Author: Gary Jackson

Barbiturates: Uses, side effects, and risks

Barbiturates aren’t as common as in years past because newer drugs have largely taken their place. However, many of these drugs still see widespread use for specific conditions. Phenobarbital, for example, is common for treating seizures that resist first-line anti-seizure medications. While barbiturates are useful for the above listed, some of these uses are less common in certain countries.

  • This decline is mainly due to the development of newer, safer drug alternatives.
  • However, they are not a popular drug because of the risk of poor outcomes and adverse effects.
  • In the event of a suspected barbiturate or polydrug overdose, call 911 immediately, especially in the event of any breathing problems.
  • Even in the short term, the effects of barbiturates, if taken in excess, can quickly reach dangerous and potentially deadly levels.
  • Abusing barbiturates is extremely dangerous and can lead to severe short- and long-term physical and psychological symptoms, physical dependence, and accidental death.

This material is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Data sources include Micromedex (updated 4 Feb 2024), Cerner Multum™ (updated 4 Feb 2024), ASHP (updated 12 Feb 2024) and others. The amount of support required depends on the person’s symptoms. If you believe someone has taken barbiturates inappropriately, take him or her to the hospital for evaluation by a doctor immediately.

Teen Barbiturate Abuse

If you notice withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking barbiturate medications, you should talk to your healthcare provider. Telling them about these symptoms means they can help reduce your dose until these symptoms stop. That can help you avoid problems related to barbiturate misuse, such as barbiturate addiction. Barbiturates are sedative-hypnotic medications, meaning they cause you to feel relaxed or sleepy. For over a century, they’ve treated many conditions, including seizures, migraines, insomnia and more.

  • Keeping them out of the hands of children and teenagers is essential.
  • The risk of a fatal overdose is higher with barbiturates than other drugs as the difference between a safe dose and a deadly one is small.
  • Tolerance to the mood-altering effects of barbiturates develops rapidly with repeated use.
  • The goal is to help you decrease or stop taking the barbiturate.

At high doses, barbiturates stimulate GABA A receptors directly in the absence of GABA. Barbiturates also block glutamate (principle excitatory neurotransmitter) receptors (AMPA) in the CNS. An antidote is a medicine that reverses the effects of another medicine or drug. Medical care in a hospital is typically needed to treat barbiturate withdrawal. The confusion is similar to that seen during alcohol withdrawal, known as delirium tremens (DTs). People who are withdrawing may experience anxiety, disorientation, and visual hallucinations.

Barbiturate Addiction Treatment Programs

For example, barbiturates are less common for pre-anesthesia in the United States because many newer drugs are more effective and have fewer side effects. People who misuse barbiturates use them to obtain a “high,” which is described as being similar to alcohol intoxication, or to counteract the effects of stimulant drugs. Barbiturate use disorder is a medical condition that develops from long-term misuse of a barbiturate. You are not able to stop even though the misuse causes physical or social problems. With aggressive treatment in the hospital, most people survive. Since 1965, ketamine has emerged as a common recreational drug among young people and adolescents.

Barbiturates carry a risk of psychological and physical addiction. The risk of a fatal overdose is higher with barbiturates than other drugs as the difference between a safe dose and a deadly one is small. The most common uses are for anesthesia reasons, treating epilepsy and nonepileptic seizures, insomnia and other conditions. The treatment of barbiturate abuse or overdose is generally supportive. The amount of support required depends on the person’s symptoms. provides accurate and independent information on more than 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and natural products.

What are barbiturates?

However, most barbiturate use has been replaced by the development of newer, safer, alternative drugs. As a person uses barbiturates more, the difference between a dose that causes the desired effect and that of a fatal overdose becomes narrower. This makes overdoses more common in long-term use such as for more than 2 weeks. Presently, barbiturates are nearly nonexistent on the black market.

barbiturates abuse

A person’s outcome, also called prognosis, after abusing barbiturates depends on a number of factors. Short-acting agents have an elimination half-life of less than 40 hours compared with long-acting agents, which have an elimination half-life of longer than 40 hours. GABA and glycine are the major inhibitory neurotransmitters in the CNS. Barbiturates enhance GABA-mediated chloride currents by binding to the GABA. A receptor-ionophore complex at the beta subunit is distinct from the GABA and benzodiazepine binding site and increases the duration of ionophore opening. This potentiates and prolongs the inhibitory actions of GABA.

Since then, however, its popularity has waned because of stricter guidelines for use and the introduction of benzodiazepines, which inherently have lower cardiorespiratory toxicity. These two factors have decreased barbiturate availability significantly and have led to less abuse. However, a recent gradual increase in barbiturate abuse has been observed among high school seniors.

  • Long-acting agents are less lipid soluble, accumulate more slowly in tissue, and are excreted more readily by the kidney as active drug.
  • Others can last for hours or even days, which is one reason healthcare providers still prescribe them to prevent seizures.
  • Propofol is highly lipid soluble with an onset of less than 1 minute and a quick offset of action.
  • Cardiovascular depression may occur following depression of the medullary vasomotor centers; patients with underlying congestive heart failure (CHF) are more susceptible to these effects.
  • Use of barbiturates as a recreational drug then became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, leading to abuse in some cases.

Phenobarbital is most likely to be used for treating seizures. The World Health Organization (WHO) list it as a first-line treatment for epilepsy for adults and children in the developing world, because of its low cost and proven effectiveness. Barbiturates are a group of drugs that have calming effects on the body. They can produce effects similar to those of alcohol, ranging from mild relaxation to an inability to feel pain and loss of consciousness. They are an old class of drug used to relax the body and help people sleep. No, you shouldn’t drink alcohol if you’re taking barbiturates.