How to Help a Phenobarbital Addict

Table of Contents

The medication phenobarbital is a type of prescription barbiturate medication commonly used in the management of acute seizure activity and chronic seizure disorder. Phenobarbital has also been utilized in the management of some types of substance withdrawal and, rarely, for short-term indication as an anti-anxiety medication. The drug acts by suppressing neural activity within the central nervous system.

Given its sedative effects, phenobarbital has historically been used in drug treatment programs to manage withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and benzodiazepines. However, it can be addictive on its own and taken with caution.

Help for Phenobarbital Addicts

Despite its therapeutic uses, phenobarbital is regarded as a DEA-classified Schedule IV substance, indicating that the drug does have some potential for abuse and addiction. Patients who take the drug long-term are considered at risk for potential abuse given the development of tolerance to the drug’s effects.

It’s important to understand that even someone who begins taking phenobarbital on a legitimate prescription basis can develop a dependence to the drug. Someone struggling with dependence may need help to stop.

Join the conversation about how to help someone struggling with a substance abuse problem.

Addressing the addiction can take a variety of forms that may include one or more of the following:

Phenobarbital Addict Quiz question 1

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Is It Addictive?

Repeated administration of the medication over a long period of time can increase the risk for potential abuse.

While psychological dependence is unlikely to develop with only short-term use of the drug, repeated administration of this barbiturate medication over a long period of time can increase the risk for potential abuse.

This occurs because over time the body becomes habituated to receiving the drug and therefore requires higher and higher doses in order to achieve the same level of response. Further, with continued use, the body is likely to exhibit withdrawal symptoms in the absence of receiving the drug. These withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and often lead the individual to using again, just to achieve relief from the withdrawal.


Common symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • Muscle twitches.
  • Anxiety.
  • Uncontrollable shaking in the body.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sweating.
  • Racing heart.
  • Confusion.
  • Seizure and convulsion.

What are the Signs of Addiction?

Phenobarbital Addict Quiz question 2
The phenomenon of addiction to phenobarbital can occur with contributions from both physical and psychological dependence to the drug.

  • Physical dependence has typically developed when a user experiences uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use.
  • Psychological dependency tends to occur more frequently in individuals who have been taking the drug for a long time. It emerges as the individual begins to believe that they are completely unable to function without the drug.

Common signs of a phenobarbital addiction may include:

  • Changes in mood, including irritability and depression.
  • Erratic behavior, e.g., stealing the drug or forging prescriptions to get it.
  • Visiting multiple doctors to try and get more of the drug.
  • Loss of interest in usual or previously pleasurable activities.
  • Isolating oneself or withdrawing socially.
  • Changes in interpersonal relationships.
  • Obsession with the drug.
  • Difficulty sleeping without using the drug.
  • Unusually deep sleep.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when substance is not taken.
  • Altering the prescribed dose (taking more than what is prescribed).
  • Continuing to take the drug even after the medical need has resolved.
  • Intense urges to take the drug.

If you or someone you know may be addicted to phenobarbital, it is important to seek the assistance of a professional for treatment. It is always critical for individuals who are prescribed the drug – particularly those who have been taking the medication long-term – to be regularly monitored for drug levels in their body, to minmize toxicity. If barbiturate abuse has been occurring it will be doubly important to have a full medical evaluation, and undergo a supervised detox, as dangerous withdrawal seizures are a distinct possibility.

If you are concerned regarding your use of phenobarbital, or if you have noticed any of the signs listed above, don’t wait another day to find treatment. Call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? to discuss your options with a caring treatment support specialist.

Am I Addicted to Phenobarbital?

Phenobarbital Addict Quiz question 3
One of the most highly recognized signs that you may be struggling with phenobarbital addiction is feeling intensely and obsessively preoccupied with the drug.

You may also:

  • Find yourself constantly thinking about taking the drug and how to obtain the drug.
  • Prioritize phenobarbital over family, friends, and even your career.
  • Consider or engage in inappropriate or risky behavior you would never have considered before in order to obtain the drug (or money to buy the drug).
  • Experience changes in mood or erratic behavior.

Addiction Treatment

Phenobarbital Addict Quiz question 4
Comprehensive addiction treatment programs will address both the physical and psychological aspects of the addiction, in order to ensure that the patient has a successful recovery.


Nurse helping man on hospital bed

The first step to treatment for addiction is to entirely remove the drug from the body. Most addiction treatment centers have professional medical personnel and other trained staff that will assist with the detoxification process and increase the patient’s comfort as much as possible.

Medication administration may be provided as part of detox to manage symptoms; due to the nature of this type of drug, phenobarbital detox will almost always require medical supervision – the risk of dangerous seizures and convulsions is too high for a more casual detox approach.

The precise duration of a barbiturate detox may vary based on the individual and how much of the substance is in the body.

Addiction Treatment

Doctor talking to patient

Following the detoxification from phenobarbital, patients then enter the rehabilitation phase of treatment, which begins to the address the psychological dependence on the drug.

This generally includes both individual therapy and group counseling to address the mental component of the addiction.

Rehabilitation will also address relapse prevention by providing the patient with the tools they need to be successful in life outside of the treatment center without the drug.

Call Our Hotline Today

Recovery from phenobarbital addiction is possible, but it can be difficult to quit barbiturates on your own.

There are a number of treatment options available to assist with recovering from the drug addiction and getting back to reclaiming your life. Remember, no one deserves to suffer from addiction to any drug. If you or someone you love is struggling, don’t wait to get help.

Reach out to us today at 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? for more information how you can get out from under the weight of substance abuse and begin living your life.
Phenobarbital Addict Quiz question 5
Phenobarbital Addict Quiz question 6


  • Smith DE, Wesson DR. Phenobarbital technique for treatment of barbiturate dependence. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1971;24:56-60.
  • Smith DE, Wesson DR. A new method for treatment of barbiturate dependence. J Am Med 1970;213:294-295.
  • Shukla L. Benzodiazepines/phenobarbital withdrawal. Reactions Weekly 2015;1533.
  • Covi L, et al. Length of treatment with anxiolytic sedatives and response to their sudden withdrawal. Acta Psychiatrica Scand 2007;49:51-64.
  • Sellers EM. Alcohol, barbiturate, and benzodiazxepine withdrawal syndromes: Clinical management. Can Med Assoc J 1988;139:113-120.
Last updated on September 5, 2019
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