Amobarbital (Amytal Sodium) is a potent drug derived from a class of drugs known as barbiturates. Originally synthesized in 1923 by a German scientist, amobarbital was intended to treat various symptoms of insomnia and anxiety-related disorders.
However, amobarbital was later found to have side effects that outweighed many of the benefits. One of the most dangerous side effects is the high risk for addiction and dependence.
The effects of amobarbital on the body can vary from mild to severe. Because all barbiturates are considered to be central nervous system depressants, they cause psychological changes in mood, such as feelings of euphoria or depression. These psychological changes are the main reason why amobarbital, and other barbiturates, are commonly abused recreationally.
While amobarbital is still occasionally administered or prescribed in a clinical setting, it is no longer a common drug to be prescribed for conditions like anxiety, insomnia or epilepsy. New drugs have hit the market for these conditions that carry less risk for addiction, such as benzodiazepines.
How Does Amobarbital Work?
Amobarbital, like other barbiturates, is able to cross the blood-brain barrier. This means it is able to have direct effects on the brain. Amobarbital activates GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain, which can “excite” or activate neurotransmitters that can block or suppress the central nervous system’s typical functions.
The central nervous system, when left unaffected by drugs, regulates many of the subconscious functions of the body, such as heart rate or breathing. These functions are very important because they are not actions a person is consciously telling their body to perform, yet the body requires them to survive.
However, when these GABA receptors in the brain are activated with a drug like amobarbital, these subconscious signals transmitted through the central nervous system can become sluggish or blocked. Suppressing these signals can cause breathing and heart rate to slow to dangerously low, sometimes lethal, levels.
How Is Amobarbital Abused?
Like other barbiturates, amobarbital can be taken in several different forms. When administered in a hospital setting for sedation or anesthesia, amobarbital is usually dissolved in an alcohol solution and given as a fluid intravenously (through an IV). In the rare occasions that it is prescribed for anxiety or seizure relief, it is sold as a pressed-powder pill that can be taken orally.
Individuals who abuse amobarbital will generally attempt to take the drug using a method that will allow them to feel the effects immediately. To achieve this effect, the pill is sometimes crushed and snorted, which allows it to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream for fast-acting effects.
This pill is also sometimes dissolved in alcohol, ether, water or even chloroform and injected with a needle directly into a vein. This method is not only very dangerous due to the potency of the drug, but it can also increase the user’s risk of getting an infection.
Amobarbital can still be acquired legally, as it is sometimes prescribed in a hospital or clinical setting. More frequently, however, amobarbital is sold illegally on the streets or through the black market. Purchasing the drug illegally opens a person up to the risk of ingesting an impure product, a product that is not amobarbital at all, and legal actions.
When sold on the streets, amobarbital is known by many “slang” names including:
- Blue angels
- Blue birds
- Blue devils
- Blue heaven
Signs And Symptoms Of Amobarbital Abuse
Individuals who abuse amobarbital can sometimes be very good at hiding it. This can come from years of experience with barbiturates, a high tolerance to the drug or denial that the abuse is an issue.
Because amobarbital inhibits functions of the central nervous system, signs and symptoms of abuse generally present themselves in the central nervous system as well. While breathing and heart rate are obvious functions that can be affected by amobarbital, there are other, less obvious functions of the central nervous system that can present signs of abuse.
If a person is suspected of abusing amobarbital, a few warning signs to look for include:
- memory impairment
- slurred speech
- impaired motor skills (like using a fork or typing on a keyboard)
- stumbling or tripping while walking
- shallow breathing
- cold or blanched hands and feet
- lack of coordination
- unfocused gaze or lack of eye contact
Other signs that a loved one may be struggling with substance abuse or addiction can include non-physical symptoms. Often, sudden changes in social behavior, such as a sudden desire to be alone or a complete change in one’s friend circle, can indicate a deeper cause. Money issues and repeated lying can also indicate a loved one may be hiding a drug addiction.
Dangers Of Amobarbital Withdrawal
Withdrawal is the body’s reaction to the sudden elimination, or a steep decline in the dosage, of a drug. Symptoms of withdrawal can vary from mild to severe, and can even cause death in certain circumstances and with certain drugs. At the very least, withdrawal from most drugs will cause intense discomfort and leave a person feeling very ill.
With amobarbital, symptoms of withdrawal are on the severe end of the spectrum. Amobarbital, like other barbiturates, can cause individuals to become physically dependent on the drug very quickly. This dependence results from the body requiring a certain amount of the substance to function normally as it did before the drug was introduced.
Dependence is common among many central nervous system depressants. With barbiturates, dependence can have a faster onset with more severe symptoms than other drugs that have a similar effect on the central nervous system.
Amobarbital withdrawal can affect both the physical and psychological health of an individual. Withdrawal symptoms can last from a few days to more than two weeks, with the physical symptoms appearing first.
The physical symptoms can be very harmful to the body, leading to seizures, coma and even death, in extreme circumstances. For some individuals, the psychological symptoms feel much worse. In some cases, psychosis and severe depression have resulted from the body’s attempt to detox from the substance.
Other signs and symptoms of amobarbital withdrawal include:
- nausea and vomiting
- dizziness and confusion
- unsteady gait
- hand tremors
- restlessness and insomnia
- twitching, especially around the face and hands
- depression, sometimes severe
Do I Need Medical Detox?
Medically-supervised detoxification is highly recommended for barbiturate addiction and dependence. When a person participates in a medical detox program, the dangerous withdrawal symptoms are managed and supervised by a professional, clinical team.
Within a medically-supervised detoxification program, patients are able to rid their systems of amobarbital in a way that is not only safer than detoxing on their own, but also tends to have a lower rate of relapse. It is not uncommon for individuals to relapse during the detox phase, especially when they lack the support and clinical supervision that comes along with medical detox.
Some medical detox programs are offered as a part of a long-term rehab program. Medical detox is usually the first step in severe cases of addiction and physical dependence. Detoxification allows patients to overcome the physical discomfort and dangers of removing the drug from their system in a safe, clinically-controlled setting and to prepare for formal treatment.
Barbiturate Addiction Treatment
While detoxing from barbiturates is important, detox alone isn’t enough to help someone overcome a barbiturate addiction or dependency. The best inpatient drug rehab centers will pair a medically-supervised detox program with an inpatient treatment program to follow immediately after the detox phase.
Detox helps a person overcome the physical dependence to barbiturates, while treatment allows a person to deal with the psychological dependence. Inpatient drug rehab programs may involve behavioral therapy, counseling, alternative therapies and more.
For more information on barbiturate addiction and treatment options, call us today.
National Center for Biotechnology Information — Long-Lasting Effects Of Early Barbiturates On Central Nervous System And Behavior.
National Alliance of Advocates for Buprenorphine Treatment — What Is Withdrawal?
PubChem (NCBI) — Amobarbital
JAMA Network —Chronic Barbiturate Intoxication: An Experimental Study