Phenobarbital–also known as phenobarbitone and sold under the brand name Luminal–is a prescription medication used to treat a number of conditions including seizure disorders, insomnia, tension and anxiety. Phenobarbital also can be used in detoxification process after alcohol and benzodiazepine abuse. A barbiturate medication, phenobarbital is a sedative that depresses the central nervous system.

When phenobarbital users suddenly stop using the drug, they may enter into withdrawal, a condition in which the body reacts as it attempts to function without the drug in its system. Phenobarbital withdrawal can be painful and dangerous. Users may experience symptoms including convulsions, dizziness, and nausea.

Phenobarbital Abuse, Addiction, and Withdrawal

Prolonged use of phenobarbital can be habit-forming, even at therapeutic doses, and result in a higher tolerance for the drug. Using the drug in excessive dosages than recommended or intended over an extended period can lead to a physical and psychological dependence. Symptoms of barbiturate dependence are said to be similar to that of chronic alcoholism, and if taken with alcohol, the results can be deadly.

Quitting Phenobarbital Cold Turkey Is Not Recommended

Phenobarbital users may want to end their dependence on the drug by going off it abruptly, but doing so after heavy or prolonged use is dangerous and not recommended. Suddenly stopping drug use is called going ”cold turkey,” a method that can induce unwanted, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Users who go off a drug in this manner also are vulnerable to relapse, or a return to addiction. Phenobarbital withdrawal can be severe and fatal. Health professionals advise that users get medical help during the withdrawal process. At a detox facility or drug rehab, clients can safely and comfortably complete the process in a controlled setting.

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Withdrawal Symptoms

Phenobarbital Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

How long phenobarbital symptoms last and how long phenobarbital withdrawal lasts will vary according to the person. Among the factors that determine the length and intensity of phenobarbital withdrawal include:

  • Age, health, and lifestyle
  • Dose taken
  • Drug tolerance
  • How long phenobarbital has been used
  • Whether other substances, such as alcohol, were used along with phenobarbital

Physical Symptoms Can Include:

  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Dizziness
  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, runny nose)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Physical weakness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Shaking
  • Trembling (in hands, fingers)
  • Vomiting

Psychological Phenobarbital Withdrawal Symptoms Can Include:

  • Anxiety
  • Delirium
  • Increased dreaming
  • Insomnia (or other disturbed sleeping patterns)
  • Memory problems
  • Nightmares
  • Visions

Are Your Withdrawal Symptoms Severe?

Major withdrawal symptoms of phenobarbital, which may include convulsions and delirium, should not be ignored. If you are experiencing any other serious conditions that are causing great discomfort and pain, call 911 immediately or visit an emergency room or urgent care center immediately for medical attention. These symptoms are red flags that yours is a more urgent situation, and you must seek help now.

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Phenobarbital Withdrawal Timeline

Phenobarbital Withdrawal Timeline
Withdrawal can take at least a week, though each person’s situation and experience will differ. Duration and intensity also vary according to the user. Phenobarbital is a long-acting barbiturate when taken orally, and it takes effect after one hour or longer, and it lasts 10 to 12 hours.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), minor barbiturate withdrawal symptoms may appear 8 to 12 hours after the last dose is taken. It writes: “These symptoms usually appear in the following order: anxiety, muscle twitching, tremor of hands and fingers, progressive weakness, dizziness, distortion in visual perception, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and orthostatic hypotension.”

Because it is a longer-acting barbiturate, phenobarbital symptoms can peak within four to seven days and last a week or two, or longer. Major barbiturate withdrawal symptoms, which include convulsions and delirium, can occur within 16 hours and last up to a week. Recovering users typically see a gradual decline of withdrawal symptoms over a two-week period.

Phenobarbital Detox and Treatment

Treating Phenobarbital Addiction
Phenobarbital detox is considered the safest way to manage withdrawal symptoms and remove the substance from the body’s system. The detox process can take place in an either an inpatient or outpatient setting, and it may last from one to three days or longer, depending on the severity of the person’s condition. Clients undergoing detox commonly receive intravenous therapy (IV), a method that gradually lowers the dosage of a drug to help the user ease off it.

During the process, licensed medical professionals administer medications to the client to help ease withdrawal symptoms while monitoring the person’s vital signs and overall health. Users experiencing withdrawal symptoms can initiate their detox at a medical center before their condition starts or worsens. The length of withdrawal from will vary according to the user.

What Happens After Phenobarbital Detox?

After ridding the body of phenobarbital, the next step is to put a plan in place that helps clients pursue their next step in the recovery process. After undergoing detox, it will now be important to address underlying issues that weren’t faced when the person was in active addiction. This includes possibly changing the environment and identifying triggers and other factors that could lead back to abusing phenobarbital. This process can take several months, and for some people, it may take several years.

A post-detox recovery program can offer clients guidance and a treatment care plan. These plans can address nutritional care and strategies that help improve over health and well-being. They also can include teaching clients coping skills and strategies to manage the issues that started them to use drugs.

Phenobarbital Withdrawal Frequently Asked Questions

Phenobarbital Withdrawal Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is phenobarbital?

    Phenobarbital is a barbiturate medication that works as a sedative-hypnotic by depressing the central nervous system. Doctors may prescribe it to treat seizure disorders, insomnia, tension, anxiety, and drug withdrawal, among other conditions. Phenobarbital also can be used in detoxification processes for alcohol and benzodiazepine use. It is also known as phenobarbitone and sold under the brand name Luminal.


  • Is phenobarbital a benzodiazepine?

    Phenobarbital is a barbiturate, which can have similar effects as a benzodiazepine, but it is chemically different. It has been found to be beneficial in treating people who are in alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal and are undergoing detoxification for those substances.


  • How long do withdrawal symptoms last?

    Withdrawal symptoms vary according to the person and other factors, such as:

    • Age, health, and lifestyle
    • Dose taken
    • Drug tolerance
    • How long phenobarbital has been used
    • Whether other substances, such as alcohol, were used along with phenobarbital

  • Should you quit phenobarbital cold turkey?

    No, quitting phenobarbital all at once or “cold turkey” is not recommended. Doing so can bring on severe withdrawal symptoms that can lead to death. Users who experience delirium and/or convulsions, which are considered severe ymptoms, will want to seek medical attention immediately. Drug Treatment Center Finder can help you find a treatment center that can start a medical detox for you and offer support, reassurance, and guidance. The sooner you make the call, the sooner you can start feeling better. Call us now at (855) 619-8070.


  • Is it safe to taper off phenobarbital?

    Tapering is a method used in medically supervised detox that gradually reduces the dosage of phenobarbital to safely wean the client off the medication as they experience withdrawal symptoms. Health professionals recommend that heavy phenobarbital users seek a physician’s care when tapering off the medication. The client’s physician usually determines the tapering schedule, but tapering too quickly comes with risks, among them uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and relapse.


  • Do do-it-yourself home remedies for withdrawal work?

    At-home treatments are typically not supervised by a medical professional in a licensed facility, which could put you at risk for dangerous withdrawals or relapse. If you are experiencing phenobarbital withdrawal and are going through the symptoms after stopping long-term use of the drug, you should seek treatment from a facility that is equipped to help end phenobarbital use.