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Luminal Withdrawal

Luminal is the brand name for phenobarbital, a medication used to treat epilepsy. It was also used to treat insomnia and anxiety until it was replaced with the advent of benzodiazepines. Luminal can be addictive and cause life-threatening symptoms during withdrawal. 

As a central nervous system depressant, Luminal can suppress nervous system excitability in the brain. As the brain adapts, it may start to produce less of your natural inhibitory chemicals and more excitatory ones, in order to counteract the drug. When you stop suddenly, you’ll feel the results of a chemical imbalance in your brain and body.

Learn more about how to safely get through Luminal withdrawal and how you can achieve sobriety while avoiding dangerous symptoms.

What Are the Luminal Withdrawal Symptoms?

The withdrawal symptoms you experience may depend on the severity of your dependence. If you are used to taking a high dose, and you have been taking the drug for a long time, you might experience more severe symptoms, especially if you quit cold turkey. 
Withdrawal symptoms continue until your body can balance your brain chemistry and get used to life without the drug. The most severe symptoms can occur a few days after you quit and might include life-threatening symptoms like seizures and delirium tremens.  Symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Shaky hands
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Muscle twitching
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Extreme confusion
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Panic

Stages in the Luminal Withdrawal Timeline

Your withdrawal timeline will depend on a few personal barriers, like the length of time you were dependent, the dose you were used to, and the size of your last dose. However, it may be similar to the following timeline:

Woman crying because of Luminal side effects
  • 24 hours: Luminal has a half-life of five to 12 hours. After that time, it will be reduced to half of its original concentration in your blood, losing its effects. You may start to feel withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours. It may happen sooner for people that are used to a high dose. Early symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, and tremors.
  • 3 days: Once they start, your symptoms will get worse over the next few days. They may reach their peak within the first three days after your last dose. Peak symptoms may be the most dangerous, including dizziness, vomiting, nausea, and shakiness. In severe cases, you may experience seizures, extreme confusion, or dangerous heart-related complications.
  • 1 week: After a week, many of your symptoms will be gone, starting with the most intense physical symptoms. Anxiety, depression, and other psychological symptoms often last longer. You may also continue to have drug cravings.
  • 1 month or more: Lingering symptoms like anxiety or drug cravings may need to be addressed in treatment. If you have developed a severe substance use disorder, a treatment program can teach you how to cope with cravings and triggers so that you can avoid a relapse. 

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Do I Need to Detox?

Medical detox is the highest level of care available in addiction treatment, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Not everyone who seeks treatment for a substance use disorder will need this level of care. But central nervous system depressants like Luminal are the most likely drugs to warrant medical detox. 

Detox involves around-the-clock medically managed care that’s designed for people who are likely to experience severe withdrawal symptoms. 

Luminal can cause deadly symptoms such as seizures, delirium, and heart failure. Medical detox can also help people who have other medical needs alongside their withdrawal symptoms. It is one of the safest ways to go through withdrawal, but whether or not you go through it will depend on your needs as determined by a medical professional.


ASAM. (n.d.). What is the ASAM Criteria? Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, March 6). Prescription CNS Depressants. Retrieved from

RxList. (2019, March 5). Phenobarbital (Phenobarbital): Side Effects, Interactions, Warning, Dosage & Uses. Retrieved from

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, November 6). Delirium tremens: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

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