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The Effects of Mixing Barbiturates and Alcohol

If you take barbiturates, you may be wondering if you can safely consume alcohol. Ultimately, the effects of mixing barbiturates and alcohol can be dangerous and may increase the risk of overdose. This page will help you learn more about polysubstance use involving barbiturates and alcohol, and how to get help if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction.

Effects of Mixing Barbiturates and Alcohol

When a person uses two or more drugs, medications, or other psychoactive substances together or within a short period, it is referred to as polysubstance use. A person may use multiple substances, such as barbiturates and alcohol, for several reasons, including to enhance the effects of a substance or to escape certain life circumstances.1

Combining alcohol with other substances can cause several adverse effects. Concurrent alcohol and drug use is associated with additional comorbidities, including an increased likelihood of anxiety and mood disorders.1 According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, mixing barbiturates and alcohol can increase the risk of:2

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Seizures.
  • Changes in behavior.
  • Changes in mental health (e.g., thoughts of suicide).

Am I Addicted to Barbiturates and Alcohol?

In the past, barbiturates were commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. However, doctors are careful when prescribing them due to the high potential for misuse and addiction, and in recent years, barbiturate prescriptions have declined. Addiction, also known as a substance use disorder (SUD), is a chronic but treatable condition in which a person compulsively uses a substance despite the harm it causes. Addiction can develop from repeated substance use, but also from various environmental, genetic, and psychosocial factors. An addiction can only be diagnosed by a professional. However, knowing the signs and symptoms of addiction can help you make an informed decision about your health.3

The following criteria are outlined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, and are used to diagnose SUD:3

  • The substance is taken in larger quantities or over a longer period than intended.
  • There have been unsuccessful efforts to reduce or quit using the substance.
  • A significant amount of time is spent obtaining, using, or recovering from the substance.
  • Experiencing cravings or a strong desire to use the substance.
  • Substance use results in failure to fulfill major role obligations, such as responsibilities at home, school, or work.
  • There is recurrent use of the substance despite experiencing interpersonal or social problems caused or made worse by the substance.
  • Important social, work-related, and recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
  • The substance is used in physically hazardous situations, such as while driving.
  • Continuing to use the substance despite psychological and/or physical health problems that may have been caused or made worse by substance use.
  • Developing a tolerance, or needing more of the substance achieves the desired effect.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the substance is discontinued.

Effects of Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs

Treatment for Addiction to Barbiturates and Alcohol

If you are struggling to stop using barbiturates or alcohol, you should know that treatment is available. Treatment may begin with a period of detox, which is designed to help you through the withdrawal process as comfortably and safely as possible. During detox, you will receive around-the-clock care, monitoring, and support. This may include the use of medications for alcohol withdrawal to help manage or mitigate symptoms.4

Once you finish detox, transitioning to an inpatient or outpatient treatment program can help you address the underlying causes of addiction and promote sustained recovery. While in a treatment program, you may participate in group or individual therapy sessions. You also may attend 12-step program meetings for people who struggle with addiction to barbiturates and alcohol. These programs can provide additional support and allow you to meet other people who are struggling with the same addiction.4

Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

Inpatient alcohol treatment that includes detox is a common way to begin the rehab process for those struggling with alcohol addiction. Inpatient alcohol rehab also takes patients away from pressures, situations, and triggers that may make it harder to maintain recovery.4

Outpatient Alcohol Rehab

Some patients may begin with outpatient alcohol treatment or transition when they finish an inpatient rehab program. Outpatient rehab consists of going to a hospital or rehab center for therapy and other treatment while living at home and resuming normal daily activities. Outpatient treatment can help you readjust to daily life and support you in your life goals, including staying sober.

If you’re worried about the effects of mixing barbiturates and alcohol but can’t seem to stop, American Addiction Centers (AAC) can help. With facilities across the country, AAC offers various levels of evidence-based care to suit your needs. Contact us by  24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or verify your insurance now and reach out for more information later. Our compassionate admissions navigators are here to answer your questions, discuss treatment options, and help you begin the admissions process once you’re ready.

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