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Barbiturates belong to a group of drugs referred to as sedative-hypnotics. These drugs are known to induce sleep and decrease anxiety disorders. Even though these drugs can cure several disorders, it can still be very dangerous. Barbituates are not given without a prescription from a doctor.

It is difficult to predict and measure its precise dosage. A slight drug overdose in one of these drugs can easily result in coma or death. Furthermore, barbiturates can incite addiction and can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

These drugs can still be classified into different types. The main difference between them is the duration of their effects. Some may contain long lasting effect which may last up to 2 days. Other barbiturates are very short acting which may last for about few minutes.

Also, barbiturates come in different kinds such as tablet forms and injectable. These drugs also produce addiction. They are commonly sold in the black market. Street names for barbiturates often referred to their effect, the color of the drug and even the markings on the pill.

Barbiturate street names

  • Amobarbital (blue heavens, Downers, blue velvet, blue devils)
  • Phenobarbital (goof balls, Purple hearts)
  • Pentobarbital (abbots, Nembies, Mexican yellows, yellow jackets)
  • Secobarbital (F-40s, pink ladies, Reds, red birds, red devils, lilly, pinks, seggy)
  • Tuinal (F-66s, gorilla pills, Rainbows, reds and blues, tooies, double trouble)

Quick Facts about Barbiturates

Around the 1970s the federal government imposed a restriction to barbiturates. Doctors often prescribed barbiturates for anxiety problems. They also use the drug to treat several types of seizure disorders.

Meanwhile, benzodiazepine assumed the role that barbiturates once had for anxiety treatment.

When the government put strict access to barbiturates, the number of users abusing the drugs significantly declined within the following years. On the other hand, there are insufficient data about barbiturates abuse and most likely it is less reliable. However, there are few facts about barbiturates, these are:

Women can easily get a medical prescription for barbiturates compare to men
Doctors prescribed barbiturates as a sedative for elderly individuals.
Teenagers are more likely to get their barbiturates illegally or from someone, they know who as a prescription.
Usually, when a person abuses barbiturates, they also have co-occurring substance abuse. If someone suspects an individual abusing barbiturates, they can consider other potential co-existing substance use disorder.

History of Barbiturates

The use of barbiturates in the medical community first occurred in the early 1990s and it gained popularity during the 1960’s and 1970s.

The drug is commonly used as a treatment management for insomnia, anxiety and seizure disorders.

Because of the sedative effect of the barbiturates, individuals tend to abuse the drugs for recreational use. Users want to achieve the same effects as to decrease anxiety, reduce inhibitions and to treat unwanted effects of other illegal drugs.

Since the 1970s, the number individuals who abuse barbiturates radically declined. One of the main reasons for the decline is the widespread use of benzodiazepines. Since then, benzodiazepines replaced barbiturates as a treatment management in the medical community. Prescription of benzodiazepines comes in a few specific indications.

Barbiturates addiction peaked during the 1990s amongst teenagers. Presently, doctors reduced their prescription for barbiturates and the drug abuse for barbiturates also declined. However, barbiturate addictions still common today.

Why are Barbiturates abused?

Barbiturates counteract the excitement and alertness that the users get from stimulant drugs. This is also one of the most popular reasons why these drugs are being abused. Barbiturates act downers for drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines.

During the 1970s, barbiturates claim numerous lives. The younger users do not understand the deadly effects of barbiturates. They even underestimate the risk involve of using the drugs.

Barbiturates also hold a record for the most widespread used in suicide attempts.

What causes Barbiturates addiction?

Users take barbiturates to get the same effect like the intoxicating effect of alcohol. They want to experience the same ‘high’ feeling or to reduce the stimulating effect of other illegal drugs they use.

Users who take barbiturates in smaller doses often feel drowsy, intoxicated, and diminished inhibition.
If the users take the drugs in higher doses, they will experience confusion, motion incoordination, and slurred speech.
At even higher doses and often in dangerous level, users are at risk of coma and a possibility to stop breathing. In this condition, death is nearly possible.

What are the signs and symptoms of Barbiturates addiction?

Typically, barbiturates can induce sleep and create a feeling of relaxation. However, users will also lose inhibitions and motion coordination. Users may also develop difficulty in speaking as they usually will slur their speech like a drunken person. Some of the signs and symptoms of barbiturate abuse include:

  • low blood pressure
  • breathing at a slower rate
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Poor judgment
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Slow talking
  • Lethargy
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Poor coordination
  • Inability to walk properly
  • Staggering/stumbling
  • Coma

If the users take too many barbiturates they lose all their body’s efficiency function and lose all recollection. They will also lose their sense of safety awareness and are more prone to dangers. Other dangerous side effects of barbiturates abuse are miscarriages and birth defects.

What are the side effects of Barbiturates?

Physical Side effects of Barbiturate addiction

  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Increased sensitivity to sound
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Prone to bronchitis and pneumonia diseases
  • Irregular period in women
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Increased risk of kidney failure
  • Respiratory distress
  • Overdose
  • Coma
  • Death

Psychological Side effects of Barbiturate addiction

  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Restlessness
  • Impaired mental functioning
  • Emotional instability
  • Loss of short-term even long-term memory
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and responsibilities previously enjoyed
  • Broken relationships
  • Neglect of self-care, such as exercise and diet
  • Fatalities

What are the treatments available for Barbiturates addiction?

The first step treating barbiturate addiction is a medically supervised detoxification process. The detox process for barbiturate can cause intense withdrawal symptoms which can be uncomfortable for the users. The symptoms could be extremely painful that can cause relapse and produced health hazards in some cases.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms from barbiturate abuse include:

  • Shakiness
  • Tremors
  • Muscle pain
  • Sleeping problems
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe high core body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory distress
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Coma
  • Death

Supervised detox can effectively help the user undergoing the withdrawal symptoms. Medical practitioners can always monitor the vital signs and the overall health of the users inside their health care facility. However, detox is a short term approach for barbiturate addiction; nevertheless, it is an important part of the recovery process.

Residential treatment offers a comprehensive program to care for the patient to live a sober life. In this program, experts isolate the users from the external factors that usually trigger their addiction. Experts or rehab specialists provide new learning skills to develop the user’s dependence on their drug of choice.

Some of the activities involved in residential program include (but not limited to):

  • Group therapy sessions
  • Individual therapy sessions
  • Family therapy sessions
  • Fitness classes
  • Art and other recreation activities
  • Medical management

The length and the duration of the therapy vary from each individual. Recovering barbiturate addiction depends on how the users use the drug, the duration of the abuse and the severity of the addiction.

How long is the duration of the withdrawal?

Barbiturates Withdrawal Timeline

Several hours from the last drug intake
Most symptoms will start to appear during this window. As the body excretes the drug, withdrawal symptoms may become more apparent.
3 to 8 days
Psychosis may surface between 3 to 8 days from the last use. It is important to have medical supervision during these times. Doctors and/or nurses can administer prescribed medication for barbiturate withdrawal.  Seizure may also develop within these days.
5 to 7 days
Medical practitioner may begin to taper off the medication within these days. As by the 7th day, most of the symptoms will subside and no new symptoms should appear.

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