25 Nov Why Barbiturates and Other Sedatives Can’t Cure Anxiety
Barbiturates were introduced in 1903 and classified within a group of drugs known as sedative‐hypnotics. They act as a central nervous system depressant by slowing the activity of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, a neurotransmitter that nerves use as a communication channel. Barbiturates slow nerve activity, producing a calming effect. Their effects are similar to those of alcohol or benzodiazepines (“benzos”) – they decrease heart rate and breathing while creating feelings of feelings of drowsiness and relaxation. Common barbiturates are phenobarbital, amobarbital, pentobarbital and tuinal. They’re sometimes referred to as “downers,” “reds” or “yellow jackets.”
Barbiturates: A History of Overdose and Withdrawal
Barbiturates were commonly prescribed for anxiety, insomnia and seizure disorders in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but they’ve since declined in use. They pose an extremely high risk because of their touchy and hard-to-gauge dosage – coma and fatal overdose can result from taking even slightly too much. They’re also extremely difficult to withdraw from; barbiturate withdrawal symptoms include seizures, dizziness and tremors on the mild end and hyperthermia and circulatory failure on the more severe end. They can even be fatal.
In 1975, doctors estimated that approximately 27,000 people had died as a result of barbiturate overdose during the peak of its clinical use in the early ‘70s. The concern over the high number of deaths resulted in a campaign by doctors to warn people about the dangers of barbiturates. As a result, medical and mental health professionals now prescribe benzos, which are viewed as a safer alternative, instead.
Benzos: An Unsafe Alternative
What the medical community failed to realize, however, is that benzos are also highly addictive, insidious and dangerous to withdraw from, as the resulting hidden-but-pervasive benzo epidemic now confirms. Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax change the structure and functioning of the brain, create physiological dependency and result in rebound anxiety and panic when users try to quit – hardly a sustainable remedy.
Widespread addiction and mental health epidemics show us time and time again that substances are not a viable cure for what truly ails us inside. Our minds, bodies, hearts, souls and spirits can only be healed through a holistic, integrative addiction treatment approach that addresses the underlying reason for our addictive behaviors. And once we’re healed from within, our need to self-supplicate with things that harm us simply falls away, leaving us free to live happily and fulfil our souls’ true purpose.
For more on self-medicating with prescription drugs, see our article: Self-Medicating Anxiety With Opioids.
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