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What Ailments Are Pentobarbital (Nembutal) Prescribed to Treat?

Pentobarbital, also sold as Nembutal, is a barbiturate drug that has a number of medical uses. It is also a drug that is highly addictive that should be used with caution and only exactly as a doctor prescribes. Heavy use and abuse of the drug can lead to addiction.

Use of pentobarbital is never recommended without a prescription. If you, or someone you care about, are struggling with one of the medical ailments listed below, seek the medical care and treatment of a doctor.
Article SnapshotPentobarbital serum bottles and syringes

What is Pentobarbital Prescribed For?

  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Surgery
  • Physician-assisted suicide

Insomnia: According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), insomnia should first be treated with the implementation of a number of lifestyle changes. These can include:Unfortunately, it is difficult for many people to implement and stick to these changes depending on their work and family demands; thus, it becomes necessary to take more intense measures. Many attend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to address underlying issues of depression and anxiety that may be contributing to their ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, and some take medications like pentobarbital.

  • Avoid alcohol in the hours before bed. Though alcohol may help the individual fall asleep, it is only a light sleep and does not last through the night.
  • Make positive eating choices that promote healthy metabolism and increase the ability of the body to rest at bedtime.
  • Work out regularly to help the body to be more tired at bedtime, but do so in the earlier part of the day.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment (e.g., a dark, quiet, cool room).
  • Develop a “wind-down” ritual before bedtime.
  • Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day in order to help your body get into a routine.

Pentobarbital is not often the first drug of choice in the treatment of insomnia, due in part to the fact that it is often only effective for this purpose for a couple weeks. It is also highly addictive. When someone feels that they are dependent on the drug to sleep and cannot sleep without it, they may be inclined to take more than prescribed, especially over time as tolerance builds. This can quickly lead to a very dangerous and life-threatening addiction.

Avoid stimulants (e.g., coffee, smoking, or any other “upper” substance) and stimulating activities (e.g., working out or use of electronics) in the hours before bedtime.

Seizures: For seizures that are caused by something acute like low blood sugar or an infection, the cause is treated as needed and the seizures go away. But in some cases, the cause of seizures is unknown, or they are the result of a chronic disorder or ailment, and the seizures must be treated with medication. Though pentobarbital may be used for this purpose, there are a number of other medications that may be used as well. Used as an anticonvulsant, pentobarbital may still have a sedative effect on users and may not be appropriate in all cases.

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Surgery: There are a number of different medications that may be used prior to and during surgery with the goal of preventing infection, easing discomfort, and helping to facilitate a more efficient procedure and healing process. Nembutal may be used in combination with benzodiazepines or alone with the goal of calming the patient prior to surgery.

Physician-assisted suicide: As more and more states legalize compassionate care and allow patients living with a debilitating or terminal illness to choose the timing of their death through intentional overdose, doctors have very often been choosing barbiturates like pentobarbital for this purpose. Pentobarbital is the second most commonly used drug for physician-assisted suicide after secobarbital, and patients are usually given either 9 grams of the drug in capsule form or 10 grams of the drug in liquid form and instructed to take it all at once on an empty stomach. They are also instructed to keep it out of reach of children and others who might abuse it until the time of use as well as to dispose of it properly if they choose not to use it.

Because pentobarbital is highly addictive, it is a medication that is rarely prescribed by general practitioners. Sold on the street as yellow jackets, nembies, Mexican yellows, and abotts, Nembutal abuse and addiction can be a difficult habit to break. Whether taken with a doctor’s prescription or recreationally, when addiction develops – that is, when both a psychological dependence defined by cravings and a physical dependence defined by tolerance are in evidence – a significant withdrawal syndrome can develop with abrupt cessation of use. This syndrome can be as deadly as its abuse, and it is recommended that those who struggle with addiction to barbiturates like pentobarbital seek professional treatment that includes both medical detox and addiction treatment.
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