Phenobarbital is a generic prescription barbiturate drug, which is sold under the brand name Luminal. Luminal is an anticonvulsant and sedative drug that is most commonly prescribed to patients who have seizure disorders. Luminal affects the inhibiting neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, creating a calming effect. That calming effect can stop electrical activity that leads to seizures. Luminal can also cause patients to feel drowsy or sedated. Less frequently, Luminal is prescribed to treat insomnia and anxiety. In these situations, Luminal is only intended as a short-term treatment to manage acute symptoms. Along with drowsiness and sedation, other side effects of Luminal can include relaxation, euphoria, slurred speech, coordination and motor function impairment, and problems with concentration and memory.
Luminal is classified as a Schedule IV controlled substance in the United States. Because some people find the relaxation, sedation or euphoric effects to be pleasant, the drug is often abused. Luminal is also abused by people who want to come down from the effects of stimulant drugs like cocaine. The longer someone uses a drug like Luminal, the more likely addiction and dependence are to occur. The barbiturate drug class, as a whole, is considered to be a dangerous, addictive class of drugs which has a high potential for toxicity and overdose. The risks associated with barbiturates have led to a huge reduction in the number of prescriptions. They have been mostly replaced with safer drugs such as benzodiazepines.
There is absolutely no scenario in which it is safe to mix alcohol with Luminal -or any barbiturate. Barbiturates, on their own, have serious side effects. The negative effects and consequences are amplified when a barbiturate like Luminal is mixed with alcohol. Like barbiturates, alcohol affects GABA receptors in the brain and depresses the central nervous system. When someone mixes alcohol and Luminal, they may seem to be incredibly drunk -even after having only a small amount of alcohol. The effects of alcohol and Luminal are similar, which is why they can heighten one another when combined. When someone is intoxicated from a combination of alcohol and Luminal, they’re at higher risk of falling or being involved in a dangerous situation.
Additionally, barbiturates can and often do lead to overdose. The line between a therapeutic dose of a drug like Luminal and an overdose is thin. People can inadvertently overdose on barbiturates due to the potency of these drugs. The risk of a barbiturate overdose is so significant that these drugs are even sold on the black market to people who want to commit suicide. When Luminal is mixed with alcohol, the chances of an overdose are amplified even more. Both alcohol and Luminal depress the central nervous system, breathing, and the heart rates.
Extreme intoxication and overdose aren’t the only risks of mixing alcohol and Luminal. More long-term effects are likely as well. Polydrug addiction and dependence are likely to occur as well. Someone who regularly uses multiple substances recreationally is at a high risk for a polysubstance addiction problem -making treatment more complex. Both alcohol and barbiturates also have severe withdrawal symptoms that can be deadly. If someone is dependent upon both substances, their detox phase could be very difficult. Barbiturates, on their own, are a risky drug class. Those risks are greatly increased when a barbiturate like Luminal is combined with alcohol.
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