Barbiturates are a class of central nervous system drug hypnotics that were developed in the late 19th century as a depressant and sedative drug to help with sleep disturbances, and anxiety. These sedatives are also used to help control seizures in epileptic patients.
Barbiturates can produce side effects like those of alcohol, that range from mild relaxation to a loss of consciousness and inability to feel pain. They later became a more recreational drug in the 1960’s and 1970’s which lead to instances of drug abuse.
All barbiturates affect gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA),a neurotransmitter (chemical) that nerves use to communicate with one another. People who use Barbiturates may experience physical addiction and psychological dependence along with a barbiturate withdrawal syndrome. The risk of a fatal barbiturate overdose is higher with barbiturates than other drugs as the difference between a safe dose and a deadly one is small.
Types of Barbiturates
Medical-use barbiturates are available under many brand names, including:
- Butalbital (in Fioricet, not a controlled substance)
- Butabarbital (Butisol)
- Primidone (not a controlled substance)
Sodium thiopental, also known as Sodium Pentothal, thiopental, “truth serum”, thiopentone, or Trapanal, is a rapid-onset short-acting barbiturate general anesthetic. These sedatives are an analog of thiobarbital and the thiobarbiturate analog of pentobarbital.
Common street names for barbiturates include:
- Yellow jackets
- Christmas trees
- Red devils
- Blue heavens
- Double trouble
- Goof balls
The use of barbiturates can cause people to experience some negative side effects. When used according to the instructions, the most common side effects of barbiturates are relaxation, sedation, drowsiness, and feeling sick.
More serious side effects of barbiturates are:
- Lack of coordination
- Respiratory arrest and death
- Problems with remembering things
Another side effect of barbiturate use is the potential for drug abuse, addiction, and in rarer cases overdoses.
Barbiturate use can cause long-term effects when the medicine is ingested in large quantities. These effects can be:
- Slurred speech
- Reduced breathing rate
- Impaired judgement
- Emotional instability
- Suicidal ideation
- Shallow breathing
- Clammy skin
- Paranoid ideation
Why do People Take Barbiturates?
People take barbiturates from the advice of a healthcare professional to treat certain medical conditions. Barbiturates (mainly phenobarbital) are medications occasionally used by doctors for treatment of the following conditions:
- Seizures (epilepsy)
- Muscle spasms
- Some types of convulsions
- Severe trauma to the skull
- Increased pressure in the skull
How Do They Affect the Central Nervous System?
The neurotransmitter, GABA can affect nerve cell activity in the brain. Barbiturates are a group of depressant drugs that work by slowing down the central nervous system (CNS), and they are commonly used to treat problems such as insomnia, anxiety, headaches, and seizures. Some medications can also be used as an effective anesthesia.
Parent Compound Barbituric Acid and Product Development
Barbituric acid is the parent compound of barbiturate drugs, although barbituric acid itself is not pharmacologically active. The compound was first synthesized by Adolf von Baeyer. As of 2007, more than 2550 barbiturates and related substances have been synthesized, with 50 to 55 in clinical use of these medications around the world at present.
Withdrawal from Barbiturates
Abruptly stopping the use of barbiturates can result in certain withdrawal symptoms, depending on factors such as the number of barbiturates taken, height, weight, doses, and other general health information. These withdrawal symptoms can come on rather quickly and the examples of symptoms may include:
- Increased heart rate
- Higher blood pressure
- Stomach cramping
- Thoughts of suicide
Stopping barbiturates may result in serious withdrawal symptoms that can be like an alcohol withdrawal or other substances and even result in overdose, coma, suicide attempts or death in severe cases. It is best to be under the supervision of medical staff when going through a withdrawal from these sedative hypnotics.
What Formulations of Barbiturates are Available?
Barbiturates can come in different combinations. The most common combinations for use are:
- Pentobarbital and amobarbital and are available as injections.
- Butalbital/acetaminophen/caffeine and butabarbital, phenobarbital, belladonna, and phenobarbital, are available as oral liquids.
- butalbital/aspirin/caffeine, Butalbital/acetaminophen/caffeine, and secobarbital are medicine that is available as capsules.
- Butabarbital, phenobarbital, butalbital/aspirin/caffeine, butalbital/acetaminophen/caffeine and belladonna and phenobarbital, are available as tablets.
Barbiturate Dependence and Addiction
When individuals use barbiturates frequently and for prolonged periods, their body begins to develop a tolerance to the drugs. It is important that the use of barbiturates is done based on the advice of a doctor to ensure the safest outcomes. When the effects of barbiturates begins to negatively affect a person’s life could be a sign that there is a problem and treatment may be necessary.
Typically, someone will begin to develop a tolerance to barbiturates, meaning they need more of the drugs to achieve the same feelings. Increasing the dose of the drugs could cause many health concerns including breathing problems, complete sedation, or death.
Examples of the classic signs of addiction include taking the drug without the advice or consent of a doctor, using the medications inappropriately or in higher doses than prescribed, a lack of control over how much of the drug or dose you take, and potential overdose. Before determining if you have a problem, it is best to seek medical advice to determine a proper diagnosis.
Drug Addiction in the United States
Drug addiction is a serious chronic health condition that affects millions of Americans and others around the world. Recent information and data shows that almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only 10% of them receive treatment. If you are struggling with any type of addiction, it is important to remember that you are not alone.
With proper treatment and help from addiction specialists, it is possible to overcome the effects of substance abuse, including barbiturate use, and achieve a full recovery. Before seeking treatment, it is best to seek a medical diagnosis from a professional.
Treatment at AToN Center
AToN Center is a luxury addiction rehab center that treats individuals struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. Some examples of our addiction rehab services include 12-step programs, non-12 step programs, family therapy, and holistic care options.
At AToN Center we are unlike any other addiction rehab around the country. We offer on-site pools, a gym and a first-class chef who services healthy, nutritious meals to our clients. Our program focuses on both the physical and mental effects of addiction, in an environment with constant support. Our client to staff ratio is exceptionally low, allowing our team to provide individualized care.
If you or someone you know is struggling with any type of addiction, including to barbiturates, please contact our staff right away for more information. We can discuss your options and move forward with a diagnosis and treatment plan.