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Amytal Addiction And The Best Rehab Centers For Treatment

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 1, 2019

Amytal, or Sodium amobarbital, is widely associated with its off-label use as a “truth serum.” While the drug proved useful in helping patients recall blocked or repressed memories and to coerce information from suspected criminals, it was discovered that within the altered state afforded by the drug, false memories could be induced.

Amytal is the brand name for amobarbital, a barbiturate used for its sedative and hypnotic qualities. Approved uses include treating anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy, as amobarbital is an effective anticonvulsant. The drug was developed in the 1920s and in World War II was used to treat soldiers who were suffering from the trauma of war after fighting on the frontlines. It was quickly discontinued as it rendered the soldiers ineffective.

Today, the drug is no longer prescribed in tablet form, and must be administered intravenously by a nurse or medical doctor. It is most often used to induce a sleep state either prior to anesthesia preceding surgery or as a sedative. The drug is not intended for long-term use.

Street names for Amytal include “downers,” “blue heavens,” “blue velvet,” and “blue devils.”

How Amytal Works

Barbiturates like Amytal work by depressing the central nervous system. Amobarbital increases the gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmitter within the brain, which causes general central nervous system depression and induces a state of deep relaxation. This flood of GABA neurotransmitters brought on by use of Amytal, inhibits neuronal excitability all along the central nervous system, generally reducing communication between nerve cells. This inhibitory response generally means a deep state of relaxation for the user. Muscles relax, breathing and heart rate slow, and the person may enter a sleep-like state.

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Amytal Addiction

Abuse of Amytal can lead to rapid psychological and physical dependence. Even low doses of the drug have resulted in changes in the brain linked to dependency over short durations. A person taking Amytal to get high will quickly develop a tolerance to the drug, leading to a physical dependency on the drug. When someone becomes physically dependent on a Amytal, they then begin taking the drug to feel normal and to avoid the discomfort of associated withdrawal symptoms.

Recent scientific studies examining the functioning of GABA neurotransmission, indicate an associated increase of dopamine levels, activating the reward system of the brain. These centers relate to basic life functions relating to survival like eating, drinking, and even sex. When activated during drug use, they can signal a false necessity for the drug toward survival, making the drug as important as food to the drug-addicted individual.

Amytal dependency is often related to other mental disorders including depression and anxiety. Abuse of the drug affords the user an escape from coping with issues in their life that feel overwhelming; they crave the drug as a coping mechanism.

Risk factors for Amytal addiction include genetic predisposition to addictive behaviors, brain chemistry that alters the structure of GABA binding sites, and history of exposure to drug use as well as a history of physical and sexual abuse.

Dangers Of Amytal Withdrawals

When barbiturates like Amytal are stopped suddenly after long-term abuse, it can result in death. The drug must be tapered and should be medically monitored. Other harsh withdrawal symptoms include states of delirium, severe insomnia, nausea, sensitivity to light, fatigue, and convulsions. These symptoms can be managed in a treatment setting to decrease their severity.

Adverse Health Effects of Amytal

Central nervous system depressants like Amytal can increase a person’s risk of death significantly, especially when taken in conjunction with other medications, or alcohol, which compound the effects of the drugs and may result in asphyxiation from respiratory depression.

Other symptoms relating to central nervous system changes include agitation, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, and insomnia. A person abusing Amytal may also experience a slowing of the heart rate and dilation of blood vessels as well as a lowering of blood pressure to dangerous levels. Headache, nausea and vomiting, and other gastrointestinal issues have been reported as well as liver damage from chronic abuse of the drug.

Possible Side Effects From Abusing Amytal Include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Vasodilation
  • Liver Damage
  • Asphyxiation
  • Death

Signs of Amytal Dependence

Slurred speech, unsteady gait, and lethargy are common manifestations of Amytal dependency. A person abusing the drug will develop symptoms similar to that of alcohol abuse, and if taking the drug while also using alcohol, the effects will appear more severe and may be life-threatening.

Treatment For Amytal Abuse

Treatment of Amytal abuse, as with other barbiturates, involves a detoxification process in conjunction with medical supervision and medications to manage withdrawal symptoms. A slow tapering off the drug is recommended. This process may take up to two weeks. In addition to managing withdrawals associated with the Amytal abuse, a comprehensive treatment plan will include counselling to manage underlying issues relating to the addiction including mental disorders and chronic pain.

Help For Amytal Dependency Is Here

If you or a loved one is in need of help for Amytal dependency, help is here. can connect you with the resources and support you need to rid yourself of the cravings and dangers of Amytal addiction. Contact and speak with someone today about treatment options available in your area that meet your individual needs.


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