Barbiturates belong to a class of prescription drugs known as central nervous system (CNS) depressants and are typically prescribed to treat individuals with insomnia or anxiety symptoms. When used as directed by a health provider, barbiturates can be beneficial for persons who experience these conditions.
However, the misuse of these medications can have lethal outcomes. Because barbiturates are highly addictive, they come with a significant risk of abuse and overdose. For this reason, knowing which barbiturates are prescribed in the U.S., how they are abused, and the side effects of abuse can assist in treating addiction before more adverse consequences occur.
You can use the following information on barbiturates to help you understand these drugs and how they work in the body in more detail.
What Are Barbiturates?
Barbiturates are CNS depressants, also referred to as sedatives or tranquilizers, used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders. These drugs have been mainly replaced in prescription use by benzodiazepines but are still used for surgeries and to treat seizure disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) claims that they can also be highly addictive and present a high risk of overdose.
Barbiturates act in the body by suppressing the CNS—essentially, they slow brain and body functioning. Slowing brain function affects parts of the body that control voluntary actions. With increased dosages, barbiturates affect a person’s automatic, unconscious processes, such as heart rate and respiratory rate. As such, barbiturate abuse, dependence, and addiction can be hazardous.
How Are Barbiturates Abused?
Many barbiturates are available in oral form, and therefore, the most common abuse is oral ingestion (swallowing the tablet). But for a more rapid onset of the drug’s effects, some may choose to inject the drug directly into their veins. In this way, barbiturate abuse looks very similar to heroin abuse.
Injecting barbiturates requires a relatively large needle gauge as the drugs are thick when converted to liquid form—using a larger needle results in significant abrasions to the injection sites, similar in appearance to cigarette burns. Of those who abuse barbiturates or develop an addiction to them, the majority obtain them through a prescription or from a person they know.
Side Effects of Barbiturate Abuse
Side effects of barbiturates are comparable to those of alcohol or benzodiazepines, which are also depressants, and may include the following:
- Impaired concentration
- Impaired judgment
- Decreased inhibitions
- Impaired coordination and vision
- Impaired speech
- Impaired memory
- Slowed reflexes
- Nausea and vomiting
Are There Risks Associated With Barbiturate Abuse?
Yes. Barbiturate abuse is risky because it decreases brain and body activity at an accelerated rate. Use of barbiturates presents a risk, and abuse of barbiturates can result in a multitude of long-term effects, including the following:
- Breathing troubles
- Chronic fatigue
- Sexual issues
- Sleep issues
- Fatal overdose
Among the most significant risks associated with barbiturates is the margin of overdose—increasing barbiturate dosage by only a tiny amount can lead to overdose, especially if done so in combination with the use of other depressants, such as alcohol.
When watching for signs of barbiturate abuse, it may be beneficial to know which barbiturates are currently available. Barbiturates are classified into four groups: ultra short-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting.
Ultra short-acting are typically used in anesthesia, injected intravenously, and produce anesthetic results in one minute or less. Short-acting to intermediate-acting achieve results in 15 to 40 minutes. Long-acting barbiturates take effect in about an hour and last around 12 hours.
Barbiturates are generic drugs marketed under different brand names. When sold for non-medical use, they also have other names. They are also available in combination products with pain relievers.
- Amytal Sodium
- Butisol Sodium
- Nembutal Sodium
Generic names and street names:
- Amobarbital sodium (blue heavens, blue devils, blue velvet, downers)
- Pentobarbital (abbots, Mexican yellow, yellow jackets)
- Phenobarbital (goofballs, purple hearts)
- Secobarbital (F-40s, pinks, pink ladies, red birds, red devils, reds)
- Thiopental sodium
General street names also include barbs, blockbusters, Christmas trees, downers, phennies, and sleepers.
- Brevital (Methohexital)
- Pentothal (Thiopental sodium)
- Surital (Thiamylal)
Short-acting to intermediate acting:
- Amytal (Amobarbital)
- Alurate (Aprobarbital)
- Butisol (Butobarbital)
- Nembutal (Phenobarbital)
- Seconal (Secobarbital)
- Luminal (Phenobarbital)
- Mebaral (Mephobarbital)
- Prominal (Methylophenobarbital)
Combination barbiturates list:
Combinations of Butalbital and Acetaminophen (a pain reliever) are available in the following brand names:
- Anolor 300
- Dolgic LQ
- Orbivan CF
- Phrenilin Forte
Treatments For Barbiturate Abuse
If you or someone you love needs help for barbiturate abuse and addiction, do not despair. Getting effective treatment is entirely possible when you find the proper support. Inpatient addiction treatment centers offer a quality, high level of care you probably won’t find anywhere else.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer comprehensive treatment plans for all addicted individuals, meaning that those we treat can get help with other co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety or depression. Entry into one of our programs allows individuals to get away from the triggers of their familiar environment.
Stepping away from the stressors and challenges of daily life is essential to each individual’s recovery. Your number one focus during your recovery should be the healing of your mind, body, and spirit. Many rehab centers combine several treatment methods that allow you to do just that. Some of the evidence-based methodologies we feature at our centers including the following:
- Art and music therapy
- Adventure therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Gender-specific treatment
- Individual/family counseling
- Support groups
- Aftercare planning
Every person with an addiction deserves a chance at a new life. Don’t let the abuse of barbiturates or other drugs continue to rob you of the life you deserve!