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Nembutal Addiction

Prescription medications help many people manage their diseases and health discrepancies. But with prescription misuse (and abuse) on the rise in the U.S., it is clear that what’s intended for good often is used for other things that aren’t so good. The barbiturate medication Nembutal is on that list.

According to an article at the, Nembutal is a drug that parents of teenagers should be on the lookout for. While the drug reportedly is not as popular as some others, Nembutal’s anti-anxiety effects make it an attractive option for people who are dealing with a great deal of stress, including teenagers who may be feeling overwhelmed by school and other issues. One common form of prescription misuse is people taking other people’s medication. 

This is concerning because regular use of Nembutal leads to a dependence on it, even for people who have been prescribed to take it. Recreational users also have abused Nembutal for its relaxing and calming effects that medications in this group are known for. People who misuse it for those purposes include those who have legitimate prescriptions for it. Nembutal addiction, however, is possible.

To illustrate just how powerful Nembutal is, it is a popular go-to medication for people who wish to end their own lives via assisted suicide. High doses of the drug can bring on peaceful sleep by respiratory arrest. The U.S. also has used the drug for inmates executed under the death penalty. 

So, Nembutal misuse and abuse are not to be taken lightly.  Casual use can develop into an addiction that likely will require professional help to end it. Those who don’t are taking chances with their lives.

What Is Nembutal?

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Nembutal is the trade name for pentobarbital or pentobarbitone, a short-acting barbiturate medication prescribed as a sleeping pill, sedative, or anticonvulsant. Some people take it as a treatment for short-term insomnia while others use it to manage emergency seizures. The medication also is used to help people fall asleep before surgery begins.

Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotics that induce calm feelings and relaxation. Once barbiturates enter the body, they affect the  central nervous system, dulling the sensory cortex. As a result, motor activity slows down, and the body’s coordination and balance are affected. Common symptoms of Nembutal use include drowsiness, sedation, and hypnosis. 

Medical professionals can administer Nembutal as an oral capsule or via injection into a muscle. It also can be taken as an oral elixir or a rectal suppository. Nembutal goes by several names among recreational drug users, including reds, red birds, barbs, phennie, tooies, yellows, and yellow jackets.

What Are the Signs of Nembutal Addiction?

Nembutal is a strong, habit-forming drug. Heavy or excessive users are at risk of developing a barbiturate addiction the more they use it. The following signs and symptoms of Nembutal (pentobarbital) addiction include:

  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Motor coordination loss or unsteady gait
  • Slurred speech
  • Intoxication similar to that of alcohol
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Poor judgment
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Uncontrolled eye movement
  • Mood swings

Other general signs of Nembutal addiction include:

  • Strong Nembutal (pentobarbital) cravings
  • High Nembutal tolerance
  • Constantly thinking about Nembutal or other barbiturates or drugs
  • Taking the drug for nonmedical purposes
  • Taking more of the drug than prescribed
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after the drug is last taken
  • Taking Nembutal to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling unable to stop Nembutal use despite repeated attempts to quit
  • Using Nembutal with other drugs, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines

Nembutal users who want to stop taking it may suddenly quit cold turkey. This, unfortunately, is not the way to end a dependence on a substance. After longtime use, quitting drugs is a much more involved process than just deciding not to use it anymore.

The process happens in steps and phases where things progress gradually. Abruptly stopping use can bring on uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that can make someone want to pick up Nembutal again. A return to using after a brief break can put users at risk of an overdose.

If you or someone you know wants to end Nembutal use now, getting treatment at a  licensed, reputable treatment center is the safest thing to do.

Nembutal Withdrawal

Nembutal withdrawal symptoms are caused when you develop a chemical dependence on the drug and then miss a dose, cut back, or stop using. Dependence can happen quickly with a barbiturate like Nembutal. Several weeks of regular use, high doses, or frequent use can cause your body to get used to the drug. As your brain integrates it into normal brain chemistry, your nervous system will come to rely on it. At this point, you may stop using the drug to treat symptoms or for recreation, but to feel normal.

Nembutal withdrawal, like other central nervous system depressants, can cause potentially life-threatening symptoms during withdrawal.

When you become chemically dependent, your brain may alter the production of some of your own natural chemicals to adapt to the drug. That could mean increasing the production of excitatory chemicals to counteract Nembutal.

When you stop taking the drug, your brain chemistry will become unbalanced, causing your nervous system to become overactive. Symptoms may include:

  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Changes in heart rate

Seizures can cause dangerous medical complications, especially if you go through them alone.

However, Nembutal withdrawal can also cause a potentially deadly condition called delirium tremens, which manifests by altered mental status (global confusion) and sympathetic overdrive (autonomic hyperactivity), which can progress to cardiovascular collapse. 

How Is Nembutal Addiction Treated? 

Longtime Nembutal users who leave their addiction untreated are at risk of an overdose, which could result in permanent injury or death. Those who can’t stop will want to enter a substance abuse recovery program to end their dependence.

Nembutal addiction treatment starts with medical detoxification, which ensures all traces of the drug and other substances or toxins are safely removed from the person’s system. It also reduces the chance of recovering users having a relapse. This 24/7 procedure is carried out and monitored by medical professionals who understand addiction and the recovery process. 

Detox can run three to seven days or longer, depending on the severity of one’s addiction and other factors, including the way in which Nembutal was used (whether it was snorted, injected) and whether other substances were used along with the drug.

During the detox period, recovering substance users are kept as comfortable as possible as they are given medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. A tapering scheduled determined by the doctor may be used to slowly wean clients off barbiturates. This ensures the body can adjust to not having Nembutal in its system and allow it to get back to normal.

Detox is the first step in an effective drug rehabilitation treatment. It is not the last or the only step. As mentioned earlier, ending drug dependence is an involved process for people who used it for a long time. 

During the detox period, clients are evaluated to determine how far along a person is in their addiction or if they have a dual diagnosis, which is when a mental health disorder exists alongside a substance use disorder. A program that treats both disorders together at the same time is important for a dually diagnosed person. The proper treatment is based on the results of a person’s initial evaluation as well as their specific needs and preferences.

Once the detox process is finished and clients are medically stable, they will be presented with treatment options. These options include inpatient or residential treatment, partial hospitalization programs, and intensive outpatient treatment. All of these programs offer the space for recovering substance users to address their addiction and gain the life skills they need to manage their post-addiction life and commitment to sobriety.  

Treatment programs can incorporate any combination of programs, therapies, and services. A person can join 12-step fellowship programs (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, for example), or take different kinds of therapies, including holistic therapy, motivational therapy, and trauma therapy as they work toward living substance-free.

Effective programs may also include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Addiction education classes
  • Relapse prevention planning

People who are recovering from Nembutal addiction may want to pursue aftercare services. Continued support after treatment can help them avoid relapse, stay motivated to reach their recovery goals, and manage any lingering post-acute withdrawal symptoms, known as PAWS, which often happens after substance use ends. An alumni program also connects like-minded people who encourage each other as they rebuild their lives after addiction.

How Dangerous Is Nembutal Overdose?

Barbiturates like Nembutal became notorious for their overdose potential. A high dose can cause dangerous and even deadly symptoms, which is why the drug was largely replaced by benzodiazepines. Barbiturates can also cause drowsiness and confusion. People using it as a sleep aid may wake up in the middle of the night and assume they need another dose, which can be dangerous. 

The therapeutic window for barbiturates, in general, is small, which means it doesn’t exactly take a very large amount of the drug to overdose on it. So, people who take more Nembutal than prescribed are at an increased risk of overdosing and possibly dying if the overdose turns fatal. Nembutal overdose symptoms can include:

  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Headache
  • Heavy sedation
  • Struggling to stay conscious
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed breathing
  • Loss of motor control
  • Coma
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Lowered blood pressure

A high dose of Nembutal can slow down breathing and heart rate. This is why such an event is life-threatening. Overdoses require prompt medical attention. Call 911 for medical help or get the affected person to the nearest emergency room. 

Complications from overdose, such as cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, renal failure, can happen over long periods and can mean permanent physical and mental health problems. Barbiturates are especially dangerous if you use them with other depressants or opioids. Mixing Nembutal with alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids, or other barbiturates can more easily lead to overdose with smaller doses. Talk to your doctor before mixing any prescriptions, especially if barbiturates are involved.

Nembutal (Pentobarbital) Abuse Statistics

  • Barbiturates were found to be responsible for nearly 400 deaths in 2013.
  • Doctors write out nearly 19 million barbiturate prescriptions a year.
  • 8% of all barbiturates in the U.S. are created illegally.
Many people


SAMHSA. (April, 19, 2016). “Rise in Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Impacting Teens.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. from

Weiler, Lauren. (June 12, 2017). “The Prescription Medications Most Parents Don’t Realize Their Kids Are Misusing.” CheatSheet. from

RxList. (2017, November 29). Nembutal (Pentobarbital): Side Effects, Interactions, Warning, Dosage & Uses. from (November, 2017). “Nembutal Sodium Side Effects.” from

(March, 2018). Barbiturate intoxication and overdose. Medline Plus. from

U.S. National Library of Medicines. MedlinePlus. (2018, December 21) Pentobarbital overdose. Retrieved from

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