing excitatory chemicals. If you stop using the drug, brain chemistry will become unbalanced. This will cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. At this point, you might continue to use the drug to feel normal, rather than to treat symptoms or as a recreational drug.
Depressants can cause potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms, especially when you quit suddenly after being chemically dependent for a long time. Quitting cold turkey by yourself can be life-threatening, and if you feel symptoms of chemical dependence or withdrawal, speak to your doctor before stopping abruptly.
Luminal withdrawal symptoms can include:
The most dangerous symptoms are seizures and delirium tremens, especially if you go through them on your own. Seizures aren’t usually deadly on their own, but they can cause fatal injuries, especially if they happen without warning.
Someone who’s going through depressant withdrawal should avoid driving, swimming, walking around, or doing any other activities that could cause injury if you suddenly experience a seizure. Delirium tremens is a disorder that’s characterized by extreme confusion, terror, catatonia, tremors, and hallucinations. It can lead to coma and death without immediate medical intervention.
Luminal withdrawal can also be worse because of a phenomenon called kindling. Kindling is a neurological process where withdrawal symptoms leave long-lasting changes in the brain that make severe symptoms more likely if you go through withdrawal again.
Quality, effective substance rehabilitation starts with medical detoxification or detox for short. During this process, which can last three days or longer, all traces of Luminal are removed from the body safely under the care of medical professionals. The benefit of having detox in a medical facility ensures that drug withdrawal happens as quickly, safely, and as comfortably as possible.
It also reduces the chance of relapse. Health providers monitor clients’ vitals, such as their breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure, and they may administer medications for expected or unexpected ailments that arise during the detox period.
Detox is just the first step of recovering from Luminal abuse. There’s more to the addiction recovery process because ending chronic Luminal takes time and patience.
The detox period also involves evaluating clients to determine how far along a person is in their addiction. The initial assessment also can determine if a person has a dual diagnosis, which is when a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder occur at the same time. Dually diagnosed clients should enter a program that treats both disorders together at the same time. The proper treatment is based on the results of the evaluation and other needs and preferences.
Once detox wraps up, and recovering clients have achieved medical stability, they will move on to the stage where they are presented with treatment options. Options are on a continuum and range from the highest level of care to the lowest level or the least restrictive one.
Depending on the situation, clients may be placed in an inpatient or residential treatment program, a partial hospitalization program, or an intensive outpatient treatment program. All of these programs offer recovering substance users time to address their addiction and learn the skills, tools, and strategies they will need to manage their condition and remain committed to sobriety.
Addiction treatment varies from person to person, as each one has different needs. It can include a combination of programs, therapies, and services that can help the person recover from substance abuse.
Some people join 12-step fellowship programs (examples: Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) to keep them focused on their recovery. Others benefit from various therapies that promote health and wellness, including holistic therapy, motivational therapy, and trauma therapy.
Effective programs may also include:
Aftercare services are available for recovering Luminal users who want to receive continued support after treatment. This is a wise move as aftercare can help them avoid relapse and stay focused on their personal recovery goals. It can help people find employment or transitional housing as well.
Ongoing medical services can help Luminal users manage post-acute withdrawal symptoms, known as PAWS. These can happen for weeks, months, and even years after substance use ends. Some of the PAWS symptoms people deal with are cognitive impairment, irritability, and depression.
Some who have completed treatment join an alumni program so that they can connect with people who have similar goals.
Leaving a Luminal addiction untreated is taking chances with your health and life. As with all barbiturates, it doesn’t take much to overdose on these drugs, especially if you or someone you know is using them excessively.
Signs of Luminal overdose include:
Overdoses require prompt medical attention. Call 911 for medical help or get the affected person to the nearest emergency room.
People may find the other medications they take don’t work as well because of Luminal. Hormonal contraceptives, including birth control pills, intrauterine devices (IUD), patches, rings, injections, and implants may all not work as well if Luminal abuse is present.
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