Brevital (generic name methohexital sodium) is a medication that should be used only in a hospital or ambulatory care setting. The potent drug requires strict supervision when used, and only medical professionals are authorized to use it. Patients’ respiratory health must be monitored closely after they have taken it.
The medication has also been the center of a controversy in Indiana over whether it can be used as an ingredient in a lethal injection cocktail. The state’s Supreme Court cleared its use for that purpose in 2018, after a years-long debate.
However, Par Pharmaceutical, which makes Brevital, has made it known, at least officially since 2014, that using the drug for lethal injection is inconsistent with the drug’s purpose. In a news release issued that year, the company announced it would try to set distribution controls on the drug.
Despite some strict controls, recreational Brevital use does happen. Those who abuse it may use other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol, opioid medications, or even benzos to intensify a high. This is a sure path to an overdose.
Some users may use the medication to make themselves “come down” from a cocaine or methamphetamine high. This is not advised. Self-medicating, the practice of taking a substance to achieve a specific task that it is not designed for is also not recommended.
Misusing this medication can also lead to an overdose or permanent injury.
Brevital is a rapid, ultra short-acting barbiturate anesthetic that can be given to patients during preparation for surgery. The sedative makes them fall asleep faster. The term “ultrashort” means sedation happens quickly once patients have received an injection. Brevital has been prescribed to induce sleep in people who struggle with insomnia. The substance is a white freeze-dried mixture that becomes soluble when placed in water.
Users of Brevital fall asleep because of Brevital’s effects. The drug slows down activity in the central nervous system and brain, making it easier to relax. Medications in this class operate similarly to benzodiazepines (benzos). Benzos are also prescribed in treatment for anxiety, insomnia, and other disorders. However, the therapeutic window differs for the two drug classes.
Because that window is much shorter for barbiturates, the difference between a therapeutic dose and a fatal one is slim. It can be difficult to determine what is safe to take and what isn’t. This is why barbiturates have fallen out of widespread use. Benzodiazepines have been deemed safer to use though users must be careful with these drugs as well.
Medical professionals administer Brevital intravenously. They either inject it into a muscle or a vein, but it can also be administered as a rectal injection. Drugs.com publishes that the medication can travel up to the brain within 30 seconds after injection. A person can drift off to sleep anywhere from two to 10 minutes if they receive an injection into the muscle. It takes about five to 15 minutes if the injection enters the body through the rectum.
As mentioned earlier, patients who receive this medication should be monitored closely. Such monitoring should take place in a hospital. In addition, their breathing, blood pressure, and heart function should also be tracked. How much Brevital one receives depends on the medical condition of the person.
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Chronic Brevital abuse can lead to addiction. If you or someone you know is taking Brevital, you may try to end your dependence on your own. You should never quit a drug “cold turkey” as it can wreak havoc on your body and put you at risk of relapse and an overdose. If you recently stopped, you may be in withdrawal.
Brevital withdrawal can bring on symptoms that are hard on the body and challenging to manage without medical help. Withdrawal symptoms from this drug include:
Brevital withdrawal symptoms usually happen in two stages. This is common with barbiturate drugs. Earlier symptoms are considered minor; symptoms that follow afterward are considered major.\
You may experience minor barbiturate withdrawal symptoms about eight to 12 hours after your last dose. These symptoms may include:
If at least 16 hours have passed, you may have noticed that major barbiturate withdrawal symptoms have started since the last dose taken. Some symptoms can last for about five days:
If you are experiencing either of these, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Barbiturate withdrawal symptoms, particularly those of a mental and emotional nature, are taxing and may continue for several months or years. A medical professional can help you manage those as needed.
Quitting any addictive substance cold turkey can be hard. Many who approach stopping drug use in this manner experience a great deal of pain and discomfort. Stopping use suddenly is risky as it can deadly. Brevital can bring on severe symptoms, so you are discouraged from trying to withdraw on your own without medical help.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there are more than 14,500 facilities in the U.S. that can help people who struggle with substance use disorders. Find a medically assisted detox program at an accredited facility that can give you emotional support and ensure you remain safe as you withdraw from Brevital.
Having medical professionals on hand who are knowledgeable and compassionate will give you the peace of mind you need as you taper off this addictive substance. You can also be assured that they will know the best approach to treating difficult symptoms and any unpredictable situations that may arise.
After you have enrolled in a recovery program that starts with medical detox, you can now move on to the best placement that will help you stay away from Brevital and other addictive drugs, and get you on the road to recovery.
A team of doctors and health care staffers will, along with your input, help you find the proper setting in which you can focus on your addiction and receive any therapies and medications you need.
Depending on your situation, residential treatment may be recommended for you. This setting requires a longer stay at the facility, which, at minimum, runs at least 30 days. You will live in a structured, monitored environment that gives you the time you need to focus on your needs, including the reasons behind your addiction. Medical providers will also administer medications you need.
You will also participate in therapies that are designed to get you on track and give you a relapse prevention plan and other tools and strategies you’ll need in your new life of sobriety.
For the best chance at recovery, research shows that 90 days, or three months, is the length of time recommended for treatment completion.
If you’re in the early stages of your addiction, or if your case is mild, you may be recommended for outpatient treatment. This treatment allows for more flexibility and costs less since it does not require an on-site stay at the facility. You also receive treatment on a schedule that works for you. You will still participate in therapies you need to focus on leaving addiction behind.
Once you have completed treatment, you can stay active in an alumni group that keeps graduates motivated to live their best lives if the facility offers one. You also can participate in aftercare groups that support people in recovery, such as a 12-step program. Staying connected to like-minded people who share your goals and understand your story can help you embrace your new life.
Fischer, Jordan. “IN Supreme Court Approves Use of Execution Drug.”WRTV, 13 Feb. 2018. Retrieved from https://www.theindychannel.com/news/local-news/crime/indiana-supreme-court-rules-state-may-use-new-drug-in-lethal-injection-cocktail
DEA / Drug Scheduling. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/druginfo/ds.shtml
“Brevital Sodium: Indications, Side Effects, Warnings.”Drugs.com. Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/cdi/brevital-sodium.html
FDA. (n.d.). “Brevital.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/009218s118lbl.pdf
“News.”Par Sterile Products. Retrieved from http://www.parsterileproducts.com/news/releases/2014/brevital-sodium-statement.php.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment