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Barbiturates are highly addictive sedative drugs. Although declining in popularity, Barbiturate addiction remains a significant problem.

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What Are Barbiturates?

Commonly prescribed as a sedative for anxiety, seizures, migraines, and insomnia, Barbiturates are some of the most addictive substances on earth. Although individuals of high school age or younger ingest Barbiturates, these drugs are more commonly prescribed to older adults. They are highly addictive and were popularized in the 1960s and 1970s, quickly becoming a recreationally-used drug.

Most Barbiturates aren’t harmful when taken as prescribed. Still, excessive amounts or combining with other drugs or alcohol creates a dangerous experience. The drug is even used as date rape drugs, most prominently in the many accusations against comedian Bill Cosby. Benzodiazepines are replacing the drug as less doctors are prescribing them. This is because Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are considerably less addictive and carry a much lower risk of accidental overdose.

In 2013, Barbiturates caused 396 deaths, and were also connected to other drugs, suicide, or mental illnesses. 1 in 3 US households contained at least 1 bottle of Barbiturates. A survey of high school students revealed 2.8% of students used Barbiturates in 2001.

Commonly known as “downers,” street names for Barbiturates include:

  • Barbs
  • Red
  • Redbirds
  • Yellowjacket
  • Pinks
  • Tories
  • Christmas trees
  • Pennies
  • Double trouble
  • Blues
  • Blockbuster
  • Sleepers
  • Gorilla pills
  • Goofballs

Examples of Barbiturates include:

  • Amobarbital
  • Pentobarbital
  • China
  • Butabarbital
  • Secobarbital
  • Mephobarbital
  • Aprobarbital
  • Phenobarbital

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Symptoms Of Barbiturate Abuse

Barbiturates are taken orally in both pill and liquid form and can be injected into veins. These drugs can also be crushed up and snorted. They are popular to take, creating feelings of relaxation, calmness, and euphoria. They depress the central nervous system and reduce the heart rate and high blood pressure. The effects can begin in 15 minutes but usually take 30-60 minutes to start working.

Overuse of Barbiturates can result in symptoms such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Altered mental state
  • Staggering
  • Sluggishness
  • Mood changes

When ingested in larger quantities, long-term side effects include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Emotional instability
  • Impaired judgment
  • Irritability
  • Clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Reduced breathing rate
  • Paranoid ideation
  • Shallow breathing
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Death

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Barbiturate Withdrawal

Once someone develops a dependence on Barbiturates, they exhibit noticeable side effects. Any attempts to stop using the drug result in adverse effects. This is because the mind and body have become dependent on the presence of the drug to function “normally,” and they struggle to cope when it is no longer present. These effects are collectively known as withdrawal.

Barbiturate withdrawal can be highly distressing and include:

  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Insomnia


Attempting to go “cold turkey” from Barbiturates is not advised without professional assistance. People who experience dependency on substances are advised to seek medical treatment where they can be medically supervised. Fortunately, detox is available for patients suffering from addiction in many rehab facilities.

Detox treatments safely eliminate harmful chemicals to restore the body to a state before substance abuse. Detox considers the length of time someone has been using Barbiturates, the level of dependency, and any withdrawal symptoms that have occurred. Patients are also examined for other drugs. Detox is even performed on pregnant mothers combating substance abuse.

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Seeking Treatment For Barbiturate Dependence

Treatment facilities offer patients in recovery support and access to healing modalities, including:

  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Psychoeducation
  • Diagnosis for co-occurring disorders
  • Equine therapy
  • Nutritional plans
  • Yoga
  • Nature walks

Additionally, treatment facilities give patients access to support groups, which deepen bonds with people who have grappled with substance or alcohol abuse.

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If you, a friend, or family members experience uncomfortable symptoms of abuse, know help is available for you. Contact a dedicated treatment provider now to take a step towards sobriety.

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