What Is Secobarbital?

Secobarbital, also know by its brand name Seconal, is a prescription barbiturate medication. While barbiturates are not as commonly prescribed as in years past, they are still used to treat certain conditions. Barbiturate medications have a known risk for misuse and dependence — which can lead to addiction.

This article will explain what secobarbital is, how it’s used, the risks of misuse, and how to get help if you are concerned about your secobarbital use — or that of someone you love.

What Is Secobarbital?

Seconal (secobarbital) is a drug that is classified as a barbiturate. Barbiturates are central nervous system depressant drugs. Seconal was once prescribed for the treatment of insomnia and as a pre-anesthetic before surgery; however, it is no longer available in the United States.

The medical use of barbiturate medications has largely been replaced by benzodiazepine medications, such as Xanax or Ativan. However, barbiturates may still be used to treat:

  • Seizure prevention, when an individual is not responding to first-line medications.
  • Short-term treatment of insomnia.
  • Treating intracranial hypertension.

What Was Secobarbital Used For?

Barbiturates like secobarbital were once used to control issues with anxiety, to control seizures, to lessen withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol, and to help individuals sleep or deal with stress. However, many of these drugs were found to have very high potential for misuse and the development of physical dependence and, as such, barbiturates like Seconal are no longer commonly prescribed.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) barbiturates are more commonly prescribed in clinical situations and for elderly individuals who have issues with anxiety or seizures. They are not common drugs of abuse due to the restrictions on their prescriptions. Instead, benzodiazepines and other sedative drugs have taken over their role in the treatment of anxiety and seizures.

Secobarbital Misuse

Misuse of secobarbital is a serious issue, even if it is not common. Secobarbital is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This classification indicates that secobarbital is at the highest level of control for a drug that can be legally purchased or obtained with a prescription from a physician.  

In addition, information from the DEA, SAMHSA, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that the misuse of barbiturates and benzodiazepines most commonly occurs in conjunction with the use of some other substance, such as alcohol or other drugs, such as other benzodiazepines, other barbiturates, narcotic pain medications, and cannabis products.

Signs of Barbiturate Misuse

While only a qualified healthcare professional can diagnose someone with a sedative, hypnotic, or anxiolytic use disorder as specified by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), it can be helpful to know the signs of dependence or addiction to barbiturates in order to get help for yourself or someone you love.

There are 11 diagnostic criteria, some of which include:

  • Taking barbiturates in higher amounts or for longer periods of time than intended.
  • Wanting to stop barbiturate use but unable to do so.
  • Having strong desires to use barbiturates (cravings).
  • Continuing to use barbiturates despite negative consequences to social, emotional, or job-related spheres caused or made worse by barbiturate use.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when use is abruptly cut back  or stopped.

Barbiturate Overdose and Treatment

Barbiturate drugs can be extremely dangerous. Individuals who take them regularly will develop tolerance to the drug, and this can result in people needing more and more of the drug to get the effects they seek.

Seconal is a drug that is preferred in the use of physician-assisted suicide, indicating that the drug has a serious potential to cause fatal effects when given in large amounts. The potential for overdose is increased when individuals combine barbiturates like Seconal with alcohol, other barbiturates, or other central nervous system depressants.

Because the withdrawal process from barbiturates can potentially be life-threatening due to the potential to develop seizures, it is recommended that individuals typically begin with medical detox, in order to ensure the safety and comfort of the individual as they go through the withdrawal period.

While detox is an important first step in the recovery process, it is not considered a standalone treatment. It is generally recommended that people continue to receive treatment after detox, such as at an inpatient rehab in Orange County, CA, to set a firm foundation in recovery.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Aliso Viejo, CA

When you’re struggling with addiction, it may feel like recovery is out of reach. But recovery is possible. If you need help for addiction to barbiturates or any other drugs, there is effective evidence-based addiction-focused treatment available.

To find a level of addiction care that is right for you, contact our helpful and knowledgeable admissions navigators at 24/7. They can answer your questions about how to start treatment, ways to pay for rehab — including using insurance to cover treatment — tell you what to expect in rehab, and even help you make travel arrangements.

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