Barbiturates: What You Need to Know

Learn more about the functions and dangers of barbiturates and how to get the treatment you need here.

What are Barbiturates?

Barbiturates are a class of sedative-hypnotic drugs that act as central nervous system depressants. They were once widely prescribed for a variety of medical conditions. However, their use has declined in recent years due to their high risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of barbiturates, including their types, medical and recreational uses, impact on wellness, addictive potential, and impact on the brain.


How Do They Work?

Barbiturates work by enhancing the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This inhibits the activity of the central nervous system, resulting in sedation and relaxation. They can produce a range of effects depending on the dose, including mild sedation, deep sleep, anesthesia, and even coma.1

These substances have a high potential for abuse and dependence. Due to their risks and the availability of safer alternatives, they are now rarely prescribed for medical use. Barbiturates are available to use both orally and in injectable forms.

Are They Addictive?

Barbiturates are highly effective at reducing anxiety and inducing sleep. Because of their effects, they can be easily abused. As individuals develop tolerance to the drug, they require higher and higher doses to achieve the desired effects. This can lead to dependence and addiction.

Barbiturate addiction can have serious consequences, including respiratory depression, coma, and death in cases of overdose. Withdrawal from barbiturates can also be dangerous, and it is important to seek professional medical help if attempting to quit the drug.

Types of Barbiturates

Barbiturates are classified into various types based on their duration of action. These types include ultra-short acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting. The duration of action has a significant impact on their addiction potential. Some can last for up to 48 hours, while others are incredibly short-acting, with effects only lasting for a few minutes.2

Regardless of the duration of action, these drugs are all highly addictive. Some commonly used barbiturates are:

  • Secobarbital 
  • Pentobarbital 
  • Amobarbital
  • Tuinal
  • Phenobarbital

Street Names

Each type of barbiturate affects the brain differently. Street names for them are often derived from the desired effects of the drug or the pill’s color and markings, which can vary widely. It is important to be aware of the street names for these substances so as to avoid involuntary consumption or overdose.

Some common street names for these substances include:

  • Barbs
  • Downers
  • Goofballs
  • Rainbows
  • Blue heavens
  • Blue devils
  • Reds
  • Yellow jackets
  • Christmas trees
  • F-40s

Medical Uses of Barbiturates

While barbiturates are not as commonly prescribed as they used to be, they still have a wide range of uses. Some common uses for these substances include:3
  • As anesthetics during surgical procedures
  • To treat and prevent seizures
  • To treat severe insomnia and other sleep disorders
  • To induce coma in patients with severe brain injuries or other conditions
  • As sedatives to reduce anxiety and agitation in patients with mental health disorders
  • To reduce intracranial pressure in patients with traumatic brain injuries or cerebral edema
  • To manage symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
  • To manage symptoms of migraines and other headaches
  • As muscle relaxants to treat muscle spasms and tension

It is important to note that barbiturates have a high potential for abuse and dependence, and their use must be closely monitored by a healthcare professional.

Recreational Uses

Recreational drug use refers to the use of medicine for non-medical or non-therapeutic purposes. The purpose is to achieve pleasurable effects or alter one’s mood, consciousness, or perception.

These substances are recreationally used for:

  • Calming and euphoric effects
  • Stress, insomnia, or mental health issues
  • Enhance the effects of other drugs
  • Reduce anxiety, induce sleep and enhance relaxation
  • Induce intoxication effects similar to alcohol

Impact of Barbiturate Use on Wellness

While barbiturate use can have beneficial effects in certain medical situations, their use can also lead to dependence, addiction, and serious health consequences.4

Short-Term Effects

Barbiturates can produce a range of short-term effects on physical and mental health, including:
  • Drowsiness and sedation
  • Reduced anxiety and tension
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Reduced muscle control and coordination
  • Impaired judgment and cognitive function
  • Mood swings and emotional instability
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Nausea and vomiting

Long-Term Effects

Long-term use of barbiturates can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems, including:
  • Chronic fatigue and weakness
  • Memory problems and cognitive impairment
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Respiratory problems
  • Skin rashes and other dermatological issues
  • Increased risk of falls and accidents

Impact of Barbiturate Use on Personal and Professional Life

Barbiturate abuse can have a range of negative impacts on personal and professional life, including:
  • Strained relationships with family and friends
  • Loss of employment or difficulty maintaining employment due to impaired cognitive and physical function
  • Financial problems due to the cost of drugs and medical treatment
  • Legal problems related to drug possession, distribution, or other criminal activity
  • Loss of social status and self-esteem
  • Risk of overdose and death

Risks and Dangers of Barbiturate Overdose

Barbiturate overdose can be deadly and is a serious risk for people who abuse these drugs. Symptoms of barbiturate overdose may include:5

  • Extreme drowsiness and sedation
  • Shallow or slow breathing
  • Weakness and confusion
  • Reduced heart rate and blood pressure
  • Decreased functioning 
  • Blue lips and nails
  • Coma and death
If you suspect someone has overdosed, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

Barbiturate Addiction Treatment at Essence Healthcare

Essence Healthcare offers a team of trained professionals who can provide support and guidance to individuals struggling with barbiturate addiction. Our approach is to provide personalized care to each client, tailoring our treatment plans to their unique needs and circumstances.

What We Offer

We offer a range of services that can help individuals overcome their addiction to barbiturates. These include:
  • Detoxification: Tracked medical detoxification to help individuals safely and comfortably withdraw from barbiturates
  • Counseling: Individual and group counseling to help clients address the underlying causes of their addiction and develop strategies for relapse prevention
  • Inpatient treatment: 24-hour residential care, including detoxification, counseling, and relapse prevention. Ideal for those who require a high level of support
  • Outpatient treatment: Flexible treatment options that allow clients to receive care while maintaining their daily routines
  • Behavioral therapies: Evidence-based behavioral therapies that can help clients learn new coping skills and behaviors to replace drug use
  • Support groups: Access to support groups where individuals can connect with others who have experienced similar struggles and receive peer support

Our Mission

At Essence Healthcare, we are committed to helping individuals overcome their addiction and achieve lasting recovery. Our goal is to provide a safe, supportive, and compassionate environment where individuals can heal and grow.

Contact Essence Healthcare Today

If you or a loved one is struggling with barbiturate addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Contact us today to learn more about our services and start your journey toward recovery.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.