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Phenobarbital Withdrawal Help & Timelines

Phenobarbital is generally used to control seizures and anxiety. It is also sometimes used to treat withdrawal from other substances of abuse.
As a barbiturate, it can be abused for its euphoric effects. It has a high risk of dependency. After consistent use, people will experience withdrawal when they stop taking the drug.

Generally, a tapered approach to withdrawal is recommended to ensure safety.


If you take phenobarbital for a long time, it will likely not manage symptoms as well as it did in the beginning. It is natural for the body to develop a tolerance to barbiturates with regular use.As tolerance rises, dependence will form over time. Even though phenobarbital is sometimes used to address withdrawal symptoms from other barbiturates, phenobarbital itself will result in withdrawal after extended use.


Phenobarbital has a high potential for both physiological and psychological addiction. Withdrawal symptoms can occur as soon as eight hours after the last dose.
Medical detox is always recommended for phenobarbital withdrawal, as symptoms can be life-threatening in extreme cases.

Typical symptoms of withdrawal include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Visual distortions
  • Progressive muscle weakness
  • Tremors in the hands and fingers
  • Muscle twitching
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Nightmares
  • Forgetfulness
  • Irritability

The following withdrawal symptoms can be severe and fatal:

  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Delirium
  • Death

The length and severity of withdrawal symptoms depend on individual circumstances.

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In adults, phenobarbital has a half-life of 79 to 110 hours. The first one to three days is the most difficult period of the withdrawal process, as symptoms are most severe.
Withdrawal symptoms begin eight to 12 hours after the last dose. These symptoms will get progressively worse, peaking on the third day.

This period of detox is often the most intense and dangerous, as both physiological and psychological withdrawal symptoms are experienced in combination. This is also when lethal withdrawal symptoms could most likely arise. Again, medical detox is recommended to ensure safety.

During days four to seven, physical symptoms start to clear up, but psychological symptoms can still be intense. Relapse risk is high during this period, as the person feels physically well enough to retake the drug and is still experiencing psychological cravings that are relatively intense.

After day seven, symptoms begin to dissipate substantially. They are usually gone within two weeks of the last dose of the drug.

While there can still be some emotional issues and cravings for the drug that linger, the bulk of withdrawal has passed. Some symptoms of withdrawal can persist for weeks, however. Again, medical supervision is imperative for barbiturate withdrawal to ensure safety.


Phenobarbital pills spilling out of a pill bottle

study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that phenobarbital withdrawal seizures can occur for several weeks before remitting. Phenobarbital is not something you want to try and quit on your own. Doing so is simply not safe.

Most withdrawal management programs are conducted on an inpatient basis. During the detox phase, clients are closely monitored and usually given medication to minimize debilitating withdrawal symptoms.

Typically, when someone is admitted into a detox program, they are evaluated to determine the severity of their addiction. This determines the length of treatment as well as any potential tapering schedule.
Tapering means the client is given progressively lower doses of the drug, or a similar medication, as they detox with the ultimate goal of stopping altogether. Most of the time, phenobarbital is given in tapered doses, but in some cases, other medications are used.

Once the detox phase of treatment is complete, it is only the beginning of the road to recovery. Therapy is where the bulk of work in recovery takes place.


Per an article in The Pharmaceutical Journal, phenobarbital is effective, easy to use, and affordable. Many people are just not aware of just how habit-forming the drug can be.
If you or someone you know has been abusing phenobarbital, it’s essential to get help with the withdrawal process. Attempting to detox on your own is very likely to lead to relapse, and it can even be life-threatening as some symptoms can be dangerous.

Look for a comprehensive addiction treatment program that offers medical supervision during detox. A supervising physician should oversee the withdrawal process, ensuring you stay safe and comfortable. This increases the likelihood that you will successfully make it through withdrawal and continue into therapy.


(2016) Phenobarbital. MedlinePlus. Retrieved March 2019 from

(January 2019) How Long Does Phenobarbital Stay in Your System. Verywell Mind. Retrieved March 2019 from

(August 2008) Phenobarbital withdrawal seizures may occur over several weeks before remitting: Human data and hypothetical mechanism. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved March 2019 from

(October 2012) Effective, easy to use and affordable — the discovery and use of phenobarbital. The Pharmaceutical Journal. Retrieved March 2019 from

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