Drug and Alcohol

Methohexital: The Side Effects of Barbiturate Abuse & Addiction

What is Methohexital, and is it Dangerous?

Methohexital is a barbiturate used in anesthesia, but it's also a highly dangerous drug to abuse. Learn more about methohexital in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

October 11, 2023

Prescription drugs have long been a leading source of addiction in the United States. This is because many consumers are unaware of the potential side effects of prescription drugs … or abuse them because of those side effects.

Barbiturates like methohexital are a class of sedative drugs widely used to treat pain, anxiety, and other disorders. They were very common during the 1960s and 1970s, but have largely been replaced by benzodiazepines. One of the reasons barbiturates were phased out is because barbiturates are highly addictive drugs that are somewhat easy to overdose on.

This makes methohexital a very dangerous drug to abuse.

What Is Methohexital?

Methohexital is a barbiturate used to induce sleep before surgery or additional medical operations. Barbiturates are a class of sedative-hypnotic medicines that can be used to treat neonatal withdrawal, preoperative anxiety, seizures, insomnia, and the formation of a comatose for high intracranial pressure (ICP) and anesthesia.

Barbiturates, like most narcotics with similar properties, are illegally used and abused. They are commonly abused to provide euphoria, promote sleep, relieve anxiety, lower inhibitions, or alleviate some undesirable effects of illegal narcotics.

In addition to methohexital, several barbiturates include:

  • Butalbital

  • Amobarbital

  • Phenobarbital

  • Secobarbital

What Is Methohexital Used For?

Methohexital is a versatile drug applied in procedural sedation for children, electroconvulsive therapy, and as an anesthesia induction agent. It is important to note that, like other sedatives, using Methohexital requires an interprofessional team to supervise and manage its administration to ensure its safety.

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What Are the Risks of Methohexital Use?

After general anesthesia, you should limit driving or using equipment to 8 to 12 hours. If you have an allergy to methohexital, it is essential that you do not receive treatment with this medication, or if you suffer from:

  • An allergy to several other barbiturates

  • Porphyria (a hereditary enzyme condition that causes nervous system or skin effects)

  • Inform your physician if you have suffered from:

  • Cardiovascular problems

  • Kidney or liver conditions

  • Anemia

  • Increased or reduced blood pressure

  • Seizures or similar conditions

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

  • Endocrine disease

  • Heart conditions,

  • Cardiac arrest

If you are pregnant, informing your doctor before anesthesia is essential. This is because anesthesia can impact the brain development of a young child or unborn baby if it is used on the mother. This could potentially lead to learning or behavior difficulties later on in life. Be cautious during long surgeries or repeated procedures, as these carry the highest risks.

In specific situations, such as life-threatening conditions, medical emergencies, or surgeries to correct congenital disabilities, anesthesia may be necessary. It is advisable to consult your doctor to receive information about any medications that may be administered during a surgery or procedure. If you are using Methohexital and are breastfeeding, it is recommended to consult with a doctor to ensure safety.

How Do People Take Methohexital?

Methohexital is typically administered intravenously (IV) by a medical professional in a hospital or clinical setting. It may also be given in the form of an intramuscular injection, but this is less common.

When abused, people may crush and snort the drug or mix it with water and inject it. This method of use can lead to a quicker onset of effects, increasing the risk of overdose and other adverse effects.

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What Are the Dangers of Methohexital Use?

Methohexital, also known as Brevital or Metomidate, is a short-acting barbiturate drug used for anesthesia induction and maintenance in medical procedures. While it can be effective in sedating patients quickly, there are several dangers associated with its use.

Respiratory Depression

One of the most significant dangers of methohexital use is respiratory depression. Barbiturates like methohexital can slow down the central nervous system, including the respiratory system. This can lead to shallow or slowed breathing, which can be dangerous for patients who already have compromised respiratory function. It is essential for medical professionals administering this drug to closely monitor a patient's breathing and be prepared to intervene if necessary.

Hypotension

Another potential danger of methohexital use is hypotension or low blood pressure. This can occur because the drug causes vasodilation, meaning it relaxes and widens blood vessels, leading to a decrease in blood pressure. Patients who already have low blood pressure or are prone to hypotension may experience adverse effects from this drop in blood pressure, including dizziness, lightheadedness, and even fainting. It is crucial for medical professionals to monitor a patient's blood pressure while under the effects of methohexital.

Allergic Reactions

Like any medication, there is always a risk of an allergic reaction when using methohexital. Symptoms can range from mild skin irritation to severe anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. Patients should inform their medical team of any known allergies before receiving this drug, and healthcare professionals should be prepared to intervene in case of an allergic reaction.

Increased Risk of Cognitive Impairment

Long-term use or high doses of methohexital have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive impairment. This can manifest as confusion, memory loss, or difficulty with critical thinking and decision-making. These effects can be especially concerning for patients who require regular use of methohexital for anesthesia during medical procedures.

Dependency and Withdrawal

Methohexital is a habit-forming drug, meaning it can lead to physical and psychological dependence with prolonged use. This dependency can result in withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued, including anxiety, tremors, and even seizures. It is crucial for patients to follow their doctor's instructions carefully and not abruptly stop using methohexital without proper medical supervision.

Side Effects of Methohexital Use

If you experience hives, breathing problems, or inflammation of your lips, face, tongue, or neck, seek emergency medical attention. Inform your medical providers straight away in case you have:

Typical methohexital side effects include:

  • Itching

  • Shivering or chills

  • Dizziness

  • Hiccups or coughing

  • Nausea

  • Stomachache

  • Vomiting

  • Drowsiness

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Which Drugs Interact with Methohexital?

Inform your physician about all of your other medications, particularly:

  • Steroid medications: Prednisolone, dexamethasone, prednisone, and others

  • Blood thinning tablets: Jantoven, coumadin, or warfarin

  • Phenytoin or any other seizure medicines

This is not an exhaustive list. Other pharmaceuticals, including both over-the-counter and prescription vitamins and herbal supplements, may interact with Methohexital. This list does not include all probable medication interactions.

What Are the Symptoms of Barbiturate Abuse?

Abuse of barbiturates, including methohexital, can have serious consequences on a person's health and well-being. Here are some common symptoms to watch out for if you suspect someone may be misusing this drug.

Physical Symptoms

Barbiturate abuse can lead to various physical symptoms, including dizziness, slurred speech, and impaired coordination. In severe cases, it can also cause respiratory depression, hypotension, and slowed heart rate. These effects can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

Behavioral Changes

When someone is abusing barbiturates like methohexital, their behavior may change significantly. They may appear more sluggish or sedated than usual, have mood swings, or seem confused and disoriented. They may also engage in risky behaviors or make poor decisions while under the influence of the drug.

Withdrawal Symptoms

As mentioned earlier, dependency on methohexital can lead to withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop using the drug. These symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe and life-threatening conditions such as seizures. It is crucial for anyone struggling with barbiturate abuse to seek professional help when discontinuing use.

Neglecting Responsibilities

People who are abusing barbiturates may also neglect their responsibilities at work, school, or home. They may miss important appointments, neglect personal hygiene, and have difficulty maintaining relationships due to their drug use.

Changes in Sleeping Patterns

Barbiturate abuse can disrupt a person's normal sleeping patterns, causing them to sleep excessively or experience insomnia. This can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty functioning in daily life.

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Understanding Methohexical Addiction

Barbiturates like methohexital are highly addictive and can lead to severe dependency and addiction. When used for an extended period, they can cause changes in the brain's chemistry, leading to physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Addiction to methohexital can have devastating effects on a person's life, including strained relationships, financial difficulties, and an overall decline in health and well-being. It is crucial to seek professional help when struggling with barbiturate addiction to overcome dependency and avoid potential relapse.

Seeking Help for Barbiturate Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with barbiturate addiction, it is essential to seek professional help as soon as possible. Treatment options may include detoxification, therapy, and support groups to help individuals overcome their addiction and achieve long-term recovery. It is also crucial for medical professionals to be aware of the signs and symptoms of barbiturate abuse in patients and intervene early on to prevent further harm.

Education and Prevention

Education about the dangers of methohexital and other barbiturates is essential in preventing misuse and abuse of these drugs. Patients should be informed of the potential risks and side effects before receiving methohexital, and healthcare professionals should closely monitor their patients during its use. Education can also help individuals understand the signs of addiction and seek help early on before it escalates into a more significant problem.

The Main Causes for Methohexital Addiction

As with all addictions, there seems to be no particular root factor that explains why one individual becomes hooked to barbiturates while another does not. Rather, several factors might contribute to an individual acquiring a barbiturate addiction.

Psychological

Many individuals who misuse drugs may be doing so to alleviate the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental ailment such as anxiety or bipolar disorder. Given that barbiturate can mitigate feelings of mania and anxiety, individuals who abuse them may have an untreated underlying mental illness.

Biological

There is a theory that suggests some individuals may have a natural deficiency of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of pleasure. This deficiency could lead some people to engage in substance abuse as a form of self-medication to alleviate the deficiency.

Genetic

Individuals who have a close relative who is addicted to barbiturates or other drugs of abuse are more likely to become addicted than the general population. There is a connection between family members and addiction, even if having a close relative with an addiction does not guarantee that you will also become addicted.

Environmental

Although the abuse of barbiturates decreased after the 1960s, there has been a recent rise in their popularity. This could be attributed to the increased usage of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines, as many individuals use barbiturates to mitigate the effects of these drugs. Additionally, those who abuse barbiturates may nowadays be unaware of the highly hazardous consequences of doing so.

The Risks of Intoxication and Overdose with Methohexital

It is important to note that barbiturates can be highly addictive with prolonged use, leading to tolerance and physical dependence. Those with a higher tolerance may seek out higher dosages to achieve the desired effects, which can result in addiction. If a frequent user suddenly stops taking barbiturates, they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms within 8 to 15 hours.

The misuse of barbiturates has often been linked with polydrug use, particularly among those who abuse alcohol and heroin as their primary drugs. Combining barbiturates with alcohol, opioids like heroin, or benzodiazepines can significantly increase the risk of overdose. Simultaneously using these substances produces an additive effect, making them even more hazardous when consumed together.

Individuals with severe respiratory or kidney diseases should avoid barbiturates, which can be extremely dangerous. Pregnant women should also steer clear of these drugs as they can risk the fetus's health. If taken during the third trimester, barbiturates can lead to the birth of addicted infants who may experience an extended withdrawal syndrome.

The signs of methohexital intoxication include:

  • Reduced urine output

  • Lack of coordination

  • Nausea

  • Reduced heart rate

  • Distorted speech

  • Brain fog

  • Reduced consciousness

  • Issues with coordination

  • Body and muscle weakness

  • Vertigo

What Does a Methohexital Overdose Look Like?

An overdose of methohexital can be life-threatening and may require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of an overdose may include extreme drowsiness, slowed breathing and heart rate, confusion, and loss of consciousness. If you suspect someone has overdosed on methohexital, call emergency services immediately and administer first aid until help arrives. It is crucial to prevent methohexital abuse and misuse to avoid the risk of overdose and its potential consequences.

The symptoms of methohexital overdose include:

  • Coma

  • Clammy skin

  • Reduced breathing

  • Respiratory damage

  • Weak and fast pulse

  • Pinpoint pupils

Many of these signs are fairly obvious, so knowing them can help someone realize when they need medical attention.

Methohexital Withdrawal

As mentioned earlier, withdrawing from methohexital can be a challenging and potentially dangerous process. The severity of withdrawal symptoms may vary depending on the duration and dosage of methohexital use. Symptoms may include anxiety, tremors, muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, and even seizures. Seeking professional help during this time is crucial for managing these symptoms and preventing potential complications.

Methohexital withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Delusions

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Seizures

  • Body or muscle shakiness

  • Agitation and confusion

  • Extremely high central body temperature

  • Respiratory suppression

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Coma

  • Death

Struggling With Methohexital Abuse? The Edge Treatment Center Will Help You

Barbiturates like methohexital aren’t easy to obtain, and for good reason – they’re highly addictive and deadly when abused. Plus, when they’re obtained online via the dark web and other methods, there’s no safety guarantee. Those pills might be methohexital, or they could be something even more dangerous.

Like fentanyl.

Getting help for barbiturate abuse is critical; this form of addiction can be complex to treat. Detoxing from methohexital can be very risky as well due to severe side effects.

The Edge Treatment Center has a deep understanding of drug addiction. Our evidence-based, effective addiction programs help many people build healthy new lives from themselves free from drugs like methohexital. Prescription drug abuse can easily be fatal; if you or a loved one are struggling with prescription drug addiction, reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today.

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