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Substance Abuse

When Barbiturate Abuse Becomes a Serious Addiction

Barbiturates are a class of drugs that act as central nervous system depressants. Today, barbiturates are seldom prescribed since benzodiazepines have become more commonly used in medical practice. Barbiturates are classified as sedative-hypnotics. they were most often used as sleeping pills, tranquilizers and sedatives when they were more prevalent in medical practice. Barbiturates are known to slow down bodily functions and help an individual deal with anxiety or insomnia.

Barbiturates have a high potential for abuse because of how they sedate and cause euphoria in the individual using it. Abusing barbiturates can be a way in which a person can simply check out mentally, physically, and emotionally. Unfortunately, if someone continually abuses barbiturates, the person will likely become tolerant of that amount. This will often lead a user to seek out higher doses from their physician or from other illegal sources. Barbiturates are also known for the difficult withdrawal that accompanies anyone who stops taking the drug and symptoms can start as little as 8-16 hours after the last dose.

The length of the withdrawal can last up to 15 days and are more severe in the beginning. If you, or someone you love is struggling with barbiturate abuse, please know that individualized substance abuse treatment can help break the chains of the addiction. A Better Today Recovery Services understands the difficulties that come along with addiction. We are here to help you find the detox treatment and addiction recovery services you need. If you or someone you love suffers from a barbiturate addiction, give us a call today.

Barbiturate FAQ’s

What are barbiturates?

Barbiturates are depressants that affect the central nervous system (CNS). They are used as sedatives (mild to coma-inducing), anesthetics, hypnotics, and anticonvulsants. barbiturates can be classified as ultrashort, short, intermediate, and long-acting.

What are barbiturates' origins?

Barbiturates were developed for medical uses in the 1900s, but today doctors rely more upon benzodiazepines.

What are barbiturates’ common street names?

Some common street names includes Christmas Trees, Pinks, Barbs, Yellow Jackets, Blockbusters, Red Devils, Goofballs, and Red & Blues.

How are barbiturates abused?

Barbiturates can be swallowed as a pill, or injected in a liquid form. In general, people use barbiturates decrease inhibitions, reduce anxiety, and treat the unwanted effects of stimulant drugs.

What are barbiturates' effects on the mind?

Barbiturates can cause relief of anxiety, lack of inhibition, sleepiness, mild euphoria, irritability, paranoia, suicidal ideation, and the impairment of memory, coordination, and judgment. The danger of overdose is high, since tolerance develops quickly and larger, more frequent doses are needed to generate the same high.

What are barbiturates' effects on the body?

Barbiturates cause sleepiness and depression of the CNS.

What are barbiturates' overdose effects?

An overdose of barbiturates can cause dilated pupils, weak/rapid pulse, clammy skin, shallow respiration, respiratory failure, coma, and possibly death.

Which drugs cause similar effects as barbiturates?

Barbiturates share similar characteristics as Xanax (R), Rohypnol (R), Valium (R), GHB, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, and alcohol.

What are the withdrawal effects of barbiturates?

When the user stops abusing barbiturates, he/she could experience withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, restlessness, tremors, insomnia, hallucinations, weakness, psychosis, nausea, anxiety, dizziness, and sweating.

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Sign, Symptoms, and Common Behaviors of Barbiturate Abuse

The physical signs and symptoms of barbiturate abuse include the following: calmness, relaxed muscles, slurred speech, lack of coordination, and poor judgement. Extreme high doses can lead to unconsciousness and fatal overdose.

For shorter-acting barbiturates, these symptoms can last anywhere from 4-6 hours. However, longer-acting barbiturates can affect an individual for 8-12 hours. An individual may have symptoms that are similar to alcohol intoxication. They also may seem lethargic and expressionless.

Many individuals abuse barbiturates with alcohol and if they do so the signs and symptoms will increase in intensity. The combination of alcohol and barbiturates can potentially be deadly. A person abusing barbiturates for a long period of time may show withdrawal symptoms if they are ever unable to procure the drug.

Commonly-Abused Barbiturates

Amobarbital (Amytal)

Amobarbital goes by the brand name Amytal. It is a sedative-hypnotic drug first created in Germany in 1923. Amobarbital is approved for the treatment of insomnia, epilepsy, and anxiety. Street names for this drug are “blues,” “blue angels,” “bluebirds,” and “blue heavens.” Amytal is not commonly prescribed. Amobarbital withdrawal symptoms closely resemble delirium tremens and can potentially deadly if withdrawal is attempted without medical supervision.

Butabarbital (Butisol)

Butabarbital goes by the brand name Butisol and has approved medical use for the treatment of insomnia. This substance helps patients feel sleepy and before a surgery or medical procedure. Butabarbital is known to cause paranoid or suicidal ideation. Butabarbital can also cause lapses in memory, poor judgement, and poor coordination. Butabarbital is a Schedule III drug in the United States and is not commonly prescribed by doctors today.

Pentobarbital (Nembutal)

Pentobarbital which goes by the brand name Nembutal has approved medical use and is prescribed usually short-term for treating tension, anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. It can also be used to help a patient relax before a surgery or medical procedure. Alcohol use should be avoided at all costs if take Pentobarbital. Pentobarbital has been used for euthanasia in both humans and animals as it can induce death in high doses.

Secobarbital (Seconal)

Secobarbital, which goes by the brand name Seconal, is one of the most powerful Barbiturates known today. In the United States, Seconal is often used with physician-assisted suicide as it can induce death in large doses. Secobarbital is medically approved to treat epilepsy, insomnia, and are used as a preoperative drug as anesthesia before short procedures. Seconal is also used in veterinary practice and has a high potential for abuse.


Phenobarbital, which is also known as phenobarbitone or phenobarb, is a medication that is used in the treat for certain types of epilepsy. In the United States, it is often a medication used to treat seizures in small children. Phenobarbital is sometimes used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and drug withdrawal. The effects of phenobarbital can last up between 4  and 48 hours. Those who use phenobarbital have a high risk of developing suicidal ideations and many experience a significant lowering of consciousness.

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Reliable Sources Matter When it Comes to Your Barbiturate Addiction

Realizing that you have a substance abuse problem is nerve-racking. Many people do not feel comfortable discussing their barbiturate addiction with their doctor because they are afraid or ashamed. Because of that stigma associated with addiction, finding unbiased information that you can trust in is central to our mission here at ABTRS.

Making the decision to receive addiction treatment that will change your life should come from a place of knowledge. When it comes to substance abuse treatment, our patients and their families need reliable resources that are unbiased and proven or tested to be effective. Check out the list below to learn more about where ABTRS got their information for this webpage.

Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2019).  Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/ 

HARGROVE, E. A., & FORD, F. R. (1952). Acute and chronic barbiturate intoxication recent advances in therapeutic management. California Medicine, 77(6), 383-6.

Suddock JT, Cain MD. Barbiturate Toxicity. [Updated 2018 Nov 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499875/

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