Luminal Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed

Luminal is the trade name for a prescription drug called phenobarbital.

The psychoactive substances are in a category called barbiturates, which used to be widely prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, sleep disorders, muscle spasms, and seizures. However, its adverse effects have caused it to lose popularity.

It has the potential to cause addiction, dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and overdoses.

What Is Luminal?

Luminal was first synthesized in 1904, and it was first marketed in 1912 as a sedative and hypnotic. It wasn’t used as an anticonvulsant until later. The drug’s potential for fatal overdoses was discovered in the early 20th century. In fact, it was most notoriously used to euthanize disabled people in the early Nazi Germany.


Throughout the 20th century, phenobarbital was implicated in several high-profile suicides, including the Japanese officers aboard the German submarine U-234 and the members of the Heaven’s Gate cult. In general, Luminal is only used to treat seizures and epilepsy today.

Luminal is in a broad category of drugs called central nervous system (CNS) depressants that suppress excitability. Luminal interacts with a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When GABA binds to receptors in the brain, it activates a response that calms you down and eases anxiety. Luminal also binds to the receptor and increases the effectiveness of GABA.

What Are The Signs Of Luminal Addiction?

Luminal addiction is a serious disease, but there are warning signs. Even if you’re using a drug as prescribed, you may start developing a tolerance as your body starts getting used to it. In fact, you may feel like your standard dose is getting weaker, and you may develop a chemical dependence if you keep compensating for tolerance.

If you stop using Luminal after you become dependent on it, you may start to feel withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, tremors, and insomnia. If you suddenly stop using it, you may experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and delirium tremens.

Finally, substance use disorder is characterized by the compulsive use of a drug, despite serious consequences. If you or a loved one has experienced health complications or financial troubles as the result of drug use, you may be addicted.

How Is Luminal Addiction Treated?

If you have an addiction to Luminal, it’s important to seek help before quitting “cold turkey.” Speak to your doctor about gradually cutting back, in order to avoid serious medical complications that can come from withdrawal. If you’re seeking treatment for a Luminal addiction, you’ll most likely start with medical detox.

Because Luminal can potentially cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms, it’s important to start treatment with medical professionals that will continually monitor your health 24/7 throughout your stay. You could be in the detox for three to seven days, depending on the severity of your addiction and other medical problems that may be present. During your stay, you’ll become prepared for the level of care you’ll complete after detox.

Plus, you may come to treatment with other medical needs that are unrelated to addition. When you enter treatment, your medical needs are addressed first, in order to ensure your safety and comfort. Typically, detox lasts for about a week before you move to the next level of care in addiction treatment.

When you first enter addiction treatment, you’ll go through an intake and assessment process to make sure you’re placed in a level of care that’s appropriate for your current condition. Addiction treatment specialists use a six-dimension assessment produced by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

As soon as you’re emotionally ready to sit down with your therapist, you may also go through an interview assessment called a biopsychosocial. This questionnaire is designed to take a deeper look at your biological, psychological, and social history. With the help of your therapist, you’ll create a treatment plan that’s tailored to your individual needs. Because there are so many potential causes and consequences of addiction, it’s important that you personalize your plan to meet these needs. In order to adapt to your progress and shifting needs, you should keep being assessed on a weekly basis.

After medical detox, clinicians will help you find the next level of care to continue your treatment plan. If you have ongoing medical or psychological medical needs that need intensive care, you may require an inpatient program that involves 24 hours of monitoring and care.

If you’re able to live on your own without a significant threat of relapse or another complication, an intensive outpatient program (IOP) may be ideal. IOP involves at least nine hours of clinical services per week. Partial hospitalization programs also fall into the category of IOP, and they can involve as much as 12 hours of clinical services every day.

After detox is completed, you may proceed to outpatient treatment, which involves fewer than nine hours of clinical services each week. This level allows you to have more time pursuing independent goals and taking on responsibilities. Meanwhile, you’ll have clinical services that can help you form your relapse prevention strategies. Outpatient treatment is ideal level for helping you transition from addiction treatment to independent life.

How Dangerous Is Luminal Abuse?

As a barbiturate, Luminal has a few inherent dangers. It frequently causes dizziness, ataxia, and sedation, but abuse can lead to a more severe impact. Barbiturates are known for their risk of overdose, which can lead to unconsciousness, hypothermia, hypotension, and respiratory suppression. In cases that prove to be fatal, breathing is slowed or stopped, which leads to oxygen deprivation, brain damage, and death.

Luminal is especially dangerous when it’s taken with other barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or alcohol. Like other CNS depressants, chemical dependence on Luminal can lead to potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. When you become dependent on it, your brain adapts to the presence of the drug, which may increase effects that excite the nervous system to balance your brain chemistry.

Therefore, if you suddenly stop using the drug, your CNS may become overly excitable, which leads to anxiety, panic, tremors, seizures, and delirium tremens. If you believe you’ve become dependent on Luminal, speak to your doctor before you quit using it.

Luminal Abuse Statistics

  •  According to the 2012 National Poison Data System Database, sedative-hypnotic drugs like Luminal are the #5 leading cause of reported fatalities.
  •     19 million barbiturate prescriptions are written every year.
  •     8% of barbiturates in the U.S. are illegally created.
Tap to GET HELP NOW: (855) 935-0303