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Amytal Addiction, Abuse and Treatment

Amytal is the prescription name for amobarbital, a barbiturate. It runs a high risk of dependence and many people seek treatment for this addiction.

Understanding Amytal

AmytalSerumAmytal is a popular brand name for the barbiturate derivative amobarbital. Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotics, prescribed to treat sleep disorders or as a preanesthetic for surgeries. In smaller doses, barbiturates can be used as anticonvulsants. Amytal is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, soothing brain activity in order to relieve severe stress.

Barbiturates have largely been replaced by benzodiazepines, which are thought to be safer and have a lower risk of dependence in chronic users. However, some medical professionals still administer Amytal because of its potency. It is typically injected intravenously as a clear liquid or taken orally as a time-release capsule. Street names for Amytal include downers, red, redbirds and blue velvets.

Amytal Abuse and Effects

Amytal is a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has medically designated purposes but runs a high risk of abuse and dependence.

Amytal was given to American soldiers fighting World War II to treat “shell shock” until officials realized the drug heavily impaired soldiers’ efficiency in battle.

Like many sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications, Amytal may be abused for its sedative effects. Amytal induces an intoxicating “buzz” similar to that of alcohol when taken at unprescribed doses.

Due to heavy federal regulation and the drug’s abnormal strength, using Amytal without a prescription or in a manner other than prescribed is considered abuse. Some outward signs of Amytal abuse may include:

Nausea and vomiting




Mental Confusion












Though therapeutic in regulated, supervised doses, Amytal can easily cause overdose due to its potency. Amytal can depress brain function until the user “forgets” to breathe, triggering coma or even death. Combining Amytal with other CNS depressants like alcohol increases the odds of overdose.

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Signs of an Amytal Addiction

An Amytal addiction can develop rapidly without the user recognizing the problem. Over the last decade doctors have become keenly aware of Amytal’s addictive power. As a result of severe federal regulation, doctor-supervised intravenous injection has become the only legal means of using Amytal.

If a friend or family member is using Amytal in any form outside a doctor’s personal care, it may be time to say something.

Someone suffering from an Amytal addiction might “doctor shop,” or visit multiple physicians to acquire more of the drug. Others may try to get illicit Amytal pills from a street dealer. These users have probably developed a physical and psychological dependence on the drug over continued use. Amytal actually alters the brain’s natural chemistry, building a tolerance in the user until they crave it to feel “normal.”

Medical professionals and addiction specialists lean on criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to spot behaviors that indicate a problem. Learn how to recognize an addiction today.

Amytal Addiction Treatment

Barbiturates like Amytal are extremely risky to quit “cold turkey” because of the chemical changes they cause to the brain. Suddenly stopping Amytal use can shock the body with severe, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms depending on the length and intensity of use. Muscle pains, nausea and vomiting, anxiety and mental confusion can arise in less drastic cases.

At their most pronounced level, Amytal withdrawals can include hallucinations, seizures and even death.

Amytal Abuse Statistics

1 in 10overdose

Approximately 1 out of every 10 people who overdose on barbiturates or barbiturate mixtures will die.


Approximately 9 percent of high school students have abused barbiturates in their lifetime.

Although Amytal addiction is less common than some other addictions, there are still many treatment options for overcoming it. Doctor-administered detox is the safest process of eliminating Amytal (and any other drugs that may be present) from a sufferer’s system and reducing the negative side effects.

Recovering users fall back into cycles of abuse when they don’t allow themselves enough time to focus on recovery. Inpatient treatment programs provide an environment free from distractions and triggers that may lead to relapse.

Begin your Trek Toward Recovery

If you think you or someone you know has an addiction to Amytal, find the help you need to diagnose and treat it. After inpatient therapy, many recovering addicts find invaluable support through help groups and counseling. It is important to continue building strong, healthy relationships with people who can help you stay clean. Move forward today.

Sources & Author Last Edited: January 21, 2016

  1. National Institutes of Health. (2014). Barbiturate intoxication and overdose. Retrieved on March 21, 2014, from:
  2. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. (2014). Drug Scheduling. Retrieved on March 21, 2014, from:
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