[Attempted suicide with barbiturates purchased online].Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2016; 160:D491.NT
Barbiturate intoxication is potentially lethal. With the availability of the newer anticonvulsants the use of barbiturates in treating epilepsy has decreased significantly, with a concurrent decrease in the incidence of overdose with these medications. There have, however, been recent alarm signals from governmental sources concerning the increase in the Internet purchase of illegal medications, including barbiturates, for use in attempted suicide.
Here we describe two patient cases involving barbiturate intoxication with amobarbital and thiopental, respectively. They had both obtained the barbiturates via the Internet. Both patients were comatose and showed signs of respiratory depression; one of them was also haemodynamically unstable. Both patients recovered fully following intensive supportive therapy.
In patients with coma, respiratory depression, absence of brainstem reflexes and shock with no evident cause one should be aware of the possibility of barbiturate intoxication, even when there is no indication that these have been prescribed or that the patient has direct or indirect access to barbiturates. Prompt, optimal supportive therapy will give a good chance of full somatic recovery.