What Drugs are Barbiturates?
It’s important to know what drugs are barbiturates in order to manage the potential symptoms and side effects.
What are Barbiturates?
Barbiturates or “barbs” are powerful depressant drugs used to produce a wide range of effects on the central nervous system. Depending on the drug and the dose taken, one can experience anything from a mild sedative effect to a coma.
Barbiturate drugs are also anaesthetics, hypnotics, anticonvulsants (antiseizure), and sedatives. Barbiturates can be short, intermediate, or long-acting. Some with an extremely short half-life are classified as ultrashort, meaning the effects of the drug wear off very quickly. 1
How Do Barbiturates Impact People?
Barbiturates work on the body and mind by slowing down the central nervous system. When barbiturate drugs are present in the body, the speed with which signals pass from the body to the brain and vice versa is significantly slowed. Barbiturates’ effects on the brain are achieved by increasing the activity of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), the chemical in the brain responsible for producing sedation. This can lead to sleepiness and a hypnotic state.
Barbiturate drugs are highly addictive. Even when used only as prescribed, the risk of developing a physical addiction is high. It’s not uncommon for those who use barbiturates as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to develop a physical dependency on the effects of substances that is difficult to overcome without seeking treatment help. Withdrawing from barbiturates without support and guidance from skilled treatment providers at a treatment program like Essence Healthcare can lead to significant struggles during the withdrawal process.
What are Barbiturates Used For?
Barbiturate drugs aren’t new. Doctors began using various barbiturate medications in the early 1900s for medical purposes. Today, doctors and medical community members prescribe common barbiturates to help alleviate symptoms related to several chronic conditions.
These conditions include anxiety and insomnia. Additionally, barbiturates are prescribed for seizures and epilepsy. Specific barbiturate drugs also help calm anxious patients in a presurgical setting. Other types of barbiturates are used for euthanasia purposes. 2
Examples of Barbiturates
Today, barbiturate drugs are used in limited ways due to newer, safer drugs like benzodiazepines entering the market. Unfortunately, the risks of many common barbiturates outweigh their benefits. Although medical and mental health providers typically defer to other medications as the first line of treatment, a few common barbiturates are still prescribed with careful patient monitoring.
Examples include the following barbiturates: 3
Amytal or Amobarbital
Amytal or amobarbital is a prescription barbiturate used to treat sleeping disorders. It’s also used to help induce a state of calm before a medical procedure. Amytal is an infectible medication given by a doctor in a medical setting. Another prescription barbiturate used to treat sleeping disorders is Butisol or butobarbital. Like Amytal, Butisol is also used before surgical procedures to induce sleep in a medical environment.
Phenobarbital or Nembutal
Phenobarbital or Nembutal is a barbiturate medication indicated for sleeping disorders and presurgical sedation and emergency use to address seizure symptoms. Nembutal is administered through an IV or injected into the muscle. Therefore, it’s a common barbiturate for home use.
Seconal or Secobarbital
Seconal or secobarbital is a prescription barbiturate used to treat sleeping problems. It’s generally prescribed as a short-term treatment intended for no more than seven days of use.
Belladonna and Phenobarbital
Belladonna and phenobarbital are a combination of drugs prescribed to treat stomach cramping and spasms. Belladonna alkaloids help to reduce cramping associated with spasms. Phenobarbital helps reduce anxiety and stress, worsening stomach cramping and ulcers resulting from ongoing stomach issues. Because this combination drug contains phenobarbital, a barbiturate, it’s equally as addictive as other drugs which are solely barbiturate based.
Side Effects of Barbiturates
All types of barbiturates are powerful sedative drugs. The most common physical effects of barbiturates are drowsiness and dizziness.
When using barbiturates, it’s vital to remember that even barbiturates’ short-term effects are potent and can lead to intense sedation, making certain day-to-day activities dangerous. In addition to dizziness and sedation, some people may experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, and stomach pains.
Signs of Barbiturate Drug Overdose
While specific barbiturate uses are beneficial in helping manage or reduce symptoms of certain conditions, all barbiturate drugs are considered highly addictive. Even when taken as prescribed, the potential for barbiturate use to develop into barbiturate abuse is high. Currently, all types of barbiturates are available by prescription only.
Why is it Important to Recognize Overdose Indicators?
Unlike opioid drugs, there is no reversal drug to treat barbiturate overdose. Therefore, it’s vital to understand and recognize the signs of barbiturate overdose. If you or a loved one has taken too many barbiturate pills or barbiturates without a prescription and you’re concerned about overdose, it’s crucial to call 911 immediately.
The most common signs of barbiturate overdose include difficulty speaking (slurred or slowed speech), extreme drowsiness, disorientation, slow and shallow breathing, very slow heart rate, impaired judgement and coordination, reduced body temperature, bluish skin, and loss of consciousness. 4
Get Help for Barbiturate Addiction at Essence Healthcare
If you or a loved one struggles with the long-term effects of barbiturate use, physical dependence withdrawal and the process of achieving sobriety can be complex and challenging.
Like alcohol and opioid drugs, barbiturates can lead to powerful and dangerous withdrawal symptoms that often require medical supervision and intervention. It’s essential to recognize and understand the signs of barbiturate addiction to ensure you or a loved one have access to detox and therapy programs like Essence Healthcare.
Symptoms of Barbiturate Withdrawal and Where to Pursue Treatment
Common symptoms of barbiturate withdrawal include anxiety, sweating, sleeping troubles, anxiety, restlessness, and seizures. Depending on the severity of your addiction, these withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and, without medical intervention, fatal.
Detoxing from barbiturate drugs should only be done at a rehab like Essence Healthcare, where 24-hour medically supervised detox services are available. During medically supervised detox, skilled healthcare professionals will support your detox by tapering your drug doses to help you slowly and safely wean off barbiturates.
The Journey to Overcoming Addiction
Once your system is free from the effects of substances, you’ll begin participating in rehab to learn how to manage stressors and medical concerns without substance use. Research from several studies indicates cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, which encourages examining the connection between behaviors, thoughts, and feelings and substance use, is the most effective therapy to overcome barbiturate addiction. 5
If you or a loved one are concerned about barbiturate addiction, it’s crucial to get help immediately. Overdose isn’t uncommon, and the dangers of detoxing without help are many. With help from a comprehensive treatment program, recovery is possible. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey, talk to us at Essence Healthcare to learn more about our programs and how we can help.