Once widely used as a sleep aid – it was found on the bedside table of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe the morning after her fatal overdose – some aging and ailing people have taken the sedative to end their lives quickly and painlessly. The drug, Nembutal, literally takes their breath away, and for good.

Although opioids appear to have replaced barbiturates with the same deadly consequences, Nembutal is gaining popularity again, not only among the older generations but with teens who steal the narcotic from their older parents, relatives or friends.

What is Nembutal?

Nembutal is the brand name for pentobarbital sodium. Tightly regulated in most countries, the prescription barbiturate is used to treat seizures and insomnia and as an anesthetic prior to surgery.

In its pill or concentrated liquid form, Nembutal is sometimes considered death in a bottle. Veterinarians use pentobarbital to kill animals humanely. And in some areas where it is legal, Nembutal is the drug of choice for assisted suicides and lethal injections in prison executions. That is how strong pentobarbital can be.

Often referred to as “nembies,” “abbots” or “yellow jackets,” Nembutal is a highly addictive drug that begins to produce effects within 30 minutes of ingestion, depending on the degree of dosage. The barbiturate increases the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in the brain that transmits calming, relaxing signals to the body. Sometimes referred to as “truth serum,” Nembutal acts on the brain and body like the effects of alcohol.

To prevent recreational abuse, doctors will rarely prescribe more than enough Nembutal for more than two weeks of treatment. But that hasn’t circumvented the drug from falling into the hands of people intent on taking it for more than sleep.

Even though the popularity of sleeping pills have subsided, they are still abused. About 19 million prescriptions for barbiturates are written annually. But, far too often, what begins innocently serves as a prologue to addiction instead.

The window between the effective use of Nembutal and abuse is relatively small. Most barbiturates usually wear off within 16 hours after intake. That’s when an addicted person will need to satisfy a desire for more of the drug. This type of addictive behavior or cause for concern usually begins to emerge after 90 days of abuse. The signs might include:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Atypical excitement
  • Lethargy, fatigue
  • Poor coordination
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Impaired judgment
  • Hallucinations
  • Tolerance
  • Delusions
  • Difficulty cutting back or stopping use
  • Preoccupation with maintaining a drug supply
  • Menstrual irregularities in females
  • Cravings for more of Nembutal
  • Self-medicating to avoid withdrawal symptoms

Mixing alcohol with drugs like Nembutal only complicates the risks of accidental or fatal overdose. These symptoms may include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Low pulse
  • Hypotension
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Wobbliness and/or stumbling
  • Blisters or rash

What is Nembutal Withdrawal?

The brain and central nervous system can quickly form a dependence on Nembutal, usually after 90 days of consistent higher-than-normal use. When this use is reduced or stopped entirely, the body will likely respond adversely. This is called withdrawal. Symptoms associated with Nembutal withdrawal may include:

  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hallucinations

Withdrawal from barbiturates like Nembutal can also be fatal. Upward of 75 percent of individuals who withdraw from any barbiturate will experience a seizure, as well as confusion and elevated body temperatures. Up to 68 percent will suffer from a more severe confusion called delirium. This unpleasant condition, like delirium tremors experienced during alcohol withdrawal, can go on for days. Left untreated, a person may be prone to high fever, heart failure, and even death.

What Are the Stages of the Nembutal Withdrawal Timeline?

The timeline and stages of Nembutal withdrawal vary depending on the individual’s tolerance level, genetics, frequency of use and dosage. A general timeline for withdrawal from this drug is below to provide a better understanding of what to expect:

Stage 1

  • Anxiety, twitching, tremors, weakness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, distorted vision and insomnia may surface eight to 12 hours after the last dose.

Stage 2

  • Delirium or convulsions may emerge within 16 hours of the last dose and endure for the next five days.

Stage 3

  • The intensity of withdrawals begins to subside beginning with the fifth day and extending for the next two weeks. The biggest concern at this point is an intense craving to use again.

Stage 4

  • After a month, some mood-related symptoms may linger, but, for the most part, the withdrawal will have been completed.

Treatment for Nembutal Withdrawal

The best method for treating Nembutal withdrawal is a gradual tapering off of use over time. This method works best with the help of a doctor or substance abuse treatment provider who is educated and experienced in managing it. This process is known as detoxification.

Why Should I Detox?

Even though Nembutal as a sleeping pill has been replaced by safer, alternative medications, the drug is still manufactured and often obtained by those who do not have the best motives in mind. For this reason, pentobarbital and its debilitating and potentially fatal withdrawal effects should not be easily dismissed. Individuals who have become addicted to Nembutal and other barbiturates should work with a substance abuse treatment provider to taper off these addictive drugs and ease the pain of withdrawal.

This type of supervision is typically found at a hospital or residential treatment facility, where certified medical professionals can manage the acute physical symptoms associated with Nembutal detoxification. Here, in a safe and peaceful environment, Nembutal doses can be administered to alleviate discomfort until the point where barbiturate withdrawal systems have been eliminated. During this time, medical staff can monitor progress and prevent any complications. Detox is a highly recommended first step on a path toward recovery.

What Is The Next Treatment Step?

Detox is only one part of treating an addiction to any barbiturate. Following successful detox from Nembutal, any real chance at sustained sobriety and a life without barbiturates will require determination, commitment and an extended stay at a residential treatment center. Here you will be fitted with a personalized recovery plan customized to address your issues and unique circumstances. To strengthen your resistance to relapse and to start feeling good about yourself, you will also be exposed to additional forms of treatment including group therapy, one-on-one counseling, educational lectures and workshops as part of your recovery program.

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