Barbiturates [What Are They?]

There is a wide variety of drugs available to abuse.  Most of these fit into seven different categories: central nervous system (CNS) depressants, CNS stimulants, hallucinogens, dissociative anesthetics, narcotic analgesics, inhalants, and cannabis. So, what are barbiturates?

Barbiturates are categorized as CNS depressants. They are usually prescribed to decrease anxiety, courage sleep, ease muscle spasms, and help manage seizures. While they are enormously helpful, barbiturates also come with a dangerous list of negative side effects.

If you or a loved one has grown dependent on barbiturates, you must get help.  Barbiturates pose serious health concerns when during detox and should always be done with medical supervision. Call us today at 1-888-906-0952 to get information on how to get clean from barbiturates safely.

Table of Contents

What’s a Barbiturate?

Barbiturates are a central nervous system depressant – this means they slow you down. They relax your brain activity, making them useful to treat anxiety, panic, acute stress reactions, and sleep issues.  They also relax your body, which is why they’re used to help manage muscle spasms and seizures. They’re popular prescription pills to abuse because they can make you feel intoxicated.

Currently, there are about a dozen barbiturates approved for medical use.  Some common brand names you might recognize are Fiorina, Pentothal, Seconal, Nembutal, and Luminal. Prescriptions such as these should always be taken as prescribed as they can have adverse effects if misused.

There are also several illicit versions of barbiturates.  These are commonly referred to as barbs, blockbusters, Christmas trees, goofballs, pinks, red devils, reds and blues, and yellow jackets. These are usually injected into the vein, whereas legal barbiturates come in pill form.

Barbiturates can be short-acting or long-acting. Most barbiturate abusers prefer short-acting injections for a quicker fix. Long-acting barbiturates usually take an hour to set in and last about 12. These are generally used for sedation or seizures, though they are still abused.

Today, most doctors only prescribe barbiturates when there’s no other choice. Because of the negative side effects, benzodiazepines are more commonly prescribed.

Concerned about barbiturate use? Call us today for information.

Types of Barbiturates

While there are too many specific types of barbiturates to count, there are a few overarching categories into which they fall. As CNS depressants, they share some commonalities with other depressants, such as alcohol, opiates, and tranquilizers. In fact, the huge appeal of barbiturates is that they can make you feel drunk or tranquilized.

There are three main types of barbiturates – quick and intermediate-acting, short and intermediate-acting, and slow-acting. Quick and intermediate-acting takes effect a minute after being injected. Brevital, Surital, and Pentotal are examples of this.

Short and intermediate-acting barbiturates include Nembutal, Amytal, and Butisol. These are the most popular for abuse.

Finally, the slow-acting barbiturates take about an hour to work and include Luminal and Mebaral. As mentioned before, these are found most often in a medical setting.

Regardless of the type, barbiturates come with a high risk of causing dependency or addiction.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit dolor

These might also interest you… 

Effects: The Good and the Bad

Barbiturates have a long list of side effects. Aside from their correct use for relaxation and becoming sleepy, such effects include:

  • Feelings of drunkenness
  • Rapidly increased tolerance
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Vision impairment
  • Incoherent or slurred speech
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Vomiting

Symptoms of intoxication and overdose from the drug include:

  • Altered levels of consciousness
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Drowsiness or coma
  • Shallow breathing
  • Rapid or weak pulse
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Dilated or contracted pupils

Excessive use or long-term use can give the following chronic symptoms:

  • Lowered alertness
  • Decreased functioning
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Low blood pressure
  • Memory loss
  • Breathing troubles
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression
  • Sexual Issues
  • Fatal overdose

Specific barbiturates like phenobarbital have also been linked to liver damage. These drugs have a high risk of abuse because they cause deep levels of relaxation.

Many people think barbiturates are safe because a doctor prescribes them. However, it should be noted that increasing your dosage by even a small amount can lead to an overdose. This drug also comes with a long, dangerous list of withdrawal symptoms, which start within 8 to 15 hours after the last dose.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Hypothermia
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Circulatory failure
  • Potential death

Examples of Barbiturates

As stated before, there are many types of barbiturates. While there are too many to go over in detail, here are a key few.

Brevital’s main use is as a sedative for surgeries. It has side effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or shivering.

Pentothal is likewise used for sedation for surgeries. Its side effects are headache and nausea.

Amytal is hypnotic. It is prescribed for short-term insomnia exclusively – it loses its effectiveness after two weeks. It has many side effects, including confusion, nervousness, hallucinations, and agitation. This drug can also result in hypoventilation, bradycardia, constipation, nausea, vomiting, fever, liver damage, and headaches.

Certain barbiturates can cause hallucinations or reduce the effect of birth control. Each drug has similar side effects, but it is important to know that they vary. As with the drugs listed above, they have similar effects, but some have more severe ones. If you’ve been prescribed barbiturates, you should always ask your doctor what the side effects are.


There are many ways for you to get treatment for barbiturate abuse. Most treatments start with detoxification and a medically managed withdrawal.

The first stage of addiction treatment is detoxification.  This process allows the body to clear itself of any substances within itself. Detox under medical supervision is designed to manage the acute and potentially dangerous physiological effects of ending drug use.

Detox does not address the psychological, social, or behavioral problems that are usually associated with addiction. While completing detox is a vital start, it can’t produce the lasting changes necessary for recovery. An assessment and referral should follow detox to a drug addiction treatment program.

Treatment Programs for Drug Abuse

Treatment is critically important for a successful recovery. Treatment can help you learn what behaviors or thoughts led you to addiction and train you to overcome it. There are many different treatment plans available – finding the right one for your unique situation is essential.

Inpatient Treatment

With inpatient care, you’ll live in a residence where care is provided 24 hours a day. This is usually not in a hospital setting but somewhere designed to keep you comfortable. Inpatient care is ideal for people with severe or dangerous addictions that need round-the-clock care. Treatment involves both medical care and therapy.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is great for people who have completed a residential stay or have less severe addictions. In outpatient care, you’ll visit the facility for a specified amount of time for therapy appointments. At the start, this can be several times a week but will lower as you progress. One of the key features of outpatient care is individual and group therapy. The benefits here include a lower bill and more freedom to continue your life.

Individualized Drug Counseling

This type of counseling focuses on not just reducing or helping you stop drug use; it also addresses related areas of impaired functioning. This includes employment, illegal activity, and family and social relations. This is all in addition to the content and structure of the patient’s recovery program. Counseling helps teach you coping mechanisms to avoid triggers and remain abstinent from drugs.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a vital part of recovery. It can make the patient feel less alone. In group therapy, you share your stories and share how you got back on your feet. Numerous studies have shown that having a group of peers is indispensable for recovering addicts. It is invaluable to know that you are not alone in your struggles.

End Barbiturate Abuse Today

While they serve an important purpose, barbiturates should never be used in any way inconsistent with their prescription.  They come with a long list of negative, potentially dangerous side effects and withdrawal symptoms. While they are being prescribed less and less, they are still worth watching out for.

If you or a loved one struggles with a barbiturate addiction, it’s never too soon to get help. Call us today at 1-888-906-0952 to get started on a healthier, safer future.




Our writers are experienced in everything related to addiction, mental health, rehab and recovery.

These might also interest you… 

Social Media

Most Popular

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

New articles about addiction, treatment, and recovery sent directly to you! 


On Key

Related Posts

woman looking at her computer trying to figure out if drug rehab is worth it

Is Drug Rehab Worth It?

Reading Time: 8 minutes You may be ready to take steps to end your substance abuse, but knowing that addiction treatment requires you to invest a great deal of

Read More »
is my teen using drugs or alcohol

Is My Teen Using Drugs?

Reading Time: 7 minutes Is my teen using drugs? This is a question that many parents have to ask themselves. In 2018, the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics

Read More »
chance for change detox

Ambulatory Drug Detox [What Happens]

Reading Time: 5 minutes Looking to find more information about ambulatory drug detox?The first step to recovering from any form of substance abuse is detox. According to PLOS Medicine, the

Read More »